Fourth of July Safety Tips

As we begin the holiday weekend, we wanted to take a moment to remind you to have fun and stay safe out there. The Fourth of July is an exciting day all across America, with sun-baked parades and barbeques giving way to night skies lit up by fireworks. But it only takes one careless moment to spoil a good time.

With that in mind, the San Jose Police Department has released their tips for a safe and happy Independence Day celebration. We've included them here, along with the original press release.

Stay safe, and have a happy 4th!

City of San José Welcomes July 4th with Caution
Residents Urged to Celebrate Safely

The City of San José welcomes this upcoming July 4th on Saturday by encouraging safe celebrations and reminding residents that all fireworks are illegal in San José. The only legal use of fireworks allowed in the City is for a “pyrotechnic display,” operated by a Licensed Pyrotechnician, with a City Permit.

“We’re increasing our outreach to make certain San José residents understand not only that fireworks are illegal but why they are illegal,” says Fire Chief, Darryl Von Raesfeld. “This ban was added to the municipal code in the interest of public safety. Fireworks cause hundreds of severe injuries in the United States and ignite thousands of fires in California every year. With our current drought conditions the potential for a major fire incident is incredibly high.”

For many residents fireworks are considered an integral part of July 4th celebrations, along with other traditional community festivities. While fireworks are suitable for large scale events, they must be used under carefully controlled conditions. Groups planning to host a ‘pyrotechnic display’ should contact the Fire Prevention Bureau for permits with the understanding that only fully professional displays under very strict safety regulations will be permitted.

When most residents think of fireworks they think of large bottle rockets, roman candles, and firecrackers. However, the ban includes the popular ‘sparklers,’ usually reserved for younger children.

“Sparklers can reach over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit,” says San José Fire Marshal & Deputy Fire Chief, David Schoonover. “They account for 50% of fireworks-related injuries to children under age five and 10% of fireworks-related injuries overall.” For residents who’d like to observe the tradition, ‘snappers’ and ‘champagne party poppers’ are not considered fireworks and deemed legal for use in San José.

The penalty for violating the fireworks ban is stiff. Any individual who possesses, stores, sells, or uses any materials deemed fireworks, is in violation of the law and subject to arrest. Violation of these laws can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and possible jail time according to California Fire Code (CFC 7802.3) and the San José Municipal Code (SJMC 17.12.730). For more information on the laws, regulations and rules regarding fireworks in the City of San José call the Fire Prevention Bureau at (408) 535-7750.

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About Time


Regular readers of this blog will remember Monday’s post from SJPOA President Bobby Lopez defending Lieutenant Jose Salcido from attacks on his character as he ponders a campaign for Santa Clara County Sheriff. Mr. Lopez pointed to Lt. Salcido’s lifetime of work keeping our streets and neighborhoods safe and his strong ties to the community as reasons why he deserved a promotion.

Well, it looks like Mayor Reed was paying attention... But seriously, we'll repeat what Mr. Lopez wrote earlier: Lt. Salcido is a good man and deserves recognition for his years of public service. Let’s hope the Mayor and others listen to him.


The Mayor's office finally got around to posting the official press release on the web. You can read it here for yourself. (Click on the arrow in the upper right corner to go to full-screen mode.)

Let's Conversate

By Bobby Lopez

When Sean Webby first called me yesterday for a comment on a story for today’s Mercury News, my initial reaction was: This must be a publicity stunt.

You see, Raj Jayadev was back at City Hall, holding a rally and calling for meetings with Mayor Reed, councilmembers, Chief Davis, and the SJPOA to have an open dialogue about community concerns with police and our union.

It makes sense that Mr. Jayadev would request a meeting by using a microphone instead of a cell phone. After all, he CC’d the mayor and the entire city council on an email he sent to me on June 4th to request just such a meeting. He also posted it on San Jose Inside as well as this website before I’d even had a chance to respond. (See comments here.)

Of course, if he wanted to sit down, he could’ve just called me. That’s what Skyler Porras of the ACLU did several weeks ago. I ended up meeting with Ms. Porras, and we had a productive conversation, even though we don’t see eye to eye on everything.

In my mind, there’s a pattern developing. Remember, Mr. Jayadev’s comments at the City Council meeting on May 5th, which were featured in our now-infamous YouTube video? At that meeting, he used the vague notion of a “street response” as a political threat to intimidate the council into judging arrest data before an independent analysis could happen. I think he believed protests would not reflect well on politicians at election time and the council would indeed feel threatened.

In another case, just a week before that council meeting, Mr. Jayadev walked off the Public Intoxication Task Force in protest. This was an interesting move because he was among the most vocal community members who called for the mayor to create such a task force.

These were the thoughts running through my mind when Mr. Webby called. I got ticked off and said I wouldn’t meet with Mr. Jayadev.

But after I hung up, I remembered my email response to Mr. Jayadev’s request for a meeting almost a month ago. I told him exactly what I later told Ms. Porras: I have an open door policy, and I’ll meet with anyone who wants to talk.

So I called Mr. Webby back and said I would meet even though, given Mr. Jayadev’s track record, I’m skeptical that he wants to engage in a real dialogue.

I’m used to working with all kinds of people, even difficult personalities. I’ll be interested to see if Mr. Jayadev walks out of our meeting to call a press conference if we disagree. What do you think?

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

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...

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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