San Jose mayoral candidates talk about pension reform, gun policies and homelessness
San Jose mayoral candidates distinguished themselves on several key political issues at the first San Jose Spotlight Election Forum in 2022.
Five candidates joined Wednesday’s forum — Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, San Jose council members Dev Davis Matt Mahan and Raul Peralez, and former San Jose Police Department officer Jim Spencer.
Most candidates agreed that ending homelessness, affordable housing and improving public safety are top priorities for the 10th-largest city in the United States. But several topics revealed discrepancies between their views on public pensions, transportation, the role of the mayor and gun policies. The candidates are vying to replace outgoing mayor Sam Liccardo, who is stepping down as mayor at the end of the year.
Board members Davis and Mahan said they oppose pension bond obligations, following a question about how they would deal with rising San Jose retirement costs and the more than $3.5 billion dollars of funded pension obligations.
“Currently 15 cents of every dollar we spend through our general fund goes to pay for the unfunded liability that we face each year, and that should be a significant burden,” Mahan said, adding that the city needs to work with its unions to reduce this burden. “I wrote the first memo opposing pension bonds because I don’t think the answer is to play Wall Street and hope we can outperform our discount rate.”
With the exception of Spence, all of the candidates came out in favor of investing in public transit, although several were critical of VTA. Spence complained that the VTA buses are dirty and don’t go where people need them.
“Since the VTA’s inception in 1995, the city of San Jose has suffered from this decision,” Spence said. “Look what happened when VTA closed for four months – all these people who bought the light rail, who lived in skyscrapers next to a transit point, they were stuck, they had no no way to get around.And did VTA increase the buses?No they didn’t.
Chavez, who sits on the VTA board with Peralez, fired back that VTA shut down after a mass shooting and people are relying on the system.
“VTA, before COVID, was doing about 108,000 trips per day in our county. They closed for a short time because of the shooting – they didn’t just decide to close, Jim,” Chavez said. “We have people in our community who have chosen not to buy cars because they want to be able to get around on public transit, so we have an obligation to make those systems work.”
The candidates pitched ideas to revitalize downtown San Jose, which has been plagued by blight and vacancies for many years. When Spence argued that expanding BART downtown would destroy streets, Peralez said using single-bore tunnel technology would avoid creating a gaping hole and other construction impacts on downtown businesses and residents.
“We have a lot of buy-in from our businesses and downtown landlords because they know we won’t have that impact,” said Peralez, who represents downtown San Jose. “We’re more likely to come across mammoth remains, aren’t we, than to hit sewer pipes or utilities.”
Asked if San Jose should adopt a “strong mayor” system that allows the mayor to hire and fire department heads such as the police chief, Peralez said he favors the idea, but left it to the will of the charter review board. The commission was created last year to recommend improvements to the San Jose government.
Mahan argued that most cities have this model and that it helps keep bureaucracy aligned with the will of elected officials — he said San Jose’s next mayor should advocate for this model to the public. Davis opposes the strong mayor model because the current form of government works well. She noted that voters have the ability to remove city managers.
Aside from Peralez, all of the candidates had significant reservations about gun control rules introduced by Mayor Sam Liccardo last year following the mass shooting at VTA’s Guadalupe Yard. The policies provide for registration of gun purchases, requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance and pay an annual fee of $25 to offset the costs of gun violence.
Mahan said he voted against requiring gun owners to pay an annual fee to the city due to potential implementation and constitutionality issues. Chavez said she appreciates the mayor’s goal, but said it would be best to focus on existing laws.
“I was the only board member to vote against the new gun owners’ two terms, insurance and fees,” Davis said, noting that she is a gun owner herself. . “What we need to do is we need more traffic control that actually stops guns from coming into the city, as well as drugs. We need to use (red flag laws) more, but also make them more accessible to the public, and we need to get ghost guns off the streets.
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] Where @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.