Neighborhoods Commission to Learn Its Fate at September Council Meeting

The recently terminated Neighborhoods Commission is likely to learn next month if a revival is possible and for how long.

On Tuesday, August 14, the San Jose City Council voted unanimously to take action at its evening meeting on Tuesday, September 25. The delay would give more residents and commissioners a chance to speak on the pilot commission’s fate and to hear from its liaison, Councilmember Pete Constant. Constant, who is recovering from back surgery, regularly attended neighborhoods commission meetings.

The council is also asking for a staff report on the productivity and effectiveness of the Neighborhoods Commission as well as a long-awaited report on the possible consolidation of dozens of other volunteer boards and commission.

City Clerk Dennis Hawkins said the council would have enough information by September 25 to discuss the issues and give direction on the future of Neighborhoods Commission. The council could vote to extend for another year the 30-member commission that was disbanded on June 30, because the pilot period had ended, vote to make it permanent or kill it.

At least two council members, Rose Herrera and Ash Kalra, voiced support on Tuesday for making the commission permanent. Sam Liccardo said the discussion should also focus on tweaking the structure to give it a broader mandate. The commission, which was seated , was restricted from acting on issues that might be in another commission’s jurisdiction.

“Do we want a Neighborhood Commission that is so narrowly focused on issues that somebody else isn’t addressing that in many ways aren’t the most important for neighborhoods?” he asked.

Herrera was more concerned that the council weighs in first on the neighborhoods commission and not get sidetracked by a full report on consolidation, which is due from the city clerk by December 1. A draft report was circulated in December, raising concerns from residents and commissioners.

“How do we evaluate a commission that doesn’t even exist,” she said. “My concern is about the survival of this commission. Other commissions are not under the threat of being sunsetted out before they are evaluated.”

Former San Jose Vice Mayor Judy Chirco, speaking as a resident, also supported the commission. Chirco served as the council’s first liaison to the commission. Also addressing the council were Jim Cantore, who represented District 9 on the commission, and Roma Dawson, former chief of staff to Liccardo.

“It’s a very cost effective group for the city,” Cantore said, noting that each monthly meeting represented 40 hours of volunteer time. “With the gap, we risk losing very good people who are on the commission. Extend the life as soon a possible.”

Dawson remarked that council members had first debated the effectiveness of boards and commissions since, and encouraged them to refer to the “excellent” early memos.

But the issue, she said, boils down to “How do we best serve the taxpayers and use their money for civic engagement?”