SJ Mayor makes case for new officers

June 16, 2008 7:25:35 PM PDT
Like so many other cities around California, San Jose is dealing with money problems. The city is trying to close a $23 million shortfall in the upcoming budget, while trying to beef up it's police force. It's not an easy task and the gloves are coming off in what's become a political showdown.

In one corner, there's Council Member Nora Campos. She thinks the Mayor's plan to add 25 new police officers is not enough.

"We've seen our gang violence continue to increase. We see homicides continue to increase," says Campos.

In the other corner, there's Mayor Chuck Reed, who has the support of three council members as he engaged in this verbal sparing match. He says her plan to add 40 new officers uses math that doesn't make sense.

"So it's a collection of bad ideas that don't add up to very much."

Campos proposes cutting a traffic calming unit to help pay for additional patrol officers. That idea faces harsh criticism in light of last week's tragic bike accident that killed a 12-year-old girl.

"Around every single one of our schools, we have huge problems with traffic, we have parents dropping off kids, we have a perfect storm waiting to happen," Says San Jose Councilwoman Nancy Pyle.

But, the Police Officers Association is also taking sides and standing with Campos.

"Your basic assaults, burglaries, auto thefts, they're going uninvestigated because we don't have the personnel to do it," says Bobby Lopez, president of the San Jose Police Officer's Association.

The politics are deep. The Police Officers Association is undergoing union negotiations and Campos is labor friendly.

The Mayor's supporters accuse their colleague of playing politics with the budget and public safety.

"As an overall thing, I think it's political grandstanding on the part of Councilmember Campos," says Councilman Pete Constant.

The Mayor has already modified his initial budget proposal from 15 new officers to 25. As for Campos, there's a hint her battle with the Mayor could be a marathon and not a sprint.

"I'll tell you one thing Karina, I won't say that I'm not running for Mayor, but I do have to say that's not something that's in my future plans at this moment," said Campos.

The public gets a final say on the budget issues during a hearing at City Hall. The political clashes culminate in a council vote tomorrow.