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The political hit pieces dominating the closing days of the San Jose mayor’s race are a sad commentary on the state of South Bay politics.
All told, more than $8 million has been spent primarily on attack ads that both camps call unfair. Voters should ignore the hit pieces and focus instead on what each candidate is likely to do if elected. And equally important, not do.
Voters should be looking for the best person to provide responsible fiscal leadership as the city faces serious budgetary challenges. As we’ve said before, that person is City Councilman Matt Mahan.
The most important role San Jose’s mayor plays is setting the city’s priorities through the budget process. That is especially challenging in San Jose. The city may be in the heart of Silicon Valley, but it also has the lowest jobs-to-housing ratio of any major city in the nation, severely limiting tax revenues.
Pension costs currently account for 18% of the city’s general fund budget — a problem likely to get worse because San Jose has only funded $5.9 billion of its $9.5 billion in accrued pension liabilities. That’s a stunningly poor 62% funded ratio, far worse than most California cities.
It’s a situation that calls for prudent management and smart use of taxpayers’ dollars — especially given the likelihood of a recession.
Mahan wants to revamp how San Jose does its budgeting. He has a firm grasp on the city’s finances. He would use a zero-based-budget approach to determine how the city could most efficiently spend its money.
Whoever wins the mayor election will likely be working with a labor-majority City Council. It will be doubly important that the city have a mayor who will serve as a check to pie-in-the-sky budget expenditures. That’s Mahan. It’s certainly not his opponent, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
Chavez touts that when she served on the City Council from 1998-2006, San Jose was the safest big city in America. That is true. But what she doesn’t say is that, during those years, she was a driving force for the costly pension benefits that plague the city to this day, requiring a reduction of the size of the city’s police force and severe cuts to library hours and parks maintenance work.
Her penchant for big spending has been evident in the growth of Santa Clara County’s budget during her years as a supervisor. In the last decade, the county budget has grown from $4.5 billion to $11.5 billion a year.
As we have said before, Chavez isn’t just beholden to labor. She is labor and everything it stands for. That’s important, for example, because the police union that is backing her campaign is seeking a 14% pay hike soon after the Nov. 8 election. Police officers deserve fair compensation for their hard work. But if the City Council were to approve such a large increase, it would curtail things such as San Jose’s ability to add more cops to its police force. That’s especially true in the event of an economic downturn.
Mahan is best suited to provide the prudent leadership San Jose needs. Voters should elect him as the city’s next mayor.