2004 San Jose City Council Campaign
September 24, 2003
Welcome to my campaign for city council. It will be a serious educational campaign about several city problems and potential solutions. I am campaigning in all the neighborhoods in District 4 from Alviso to Berryessa. The primary election will be on March 2, 2004.
Click on District 4
to look at Internet maps of the district..
to ask questions or provide feedback.
PARKS, CREEKS & TRAILS
I decided to undertake this educational campaign because the city council adopted a remarkably unprofessional and short-sighted "master plan" for a key segment of the Upper Penitencia Creek trail on August 26, 2003. Someone has to speak out against the damage to the creek that will certainly occur if this "master plan" becomes reality.
Save Upper Penitencia Creek
Upper Penitencia Creek is a key element in the Coyote Creek watershed, flowing into Coyote Creek near Berryessa Road. We already have an Upper Penitencia Creek trail. It covers about five miles along the creek and is enjoyed by hundreds of walkers, hikers, and neighborhood bikers. It is small and fits into the creek habitat easily. The "master plan" demands a much wider and more destructive rural trail linking the Coyote Creek trail to the Bay Area Ridge trail.
Bay Area Ridge Trail Impact
The "master plan" ignores the impact of the fact that it converts the suburban Upper Penitencia Creek trail into the valley floor of the Bay Area Ridge trail. The rural ridge trail is a hugely expensive effort to ring the San Francisco Bay with a trail for horse riders and speedy mountain bikers. The "master plan" simply ignores the destruction that ridge trail usage (and new staging areas) will have for our Upper Penitencia Creek, its habitat, and its creek banks.
Protecting Smaller & Slower Users
The "master plan" also fails to recognize that people come first on trails in suburban areas. It is not enough to say that the trail will be "multi-use" -- that designation privileges larger and faster users (like horses and speedy mountain bikes) over smaller and slower users (like children and mothers with strollers). Smaller and slower users
deserve to have their access to the trail protected without worrying about larger and faster users, something ignored by the "master plan" adopted by the city council. (Since this was written, numerous reports of trail abuse by motorcyclists have been made, including sightings of "creek-diving" by motorcyclists all along Upper Penitencia Creek.)
Flood Control Mismanaged
The "master plan" is silent on the opportunities the city council has ignored during the past three years to establish overflow basins for flood control, and implicitly invites the Army Corps of Engineers to harden the creek channel. If the "master plan" is allowed to stand without revision, we will lose the steelhead trout, an endangered species, that relies on the creek for its spawning.
While these issues are local, they tell a timeless and universal story about the best way to serve the most people throughout District 4, and they illustrate several interesting things about parks, creeks, and trails that have never been publicized. To read more about these issues, click here
QUALITY OF LIFE
The city council plays a large role in determining the quality of life of its residents. I do not believe that city government should take care of all problems -- neighborhood groups and individual volunteers play a key role. But when the city creates dangerous or threatening situations, or undermines property values, then the city council has a responsibility to clean up the situation.
There are no fewer than 32 "hot spots" in District 4 that are the direct result of the city's failure to act properly. They range across the district from the impact that Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek have on the well-being of Alviso residents to the dangerous 101 overpass at Mabury-Taylor.
101 Overpass at Mabury-Taylor
City taxpayers paid sales taxes for fifteen years (1984 - 1999) to fix up 101 and its overpasses, yet we still have a dangerous eyesore on the Mabury-Taylor overpass at 101. The piles of dirt and portable cement barriers (see below) on that overpass endanger and taint our entire neighborhood. A leader would lead in cleaning this up. (Since the picture below was posted, the city has planted several small trees near the portable cement barriers.)
City Land Along Mabury Road
Another example is the 30 acres that the city owns and manages along Mabury Road across from Educational Park Drive (see below). It is almost always weedy, dusty, and frequently dangerously dry. High school students walk through this every weekday. (Since the picture below was posted, the city has mowed this field once.)
Dead Trees Where Students Walk to School
A cluster of five dead and dry trees (see below) is left to decay at the intersection of Lava Way and Mabury Road. These are extremely dangerous to school children who use the sidewalk only feet away from the crumbling trees every weekday. (Since the picture below was posted, the city has cut down these five dead trees.)
Yes, serious problems exist throughout District 4 that are the city's responsibility. The items illustrated above are a fair sample of the 32 "hot spots" in District 4 without any relief in sight. Let's get all these "hot spots" fixed.
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT (ENRON-SYLE)
San Jose financial management is a crazy-quilt of taxes, grants, voter-approved bonds, and highly imaginative, Enron-style, barely legal bonds. The city council's system of finance needs to be reformed and systematized so that residents can grasp the implications of tax and bond proposals.
It doesn't have to be so confusing. Whether the city council deliberately obfuscates its proposals or not, the end result is the same -- voter apathy because of lack of information. A leader would lead in cleaning up this financial disorganization.
There are two types of financing that would alarm homeowners were they to understand just how freely the city council generates obligations that may very well be paid out of the general fund eventually, thus (a) restricting public services like libraries, public safety, and streets, and (b) requiring parcel taxes for ordinary municipal services, like libraries, police, and firefighting services.
Redevelopment Agency Bonds
One type is the financing practiced by the redevelopment agency to leverage funds out of tax increments in project areas. Because the full story about redevelopment debt is never told by politicians, academicians, or local media, most people are blissfully unaware of the impact that the redevelopment agency's huge debts could have on their homes, families, and neighborhoods.
Lease Revenue Bonds
The second type of financing that badly needs overhauling is the city council's abuse of lease revenue bonds. This has become the city council's fallback financing plan, generally, when it cannot use redevelopment agency funds. Lease revenue bonds may be even more dangerous to homeowners than redevelopment agency bonds, especially when they are based on the lease/lease back formula.
Taken together, the city council has engaged in a massive Enron-style financing and debt explosion that needs public discussion and understanding. A good way to understand the outlines of the problem is to explore how these financing abuses are used for non-essential expenditures, like the new city hall. Click here
to read more about this.
SOCIAL & ECONOMIC ISSUES
One of the eye-opening sights at almost any city council meeting is the openhanded granting of an $850,000 contract to this consultant, or a $1.2 million loan to that developer, or a $280,000 grant to another developer. The city council presides over a vast pool of money (even in this recession) that is distributed to selected residents and out-of-towners who resist including workers in the benefits.
We need a new municipal fair deal to ensure that taxpayer-paid investments allocated to consultants and developers include community benefits, and provide the means for workers to receive a fair wage and health insurance. Benefits shouldn't accrue only to consultants, bond lawyers, developers, bankers, and bond holders.
In addition, we need a two-year study on all major city purchases to determine what share is made in the USA. We need to pay attention to whether city expenditures are benefiting local American workers and small businesses.
QUESTIONS & FEEDBACK
to ask questions or provide feedback. If you find one or more of the above issues of importance, I would enjoy hearing from you with your ideas (including criticism) and having your support in the election.
You may also write to me at 2341 Darnell Court, San Jose, CA 95133