2013 State of the City Address:
Priorities are Fiscal Reform and Restoring Police
On February 7th, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed presented the 2013 State of the City Address at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. The major theme of his speech was that the city must “stay the course” relating to prioritizing fiscal reform, restoring police and other city services, and continuing focus on economic growth.
Mayor Reed acknowledged that the city’s residents have done a lot to soften the existing financial crisis, through the passage of measures to allow sustainable pensions to new city workers and through the passage of pension reform via Measure B. The fiscal reform plan already provides a savings of over $100 million dollars a year. But the city’s budget continues to be a challenge. Retirement costs have increased from $73 million to $245 million a year in just the past ten years. Additionally, there is still $3 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities for pension and healthcare obligations made to retirees and current employees. Cutting city employees, as well as the painful – and appreciated - employee salary concessions, has still not been enough. He cautioned that the City Council must finish implementation of the rest of the fiscal reform plan to ensure a full recovery.
Restoring Police and Other City Services
Mayor Reed talked about safety as a priority, and acknowledged that the police department is understaffed due to staffing cuts, pay-cuts and resignations. He said, “We must not and we will not accept higher crime rates as the new normal”. With savings from pension reform over the next two years, San Jose will be able to increase the police force by 200 additional officers. The greater challenge is in the immediate future, in retaining officers as well as getting more existing officers on the street by re-assigning those that are currently performing roles that civilians could do. Commenting on recent discussions to restore the 10 percent pay cuts to police in an effort to retain experienced officers, Mayor Reed said that the city can’t afford to do that near-term without cutting more city personnel and services. He also said there are other key services that are already suffering such as street repairs, library access, fire departments’ response times, and more.
To address this lingering budget gap Mayor Reed brought up the possible option of an increase in taxes as a way to restore city services. He challenged residents to put together a broad coalition of support to raise new revenues in 2014.
Mayor Reed said that San Jose is leading the nation in creating and sustaining economic growth, as well as leading in clean tech innovation. He said, “We have more than a billion dollars of investments moving through our permitting process which will create thousands of jobs and generate another $10 million in annual tax revenues.” He encouraged businesses to stay in San Jose and grow here, and that he was committed to help them by “working at the speed of business.”