A Message from Sam: A Tale of One City

Dec 28, 2016

The holidays give us an opportunity to enjoy time with family and loved ones, and to reflect on the blessings of our past year.

I feel blessed to serve San José’s incredible community. Like every big city, we have daunting challenges to confront — among them poverty, crime, homelessness, and decaying infrastructure. Throughout 2016, however, against the backdrop of a deeply divided nation, San José increasingly became a beacon for the power of working together. For our “Tale of One City,” we have many to thank.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank the voters of San José for their willingness to reinvest in our city with new revenue measures. These efforts garnered broad community support of organized labor, the business community, and nearly the entire Council, generating dollars critically needed to buffer core services against looming deficits in the future. We’ve already put some of these new dollars to work in June when we:

  • Dedicated $17.7 million to meet — for the first time in more than a decade — the annual funding needs for basic repair and repaving of all of our major roads.
  • Allocated funding to expand police officer recruitment efforts, and set aside the funds needed to increase sworn police officer staffing by 41 positions in future years.
  • Ended the periodic “brown-out” of fire companies, restored two “squad car” units and funded traffic signal pre-emption technology to help improve emergency fire and medical response.
  • Added an additional 19 Community Service Officers to respond to burglaries and other low-priority calls, freeing up sworn officers to handle more serious crimes.
  • Doubled funding for homeless rapid rehousing services.

San José voters also joined leaders countywide to adopt two measures that will provide billions of new funding to address two critical needs: traffic relief and road repair (led by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group) and homelessness (led by the County).

By working together with our community, we have also made significant progress on a number of other key priorities:

  • Last year, we launched “San Jose Works,” to give teenagers living in gang-impacted neighborhoods their first jobs. This year, dozens of employers — like Home Depot, Jabil, Microsoft, and Target — stepped up with our non-profit partner, Work2Future, to employ more than 1,200 teens, while Citibank provided the first-time wage earners with financial literacy tools. (If you’d like to give a teenager a chance, please email [email protected])
  • Last fall, we convened mayors from throughout Silicon Valley to urge a regional, “all-together” increase in the minimum wage. So far, councils representing the cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and San José have all voted to raise the wage to $15 by 2019 or sooner.
  • The City Council unanimously approved my 2015 direction to accelerate implementation of body-worn cameras by our police department. Chief Eddie Garcia didn’t need any prodding, though; working with the police union, Independent Police Auditor Walter Katz, and community advocates, SJPD fully deployed body-worn cameras this summer. Chief Garcia and his team continue to boost police accountability such as by releasing an independent study of racial bias in arrests, launching the “Coffee with a Cop” neighborhood gatherings, and expanding officer training in racial bias, force de-escalation, and mental illness.
  • In November of 2015, when we had more than 700 homeless U.S. military vets in our Valley, Supervisor Dave Cortese and I pledged an end to veterans’ homelessness by the 100th anniversary of Veterans’ Day, in 2018. Led by Destination:Home and a consortium of non-profits, faith congregations, and the City and County, the “All the Way Home” campaign housed more than 500 of those vets in our first year — and we’ll keep pushing until we finish the task.
  • We’ve collectively made progress on homelessness in other ways: when the Council eased restrictions, shelters, churches and synagogues citywide generously opened their doors to create a network of supportive shelters. In July, after the Supreme Court resolved six years of litigation, San José implemented its inclusionary and impact fee programs to require developers to build or pay for for affordable housing units with every project.
  • A half-decade of battles and lawsuits over pension reform finally ended when voters approved an agreement that we forged with 11 unions, and which fiscal reformers, businesses, and city employees broadly supported. San José taxpayers will save more than $42 million this year with the passage of Measure F, and will become better positioned to maintain core services, while every California city continues to grapple with fast-rising retirement costs.
  • This summer, we celebrated the launch of our fifth new international route at San José-Mineta International Airport (Beijing, Frankfurt, London, Shanghai, and Vancouver) in the last 18 months, and the fastest air service growth of any airport in the nation. Advocacy by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Chamber of Commerce proved critical in this success.

Although I’m proud of my own role in each of these efforts, I’m far more proud of a community that pulled together to lift our collective aspirations above our personal ambitions.

Of course, we’ve got many more people who need our help — this Mercury News link provides an easy way to find organizations aligned with your passion for giving. I look forward to working with you to show our divided nation what one city can do — together.