Mahan develops grassroots strategy to help San Jose rebound
SAN JOSE, Calif. — San Jose’s mayor sketched out a grassroots strategy on Saturday to address the four major issues confronting the Bay Area’s largest city: homelessness, crime, blight, and economic investment.
Mayor Matt Mahan stated during his State of the City speech at San Jose City College that San Jose’s renaissance is dependent on more than the actions of political, business, and community leaders. He asserted that ordinary citizens must also contribute to the city’s recovery.
“I am convinced that the way to get San Jose, and really our entire region, back on track is to keep local government focused,” Mahan said ahead of the event during a press conference. “We will be offering the community ways to get directly involved.”
Mahan began his first address as mayor by mentioning the bloody conflict in the Middle East and mentioning that one of his children’s grandparents immigrated from Cuba and another from Egypt.
“Their grandparents came here to find freedom, opportunity, tolerance – and peace,” Mahan said in remarks prepared for the State of the City address. “And now it is our responsibility to work for freedom, opportunity, tolerance, and peace so the promise that brought them here is never broken.”
While the world is complicated, what people in San Jose and elsewhere require is clarity.
“What we need is so simple,” said Mahan during his speech. “We require a city that works for all.” A city where everyone is safe. A city where everyone has a safe place to sleep and everyone can find work that pays the bills. A city where, regardless of where we lived yesterday, we have the same opportunities today.”
One important strategy for achieving the goals of improving San Jose is to ensure that the community is fully engaged in this effort rather than simply watching City Hall function from afar.
“What we can do here, what we can control, is the kind of city and community we create,” Mahan said during the news conference. “As a city with such a diverse population, we can serve as a model for the rest of the world.” We can serve as a success story for the rest of the world to follow. It is an incredibly diverse place that can also be safe, welcoming, inclusive, and provide opportunities to people today, regardless of where they came from yesterday.”
During the state of the city address, the mayor recognized individuals and organizations as community heroes and champions.
Jim Salata, president of Garden City Construction, was among those honored, and he appeared on stage alongside City Councilmember Omar Torres. Salata had been nominated by Torres for the District 3 community hero award. Salata recently led a cleanup effort at the site of a historic church in downtown San Jose, including the removal of a massive plastic tarp that had become a forbidding eyesore for the St. James Park area.
The mayor also presented an award to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority for its assistance in establishing a temporary shelter for homeless people at the VTA’s Cerone Yard.
“Our partners at the Valley Transportation Authority stepped up in a big way,” Mahan said prior to his speech during an awards presentation. “This quick-build community will offer safe and clean shelter to 200 people currently living on our streets.”
Approximately 4,000 people are currently homeless, according to Mahan, but he claims that progress is being made.
According to Mahan, more than 1,000 new interim housing units for the homeless, as well as safe parking spaces, are currently under construction or in the planning stages.
The mayor also acknowledged the San Jose Police Department’s role in making the streets safer.
On Saturday, an estimated 700 to 800 people attended the State of the City event.
Mahan emphasized the no-holds-barred approach to housing survivors of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake during his speech.
“San Francisco quickly constructed over 5,600 cottages to house those made homeless by the catastrophe,” Mahan said in a statement. “City officials did not say, ‘a cottage isn’t good enough,’ or ‘let’s wait until we rebuild permanent structures,’ or, worse, ‘this is unsolvable.’ No, they recognized that in an emergency, you take emergency measures, such as constructing simple, adequate shelter for everyone who requires it.”
Mahan also stated that there is far too much finger-pointing in California when it comes to dealing with the state’s homeless problems.
“We’ve seen many elected officials offer excuses for our state’s failure to adequately address homelessness,” Mahan told the crowd. “They’ve blamed the courts, the cost of building housing, and the homeless.” It’s time to put an end to the blame game. It’s past time for California to build safe, decent, and affordable shelter for everyone – and then make those sleeping outside use it.”
The mayor suggested that if residents stay focused on the four key goals of homelessness, crime, blight, and economic growth, they will be able to hold San Jose City Hall accountable.
“By coming together and supporting our small businesses, tackling trash and graffiti, helping our homeless neighbors, and keeping each other safe, you’re doing your part to get San Jose back to the basics,” Mahan said in a statement. I’d like to ask the people of San Jose to stand strong and united.”