Every week like clockwork, the San Jose City Council needs to study and vote on a new array of policies.
Meanwhile, government must quickly respond to a constant fountain of important constituent concerns and events outside its control like natural disasters.
It’s no wonder government struggles to get in front of solving problems. Working in government, I’ve seen how hard it is.
San Jose is no exception.
Homeless encampments are constantly moving around, we have trouble hiring enough staff to provide adequate city services, trash keeps reappearing on streets right after being cleaned up and our city parks become further dilapidated when maintenance is delayed.
We react to problems and get overwhelmed by them rather than solving them. It’s a counterproductive loop.
I’m running for city council to help our city break out of this cycle using a different approach. I want to proactively address issues before they turn into crises that cost the government more money and all of us more hardship.
I call this approach “Upstream Public Policy.”
It means controlling the water flow at the source to keep the river from flooding. Here’s how we achieve Upstream Public Policy:
- To prevent homelessness and reduce trash, we need more permanent homes, safe places where homeless folks efficiently receive services, and protections so they aren’t evicted from their homes in the first place.
- To thwart criminals taking advantage when no one is watching, let’s hire more community service officers to patrol neighborhoods. Locating homes, shops, offices, entertainment and green space near each other makes communities active with good neighbors from morning to night, meaning more eyes on the streets keeping them safe.
- To deter blight and reduced property values caused by empty buildings, I propose we expand on the city’s recent efforts. We can’t allow empty places to become eyesores and targets for vandals, squatters and fires, so let’s discourage property owners from leaving homes and businesses vacant for years.
- To support small businesses — which strengthen San Jose’s tax base so we provide better city services — I’ll introduce a business retention ordinance to encourage property owners to lease their storefronts to small, local businesses.
- To reduce rising temperatures from global warming and better maintain our streets and parks, I propose funding dedicated to three key services: maintaining our parks, keeping up our sidewalks and planting more trees. Moving away from fossil fuels also minimizes the consequences of climate change.
- To reverse the displacement of working families, we must pay some city staff more so positions are filled and workers stay with San Jose. That assures you receive the city services you deserve. My leadership style as the co-founder running a startup organization is to pinch pennies on everything except employee compensation because attracting and retaining top talent fosters an efficient, productive workforce.
- To avert our family and friends from getting priced out of San Jose because they can’t buy a home or afford rent, more homes should be constructed quicker and qualify for stable rent.
- To guarantee development benefits the broader community and expands trust in government, the city must modernize its outdated community engagement policy. This allows all San Joseans to be at the table and understand how their input affects decisions. Better community engagement leads to better development.
To stay ahead of the river’s curve when the water starts rushing, I’ll consistently build relationships and analyze new ideas with my constituents and colleagues.
To find the best policy solutions, my office will meet internally to explore other cities’ promising efforts and externally with my constituents in working groups to collaborate on their priorities.
Voyaging upstream with my colleagues too, I’ll invite the mayor and councilmembers to meet with me one-on-one monthly to build and keep trust. That way, we can work as a team when times get tough.
Upstream Public Policy means being prudent stewards of taxpayer money. It means spending precious funds on early, effective solutions. On solutions to our most pressing problems before they drown us. This approach will be my river guide when my journey as your councilmember begins.
Alex Shoor is a candidate for San Jose City Council District 6. He leads a regional nonprofit organization and served eight years on San Jose’s Housing and Community Development Commission.