I was a little bummed out Tuesday afternoon. I had my popcorn ready. I had my browser pointed to the City of San Jose website. I was keyed up to watch the council discussion of an update on progress with the city’s economic development priorities.
Essentially, the city’s current economic strategy has been condensed to a five-point plan—as if we don’t have enough of those. In short order:
1. Be More Efficient
2. Fix the Sign Code
3. Add More Flights at SJC
5. Follow the General Plan.
To be frank, it should really be a one-point plan starting and ending with No. 5. But hey, why make the rules if not to break them later, right?
Alas, the report was postponed to next Tuesday’s Council meeting. But that just means I get to dissect the memo here for you, and hopefully entice the wonkiest among you to watch with me when it finally gets its moment in chambers.
For the most part, the outlook appears sunny. Seems like staff has had a lot of meetings with a lot of local businesses, and the council has approved a lot of well-intentioned projects—some that will create jobs and economic impact, and others that will create more traffic.
The city got around to updating its Sign Code Ordinance, and the good folks at the airport added flights to Tokyo and Maui. (Have to admit that’s not much of a toss up for a last-minute getaway.)
The council also granted AIG—that’s Athletics Investment Group to you—an option to purchase (some of) the land under the future home of the A’s and aided Lew Wolff in his quest to get an honest-to-god soccer pitch built for Los Terremotos.
But keep reading, and you come to the part about the challenges ahead, wherein lies the rub. This particular line made me stop and read twice: “OED’s entire ongoing operating budget for business development (non-personal resources) is less than $300,000 for the entire city.”
The city doesn’t have the resources to solve its own fiscal mess through economic development. So, instead, it’s charging full bore at the one thing it thinks it can control: its own employees. Hence, the recent dust-up over pension ref… sorry, modification. But that’s another matter entirely.
San Jose needs to get back to doing what it does well. Companies aren’t choosing to locate here because of expedited permits or reduced parking fees. They’re moving here because this is where their employees live. They live here to take advantage of our world class parks, libraries, and public safety—all maintained with relatively little funding. I’d like to see what our libraries could do with $300,000.
The city’s memo says in no uncertain terms that “external partnerships are essential” to the future of our local economy. Nowhere is that more obvious than the new BART extension to Berryessa. As noted by numerous public officials during the recent groundbreaking ceremony, Carl Guardino and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group did more to make this epic “public” works project a reality than anyone at City Hall or 70 West Hedding.
Let’s continue to work with innovative organizations like the Leadership Group to build a 21st century local economy and use our limited resources to build a city that a 21st century workforce wants to call home.
As luck would have it, there’s a blueprint for such a city. It’s called the Envision San José 2040 General Plan Update. I think I have a copy floating around here somewhere …
Peter Allen is an independent communications consultant and a proud native of San José.