With the cost of living raging out of control and average wages stuck in limbo, San José has become a city with two faces, where many of our hardworking neighbors struggle to make ends meet in the shadows of sparkling new high rises and gleaming freeway overpasses. Meanwhile, a recent study showed that Santa Clara County spends more than half a billion dollars a year providing services to homeless residents, the overwhelming majority of whom reside in our city. It is both our moral and a fiscal imperative to come together as a community to address the affordability of San José. If we embrace a spirit of working together towards innovative solutions, we can create a city that gives everyone a fair shot at stability and success.
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One of San José’s greatest strengths is its culture of innovation. The global tech giants that are driving our economy today were once daydreams that came alive through all-night strategy sessions. We must continue to foster that innovation in our small businesses and start-up economy. By incubating business growth in our own backyard, we can get back to the roots of Silicon Valley and create a culture of commitment to San José that leads to long-term investment in our city and local workforce. This type of investment will be critical in meeting the goals for job growth laid out in long-term city plans.
We’ve all seen how the economic downturn and in-fighting at City Hall have impacted the safety and security of our homes and neighborhoods. While a great deal of progress has been made toward restoring public safety in San José, we have a great deal of work left to do. San José still has more than 200 vacant officer positions to fill before it can meet its baseline staffing numbers in this year’s budget. Low recruitment rates, lateral transfers to other agencies, and scheduled retirements mean we’re not likely to see that gap filled anytime soon. The settlement of Measure B and a renewed sense of collaboration between the city and our employees have improved morale, but it will take time for San José to become a competitive employer again.
As we work toward restoring our police force, we also need to appreciate that public safety extends beyond our sworn officers. In the meantime, we should expand the existing community service officer program, continue to leverage Silicon Valley technology to improve efficiency, and address the root causes of crime by investing in youth and community programs.
In order for San José to be a city that works for everyone, we need housing options that are affordable for people across the economic spectrum — from teachers to firefighters to bus drivers to line cooks. The city should build on existing partnerships and develop new relationships with the nonprofit and private sectors to increase supply and control costs, experiment with innovative projects like transitional housing, micro apartments, and regulated urban camping, implement San José’s inclusionary zoning ordinance and affordable housing impact fee, and engage in discussions with the development community on a linkage fee for commercial development. But as a community and nonprofit leader, I know that each of us can make an impact through meaningful acts of philanthropy, volunteerism, and empathy.
The city should also be thoughtful in recognizing the urgent need for more affordable housing while preserving land slated for commercial development. This delicate balance can be achieved through well-planned, mixed-use projects that provide housing as well as job opportunities.
Whether we like it or not, our valley’s population is expected to grow significantly over the next 50 years. Our transportation systems need to prepare to move those new residents from work to school to a Sharks game in an efficient manner. Successful multi-modal transit systems are more efficient and affordable than lone drivers in cars, and take the people who need it most to where they most need to go.
With an eye toward efficiency and effectiveness, we need to ensure that our transit infrastructure serves our entire community with affordable transit options for those with and without cars. That means using data and analytics to focus upgrades and maintenance in areas with the most demand. It also means keeping our transit system clean and safe for all users — especially our burgeoning senior population.
But beyond trains and buses, we need to make our streets safe and accessible for bikes and pedestrians. By embracing a multi-modal transportation system, we can reduce traffic on our roads, improve the productivity of our workforce, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Like many issues, transportation does not exist in a vacuum, and we shouldn’t treat it as such. New transportation strategies should be directly tied to high-density housing and commercial development in targeted areas.
Parks, Trails & Open Space
Parks, trails and open space are incredibly important to creating healthy recreation space in our community and preserving habitat for local wildlife. Parks and trails with safe spaces for exercise and recreation benefit all of us. Unfortunately, our city is park-deficient and in desperate need of capital projects to connect our trail network. District 6 residents are incredibly generous with their time; many volunteer countless hours to keep spaces like the Rose Garden and the Los Gatos Creek Trail clean and well-maintained. As your councilmember, I will work diligently to find resources to expand these facilities, as well as ensure that the city is fulfilling its responsibilities to create these neighborhood assets to our residents. Decades of community leadership have yielded a widespread system of trails, bike paths, and parkland. We must now work to connect them into a citywide and regional network that serves all of our communities, improving public health and quality of life.
Youth & Senior Services
Our award-winning libraries and community centers are critical to the success of our neighborhoods. Every day, these spaces buzz with education programming, recreational classes and activities, and events that create community and provide access to technology. For our students, these services play a vital role in creating a “third space” between school and home, where our children can continue their learning experience in a safe and inclusive environment. By investing in expanded hours and programs and partnering with local nonprofit and community-based organizations, we can keep kids off the street, out of gangs, and on track to succeed in the Silicon Valley economy. For our seniors and those looking for enrichment opportunities, libraries and community centers provide opportunities for socialization, access to healthy food, and community development.
Creativity is a key component of any thriving community, providing an avenue for education and exploration and increasing our capacity to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. The arts are also a key driver of our local economy. In 2012, the city granted a little more than $2 million from hotel and tourist taxes to support our nonprofit arts organizations. That same year, San José’s nonprofit arts sector generated nearly $123 million in economic impact — almost $10 million more than the Sharks — and supported more than 2,800 full-time jobs. That’s what I call a return on investment! We can continue to nurture a culturally diverse and artistically eclectic environment in San José by partnering with the private sector to identify new and sustainable sources of funding.
Energy & Environmental Stewardship
In October 2007, the City Council adopted San José’s landmark Green Vision, a 15-year plan for economic growth, environmental sustainability, and an enhanced quality of life for its community. Halfway through this 15-year initiative, the city is nowhere near the original targets in most goal areas. As a Councilmember, I will commit to achieving all Green Vision goals by the target year of 2022 and will work with staff to develop concrete strategies for getting there. Specifically, I would encourage expanding recycling services to include citywide composting in order to divert more waste from our landfills. I would also push for San José to invest in renewable energy projects that cut costs while creating new jobs and opportunities for private sector partnerships.
Open Data & Government Technology
Mayor Liccardo and the current council have taken steps towards opening San José’s books so that residents can easily track how their tax dollars are being spent. But we can and should do so much more. Silicon Valley technology has made it possible to bring together people and government like never before, and as the self-identified “Capital of Silicon Valley”, it’s time for San José to lead the charge.