First, a confession. I figured when I endorsed Cindy Chavez for mayor I’d get a lot of reaction from my District 6 constituents and supporters. But I have to acknowledge being pleasantly surprised at the thoughtful, constructive nature of the feedback, whether supportive or critical. I am so proud to represent San Jose’s D6.
And second, a clarification. Many people asked me for more specifics about what I expect from Cindy as mayor. So I’ve thought about that, and put together my list of five ways she can improve the office.
No. 5: Be completely transparent and honest about city money and budgets. Citizens lose trust in government when they fear their money is being misspent, or—worse yet—when they witness politicians attempting to hide budget overages or financial mistakes. Cindy needs to be forthright and forthcoming about money with San Jose citizens—whether it’s good news or bad.
No. 4: Don’t get distracted by the issues of the moment. It’s tempting to respond to media enthusiasms and hot-button national issues, but that’s not what city government is about. It’s vital for Cindy to stay ruthlessly focused on the core services the city is supposed to provide—they’re in our charter—and not overextend our budget, staff time and management cycles by adding new and extraneous responsibilities to our brief. She will do well if she respects the authority of different levels of government, and not try to do the job of Washington D.C. or Sacramento from Fourth and Santa Clara streets.
No. 3: Recreate a culture of respect and decorum at San Jose City Hall. In my six years as a councilwoman, I have witnessed a real decay in how councilmembers, employees and even the public speak to each other at our meetings. Smears, personal insults, even wild accusations of racism go unremarked upon, creating an “anything goes” environment that is not conducive to the people’s work. I’ll look to Cindy, as mayor, to reestablish baseline etiquette for councilmembers and the public alike, so we can return to a culture of productive, professional collegiality.
No. 2: Follow through on enforcing our laws and regulations. Everyone has seen this sad phenomenon with homeless encampments: they grow, become dangerous, the city finally abates them, and then, within a week, they’re back. If we are not going to enforce our laws, people will not follow them. Cindy needs to stand for vigorous enforcement of our laws—equitably and consistently.
No. 1: Focus on being mayor—not the next job. I have nothing against politicians being ambitious—hey, I ran for mayor as a councilwoman. But politicians should never allow their career ambitions to drive their decisions as elected representatives. These jobs are about fulfilling the will of our constituents, not resume builders. They are about delivering value to the people of San Jose, not greasing the fundraising for the next election. Cindy needs to remind herself every day that being mayor is 100% about San Jose—right here, right now and nothing else.
Dev Davis is a San Jose councilmember representing District 6.
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