From equity to blight and guns: San Jose lawmakers outline new priorities

With limited resources and time, the San Jose City Council each year must decide where its priorities fall. On Tuesday, the lawmakers will duel on which policy proposals they consider imperative for the city’s growth and progress.

Since 2011, lawmakers have crafted a high-priority list of policy initiatives to steer the direction of the city’s goals for the year. Councilmembers nominate and discuss their district’s top priorities, each vouching for their proposals before they’re discussed and then voted on in separate rounds during the meeting.

“We really want to narrow our focus and prioritize our work to get the most important things done,” Lee Wilcox, chief of staff to the city manager, told San José Spotlight Monday.

While the priority setting session process has varied over the years, the city revised the annual process in 2017 to prevent councilmembers from pooling all of their votes into one proposal and decided on setting the meeting ahead of the budget setting process every fiscal year, instead of the fall to determine which items need the most dollars. Each council member gets 9 votes to cast in two rounds.

The lawmakers nominated a total of 36 policy ideas, but only 25 will make the cut Tuesday. In the past year the City Council chose proposals that helped address wage theft, the housing shortage, homelessness and illegal dumping. This year, several council members have included policies on transportation, climate, gun control and equity.

Mayor Sam Liccardo — Gun harm reduction; Automated speed warning

Gun violence in America has rocked the nation, galvanizing a new wave of advocates to speak out about gun control and mass shootings in the aftermath of some of the country’s most horrific events. That reality hit close to home when the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting cast a somber tone on the city, as many San Jose residents were caught in the crosshairs of the event that killed three people. Now, Liccardo is proposing a new policy to require all gun owners to insure their weapon and completing a gun harm research study.

Following an uptick in traffic related collisions, the mayor is proposing implementing speed recording cameras and license plate readers in high-collision areas to reduce pedestrian deaths and enforce the speed limit.

Vice Mayor Chappie Jones — Small and local businesses in new development

As the city faces a surge of economic development, Jones wants to ensure that small businesses aren’t wiped out by massive chains. In this proposal, the vice mayor calls for replacing a demolished or displaced small business with a new one and a demonstrated effort from a property owner to offer a retail space to a local business first before reaching out to a large chain.

Sergio Jimenez — Hospitality service charge, Equity in sports fields rentals 

A new trend has emerged in local restaurants — applying a “service charge” on a bill. But managers can pocket these dollars as long as they pay workers a minimum wage. Now, Jimenez is proposing a new sort of wage theft policy to treat service charges as tips that managers must distribute to the restaurant’s workers.

San Jose has a population of more than a million people, but lacks sufficient green space for athletic and recreational use. The high demand for “playable turf,” said Jimenez, has led to an unfair system where large private leagues, often from outside of the city, dominate the use and access of public sports fields.That’s why Jimenez is proposing a new set of rules that would prioritize nonprofit rentals and leagues serving low-income families where at least 75 percent of players live in San Jose.

Raul Peralez — Prohibition of ICE-affiliated businesses on city contracts

As President Donald Trump’s administration cracks down on illegal immigration, Peralez wants to help the immigrant community feel more safe and welcome in San Jose. The District 3 councilmember wants to prohibit the city from “awarding public contracts to companies that act as information brokers, provide extreme vetting services and detention facilities support to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Lan Diep — Accessible pedestrian signals; Sidewalk gaps 

In a win for the disabled community, Diep is proposing two initiatives to fix the city’s sidewalks and crosswalks. If green-lighted, the city would identify dangerous sidewalks gaps and create a program to update critical intersections and crosswalks near facilities serving disabled residents with accessible pedestrian signals.

Magdalena Carrasco — Equity task force 

Following a series of equity discussions, Carrasco wants to create a task force that implements strategies to “promote race and social justice driven policies and practices” such as increasing the presence of Latino children in preschools and working with communities of color to engage them in the policymaking process.

Sylvia Arenas — Bill of Rights for children and youth

A longtime advocate for women and children, Arenas proposes creating a “bill of rights” for children that would guarantee city-led programs and opportunities for youth meet certain criteria. The list includes access to a safe home, transportation and education, training in skills that prepare them to live self-sufficiently and “freedom” from abuse, neglect or mistreatment.

Pam Foley — E-Cigarettes; Citywide transit first policy

To combat rampant vaping use in schools, Foley wants to implement stronger enforcement of e-cigarette sales by preventing retailers from selling e-cigarettes and flavored products close to schools and finding new ways to confirm a consumer is of legal age.

Foley said many San Jose residents opt to drive instead of using public transit because it takes too long, so she’s advocating for a policy that would help make public transit faster by setting a transit speed goal in areas with high light rail and bus use.

Dev Davis — Gas-Powered tools buyback program

To address air quality, noise and pollution concerns, Davis is proposing a new program to buy back gas-powered leaf blowers and landscape tools from residents and businesses. The program would work like the city’s “gun buyback program” where residents turn in firearms to the city for money.

Johnny Khamis — Plastic purification and recycling plant

Khamis, alongside two colleagues — Davis and Foley — is advocating for a new processing plant to reduce polypropylene plastic waste. Currently, these plastics are shipped to Asia, incinerated or dumped in landfills. The new process would create a more sustainable approach to disposing of plastics in a new facility.

Maya Esparza — No blight zones 

Esparza seeks to create a new program, led by the city’s Beautify SJ team, that would implement a specific strategy with new tools and cameras in areas with severe blight and illegal dumping.

“This proactive approach will allow us to break the cycle of cleaning up illegal dumping in the same locations again and again through deterrence and proactive enforcement that will keep trash off of our streets in the first place,” she said.

The City Council meets at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the council chambers at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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