Transition committees help San Jose mayor set budget priorities

Improving San Jose’s future is about to get a boost from recommendations from those who live in the city.

Homelessness, safety, clean neighborhoods, downtown vibrancy, and planning are the five key areas Mayor Matt Mahan says are the core focus of his forthcoming city budget.

"This process was different from past transition processes that we’ve seen mayors undertake. It was really a break from the status quo," said Mahan.

He will present findings at Tuesday’s city council meeting from five transition committees corresponding to the five areas where he wants to see measurable improvement.

"From a political science perspective, and from a governmental perspective, this is the way to make policy at the local level," said Dr. Patricia Crouse, a Univerityof New Haven political scientist.

The Clean Neighborhoods Committee aims to reduce vehicle blight, graffiti, and trash in public areas. Those committee members also call for an upgrade of the city’s 311 system.

"It was great to just be part of this whole organization of people from businesses, from agencies, from other community groups and neighborhood associations," said the committee’s lead member, Deb Kramer.

The Public Safety Committee will ask council members to earmark money to fill vacancies in the city’s police force and code enforcement. And, examine patterns of 911 calls for better allocation of assets. In some cases, a call to 311 for mental health service would be better than sending an armed office.

"We all too often spend precious staff time figuring out whose jurisdiction it is. And so when it comes to cleaning up our city, we need to be much more aligned and collaborative," said Mahan.

Other goal-directed budget items will come from the Downtown Vibrancy, Planning and Permitting, and Housing committees.

"I’m excited to move forward and see what happens. I am hoping that the city council can truly somehow make the priorities so that all the issues the five committees can work together," said Gabrielle Antolovich of the Public Safety Committee.

One of the centerpieces of the Mahan administration is reducing the number of unhoused residents. The mayor said the city is a third of the way toward its goal of building 1,000 emergency housing units.

"The longer we leave five thousand people living on our streets in totally unmanaged conditions, the worse for all of us," the mayor said. Added Dr. Crouse, "In my mind, I don’t see a way you can make the kind of changes you’re talking about without raising revenue."

Mayor Mahan said a modest city surplus will offset any need for new taxes. He’ll make that push to the full council Tuesday.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv.