Peralez: the hasty initiative of a “strong mayor” is the policy at worst

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Today a constitutional convention will be held proposing to change the way people are represented and the way government operates. A frenzy of proposals envisioning complex restructuring, an extension of the limited tenure of current leaders, the value of neighborhood representation, consolidation of power and increasing voter turnout will be examined in a 12-hour political showdown.

This affront to thoughtful governance will not happen in a land far away under a dictator, it will happen here in San José.

Only 11 out of 1.1 million people will debate the future of San José without a public process, verification or awareness. Envisioning the next chapter in our city’s future is good, but only if we make it a community conversation.

A community effort of almost a year has manifested itself in the Fair elections initiative intended to increase voter turnout by aligning the mayoral election with the presidential cycle, and to give voters an equal voice in government by limiting campaign contributions to special interests. The initiative has received the approval of several regional leaders, including myself, but despite extensive community outreach and the receipt of over 66,776 valid signatures, it short of the November ballot by only 2,248 signatures.

Conversely, just over a week ago, as hopes of the Fair Elections Initiative faded, Mayor Sam Liccardo offered a political compromise to place a watered-down version of the Initiative for Elections. fairness on the ballot while changing the structure of our government and expanding its own powers. He suggested making “modest but long overdue changes”, although he conveniently omitted what those modest changes were.

Since then, five different notes from board members, all submitted over the past week, have provided clarification – clear as mud – on what these changes should be. These memoranda are everywhere and include changes that would give the mayor the power to hire, fire and veto, and extend his tenure for two years without being elected by the people.

The Fair Elections Initiative asserted that democracy should be for all of us and not just for special interests, and that “democracy works best when it reflects all of our voices, no matter what we look like or what we have in our minds. portfolios ”. However, these “unfair elections and this strong initiative of the mayor” openly excluded the community. Now that the Fair Elections Initiative failed to qualify for the ballot, we have a rushed effort to concoct a compromise without any input from the community.

Less than a year ago, Mayor Liccardo spoke vehemently against and rejected a council-led effort to align the mayor’s election with the presidential cycle. Yet today, one way or another, we have to believe that he simply changed his mind. I call fault. What we have here is government and politics at their worst.

Forcing these important changes on our community is insulting and demonstrates a lack of consideration for true community engagement. The mayor suggests that recent demands from the community justify his proposal, but we haven’t heard from anyone asking our mayor to have these additional powers or two more years in office.

None of these recommendations require immediate action, they will not resolve current community concerns, and there is no reason to bypass a genuine community process before going to the poll. A measure to align the mayor’s race with the 2024 presidential election may still be proposed in the future by council or through another community effort and does not need to be decided today. .

How can we fix it? Simple. Slow down and honestly engage the community before you put anything on the ballot.

Since 1915, whenever we have changed or attempted to change the structure of our city council or the power and structure of our government, a charter review board has been formed to allow for strong community engagement for generally over one year before anything is written on a ballot. The currently proposed charter changes have given the public a week, during a pandemic, on Zoom, to weigh in.

Mayor Liccardo claims to support community engagement through the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission to study reforms and report on the effectiveness or need for changes after placing the initiative on the ballot – any changes recommended at this point would require funding for another voting initiative for voter approval.

Not once, in changing the structure of our government, or any other charter amendment, have we recklessly made the changes and then created a commission and community engagement process afterwards to clean up our mistakes. Careless is how you describe policy making without a process. Shame is how you describe asking a community to correct mistakes in policies that you rushed to make.

The rushed nature of these proposals drastically stifles community voices and eliminates equitable participation. This is not good governance, it falls below our standards of transparency and lacks the commitment our community deserves.

Raul Peralez is a San Jose council member first elected in 2014 to represent District 3, which spans downtown San Jose.


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