How San Jose mayor will tackle trash, homelessness and crime

Like his late father, who was a mailman, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said it was time to “deliver” solutions in America’s 10th largest city — starting with the overflowing garbage that plagues the streets of San Jose.

During his nearly two-hour inauguration Wednesday, San Jose’s 66th mayor focused on three key areas City Hall needs to fix: rot, homelessness and public safety.

Mahan drew a roar of cheers from the crowd and focused on people clearing trash and debris in San Jose. He said the city’s code enforcement department has a 22 percent vacancy rate while juggling a backlog of 4,000 garbage-related complaints.

“Actions must have consequences — it’s unacceptable for one person’s negligence to impact the entire community,” Mahan told more than 2,000 people gathered at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.

In addition to filling those vacancies, Mahan plans to improve the city’s 311 app – which allows residents to report rot and landfills – to ensure they get a photo of the cleaned area once it’s done. He also invited residents to scan a code on their phones to volunteer for a series of garbage collection days – starting with District 7 this weekend.

As previously reported by San Jose Spotlight, the city app is rife with issues including slow response times, language and disability inaccessibility, and technological issues that make it buggy and slow.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan speaks to members of the media shortly before his inauguration on February 1, 2023. Photo by Joseph Geha.

Public Safety: Hire more officers

On the public safety front, the incoming mayor wants to double the city’s pledge to hire 15 officers a year over the next five years to 30 officers a year. He plans to allocate city funds to recruitment efforts and ensure cadets are paid – so young people facing financial difficulties can work in law enforcement.

Mahan also wants to reinstate the officers’ bonus for recruiting new employees and increase outreach to minority communities to hire more officers of color.

A city auditor’s report found that San Jose is not meeting police response time goals. For priority two calls involving property damage or personal injury when the suspect has already fled, it took officers an average of 23.9 minutes to arrive at the scene — the goal is to be under 11 minutes.

To reduce delays and boost officers’ morale, Mahan pledged to invest in better reporting tools, digitize cumbersome forms and find ways to speed up admissions at the county jail.

Mahan also complained that San Jose officials keep arresting the same people. One person, he said, was handcuffed 27 times in two years. Mahan wants to break this cycle with early intervention programs.

“I am committed to working with our district leaders to ensure that an officer who takes someone to jail or Valley Medical Center is not simply returned to the streets a day or two later when their situation requires further intervention.” , he said.

Councilor Bien Doan, a political ally of the mayor, said he wholeheartedly supports his plans — particularly the emphasis on public safety.

“The fundamentals of keeping our homeless residents safe, clean, and cared for will create more businesses and create more jobs to enable people to survive here,” Doan said. “When you solve the basics, everything else follows.”

Despite being on opposite sides of the political aisle, Councilor Sergio Jimenez said Mahan was effective in emphasizing his key objectives.

“I look forward to evaluating the details of how he intends to fulfill those commitments while he does all of the city’s other important work,” Jimenez told the San Jose Spotlight.

Homelessness: An Emergency Crisis

Homelessness is a “humanitarian crisis,” Mahan said in his inaugural address, and it’s about time the city addressed it.

If an earthquake displaced 4,975 residents — the number of people sleeping on the streets of San Jose — FEMA would have emergency shelters set up on public land, Mahan said. That’s how the city has to deal with homelessness.

Mahan has spent the past year on the campaign trail campaigning to build prefabricated homes for homeless residents on public land — which costs far less than building homeless shelters from scratch elsewhere.

“We know that by using simple, prefabricated modular units placed on state land, we can create safe homes for a fraction of the current cost,” he said.

He plans to double down on former Mayor Sam Liccardo’s plan to build 1,000 new tiny homes. San Jose is close to that goal, with about 1,000 in the pipeline. Mahan hopes they will be built by 2024. After that, he also wants to find locations for another 1,000 units.

Mahan received the loudest applause from the crowd as he would end “San Jose’s era of unmanaged camps.”

South San Jose residents Chris and Jessica Turk, who attended Wednesday’s event, said they avoid walking their preschool-age daughters because of rampant homelessness.

Jessica said she hopes Mahan will create homeless shelters that cater to people with mental health issues, drug addictions and economic struggles.

“I like that he spoke about mental health and tried to rehabilitate people instead of just putting them in houses,” Turk told the San Jose Spotlight.

After watching Mahan’s speech, South Bay digital political marketing consultant Christopher Higgenbotham said it remains to be seen how much progress the new mayor will make.

“I think if you bring the whole common sense idea and say you’re going to be unique and innovative and you’re going to run this city as a company, you have to show us what it is,” he said. “Every public company opens their books and shows what’s going on and we can assess whether it’s going well or badly.”

Drawing on his background as a businessman and technology entrepreneur, Mahan wants to use data to track the city’s progress toward those goals.

He announced that he would soon unveil a public “Dashboard of Results” showing how the city is tackling disease, homelessness and crime.

“My father taught me that a postman always delivers,” Mahan said. “I think our government should too.”

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter. Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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