As San Jose lawmakers prepare to approve next year’s budget, Mayor Sam Liccardo announced in his budget message Monday that he wants to distribute public dollars equitably – focusing limited funding and resources on areas with the greatest needs.

“All of us should agree that across several city program areas, high-poverty neighborhoods need greater resources,” Liccardo wrote. “In some service areas – such as gang prevention, early education, and after-school learning – staff have routinely applied an equity lens to spending decisions. In other areas, we need to do more work.”

Liccardo’s June message – which focuses on the creation of an “equity screen” – comes two months after he proposed cutting back on city spending to brace for a potential deficit. Drawing on a recent initiative on addressing economic disparities by creating an equity fund – a proposal first authored in April by Councilmembers Raul Peralez, Sergio Jimenez, Magdalena Carrasco, Maya Esparza and Sylvia Arenas – Liccardo implored city officials to analyze data from the Social Progress Index and Government Alliance on Race and Equity when allocating services across neighborhoods.

He also requested that officials follow five guidelines: Rely on objective data over complaints, identify areas of need by census tract or police beat and not by council district, identify cost-effective solutions, account for income disparities and be transparent.

Funding councilors’ ideas

Last week, councilmembers submitted more than 100 new ideas to compete for funding in the upcoming budget cycle. From installing baby changing stations in city facilities to registering home security cameras with the San Jose Police Department, the proposals totaled $41.3 million. Here’s a few that made the cut in Liccardo’s budget plan:

Keeping trains quiet in San Jose – Councilmember Raul Peralez

A week after Peralez proposed establishing quiet zones to combat trains roaring through San Jose, Peralez, along with Liccardo, Dev Davis, Jimenez and Esparza, authored a memo exploring litigation against the Union Pacific Railroad. Last year, the railroad changed its operating plan – sending blaring trains through San Jose at night. Noises from the horns, along with blight along the tracks, garnered complaints from residents across the city.

In his budget message, Liccardo wants to allocate $500,000 to fund potential litigation, design infrastructure to help reduce collisions at intersections and pursue grant funding for the construction of quiet zones. Peralez had originally asked for $5.5 million to fund his proposal.

Registering your security camera with SJPD – Councilmember Pam Foley 

Months after the San Jose Police Department utilized home security camera footage to capture the alleged killer of a District 9 resident, Foley proposed that the city incentive residents to register their own cameras.

In his budget message, Liccardo suggested allocating $10,000 to incentivize residents to participate in the program. He also suggested spending $11,000 to install street signage that says “community video cameras in use.” The effort, which would be led by the San Jose Parks Foundation, was also proposed by Foley.

Expanding Downtown Streets Team’s Work – Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, Lan Diep and Maya Esparza

In four separate proposals, Jimenez, Peralez, Diep and Esparza requested funding to continue or expand the city’s partnership with Downtown Streets Team, which employs homeless residents to pick up trash in San Jose’s blight “hot spots.”

Liccardo recommends allocating $250,000 with the goal of employing 100 homeless individuals and cleaning up at least 1,000 tons of litter. In addition to funding on areas requested by the four councilors, the mayor wants to include hot spots that are identified through the equity screen.

Creating family friendly city facilities – Councilmember Sylvia Arenas

As a part of her Family Friendly Initiative, Arenas suggests installing 269 changing tables and lactation spaces across city facilities. Liccardo wants to start meeting the needs of families by allocating $103,500 to install 207 changing tables inside parks, convention centers and cultural facilities, the Environmental Innovation Center, libraries, the San Jose Municipal Stadium and police facilities.

The money would come from the general fund, as well as an array of tax funds such as the Parks Construction and Conveyance Tax Citywide Fund.

“Some of our City-owned facilities lack changing tables and private areas for mothers of newborns who require clean, private lactation areas,” Liccardo wrote. “In my June budget message two years ago, I recommended funding these private areas at select locations.”

In keeping with his theme of an equity screen, Liccardo is also suggesting the allocation of up to $300,000 to pilot lactation pods at libraries and community centers with the greatest need. Arenas had originally requested $2.6 million in funding for the proposal.

Improving Alviso Park – Councilmember Lan Diep `

In 2018, the City Council adopted a master plan to fix up Alviso Park – the only park located on the north side of Highway 237.

Only $228,000 has gone toward the required $15 million in improvements. Liccardo wants to contribute to that number by allocating $250,000 to go toward improvements for the youth baseball field, picnic areas, swimming pool, playgrounds and community garden. The funding, however, would be contingent on the release of developer-contributed funds by the Santa Visits Alviso Foundation.

What didn’t make the cut?

Some of the year’s most controversial and high profile proposals, including suggestions from Councilmember Johnny Khamis to install metal detectors at City Hall and mount license plate readers on parking enforcement vehicles, did not make the cut.

Carrasco’s ask for funding to help start up a cannabis equity program was also not on the mayor’s short list. The initiative, which would help get minorities and the economically disadvantaged into the cannabis industry, was approved as a council priority earlier this year. Liccardo was not one of the six councilors to vote to prioritize the issue.

Foley’s effort to save VTA Route 65 – a bus line that travels from the Cambrian area up to North San Jose – also lost out in this year’s budget message. Foley wanted to allocate $15,500 to VTA’s free ridership campaign in hopes of increasing Route 65’s rider numbers.

To read the mayor’s full budget message, including other ideas he wants to fund, click here.

Contact Grace Hase at grace@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.

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