SJ mayor delivers the State of the City

February 18, 2010 12:13:12 PM PST
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed hopes he brought his A's game when he gave his State of the City address Thursday morning.

He made a pitch for bringing the baseball team to town, while urging people to approve new taxes.

The mayor talked about possible solutions, like a new quarter-cent sales tax, to address a massive budget shortfall. But he also spoke of positive possibilities. Going out on a limb, boldly saying he predicts getting voter approval to move ahead with a Major League Baseball stadium in San Jose.

"The citizens of San Jose recognize and demand total integrity and that's why I have the pleasure of introducing Chuck Reed to you this morning," said Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff.

The appearance of Lew Wolff, owner of the Oakland A's and San Jose Earthquakes, introducing the mayor at his State of the City address may seem like a curve ball thrown to the audience, but there's a point here. It underscores the city's continuing efforts to convince major league baseball to allow Wolff to move the A's to San Jose. Mayor Reed was not shy to continue to push.

"Of course, we're all wondering just when your next venture/investment in San Jose will get underway. Please give our regards to the Commissioner will you," said Mayor Reed.

The economy is one reason San Jose would love to become home to the A's -- supporters say the team would generate millions of dollars for the local economy.

But it wouldn't happen without a fight from Oakland and the San Francisco Giants, who say San Jose is within its territory. In the meantime, Mayor Reed delved into some of the city's biggest challenges, like creating jobs for the tens of thousands of San Jose residents who've lost their jobs over the last year.

"As the nation emerges from the recession, and it will, we must do everything we can to capture jobs and the tax revenues that our driving industries will create," said Mayor Reed.

San Jose is also facing a $100 million dollar deficit in the coming fiscal year. The city has been trying to negotiate a five percent cut in compensation from all city employees. Now the mayor says more is needed.

"We need every bargaining unit to give back 10 to 15 percent to avoid layoffs," said Mayor Reed.

Up to 550 city jobs could be affected, 140 of those police officers. Chief Rob Davis says his department has already been creatively finding ways to maximize use of its decade-long lack of officers -- so more cuts could jeopardize public safety.

"There's not a lot of wiggle room left, so when you're talking about a 10 percent cut, you're really talking about cutting to the bone and really reducing response times," said Chief Davis.

It's not just jobs on the line, but service reductions too -- for example, the city's Library Director tells me the budget deficit could lead to branch hours, job-search programs and reading activities being cut in half.

The city's proposed budget is due out in May.