Sam Liccardo: San Jose needs to invest, innovate in 2016
Editor’s note: Mayor Liccardo adapted this from his State of the City speech on March 5 at Overfelt High School.
We live in an era governed by a tyranny of the immediate. Hourly reports agitate financial markets. Media fixate on a 24-hour news cycles. Donald Trump articulates his deepest thoughts in 140-character tweets. This breeds a myopia — and decisions that satisfy today but betray the future. So we consume natural resources at unsustainable rates, underinvest in education, and neglect crumbling infrastructure.
Fortunately, in Silicon Valley, we share a bolder vision, born of our collective experience as immigrants and innovators. We see greater meaning not in living for today, but in striving and sacrificing for the benefit of those who depend on tomorrow.
This focus on our future forges a clear path for San Jose for the next year: to save, to invest, and to innovate.
First, we must save. Our underfunded budgetary reserves will not buffer residents from severe service reductions during the next recession. This month, I will propose a budget placing our anticipated $5.7 million surplus into a reserve to counter deficits projected over the next half-decade. Then, in November, I will ask voters to approve a measure to secure $3 billion in pension reform savings negotiated with our employees by prohibiting benefit increases without voter approval.
A commitment to the future also compels us to invest. By approving a quarter-cent tax measure on June’s ballot, we can boost the police’s ability to reduce violent crimes and burglaries, improve emergency medical response, and enhance gang prevention.
The measure also bolsters our long-term financial stability: investing $1 today in street maintenance will save $5 in future street rehabilitation.
Years of belt-tightening — including hiring freezes, pay cuts, pension reform, and service reductions — have reduced the employee count in City Hall by a quarter, and San Jose has become America’s most thinly staffed major city.
A broad coalition, including the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, supports this measure because leaders recognize that we cannot merely cut our way to restoring police or roads (to learn more about the tax measure, visit: SJProtectsVitalServices.com).
We’ll also invest in our children, in partnership with our school districts, local employers and foundations.
We’ve just launched innovative after-school learning programs for hundreds of kids in 13 of our highest-poverty neighborhoods. Having restored library hours, we’re expanding early learning programs, coding camps, maker spaces, and online classes. This summer, we’ll also enable 1,000 teenagers living in gang-impacted neighborhoods to land their first jobs.
In a time of scarce resources, however, we cannot afford to spend the same way, on the same things, as before. We must innovate.
This week, I will be unveiling my Smart City vision, which includes several initiatives to make City Hall as innovative as the community we serve — indeed, to make San Jose the most innovative city in the nation by 2020.
We’ll enable our innovative community to help transform San Jose into a platform for new technologies, such as sensor-infused street infrastructure that can reduce traffic collisions, and digital “neighborhood dashboards” that can enable better resident communication with City Hall.
We’ll broaden opportunity, such as by providing very high-speed Internet access in low-income communities at reduced or no cost. We’ll make City Hall more user-friendly, enabling electronic transactions for business permits, submission of building plans, and inspections. We’ll open our city’s data to the public, improving transparency, and enabling our Valley’s bright minds to use the data for service-enhancing apps and analytics.
By focusing on the long view, we’ll provide a global model for civic innovation and for civic renewal. Let’s ignite the power of our imaginations to transform San Jose’s future.
Sam Liccardo is in his second year as mayor of San Jose.