Sounding an optimistic note that 2012 would be a year of “hope, optimism and recovery,” San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed delivered his State of the City address at the San Jose Civic Auditorium Thursday night. Hours after being pummeled in the media over an actuary’s claim of inflated pension projections, Reed sounded confident and statesmanlike, saying that he wanted “ to thank the leaders of our employee unions who have remained engaged and stayed at the table for many hours, days and months of difficult discussions.“
“I appreciate your hard work,” Reed said, “and I still hope that we will be able to reach an agreement on fiscal reforms.”
Josh Koehn was at the event and his live notes on the speech appear on Twitter.—Editor
Citing John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed delivered his sixth State of the City Address Thursday at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, and two things stood out from the event. First, the mayor looked as loose and comfortable on stage as he has at any point in his tenure as mayor. And second, the man knows how to stick to his talking points—there was hardly anything new to announce.
“Over the past 10 years, San Jose has faced enormous fiscal challenges,” Reed said. “But through hard work, creativity and innovation, we have made major progress. That’s why 2012 will be a year of hope, optimism, and recovery.”
Matt Mahood, newly-named CEO of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Chamber of Commerce, introduced the mayor, and the best news of the evening—job growth—seemed to be a victory for both the chamber and the mayor.
“While we haven’t fully recovered from the Great Recession,” Reed said, “I’m pleased to report that the San Jose metropolitan area tied for the highest rate of job growth of all U.S. metro areas in 2011, and we now have 25,000 more jobs than a year ago.”
There were a couple claims of success that were somewhat questionable.
“Two years ago, County Superintendent of Schools, Chuck Weis and I launched the SJ2020 initiative with a goal of eliminating the achievement gap in San Jose public schools,” Reed said. “Forty percent of our children were not performing at their grade level, including 60 percent of our Latino and 60 percent of our African American children. No big city in the country has solved this intractable problem, but we can’t let that stop us.”
The mayor then cited two successful local schools: “Kipp Hartwood Academy has reduced the gap to 4 percent in 8th grade algebra, and the James McEntee Academy reduced their 3rd grade reading gap to 3 percent.” But as Chris Stampolis noted in a San Jose Inside column last month, “Even after county staff learned of significant miscalculations” (of testing student achievement, “leaders of several low-performing middle schools were rewarded with certificates, applause and photos with Dr. Weis and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.”
The mayor also said that gang-related violence was down, yet the murder rate was the highest in years, and many of those killings were gang related.
And in a subtle nod to the growing furor over the mayor’s use of the number $650 million in unfunded liability, due to the pension crisis, the mayor talked as a retirement costs spreadsheet was shown. “Ten years ago, San Jose spent $73 million on retirement benefits,” he said. “This year, we spent $245 million on retirement benefits. These are not projections or assumptions. They are actual dollars spent. Retirement benefits now cost the city more than 50 percent of base payroll and consume over 20 percent of our general fund budget. Every dollar the City pays for retirement costs is a dollar we can’t spend on services for our residents.”
Overall, there seemed to be more optimism at this year’s address than last year, and that could be because the mayor is closer than ever to getting pension reform in front of voters.
“I look forward to discussing these issues with you over the next few months, but talk will only become reality if we implement our Fiscal Reform Plan. With your support, we can and we will make that happen,” Reed said. “And when we do, 2012 will be a great year of Hope, Optimism and Recovery; the year in which we overcome our greatest challenges; the year in which we finally turn the corner on a decade of budget deficits and service cuts; and the year that we put San Jose back on the path to becoming a great city.”