I predict going forward that groups sponsoring ballot initiatives will be a constant part of the political landscape in San Jose, similar to the outside funding of planning department ordinances by third parties to move forward on regulations.
The minimum wage initiative recently gathered and submitted the required signatures last week, and action will be taken at the May 22 City Council meeting. A library initiative is also in the process of gathering signatures for a November election.
The city of San Jose budget director reviewed the impacts of implementing the potential library petition, which would require a certain amount of revenue to be spent on libraries. This increase would be $19.4 million from the general fund. This amount is ongoing and would require the layoffs of 175 police officers. Single-issue advocacy has its effect on other department budgets and this is an obvious example. Knowing that this could cut 175 police officers is too much to bear.
As far as the library advocates’ motives, I don’t blame them. It is a strategic move that will be duplicated by others. Those soliciting petitions will find many people sympathetic to signing the petition, especially as they enter and exit a library. However, to be fair, the signer of the petition should also be asked what do they want cut from other city departments to fund the library department. I understand why this path was chosen, because residents may not support a special library tax in 2014, which requires a ⅔ vote to pass.
Prior to 175 police officers being laid off, let’s give volunteers a chance to extend library hours, as this is a more viable option than relying on volunteer police officers.