Skip to content

Archive for

30
May

Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet to what’s going on in your community

City of San Jose

 

Review of the Fire Department Strategic Plan (Vision 2030)

Recommendation from the Fire Chief that Council adopt the San Jose Fire Department Strategic Plan, which includes a roadmap to provide ongoing quality services to the community and establish the San Jose Fire Department as a national leader in all-risk emergency response and fire prevention services. Strategies outlined in the Vision 2030 Plan include maximizing existing infrastructure and resources; use of new technologies; refinement and development of systems; seeking opportunities through interdepartmental, interagency, and community coalitions and partnerships; and empowerment of Department personnel.

The Fire Department Organizational Review was completed in Feb. 2016, and a number of the conclusions offered in the review were found to support the direction already identified in the Department’s Strategic Plan. Where the conclusions differed from the Strategic Plan, the findings were reviewed and the plan updated where appropriate.

Execution of the Vision 2030 Plan positions the Department to not only maintain current, essential services but also serves as a guideline for restoration and expansion of services consistent with the findings of the Organizational Review as funds become available.

Read more »

27
May

The Fiscal History of San Jose — or – Why does the City always seem broke?

Any grassroots, community or neighborhood activist who has struggled to get the City of San Jose to expand public services has likely encountered a perennial refrain – We’d love to help but the money just isn’t there.

A year ago, my think tank, Working Partnerships USA, and SPUR, a Bay Area urbanist organization decided to take a cold look at the city’s finances since the passage of Proposition 13 in the late 1970’s. Our goal was to determine just what were the problems, what caused them, and what could be done about them? You can check out the entire report here. In this column, I’ll just point out my interpretation of some of the major findings.

 

THE PROBLEM

Contrary to the hysterical pronouncements that emanated from the Reed Administration, San Jose isn’t Vallejo or Detroit, and bankruptcy isn’t imminent. However, the city does confront some significant fiscal difficulties. Compared to other cities, San Jose does poorly as regards property tax and sales tax receipts – the bed and butter major revenues for urban California. So the city has to scramble to patch together other revenue streams to compensate. Because the patchwork is only of limited effectiveness, San Jose is vulnerable to economic downturns – which translate quickly into painful service reductions. Also, San Jose’s service levels rarely get very high even in good times; it’s staffing levels are noticeably lower than other places. Together these factors mean when you look at San Jose in relationship to its nearby competitors, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Mountain View, San Jose seems underfunded and understaffed with lower service levels and less financial stability.

Read more »

26
May

Former Staffer Claims Khanna Lied About Owing Him Money

In an article published on EBCitizen.com, Bill Ferguson, a former Ro Khanna staffer, says Khanna refused to pay him $6,000 for work done during an unsuccessful 2004 Congressional race and is now lying about the money owed.  Khanna claims that Ferguson has been paid.  However, emails sent between the two men, starting as far back as July of 2004, show Khanna acknowledging his debt to Ferguson.  Ferguson spent 10 years asking Khanna to pay him.  Each time Khanna came back with an excuse and no payment. Up to now, the focus has been on Khanna’s refusal to pay a debt he owes, but the bigger issue is Khanna’s credibility.  Not only does Khanna owe Ferguson money, but now Khanna appears to be lying about it.

24
May

Brownstein: San Jose rent control law still falls far short of the need

Special to The Mercury News

By adopting only minimal improvements to San Jose’s rent control law, the City Council has allowed our affordable housing crisis to grow worse each year. Wildly escalating rents are the most damaging effect of the region’s housing problems.

High rents displace seniors and low wage workers; they force multiple families to crowd into a single apartment; they make it impossible for working parents to meet the needs of their children.

Contrary to the recent column by the California Apartment Association, the new changes in the law were anything but “harsh” to landlords. In addition to the allowable 5 percent increase, landlords may profit from:

  • Rent increases above 5 percent in order to make a “fair” return.
  • Pass-throughs of many capital improvement costs.
  • Unlimited rent increases to market levels after a voluntary vacancy or an eviction for cause (50 percent of apartments turn over every four years).
  • Full capital appreciation of their property (estimated by the city’s consultant to be 400 percent over 10 years).

In reality, San Jose’s revised ordinance provides renters a mere fraction of the protections guaranteed in other large California cities. By failing to act decisively, the city’s leaders are allowing 44,000 apartments to become unaffordable (state law limits rent control to these older units, about 1/3 of all apartments in San Jose). No combination of other affordable housing strategies can make up for this massive loss.

Similarly, the City Council’s actions on retaliation address only a small part of the problem. The proposed protections cover only tenants who file code enforcement complaints. The ordinance leaves out the renter evicted because she protested drug dealing on the premises or because she yelled at an apartment manager to keep his hands off her daughter or because she had the courage to speak out at a city council meeting.

To respond to our affordable housing crisis, the City Council must strengthen its existing rent control ordinance. Building on this base, it can help generate additional solutions.

Allowing more market rate apartments to be built can be helpful. City leaders must recognize that the reason old and poorly maintained units can command exorbitant rents is that the city restricts the housing supply. However, this strategy has limits.

The amount of new housing needed to actually bring down rents would be massive, possibly doubling the size of the city. Our elected leaders believe — with justification- that there are fiscal and environmental obstacles to allowing new construction on such a gigantic scale.

Recognizing that city planning limits supply, the city council should demand that the effects of this policy be allocated fairly. But right now, the limits force the transfer of millions of dollars from low wage workers to investors. They turn San Jose into two separate cities — one composed of those who gain from a housing shortage and one of families devastated by the lack of affordable shelter.

After strengthening the rent control law and permitting additional apartment construction, there is much that local governments can do to address the crisis.

The county and cities should work together to support a large scale affordable housing bond. Every city should adopt residential and commercial impact fees to generate revenue that allows non-profit developers to construct affordable units.

Homelessness is a blight that we should no longer accept. It is broadly agreed that supportive housing works. All that is required is political will and adequate funding.

However, leaving 44,000 households facing displacement because of inadequate rent controls is the absolutely wrong place to start this effort.

Bob Brownstein is director of policy and research at Working Partnerships USA. He wrote this for the Mercury News. The link to Brownstein’s opinion piece can be found here.

 

 

 

 

23
May

Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet to what’s going on in your community

County of Santa Clara

 Special election to be held August 16 to fill vacant Sunnyvale City Council seat

 The City of Sunnyvale submitted a resolution on April 27, 2016, requesting that the Registrar of Voters (ROV) provide services for a special election to be held on August 16, 2016 to fill the Council seat vacated

Where:  Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

When: May 24, 2016, 9 am

Link to item:  http://sccgov.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=&MeetingID=7192&MediaPosition=&ID=81300&CssClass=

Link to agenda: http://sccgov.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=7192


Read more »

19
May

Chamber Continues to Face Backlash for Hit Pieces

The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce has been getting a lot of heat for its mudslinging against District 8 candidate Joshua Barousse.  Last week, Pat Waite, another contender for the District 8 seat, found the hits on Barousse so petty and overinflated that in a letter published in the Evergreen Times he stated, “I have returned the contribution that the Chamber made to my campaign, and will no longer use their endorsement in my materials.”

Earlier this week, the Silicon Valley Young Democrats, along with two former Presidents of the California Young Democrats sent an open letter to Matt Mahood, CEO and President of the Chamber. The letter called on Mahood to immediately stop the personal attacks, citing that at a time when voter turnout is at an all-time low, the ads only serve to “further disillusion young people to the realities of community service.”

Council Member Raul Peralez has also spoken out against the Chamber’s focus on attacking candidates on “minor traffic infractions.”

18
May

Opportunity to Work Headed to San Jose City Council, Supporters Urge Adoption

Today, the San Jose City Clerk announced that the Opportunity to Work Initiative has the signatures needed to be placed on the November 2016 ballot. The Council, which will hear the item at their May 24th meeting, has the option of placing the measure on the November 2016 ballot, adopting the ordinance or requesting an impact report. Silicon Valley Rising, community and religious leaders, and impacted hourly workers are urging City Council to adopt the measure.

Last month, a new report by Working Partnerships USA, The Center for Popular Democracy and the Fair Workweek Initiative, uncovered an epidemic of underemployment in San Jose. To help combat the crisis locally, Opportunity to Work would require employers to offer current, qualified part-time employees the opportunity to work additional hours before they hire any additional staff. This is the first initiative of its kind, aimed at providing part-time employees across all industries access to the hours needed for a reliable, livable paycheck.

 

18
May

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in response to new overtime rules unveiled by the Department of Labor

Below is the statement released by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in response to the new overtime rules:

“New overtime protections mark a major victory for working people that will improve the lives of millions of families across America. The new rule more than doubles the salary threshold, ensuring workers who make less than $47,500 are eligible for overtime. We applaud the Obama Administration heeding the call for action to ensure working people get paid for all the hours we work. Taking this step to restore overtime is one of the many ways we are beginning to change the rules of our economy that are rigged in favor of Wall Street.

“The fight for even stronger overtime protections and to raise wages for all working people continues. But today, millions of workers will receive a long overdue raise, healthier and more productive jobs, and more time to spend with our community and loved ones.”

###

 

Statement online here:   http://www.aflcio.org/Press-Room/Press-Releases/Overtime-Protections-to-Raise-Wages-for-Millions-of-Workers

9
May

Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet to what’s going on in your community

County of Santa Clara

Approving Master Development Agreement with Lowe for master plan & entitlements/CEQA review for redevelopment of 55-acre Civic Center site

 This is the next step in the redevelopment of the 55-acre County-owned Civic Center site in north San Jose.

Pursuant to the terms of the Predevelopment Facilities Agreement with Lowe Enterprises, approved by the Board on February 4, 2014, as amended, Administration has negotiated the proposed Master Development Agreement (MDA) for preparation of a Master Plan and the potential subsequent development of public, residential, commercial, industrial and/or cultural uses, at the Civic Center site.

The proposed MDA lays out a roadmap for preparation of a Civic Center Master Plan and laying the groundwork for subsequent development. This is significant because it represents preparation of a comprehensive plan that would be implemented over the next decade to replace/renovate aging capital facilities at the Civic Center. At this point the County would only be committing to completion of Phases A and B.

The MDA also includes the commitment that Lowe would be the developer of the first $150 million of new County buildings during the next 7 to 10 years, depending on how long it takes to complete CEQA and the Master Plan.

Read more »

8
May

What Women Want This Mother’s Day: Opportunity

Alejandra Mejia is a single mother of three children. She has worked at McDonald’s since 2006 and proudly made manager two years ago, balancing job and family by working the morning shift so she could be home after school. But new management came in and changed her schedule, and when she needed to be home by 4, they said, “No problem,” and simply cancelled her shifts.

Now, Alejandra is working as little as eight hours a week at $12 an hour and trying to figure out her next move. She was already on food stamps, sharing one bedroom with her children in a house shared with five other adults. And working less than 20 hours a week, she’ll stop qualifying for her daughter’s child care program. She begs for more hours at work, but management tells her there is no more work available – and keeps hiring new employees.

Alejandra is left to figure out how to support a family of four on $100 a week.

Her constantly changing schedule prevents her from committing to a second job without losing the first. And if she did switch jobs, there’s no guarantee she’d be better off. A crisis of underemployment has hit San Jose, with part-time work up from 26 percent to 43 percent of the hourly workforce in just the last decade. Half of all female hourly workers are part-time, making them more vulnerable to the kind of instability that Alejandra faces. Women of color and immigrant women, especially Black and Vietnamese American women, are dramatically over-represented among part-time workers, forming nearly half of that workforce despite comprising less than a third of all workers. Add that to the fact that part-time jobs on average pay less and have fewer benefits than full-time, and a major factor behind the gender and racial pay gaps becomes clear.

Today we celebrate mothers, yet we are asking mothers like Alejandra to do the impossible. She is trying to work hard and play by the rules, but the rules are written so that she can’t win.

That’s when you know it’s time to change the rules. The National Women’s Political Caucus of Silicon Valley was one of the very first endorsers of the Opportunity to Work Initiative, which would help hourly workers in San Jose get access to enough hours so their paychecks cover the bills and put food on the table. Proposed for the November 2016 ballot, it would require large employers to offer additional work hours to their current qualified part-time workers before hiring new staff.

Alejandra does not know where her next rent payment is going to come from, but she knows that the power to make change will come from women like her. Already a leader in the Fight for $15, she is now fighting for fair hours. Two weeks ago, I stood with her as we turned in nearly 35,000 signatures of San Jose voters who want to see this initiative on the ballot.

Tenneva Jordan said, “A mother is a person who, seeing that there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” Here in Silicon Valley, Alejandra and I think that it’s time for a bigger pie.

Angelica Ramos serves as President of the National Women’s Political Caucus, Silicon Valley.

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: