My Father, Our City

By Casandra Hosseini

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who attended the vigil for victims of violent crime Tuesday night in the San Jose City Hall plaza.

Words can’t describe what I saw there: police officers, fire fighters, and city officials standing together with the families and friends of violent crime victims. I only hope that events like this will lead to a fuller understanding of the personal connection that exists between our public safety officers and the communities they serve.

On May 23, 2008, my father, Vahid Hosseini, went to Bank of the West on First Street to make a withdrawal for our family check cashing business. As he exited the bank, three cowards drove up in a silver SUV. One of them got out of the car, put a gun to my father’s head, and pulled the trigger.

After 11 days of fighting for his life, Vahid Hosseini passed away from his injuries at the young age of 47. My father’s death has completely devastated our family. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him.

Last month, almost one year later, five suspects were arrested for their alleged involvement in my father’s murder. Despite these arrests, there is still a $90,000 reward for information in his case.

Our family is grateful to members of the community, Mayor Chuck Reed, Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers, and most importantly Chief Rob Davis, Detectives Paul Kelly, Mike Brown, and Rikki Goede, and the entire San Jose Police Department for the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication they committed to this case. I strongly believe that if my father had been murdered in any other city, we would still be looking for a suspect.

Unfortunately, there are ongoing cases that might never be solved if our city leaders continue making cuts to public safety. At a time when our city is plagued with violent crime and gang violence, we cannot afford to lose more police officers and crime prevention programs. If anything, we are in desperate need of more public safety funding.

My father’s life was priceless, and no price should be placed on our safety.

It seems we only hear bad news when it comes to the SJPD. We never hear stories of officers working non-stop on their cases, sometimes going weeks without a day off. These men and women risk their lives every day. They’ve taken an oath to protect our community, and they would take a bullet for you and your families.

It takes a very special person to become a police officer, to wake up every morning not knowing if you will make it home to your family that night. I think we owe them a little more respect. Don’t you?

Fixing a Broken System

By Alberto Torrico

On June 3, the state Assembly acted to protect police officers from those who would scapegoat public safety employees for the financial woes faced by cities and counties statewide.

The Assembly passed Assemblymember Tony Mendoza’s AB 155 by a 47-25 vote. I am the principal co-author of this bill, which would stop union foes and their attorneys from wielding the threat of bankruptcy – or an actual bankruptcy declaration itself – as a hammer to break hard-won labor contracts.

Vallejo’s bankruptcy filing last year set off a chain reaction that will see no winners, except perhaps a number of high-priced attorneys. Our recession left Vallejo with sagging sales and property tax revenues. But the city’s problems were compounded by years of financial mismanagement and an anemic economic development plan.

Vallejo’s firefighters and police officers did what you would expect dedicated employees to do: they conceded benefits and salaries in an attempt to ease the city away from the financial brink.

But rather than work with the unions and accept their concessions, Vallejo’s city council, in the words of the local paper, “seemed hell-bent on finding some way – any way” – to break the contracts. Unfortunately, leaders are risking the city’s fiscal stability with their pre-ordained conclusion that bankruptcy is the sole answer to this crisis.

Now other cities may be tempted to use the threat of bankruptcies as a quick way to gain savings without dealing effectively with their own budget shortages.

This is why I support AB 155. It’s a reasonable, measured response to what’s happening in Vallejo and what may occur elsewhere. It says a local public entity may only file under federal bankruptcy law with the approval of the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission.

The goal is to allow an independent set of financial experts to explore all options to avoid bankruptcy. While bankruptcy could provide short-term relief, the long-term negative effects will harm both cities and the state. Interest rates will increase, hurting taxpayers and the services they demand. The effects on Vallejo provide just one example. Employees are leaving, morale is low and the community is badly divided.

AB 155 will prohibit cities from filing for bankruptcy without first working with the CDIAC to research all alternatives. It ensures bankruptcy will only be used as an absolute last resort. Twenty-two states don’t even allow bankruptcy as an option. This bill will put California on a middle course with the 16 other states who allow bankruptcies but only after a thorough review with state oversight.

Our public safety employees, and the people who rely on them, will benefit from this smart public policy.

Alberto Torrico is the Majority Leader of the California State Assembly.

The State of Public Safety in San Jose

By Ed Rast

These are the facts:

San Jose residents, businesses and neighborhood leaders have consistently ranked public safety as the highest city service budget priority.

Our police and fire officers are widely recognized as hard working, motivated professionals and have developed innovative and highly effective public safety programs to offset over a decade of understaffing and budget shortages.

SJPD programs like community policing, gang prevention, and neighborhood action are proven to reduce or prevent crime. License plate readers identify stolen vehicles, and Public Computer Aided Dispatch educates the public about crime in their neighborhoods and citywide.

The fire department is implementing expanded Community Emergency Response training like Heart Safe City to keep people alive until emergency personnel arrive.

San Jose has a very low ratio of police and fire officers to residents. Our public safety departments have faced numerous budget reductions. The failure to maintain officer numbers in proportion to our population and geographical area has resulted in severe under-staffing. Each officer’s workload has dramatically increased as ranks are stretched across an ever-expanding city -— reducing overall public safety.

The results have been slower police, fire and emergency medical response rates than other local cities and many more unreported, un-investigated, and unsolved crimes than we’ve seen in past years.

Even with staff and budget shortages, San Jose has only declined from 1st to 4th Safest Large City in America (over 500,000 population) according to FBI crime data. This shows how effective our police department is compared to other large cities.

In my opinion, San Jose needs a facts-based, less-emotional community conversation about community policing and emergency response; about community expectations, crime rates and how staffing and funding affect outcomes; about how we compare to other local cities, what are acceptable and unacceptable performance measures, and solutions that will deliver the public safety results our community desires.

I’ll share my thoughts about these issues and the data to back them up on this blog. I hope we can have a substantive, productive discussion.

Check back tomorrow for a special guest blog from Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico.

Neighborhood Safety Vigil

By Kathleen Flynn

On May 23, 2008, I lost a friend of 23 years to a senseless crime. My friend, Vahid Hosseini, was only 47 years old when he died. Vahid was a son, a brother, a husband, a father of two beautiful daughters, a small business owner, and a beloved member of the community.

Vahid owned the Willow Market in San Jose, a few blocks from Bank of the West, on First Street. One day, Vahid went to the bank to withdraw money for his check cashing business. As he was leaving the bank, three men came up from behind, robbed him in broad daylight, shot him execution style, and left him to die in the parking lot. To my deep sadness, Vahid passed away from his gunshot wound on June 3, 2008.

I’m very proud to say that, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the San Jose Police Department, Crime Stoppers, and members of the community, police recently arrested five suspects involved in Vahid’s murder. The investigation of is still ongoing.

In an effort to honor the memories of my friend Vahid, Officer Jeffrey Fontana, victims of violent crime, their families, and the SJPD, I have organized a neighborhood safety vigil.

Please join us outside City Hall on Tuesday, June 9th, from 7 to 9 p.m. as we gather to support the silent majority of San Jose residents and our wonderful police department.

Speakers and honored guests will include:

  • Dolores Carr, District Attorney of Santa Cara County
  • Hon. Pete Constant, San Jose City Council
  • Bobby Lopez, President, San Jose Police Officers’ Association
  • Randy Sekany, President, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 230
  • Jim Cogan, President, Crime Stoppers
  • Sandy Fontana, mother of slain San Jose police officer Jeffrey Fontana
  • Cassandra and LeeAnn Hosseini, Vahid's daughter and widow

There will also be a blessing delivered by Dr. Bonita Carter-Cox, President of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, and Police Chaplin Bridgen.


By Bobby Lopez

This past week, I’ve been a pretty popular guy.

I’m getting a lot of calls about a video we put together for this website.

I was in the city council chambers a few weeks ago when a vocal police critic made some really outrageous comments. The Mayor and most Councilmembers just sat on their hands. As you can imagine, I was a little upset. I wanted others to see what I saw... and thought.

Sure enough, supporters of the critic responded to our video with one of their own. In the interest of fairness, I’m including it here. Watch both, judge for yourself, and comment if you want to.

Attacks like this are nothing new to the men and women of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association. We’re used to handling criticism and difficult people. It’s what we do every day as part of our jobs.

But in the past, we haven’t had a forum to defend ourselves from half-truths and misrepresentations made by people who know very little about police work. The Mercury News won’t print some letters and opinion pieces we submit to them. While I understand it’s their paper and their right, I can’t say I understand their decisions. Our own Vanguard newsletter appears only once a month. It does a good job of serving our members and their union concerns, but we can’t use it to quickly respond to breaking news or fresh criticism.

That’s why we’re launching to create an open forum for our members, neighborhood leaders, and all residents who care deeply about public safety in our great city.

We’ll use this site to respond quickly and honestly to any and all attacks on our integrity. This site will also be a forum for neighborhood leaders and community members who will blog regularly. Hell, we’ll even give our critics an opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech.

The video that’s received so much attention is just one part of this exciting project. Visitors will also find up-to-date news and information about their neighborhoods, including recent crimes on an easy-to-use map.

Have a look around, and keep coming back for regular updates from all the voices in our diverse community.

Most importantly, stay safe.

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