Dollars and Sense

By Ed Rast

Did you know that the San Jose budget is one of the most perplexing documents in the world?

Administrations of different cities use significantly different but easily understood language, performance metrics, and comparisons in documents presented to their Council as the basis for final budget decisions. The idea being that the average citizen shouldn’t have too much trouble following the flow of money from revenue to expenditure in their city’s budget documents.

Budget documents prepared by San Jose city staff omit important revenue, staffing, and expenditure details. Performance information is not compared to other cities with regard to population or geography. This makes it hard for both the City Council and residents to understand the difficult decisions faced by the nation’s 10th largest city in its 8th consecutive year of deficits. What this all means is that San Jose’s budget is exceedingly difficult to understand, even for CPA’s and MBA’s.

Let’s take a look at the budgets for three California cities so you can get a better idea...

Los Angeles is California’s largest city with a population of 3.8 million and the second-largest police force in the United States. It’s budget contains detailed information on revenue, staffing, expenditures, and performance:

• Go to the City of Los Angeles Proposed Budget 2009-2010 and flip through the pages concerned with police funding: p. 37, 41, 143-146.

• While you’re on page 41, have a look at the simple math: police operations ($1.2 billion) + pensions & benefits = $ 1,98 billion. Now go to pages 143-146 and read through the Police Department budget, complete with sources of funds, expenditures, and cost programs.

• Still with me? Okay. Open up the Los Angeles Blue Book 2008-09. This budget addendum is a detail of departmental programs. Flip to the page 507 to read about the Police Department’s indicators of workload. Here, you’ll find hard numbers of crimes, cases, violations, and investigations taken on by the LAPD since 2002-03.

• You can complete your tour with the Blue Book 2009-10. Simple charts and graphs on pages 525-528 (pdf pages 55-58) compare the 2009-10 proposed police budget to the actual 2008-09 budget as well as valuable metrics for technological and operational support. Pages 525-555 (pdf pages 55-85) detail the entire police budget all the way down to cabinet makers (p. 548).

Sunnyvale is the second-largest city in Santa Clara County with a population of 137,538 and is internationally recognized for its comprehensive approach to managing performance budgeting outcomes.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget said Sunnyvale is “the single best example of a comprehensive approach to performance measurement in the United States... allocating funding for tasks rather than for personnel, equipment, and supplies, with quantified objectives that are expected to be achieved with the funding." For examples, see the following documents:

Operating Budget Guide: A glossary of terms, which comes in rather handy.

Sunnyvale 2009-10 Recommended Budget and Resource Allocation Plan

General Fund Revenues by Source: See pages 11-13 for police and fire sources.

Law Enforcement Goals, Policies and Action Statements: See pdf pages 1-6.

I wish things were that clear in our neck of the woods...

San Jose is California’s 4th largest city with a population of right around 1 million (or 939,890, according to census data from 2007). We have just risen to the status of 2nd Safest Large City in the U.S. (pop 500,000+) with lowest police officer per resident ratio (1.48) of 23 cities with populations from 500K-1M.

Yet here are the documents our leaders use to determine the city budget:

San Jose Proposed Operating Budget 2009-10

Public Safety Budget and Performance Metrics: See pdf pages 3, 4, 10-16 and 53-76.

With a mess like this to sort through, is it any wonder the City Council has such a difficult time balancing the budget?

Cheap Shot

By Bobby Lopez

A recent posting on another website is the perfect example of the need for a place where we can speak our minds.

Someone is attempting to smear Lieutenant Jose Salcido just in time for his 2010 campaign for Sheriff to get underway. Lt. Salcido has not yet committed to running, but a deputy named Joe Charvez has stepped into the race to throw around baseless accusations about Salcido.

As I write this, I hold in my hand a decision by The Honorable James Emerson stating that Lt. Salcido committed no civil wrongdoing. The fact is that no criminal action has ever been taken because the investigation was laughable and filled with bias.

They really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find Mr. Charvez, who has made the same accusations over the years with the obvious belief that if you repeat something enough people will believe it.

Who is Jose Salcido? First and foremost, he is an extremely religious and devoted family man who has worked and volunteered in the community for many years. He has worked for charities like Sacred Heart and been a major fundraiser in the community. The Hispanic community has acknowledged him for his years of tireless work as a citizen and a law enforcement leader. The Sheriff’s Department command staff have done nothing but place road blocks in his way as he reaches out to the community.

Lt. Salcido is currently President of the Central Coast Chapter of PORAC (Peace Officer Research Association of California). He sits on the PORAC Executive Committee and serves as the state Secretary. He was elected to all of those positions. That means almost 60,000 law enforcement officers trust Lt. Salcido! The article failed to mention that. I wonder why.

I truly believe that Lt. Salcido has suffered because of his union activity. While president of the DSA, he had to stand up to the Sheriff on many occasions, something that I’ve been told she does not forget. He demonstrated true leadership as President of the DSA and continues to shine at the state level. He has willingly provided help and advice to many of the union presidents in the area. I have known him for almost thirty years, and he is one of the most honorable men in public service.

And since I don’t want to be accused of not giving the full story, I’ll let you know that Lt. Salcido has been endorsed for Sheriff by the SJPOA.

Stay safe.

Bobby Lopez is President of the San Jose Police Officers' Association.

Every Dollar Counts

By Bobby Lopez

With all the brouhaha over the city budget in the past couple weeks, you might have missed this interesting nugget: the San Jose Police Officers’ Association and the City agreed on a way to save over $200,000 a year.

Like everybody else these days, we’ve been looking for ways to cut down on expenses without sacrificing the safety of our streets and neighborhoods. I’ve always said we’re willing to talk with the City about ideas for helping with their budget problems.

One of these ideas was to provide the option of using specially-trained traffic flaggers at construction sites. In the past, the City as well as private developers and utilities used off-duty cops to direct road traffic around construction sites in San Jose. While experienced officers are necessary for directing traffic through busy roads and intersections, there are also sites on quiet neighborhood streets where certified flaggers would be cheaper.

Last month, we got together with the City Manager’s office to amend the traffic flagger ordinance to include the option of using certified flaggers where appropriate. This amendment was approved by the City Council on Tuesday, the same day the 2009-10 budget went final.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great news, Bobby. But what the heck does a measly $200K mean when the City’s staring at a $73 million budget deficit?”

Well, if you’ve been following this blog, you’ve learned how seemingly small expenses can start to add up real fast. A $50,000 cut here or $100,000 trim there could be the difference between one of your family members or friends and the unemployment line. In other words: every dollar counts.

I should note that the POA put aside what we saw as a meet-and-confer requirement on this issue because our conversations with City administration were open and productive. They agree with what I’ve said before: in bad economic times, we all need to tighten our belts and think outside the box — as long as we don’t jeopardize the safety of our streets and neighborhoods.

You can learn more about the traffic flagger program in this addendum to the City Manager’s budget plan.

Have a great weekend, and stay safe.

Bobby Lopez is President of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association.

Your Budget Solutions

EDITOR’S NOTE: As promised, here are some reader suggestions for solving San Jose’s chronic budget deficits, taken from comments posted in response to a blog by Bobby Lopez on Friday, June 19th. Selections have been edited for readability and length but remain true to the words and intent of the authors.

We’ve also received several interesting ideas through anonymous tips on our Contact page. We’ll examine some of those as we continue to dissect this troubling (and popular) issue. Keep ‘em coming...

Anonymous
How about cutting all the money that gets directed to "new plants" along the Coleman/880 interchange, or the money spent on a mural for the new high-rise parking garage at the SJ Airport? Or perhaps the Saigon business, err, Little Saigon banners should go. Is all that crap really necessary?

Dan Steeley
I read Herhold religiously and on most things he has the pulse of the community right on. But when he defends a Mariachi festival, there's no way he's going to win an argument in my Rose Garden neighborhood. Nothing wrong with festivals, but there is something wrong with wasting money.

Kathleen
Yeah, we need a festival over Neighborhood Watch Programs, Gang and ID Theft Prevention, Child Safety, and Business Watch Programs... NOT! It must be nice to live in a world where public safety isn't a priority but fun is! Welcome To Figone Fantasy Land where crime and mayhem doesn’t exist... I don’t think people realize how much wasteful spending goes on in all government agencies. $50K is one full time position for a GA service worker, two Council Aide positions, one EA position; I think you get the point. The sad fact is that the City Manager, and the Council seem to lack the concept of prioritizing things that money should be allocated to and fall victim to sentiment instead of focusing on necessities.

C.S.
You gotta watch out for the city manager. She has a bad habit of misleading the Mayor and Council about the budget. She protects her own employees and sells citizens and police down the river... Figone put every public safety program and department on the chopping block but passed out big cash prizes to pet projects. Good thing Mayor Reed knew better and listened to the public or we'd be in deeper poo than we are now... Some of these non-profits are a joke but they keep getting millions. Many offer the exact same services, so we don’t need ‘em. And don’t even get me started on the overpaid consultants the City hires to tell them how to do things that these overpaid supervisors should already know how to do. If private companies ran their businesses like this they’d be long gone by now. Not to mention throwing millions into downtown. Give it a break already. We could have hired 25 police officers for the money they’ve wasted on that dumb effort.

Crimefighter
Scott, the problem is not just the $50,000 for this festival... If we added up all the small amounts, it soon becomes real money... Real people are losing their jobs, and you want cultural festivals? Talk about being out of touch.

Councilman Pete Constant
What was not mentioned in Scott's column is the fact that the Mariachi Festival already receives over $1,000,000 in donated advertising and marketing each year. This figure was provided to me directly by Marcela Davison Aviles who is president and CEO of the Mexican Heritage Corp., which produces the San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival. She also references this figure in her June 3, 2009, opinion piece in the Mercury News. Give me $1M, and I bet I could make any business or event successful without additional money from the city!

Anonymous
What about the money the SJPD spends on having a helicopter waste gas watching people with clipboards and video cameras who are watching police? Is that a good way to spend our money? I am sure the gas for a helicopter to go around in circles for 20 minutes is quite expensive. Oh, and don’t let me forget about the outside firms hired to scrutinize SJPD's questionable tactics. More waste with much haste. And how about the officers hitting on the girls at the nightclubs every weekend? I am glad we are paying for SJPD's social time as well.

Anonymous
Lets not forget how we were conned into believing that the new (and UGLY) city hall which we just "had to have!" cost triple what we, the public, were told... Oh yeah, they left out the cost of the marble floors and new artwork for the walls (as if anybody would care if it wasn’t there) and all of the millions of dollars in interest payments, too.

No Such Thing as Victimless Crime

By Kathleen Flynn

Part of my job as a mediator is to work with both adult and youth offenders to ensure restitution is paid to their victims. Much of the difficulty comes in getting offenders to recognize the victims behind their crimes. Some offenders think that they haven’t hurt anyone, so their crime is no big deal.

Some examples of crimes that offenders view as victimless are shoplifting, vandalism, graffiti, theft from large companies, and robbing people of means. There is a misconception that the victims in these cases can absorb the loss because they’re rich or insured. The reality is that there is no such thing as a victimless crime.

Theft from any business requires the company to compensate for losses by raising consumer prices, lowering wages to employees, or limiting work hours to cut down on expenses for employee health insurance. Companies will also purchase added inventory insurance and pay for security guards, cameras, and other theft prevention devices, further shrinking employee wages and raising consumer cost.

Graffiti and vandalism often times create an even greater hardship for small businesses and homeowners. An owner has to pay someone to clean or repaint their vandalized property so its value doesn’t drop and customers keep coming back. Depending on how badly the property is damaged, vandalism also raises an owner’s insurance rates. These victims also experience a great sense of emotional outrage because many have worked all their lives to attain their business or home.

Financial hardship, outrage, and fear are some of the byproducts that go unseen by an offender while in commission of a crime. When companies or homeowners file insurance claims due to crime, the insurance company raises rates on the rest of us to compensate for their loss. When one home is robbed, neighbors become fearful that they will be next.

As my supervisor, Brohne Lawhorne, says, “When someone commits a crime, it is like dropping a pebble in a pond. It has consequences that are far-reaching to many unseen people.”

Working Together for Safety

By Ed Rast

Do you know what constitutes “Community Policing“ and how it reduces crime in San Jose?

The basic principal is to bring our many diverse neighborhoods, residents, and businesses together with their local beat officers to achieve a common goal. Community policing takes the view that police and citizens are co-producers of public safety services, jointly responsible for reducing crime and improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods. To get a better idea, have a look at this.

San Jose is known nationwide for our highly effective community policing programs like: Neighborhood Watch; Personal, Workplace, and Senior Safety; our many Crime Prevention programs; and National Night Out. You can visit the SJPD website to find out more.

Community attitudes toward police and fire officers can significantly affect the quality of public safety, especially in dense downtown, high-crime, and gang-heavy neighborhoods.

Our understaffed police depend heavily on neighbors to report criminal activity and help identify suspicious behavior. Cooperation like this is what gives San Jose a lower crime rate than almost every other large city in America.

Getting to know your local police officers face to face helps you understand their concerns and workload and helps them to understand the diverse people, issues, and concerns of the neighborhood they’re protecting. Misunderstandings occur when people do not reach out or communicate frequently.

Here are some examples of what you, your family, and your neighbors can do to help improve public safety in San Jose while growing the quality of life in your neighborhood:

  • • Let your neighborhood police officers know you appreciate their hard work keeping your neighborhood safe.
  • • Participate in community policing, including Neighborhood Watch and crime prevention programs.
  • • Attend your neighborhood association meeting, where time is often scheduled for residents and neighborhood police to discuss local crime issues and what can be done.
  • • Attend National Night Activities on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 (in most neighborhoods) Visit the SJPD website for more information.

Crime Stoppers Report

By Jim Cogan

This is the first in a monthly series detailing the work of Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers.

Dozens of presentations explaining Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers have taught me that people are most interested in the cases our program has helped to solve. In that vein, I asked Protect San Jose if I could write a monthly blog about our work.

This month, I want to highlight three cases:

In the first case, there was a report of a drug dealer peddling at a San Jose high school. The tip came in thanks to our Campus Crime Stoppers program that provides students with the opportunity to call or email us with information. San Jose police officers went to the school and found the suspect. They found a stolen police badge and arrested him for theft. Additional charges are forthcoming.

In the second case, a tip came in about drugs being sold out of a house in South San Jose. Our Officer Liaison passed the tip along to San Jose Police Department Metro unit. Metro officers investigated the tip and gathered enough evidence to get a search warrant. They searched the home and seized $3,500 dollars worth of drugs and five guns.

The last case is ongoing. The suspect was working as a janitor at a San Jose high school when it was discovered that he possessed a large quantity of child pornography. Young victims who had been molested by the suspect came forward, and the suspect fled.

Police had no idea where he was, and so, in January, we aired a radio spot about the case. After the story aired, we received a tip that the suspect was hiding out in Mexico. The information was passed along to the United States Marshals, who set up a sting with Mexican authorities. The suspect was arrested and is currently fighting extradition.

All three of these cases illustrate how valuable good information is to arresting criminals and how effective the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers program is at getting that information in the hands of police. The community provides the information, and the police build the cases. Together, we protect San Jose.

Jim Cogan is President of Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers. You can visit their website to find out more about the program.

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