Ask Beat Cop

This feature worked out so well last time that we had to bring it back. If you’d like to submit a question, click here and fill out the form provided. Be sure to include your first name and email address. Beat Cop will respond to all of your questions and even blog some answers in the bi-weekly Beat Cop column.

The Big One

We received some news yesterday that we wanted to pass along. As you may know, Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico is a candidate for California Attorney General in 2010. Assemblymember Torrico has long been a friend of SJPOA and received our wholehearted endorsement over the summer.

Now, he has been honored with the endorsement of PORAC, a statewide organization of public safety unions, of which SJPOA is a member. This is a huge step for Mr. Torrico's campaign. and it's clear from reading the email below — which he sent to supporters yesterday — that he appreciates the significance.

——

Dear Friend,

The 62,000-member strong Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) voted Saturday to endorse my campaign for Attorney General.

I’ve always made protecting the public my highest priority. Many of you know my brother is a veteran officer with the San Jose Police Department, so this powerful endorsement is more than a political victory. It is a very personal validation of years of work standing with law enforcement to make California safer.

PORAC President Ron Cottingham was very kind in his remarks:

“Alberto Torrico has made protecting the public his top priority. He is the best choice for California’s top law enforcement official.”

I want to personally thank the men and women of law enforcement for their confidence and for this endorsement.

This is just the most recent success for our campaign. We reported the strongest cash-on-hand position among Attorney General candidates in July. And we are back on the road today – spreading the word and gaining even greater momentum.

Please stay in touch as the campaign continues to grow. You can join me on Facebook, sign up on my website or follow me on my new Twitter account. And please help us maintain our strong financial position by making your donation here.

Respectfully,
Alberto Torrico

——

You can click here to read an article Mr. Torrico wrote for Protect San Jose back in June.

More Housing Won't Pay the Bills

By Ed Rast

Did you know that San Jose has over 53% of Santa Clara County’s population but only 40% of its jobs?

Don’t believe me? Have a look at these charts. Pay particular attention to the charts for population and jobs. You'll find that San Jose's percentage of Santa Clara County's population rises from 52.9% to 53.8% between 1990 and 2010 (projected). You'll also see that San Jose accounts for only 35.8% to 39.6% of jobs countywide over that same span.

Why are the ratio of jobs to employed residents and the jobs/housing balance important for having an adequate city budget?

From a City of San Jose document on population, jobs, and housing:

“Historically, San José has had a shortage of jobs compared to the number of employed residents living in the City, commonly referred to as a jobs/housing imbalance. A jobs/housing imbalance, especially when there is a relative deficit of jobs, can be problematic because it results in longer commutes as City residents travel to other locales for employment. This same imbalance can result in financial hardships for a city due to the costs associated with providing services to residential land uses in relation to revenue generated.”

Table 4.13-1 in this document provides an overview of the historic and projected number of households, jobs, employed residents, and population in San José. The data in Table 4.13-1 indicates that the City was having success in correcting the historic imbalance, but recent jobs data shows that we slipped back again, making our budget deficit worse, thus requiring a reduction in staff and city services

In the Mercury News from Wednesday, October 24 2007, Mayor Chuck Reed said, “Eliminating San Jose's status as Silicon Valley's bedroom and better balancing the growth of new jobs with new housing is the key to getting out of this structural budget deficit." I would tend to agree.

So, how are we doing at achieving the Mayor’s goal? Let’s have a look at the San Jose General Plan Update: Projections of Jobs, Population and Households For the City of San Jose (Table 3, Page 9). This update predicts San Jose will account for 44.2% of countywide jobs by 2040, but if you crunch the numbers here, you’ll find that ABAG has allocated San Jose slightly over half of the County’s projected job growth. That's a pretty rosy prediction given the current business environment in our city.

Homes, unless they are very expensive, do not generate enough city tax revenue to pay for the services they require to maintain, thus generating a budget deficit. This is unlike businesses, which generate more revenue that their services cost based on California public finance policy.

Population growth without the required jobs to pay for city services and infrastructure has an adverse affect on the general fund budget and San Jose’s ability to provide adequate city staff, services, and infrastructure to residents and businesses

San Jose receives back from the state about $11-12 cents of every property and sales tax dollar. Property taxes are about 21% and sales taxes range between 24-29% of the general fund budget, with imposed taxes from other cities, licenses, user, or service fees — mostly paid by businesses — plus revenue from state and federal governments making up the rest of general fund revenues.

Jobs-rich cities like Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Campbell and other Santa Clara County cities that have more jobs than employed residents have the excess business tax revenue to pay for services for their residents. Almost a decade of budget deficits and the highest cost of doing business in the county has discouraged business and job growth in San Jose. See my previous posts, “Cost of Doing Business” and "Just the Taxes, Ma'am" for additional information about jobs and taxes.

To ensure that the City’s fiscal condition is stable, predictable, and adequate in the long term to serve the proposed development without detrimental impact to services for the rest of the city.

San Jose should strongly consider setting: 1. jobs/housing triggers as proposed in Coyote Valley or other residential growth controls; and 2. a jobs-per-employed-resident target of 125 jobs rather than current 100, which has never been met.

Beat Cop: The Sound of Safety

Recently, I spoke at a neighborhood gathering that was organized by residents to address some issues of violent crimes occurring near them. At the end of my presentation, I asked the neighbors if there were any concerns I had not addressed or any further questions that I could answer. A man in attendance asked, “Why is your helicopter so loud, and why does it always seem like it’s over my house making noise?”

I appreciated the question. Conversations like these are important between law enforcement and the citizens of San Jose who support us. I spoke with the man about the essential uses of our helicopter, its overwhelming capture rate, and the enormous blessing it is to our city that we have a skilled and dedicated Air Support Unit.

I further spoke with the group and told them that my fellow officers and I know that doing our job does sometimes cause inconveniences for the residents we protect. We realize that our lights and sirens can be loud and annoying; we also understand that it’s a sacrifice when you need to get somewhere and we need you to yield the roadway to us for emergency purposes. We know you don’t like your route changed during our traffic diversions. I also explained that on my days off I experience the same things you do.

When I was done, the man spoke again. He said, “I understand it now. I may not like it, but I understand it. It’s the sound of safety.”

Please pardon the noise...

Proudly serving you,
Your Beat Cop

Early Release

By Kathleen Flynn

I have grave concerns about media reports on the possibility of early prison releases and reducing criminal charges to save money. Our economy and jobless rate are resulting in increased crime and some questionable proposed budgetary fixes by both State and local governments. In a recent Mercury News editorial by District Attorney Dolores Carr and Dennis Graham, they express serious concerns about a proposal to reduce criminal charges from misdemeanors to felonies so that criminals can be sent to county jails instead of state prisons, thus saving the state millions of dollars. The results of this proposal would have devastating affects not only on public safety but on our already understaffed public safety and enforcement departments.

The San Jose Police Department currently has 1,352 officers to serve over a million citizens. In the year 2010, an estimated 40-50 officers will be retiring, taking with them approximately 2,000 combined years of experience, and will reduce our Police Department to a grim 1,312-1,302 officers. With budget constraints at the state level, a proposed raiding of city funds, and a seeming lack of willingness on the part of our City Council to hire the amount of officers we truly need to serve our community, I fear the situation is only going to go from bad to worse.

With the early release of prisoners and reduced criminal charges, we will be creating a monster of enormous proportions. Not only will the safety of our neighborhoods and police officers be jeopardized, but we also will be forced to contend with more highly-sophisticated criminals who will be using more efficient technologies to commit crimes in our community. Getting a job once you’re a felon is difficult, and this tends to lead them back to the profession they know best: crime, and the victimization of others.

Our parole, and probation departments are already understaffed, over-worked, and carrying huge caseloads. If these proposals go forth, keeping track of perpetrators will be nearly impossible. Our judges and courts will be even more overloaded with cases, and justice for victims will fall by the way side even more drastically than it does now.

According to Amy Cornell, Public Information Officer for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, “With the poor economy already resulting in cutbacks in positions, the number of cases we see come through our office could increase at an overwhelming rate. Prisoners who are considered ‘low risk’ will be the ones released, but with the reduction and elimination of parole supervision, we could be seeing a massive spike in re-offenses. In essence, we are minimizing the severity of certain crimes by allowing criminals to go free. Criminals are being allowed to escape accountability and proper punishment for their crimes. This is a disservice to our community, and a serious threat to public safety.

“In addition, it is proposed that parolees would only be sent back to prison as a result of being convicted of a new offense, not for being in violation of parole conditions. Before, we might not file a new criminal case if the parolee was being sent back to prison anyway. Also, early releases to the county of commitment, i.e. Santa Clara County, will include more rehabilitation programs. The problem is that local governments are not getting any additional money to either provide those rehabilitation programs or to prosecute parolees for new offenses. The bottom line is that the proposals will balance the state budget on the backs of local government.”

If that isn’t enough to concern us all, a recent article by April Dembosky in the Mercury News discusses the seriousness of communicable diseases that will be brought into our communities by prisoners released into our communities. Health care provided in prisons is insufficient; so many prisoners will carry HIV, Hepatitis C, and Tuberculosis into our communities. With people going without health care, and many struggling to get or keep health care for themselves and their children, the added possibility of being exposed to highly contagious diseases being brought into our communities by criminals just to cut state costs is very alarming to me.

In writing this article, I urge readers to call or write the Governor, members of the State Legislature, the Mayor and City Council, even Senators and Congressmembers, asking them not to allow this travesty of justice. Thank you!

Kathleen Flynn is a professional mediator and community activist.

Return On Investment

By Ed Rast

Do you know what your taxes are being spent on and what city services or public benefits San Jose residents and businesses receive from them?

As we have discussed in “Just the Taxes Ma’am”, San Jose receives General Fund revenue of $663 per resident which is better than the average among 15 cities in Santa Clara County (5th) and the 12 largest cities in California (5th as well). Yet we continue to under-staff and under-fund essential city services including police, fire, and emergency medical services.

Budget documents prepared by San Jose city staff omit important revenue, staffing, and expenditure details. We frequently hear about city government spending in newspaper, television, or radio news, mostly as a result of a controversy, non-profit emergency funding, or critical City Auditor reports and Civil Grand Jury reports.

Most residents and businesses have little idea what their taxes are being spent on. But it’s not for lack of curiosity.

The lack of readily available and detailed city service spending and tax subsidy reporting makes it difficult for residents — not to mention the City Council — to understand where our taxes are being spent. This is particularly true for: 1) spending for services from non-profit, community-based organizations, school districts, or another government organization, or 2) corporations, developers and property owners receiving grants, economic development incentives or tax subsidies.

Here is a list of organizations receiving over $200,000 from the City of San Jose to provide a service in Fiscal Years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007. This is an incomplete list. We do not know how much support they received above $200,000, and we don’t know what specific service or services some of them provided as a public benefit to San Jose.

Here are two lists of organizations receiving grants from the City of San Jose in Fiscal Year 2007-2008, the first sorted alphabetically and the second by city service area and core services.

Now, read the two City Council policies on grants:

Council Policy 9-12 – Emergency Financial Assistance to Non-Profit Organizations

Council Policy 9-13 - Grants to Outside Entities

There are two questions you should be asking about these non-city services paid for with your taxes, and they’re multiple choice:

1. Who is receiving these services?
a) The general public
b) Individuals in need
c) Individuals, groups or companies that should be paying for these services
d) Residents and local businesses who pay city taxes

2. How should we classify these services?
1) Essential city services,
2) Services that the City should provide
3) Services we would like to provide if we did not have a budget deficit
4) Services that the City should not be providing

Do we know the answers? If not, why doesn’t the city administration make this information easily available and obtainable?

How can the Council and public make good policy, budget priorities, and spending decisions if we do not know where are our taxes are being spent, what tax subsidies are being provided and to whom, what services we receive, who is being provided outside services and what is the public benefit for our taxes spent?

Professional Respect

By Sgt. Jim Unland #2666

Although the emphasis of this blog is directed at public safety from a police perspective, we would be remiss if we did not give an occasional nod to the other half of public safety — firefighters. PBS recently re-aired a documentary on Santa Rosa firefighters. It was produced in 2002, but is still relevant today as I try to get my mind around the recent, continued, and concerted attacks on San Jose public safety personnel by the local newspaper, radio, and most disconcerting, my own employer.

Those who would try to capitalize on the current financial crunch by advocating a stripping away of many negotiated gains over the last twenty years seem to be under the impression that ours is a normal profession. It is not. Watch the attached portion from the documentary and you will easily see that police and fire fighters do a job no one else wants to do, or in most cases, is qualified to do.

Whether or not they would admit it, I would argue that those whom you see in the video will carry an emotional toll from their job well into their retirement. Public safety work is rewarding, but at the same time, the price one pays both physically and emotionally cannot be easily conveyed.

To San Jose firefighters: all indications are that the city, your employer, is going to try to undo twenty years of improved working conditions for your members. You have a fight on your hands. Please know that the members of the SJPOA, who know firsthand the work you do and the risks you take, stand with you. All professional rivalry aside, know that when one of our members is shot, stabbed, or seriously injured performing their job, we’re relieved and deeply appreciative when you arrive on scene. I just wish your employer valued you as much as we do.

Sgt. Jim Unland is a 21-year veteran of the SJPD and a member of the Board of Directors of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association.

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