East San Jose town hall meeting focuses on traffic, blight and gang violence

Community leaders in East San Jose held a town hall to address neighborhood issues including traffic enforcement, blight, and rising gang violence on Thursday night.  

"There are gunshots over the weekend. There is an active gang here that many families are concerned about. You know, not just that. There’s illegal dumping in the neighborhood. There’s graffiti. There’s a lot of blight," said Peter Ortiz, who represents San Jose's Fifth District.

Community members, parents and staff gathered at Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy Thursday night to voice their concerns about what was happening in East San Jose. 

"There’s a house on our block that has multiple cars and they have them all parked all on the street," said one resident who complained about parking enforcement on her street. 

Ortiz says addressing these issues is important because of his own history.   

"We want to provide options for these individuals. I’m a former gang member, I’m not going to be hypocritical and talk bad about these individuals. These individuals have lacked resources from their birth, growing up here on the Eastside, especially in Dobern," he said.    

Ortiz says holding people accountable for their criminal behavior is also key. He says he’s partnered with San Jose police, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and educational institutions like Rocketship Public Schools to reach young people as early as possible.    

"I think this is one opportunity and one way for us to build that bridge and that community with Peter Ortiz and his team, but also just empowering our families," said Danisha West, Rocketship Si Se Puede Academy principal.   

Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Byron Suarez also grew up in East San Jose and talked about the way he and the D.A.’s Office are approaching gang prevention.  

"Not wearing this suit and talking to them as someone who grew up in this neighborhood and sharing my upbringing, the struggles my family had. Visiting my brother in jail, and my cousins in prison. Telling them that ‘We don’t want that for you. What can we do for you?'" said Suarez. 

Ortiz also brings people together to host a neighborhood cleanup this Saturday.