UPDATE: San Jose committee recommends mental health, gun safety proposals
San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez speaks on his proposal for mental health and gun control reforms. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Nine people died at a May mass shooting at VTA’s Guadalupe light rail yard. A new proposal from a San Jose councilmember wants to make sure another tragedy doesn’t happen again.

Councilmember Raul Peralez unveiled a sweeping plan Wednesday aimed at evaluating workplace culture among city employees and reducing gun violence.

Peralez wants the city to examine workplace culture among its employees and encourage them to participate in work-provided mental health services. He also wants the city to partner with Santa Clara County to further develop the county’s newly-approved trauma center and an audit of city gun policies.

The Rules and Open Government Committee unanimously voted in favor of Peralez’s proposal Wednesday. It will go before the City Council at a later date, and officials will work with the county and the San Jose Police Department to get data on gun-related suicides and homicides.

Peralez, a former full-time San Jose police officer who owns several guns, aims to prevent another mass shooting at the hands of a disgruntled public worker while reducing the region’s number of gun violence victims. His friend Michael Rudometkin was killed during the VTA mass shooting.

“I can’t do anything to bring back my own friend,” Peralez said at a news conference on Wednesday. “But in the position I’m in, I have the obligation to do everything I can. It starts with this action today.”

Committee members were supportive of Peralez’s proposal, hoping it can help city and county employees come forward should they have mental health issues.

“A comprehensive look at what leads to firearm violence and really highlighting the impacts of firearms on suicide is an important topic to bring up, and one we haven’t discussed in the past,” Councilmember Dev Davis said.

Davis also asked about the city’s role in the county’s development of the trauma center. Peralez wants the city to take a proactive approach in coordinating programs with the county.

Councilmember Sylvia Arenas said a friend of hers was killed by her boyfriend. She hopes Peralez’s suggested policies will help bring justice to more sexual assault victims.

Arenas pushed Peralez to include provisions in his proposal related to gender- and sex-based crimes. City officials said they will come back with related data at a later date.

“It really changes the way that you date. That’s one of the reasons why I’m very focused on sexual assault and gender-based violence,” Arenas said.

Gloria Rudometkin speaks outside City Hall. Rudometkin lost her husband in the May 26 mass shooting at VTA’s light rail yard in downtown San Jose. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Gloria Rudometkin on Wednesday spoke about losing her husband in the VTA mass shooting and waiting with his family for 12 hours at a unification center, hoping he was still alive. She said officials failed to deliver timely or truthful information.

“Waiting 12 hours for information does one very cruel thing: It gives you hope,” she said. “Hope that you will find your loved one still alive… those who engaged with us were not prepared to properly support victims’ families. I sincerely believe a countywide trauma center would help future victims.”

Several San José Spotlight reports have exposed a toxic work culture at VTA, punctuated by grievances from current and former workers. They claim their mental health concerns are being ignored. Families of the shooting victims are pursuing workers’ compensation claims, and the wife of one of the victims is working with legislators to create a law that would allow the government to seize the assets of people who commit mass shootings and distribute the liquidated funds to the families of victims.

John Courtney, president of ATU Local 265 which represents VTA workers, said he’s thankful for the proposal.

“When (the shooting) happened, we didn’t have a playbook, Courtney said. “We didn’t realize how deep the mental health part of this went into our society, into our homes and into our workplaces.”

John Courtney, president of ATU Local 265. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

Just weeks after the mass shooting at the light rail yard in downtown San Jose, the city passed gun control policies requiring gun shops to audio and video record purchases.

The city is set to pass more legislation in the fall to require all gun owners in the city to carry insurance and pay into a public gun violence fund.

Gun rights groups promise to challenge any gun-related legislation the city passes. Public speakers at Wednesday’s meeting, though mostly supportive of the proposal, also raised concerns about their gun rights being infringed on.

“Is the City Council getting into the permitting business now for rights pertaining to the Second Amendment?” asked resident Jonathan Fleming. “I think it’s important to know what we’re supporting before it’s approved.”

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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