The word of the day this past Saturday at San Jose’s William J. Overfelt High School, where Mayor Sam Liccardo delivered his second State of the City speech, was “opportunity.”
“My name is Sam, and I work for you,” he said to begin his speech. “I’ve learned a few lessons in my first year as mayor: to listen more, to talk less and to laugh more. I have seen my colleagues on this council over the past year rise above the acrimony of the past to work collaboratively to achieve great results.”
It’s been a busy first year in office for the mayor: in addition to unanimously passing a balanced budget and reaching a settlement on a landmark pension reform package up for a vote in November, he’s also accelerated job and small business growth, created new agencies to help with a variety of social services and vastly improved the relationships between City Hall, the police and the community.
“Amid the national controversy over policing and race, San Jose will publicly release data about police detentions and race, and we will install body cameras on every patrol officer,” Liccardo told the audience. Along with improved de-escalation training, forbidding the use of chokeholds and a proposed increase in the number of community service officers, SJPD expects a much-needed PR boost in the coming year.
Further increasing job and small business growth took center stage for most of the mayor’s speech, with him unveiling a series of programs designed to accelerate opportunities in both areas. Most notably among them were an expansion of the youth jobs program San Jose Works, which intends to employ 1,000 more teens, a countywide but San-Jose-led effort to raise the minimum wage, and the activation of a Vietnamese small business booster in a roster that already includes both Spanish and English-speaking contingents.
“Almost 40 percent of our adults come here from a foreign country,” Liccardo said. “That is our past and it is our present. So too, our future should be guided by the great insight inspired by those who have lived the immigrant experience.”
Affordable housing was also a prominent feature in the mayor’s speech, with special attention paid to reducing the city’s sizable homeless population. Two projects to retrofit empty hotels for interim homeless housing were announced, as well as plans to create a 150-unit “microvillage” on city land. Much of the focus of these initiatives will be on reducing the number of homeless veterans, with the mayor pledging to have all of them off the streets by Veteran’s Day 2018.
Other future projects include the development of a community soccer center near the new Avaya Stadium, a softball complex on the East Side, the launching of high-speed Internet in many more neighborhoods and a variety of maintenance projects for San Jose’s roads and public transportation systems, all offset by approximately $3 billion in savings from the mayor’s proposed pension reform resolution. The mayor urged the public to support these programs despite any fears or anxieties they might have about the expenditures.
“Madison Avenue and Hollywood and Wall Street are governed by the tyranny of the urgent,” Liccardo said. “This can infect our thinking with a myopia that satisfies today but betrays our future. We have to make these investments in a time of scarce resources, and we cannot afford to do the same things in the same ways as the past.”
Given the successes of his first year, the mayor is optimistic. “We happen to benefit from living in the most limit-defying community on the planet, the Silicon Valley,” he said. “We are empowered to catalyze change globally through our creativity, through our passion, through our inner geek.”
He continued, “Yes, this about leveraging our technology. But more importantly, it’s about leveraging the power of our people, the power of our ideas. To unleash your geek doesn’t require new gadgets or apps. Rather, it requires a reimagining of our city and ourselves. Can we put this power to work to benefit our city? Can we make City Hall as innovative as the community we serve?”
Liccardo concluded, “It is this noble commitment that must guide us. It implores us first to save, second to invest and third to innovate. We must innovate.”