New York Times Article on San Jose Sparks City Debate

San Jose’s struggle to deal with rising pension reform costs is getting national attention in the form of a front-page article in the New York Times.

But how a city looks from the outside in is different from how it looks from the inside out.

Traffic is increasing in San Jose, in part because more people are working. Home prices are up and the city’s starting to restore library hours and other services. But it’s still struggling with the cost of retiree pensions and benefits with cost about 20-percent of the general fund

The Times put San Jose beneath stories of terror in Kenya and nuclear tensions in Iran. The article talked about the cost of living, the increase in graffiti and quality of life crimes, and the decline of the police force.

It compared San Jose with Detroit, which is bankrupt.

“It’s just a ridiculous comparison, I mean there’s a lot of growth there, and it’s not a growing city it’s not a declining city,” San Jose resident Howie Severson said.

Much of the article is about Mayor Chuck Reed’s quest for pension reform and the impact it’s had on the police department.

“I think the fact that this week we had six officers walk out the door for other agencies and we expect more next week and it’s a routine thing for us in San Jose unfortunately and the New York Times is taking notice,” James Gonzales with the San Jose Police Officers Association said.

Voters passed pension reform by an overwhelming 70-percent. Something Mayor Reed says is the answer returning San Jose to the safe city it once was.

“We recognized the problem earlier and we’ve taken action. If San Bernadino and Detroit had been able to take action earlier, they wouldn’t be in bankruptcy,” Mayor Reed said.

The head of public policy for the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Jim Reed says that even with the strife over pension reform, low morale in the police department, and fewer city services than ten years ago, San Jose’s in a prime position to bounce back.

“The fact that we’ve got such strong job growth. The fact that our employees here have proven to be  some of the happiest in the country. The fact that small and large businesses cite San Jose as one of the best places to operate. We’re still the high tech capital in the world. We'vre the most diverse city in the country- we've got a lot great things going for us,” Jim Reed said.

Former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales says the comparison with Detroit isn't fair, and he says the people of San Jose already know that. “I think the people of San Jose, the people of Silicon Valley, know what the truth is,” Gonzalez said.

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