Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Local ballot initiatives are hard work, but there is no alternative when City government is unresponsive and untrustworthy. That is why 35,000 signatures were submitted to allow the voters this November to raise the minimum wage in San Jose.

Community organizations have repeatedly tried to work with the City’s current leadership only to be met with disappointment.

• After a two year process of engaging the community in the development of a “Sunshine Policy” to make government decisions more transparent, the Council adopted a policy that lacks an enforcement mechanism. The same city officials who are the subject of a complaint decide whether the complaint has merit.

• After a year of community input on the City’s competition policy, which is supposed to give City employees an opportunity to compete for work against outside contractors, the City adopted the policy, but now routinely ignores it.

• Contract negotiations between the City and its workers have become futile; the City Council pays no attention to employee proposals and routinely imposes its original objectives on City workers.

• Once the signatures were submitted, there was suddenly a lot of talk about the need for more careful consideration of the minimum wage, but the Mayor has packed the Rules Committee, which controls the Council agenda, with his conservative allies. Unfortunately, the city’s leadership has no credibility as an “honest broker.” Community members recognize there is little possibility of getting a fair hearing for progressive reform at the City Council.

When a cause has widespread support, but elected decision makers refuse to listen, community members must resort to the initiative process. That is what has happened with the minimum wage initiative. The community is saying to the city’s leaders – since you can’t govern fairly, get out of the way.