First 100 Days: Did San Jose Council Member Matt Mahan Keep His Election Promises?
During last year’s election campaign, San Jose council member Matt Mahan pledged to make city hall more transparent, accountable, and bring a data-driven approach to local government. After about 100 days in office, he is still striving to achieve this
Mahan recently proposed that the city set measurable targets for reducing crime, eliminating blight or filling potholes and reporting their success to the public. This dashboard of KPI data – measuring key performance indicators in these key areas – would help the public see how their taxes are being spent.
“I think it’s important because if we do this and are drastically more transparent with the public about where we spend their money and how we operate as a city, I think we’ll start to rebuild the city. confidence, ”Mahan said in February.
But the council chose not to prioritize this system, and Mahan is still looking for ways to make the city government move faster and more efficiently – just like the private sector.
San José Spotlight spoke with Mahan to ask him questions about his first 100 days on city council.
Q: What was the hardest part of the job?
A: Unlike the private sector where you can come up with ideas, people can agree that they’re worth trying, and you can try them lightly and experiment and see how they play out, the government is moving incredibly slowly. The biggest change for me from moving from a business where everyone is more or less aligned around the same goal and where we have a common language around our goals and how we measure success … is that the government is much more decentralized, there are many more competing interests, and there is much less consensus.
Q: What surprised you the most?
A: It’s amazing to me how long it takes to make decisions and implement them and how much this is due to a really slow annual budgeting cycle and once you budget it’s kinda locked in.
The municipal bureaucracy is very slow to change. Even an idea that receives almost unanimous support like the camp management strategy… takes a long time to implement. You can get an idea, the council can agree, and the city staff can say it’s promising, but it can even take a long time to do a little test. We need to be faster, more responsive, more flexible and experiment more. That’s what I bring from the private sector. We can’t wait for an annual budget cycle to decide something isn’t working.
Q: What are some of your long-term goals for your first term?
A: I advocate focused goals in our core areas of service. The top three that I have heard loud and clear from the community are public safety, homelessness and housing, and the maintenance of basic infrastructure like roads and parks. We need to set goals, measure them, report back, and focus all the energy of this bureaucracy on achieving measurable goals. What are our goals and growth targets? What are we doing now to achieve these goals? For the prioritization process, I have presented two proposals. One was the KPI dashboard, I proposed one on camp management, because it is a growing problem. The management of the camp has been elected the top priority for next year as a new project. The KPI dashboard came in 14th out of 40 and got a few votes. The mayor mentioned it in his March budget message and the city manager mentioned it. It certainly arouses some interest.
Q: What is the biggest challenge your district has faced so far?
A: Crime and homelessness are the two biggest challenges facing the community. When people don’t feel safe, nothing else matters. If your car has been broken into, or your neighbors’ car or house has been broken into, if there is parcel theft in the neighborhood, you feel threatened and raped. It really shakes you up.
The second thing that worries people is homelessness. The idea that in one of the richest places in the world thousands of people living on our streets in truly terrible conditions bothers everyone. The real long-term solution is housing of all kinds, more shelter beds, more beds in mental health facilities, addiction treatment programs and… permanent supportive housing.
We’re going to need emergency housing, maybe tiny houses… we’ll have to be more creative and more profitable.
We have 6000 people living on our streets right now and we haven’t dealt with it, especially during COVID, it was very negligible and it caused real problems like fires and garbage. Then there is the construction of the housing units that we need, and the question is always the location and it is difficult. Then there is the ongoing cost of providing all the services.
Third, there was the infrastructure, especially the roads. People would walk with me from their front doors onto the street and show me potholes. Parks and trails are other infrastructure issues. We have what could be the best network of city parks and trails out there, but people just don’t feel comfortable with them because they aren’t maintained. There is graffiti, garbage and camps. It is a missed opportunity.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]