Modifies the San José City Charter in four ways: adds the city’s ethics and elections commission (Board of Fair Campaign and Political Practices) to the charter; removes requirements that members of the planning, civil service and salary setting commissions be electors and/or citizens; removes gender-specific language from the charter; and requires the City Council to adopt a statement of values and guidance for decision making within the city that incorporates equity.
Jump to SPUR’s Recommendation
What the Measure Would Do
Measure I would make four separate changes to the San José City Charter. First, it would elevate the San José Board of Fair Campaign and Political Practices from the Municipal Code to the City Charter. It would also allow noncitizens to serve on the planning, civil service and salary setting commissions, and it would remove all gender-specific language from the charter. Finally, the measure would require the City Council to adopt and maintain a statement of values promoting equity, inclusion, and racial and social justice, as well as to provide specific guidance to city officers and employees about how to implement these values in decision-making, policies, budgets, programs, standards, assessments and practices.
Each of the four parts of this measure was considered and overwhelmingly recommended by the Charter Review Commission. The city established the commission to examine its governance structure and solicit community input on potential charter reforms to improve and update it. The changes are intended to improve accountability, representation and inclusion at San José City Hall. The commission is made up of two members per council district and three citywide members appointed by the mayor. The commission met 29 times for a total of more than 100 hours. The commission forwarded the question of whether to place these proposed changes to the charter on the ballot to the City Council, which voted 10-1 in favor. A simple majority (50% plus one vote) is needed for approval.
Three of the four parts of this measure have clear equity impacts.
Elevation of the Board of Fair Campaign and Political Practices
No equity impacts.
According to data from the San José City Clerk’s Office, representation across the city’s boards and commissions is not representative of San José’s population demographic. Given these racial disparities, and the rather sizable noncitizen population (approximately 180,000 residents), this change could provide a significant pool of applicants for city boards and commissions from communities that have historically been underrepresented.
Using gender-inclusive language in the charter and in the city’s other official documents would support writing and speaking in a way that does not discriminate or marginalize based on gender and does not promote or perpetuate gender stereotypes. This shift is important for furthering gender equality in the workplace and creating an inclusive work environment for all city staff members.
Addition of an Equity Statement
San José has a long history of failing to achieve equity, inclusion and racial justice, particularly in regard to constituencies of color and low-income people. This failure is evident in a host of areas of life: affordable housing, transportation, health care, access to parks and green space, employment opportunities, law enforcement, assets and income, and many others. The COVID-19 pandemic further demonstrated the depth and consequences of these inequities.
In recent decades, some serious efforts have been made to address these issues, but major disparities persist. One reason for this is the inability of city government to sufficiently commit resources and energy to close the inequality gap, partly due to a weakness in the City Charter, which states an opposition to discrimination but does not affirm the objective of reducing inequity or provide standards or procedures to move toward that goal. A commitment in favor of equity in the charter will be an important step toward helping those who have historically suffered from inequities.
- Elevating the Board of Fair Campaign and Political Practices: In a time when election integrity is so important, elevating the city’s Board of Fair Campaign and Political Practices — which serves as its ethics and elections commission — from the Municipal Code to the City Charter shows the important role the board plays in ensuring that political candidates follow election rules.
- Noncitizen commissioners: This would increase the total number of eligible applicants to fill positions on city boards and commissions, and it will increase representation in city government for non-citizen residents in San José.
- Gender-inclusive language: Using gender-inclusive language in the charter and other official city documents would support writing and speaking in a way that does not discriminate or marginalize people based on their gender and does not promote or perpetuate gender stereotypes.
- Adoption of equity values, standards and assessments: This would align with the City of San José’s newly created Office of Racial Equity in advancing change through a citywide racial equity framework, which will examine and improve San José’s internal policies, programs and practices to eradicate structural and/or institutional racism.
- SPUR could not identify any cons for any of the amendments in this measure.
Each of the proposed charter amendments was carefully weighed and considered by the city’s Charter Review Commission and overwhelmingly approved. The City Council also voted 10–1 to place the measure on the ballot. Lastly, three of the four proposed amendments will generate positive equity outcomes.