Changes To San Jose Mayoral Powers Spark Heated Debate

Matt Bigler
July 01, 2020 - 9:31 am

    San Jose's city council meeting went past midnight and into the early hours of Wednesday morning as members of the community sounded off on a controversial proposal to add powers to the mayor's office.  

    City officials are considering a ballot measure that would give Mayor Sam Liccardo so-called "strong mayor" powers and add two years to his term. 

    Currently, the city council and City Manager David Sykes have most the authority to set goals for city agencies, measure their performance and fire officials in charge. The proposal would amend the city charter to shift those powers to the mayor.

    Liccardo supports the measure, saying it would give him more authority to hold the city’s police accountable.

    "It is too hard for chiefs in this city and any other city to fire bad cops," Liccardo said. "That is the fundamental reality."

    Liccardo said officers are too often able to return to the force through arbitration.

    "This is incredibly demoralizing to a police department where officers hold themselves to high standards and they see that those who do not are allowed back on the force to wear the same badge at the same salary."

    Many larger U.S. cities including Oakland and San Francisco operate under a “strong mayor” framework, and Tim Beaubian with the Santa Clara County Association of Realtors said it is past time that San Jose did the same.

    "San Jose is the 10th largest city in the United States, yet it still operates under an outdated 20th century structure best suited for cities far smaller," he said. "These structural changes will allow San Jose mayors the modern tools desperately needed to act quickly and effectively in a modern era of constant change."

    A separate charter amendment would change mayoral elections so they coincide with the presidential election in order to boost turnout, but that would also add two years to Liccardo's current term.

    At the city council meeting many residents spoke out against that idea.

    "I don’t think we need two more years of Sam Liccardo. This is being rushed through. It’s a complete power grab," said one resident.

    Any changes to the city charter would have to approved by voters. The City Council is expected to continue debating the amendments Wednesday.