Multi-Issue Charter Amendments
Multi-Issue Charter Amendments
Amends the City Charter to expand the independent police auditor’s oversight, increase the Planning Commission to 11 members, and allow the City Council to establish timelines for redistricting when census results are late.
What the Measure Would Do
Measure G would make three separate changes to the San José City Charter. First, it would expand the independent police auditor’s oversight to include reviewing officer-involved shootings and use-of-force incidents causing death or great bodily injury. It would also expand oversight to include reviewing department-initiated investigations against officers, and to make other technical amendments to the auditor's authority. Second, it would increase the Planning Commission from 7 to 11 members with the City Council appointing one member from each council district and one at-large member. Finally, it would allow the City Council to establish timelines for redrawing council district boundaries if census results are late.
The San José City Council voted 11-0 to place this measure on the ballot. The council included three charter amendments in one ballot measure because placing each proposed amendment on the ballot separately would cost nearly $4 million more. In light of a budget deficit of $71.6 million, the council chose to combine all three charter amendments.
Independent Police Auditor
The independent police auditor currently reviews Police Department investigations of complaints against police officers to determine if the investigation was complete, thorough, objective and fair. The auditor also makes recommendations regarding Police Department policies and procedures based on a review of investigations into complaints against police officers. Lastly, the auditor educates the community about the process and procedures for investigating complaints against police officers.
Measure G would amend the City Charter to expand the auditor’s review authority to include officer-involved shootings and use-of-force incidents causing death or great bodily injury. It would also expand review authority to department-initiated investigations against officers and allow access to related unredacted records, in accordance with a recently signed agreement1 between the city and the San José Police Officers Association. The measure is timely as the San José Police Department is being sued2 for officers’ use of tear gas and projectiles during the George Floyd protests that took place in the city in late May.
Over the past year, the City Council and community have discussed enlarging the Planning Commission to create greater racial and geographic diversity of its members. Controversy erupted last year3 when former City Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio, who resides in the upscale Willow Glen neighborhood, was appointed to the Planning Commission over two Latino candidates, including one from District 5 in East San José. This gave the Commission four white members from one neighborhood.
This measure would limit planning commissioners to two consecutive four-year terms, prohibit the appointment of more than two commissioners residing in the same council district, and provide for a supermajority vote of the council to override this prohibition.
The San José City Charter requires the city to establish new city council district boundaries every 10 years after the U.S. Census Bureau releases new population figures. These boundaries determine the council district in which each resident resides and ensure equal representation. The Charter requires the city to complete redistricting and enact an ordinance by October 31 in the year following the census.
Due to COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders and public health protocols, field operations for the U.S. Census 2020 were suspended, delaying the new census data needed for redistricting. The proposed charter amendment would authorize the council to adjust the deadline for enacting a redistricting ordinance if census results are not delivered to the states by April 1 of the year following the census.
Past Ballot Measures
The City Council established the Office of the Independent Police Auditor4 in 1993. In 1996, voters amended the City Charter to establish the IPA as a permanent arm of city government.
This measure requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.
The expansion of the independent police auditor’s role represents one aspect of reforms sought, in particular, by communities and people of color, and will help provide greater public trust in internal and use-of-force investigations.
The proposed changes to the composition and size of the Planning Commission will improve race and socio-economic equity and promote the inclusion of more diverse perspectives and voices representing more geographic areas and populations in San José.
The drawing of City Council districts ideally ensures fair and equal representation and upholds the principle of “one person, one vote.” Therefore, it is critical that accurate census data be used in redistricting. This amendment will help to achieve these goals by allowing for additional time when census results are delayed.
- The expansion of the scope and authority of the independent police auditor is particularly important now in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, subsequent protests, and renewed focus on issues of police misconduct and racial justice in the city and across the nation.
- Restructuring and reforming the Planning Commission will advance the inclusion of more diverse perspectives in geographic, racial and socio-economic terms.
- The redistricting change is necessary to handle delays in the delivery of census survey data.
- The provisions in the independent auditor amendment still do not address many necessary police reforms.
- Appointing Planning Commissioners to “represent” particular neighborhoods and council districts has caused bodies5 to become more parochial by creating additional pressure on commissioners to oppose housing development projects in “their” area. Other commissioners may tend to defer to the commissioner representing that part of the city rather than taking a broader and more holistic view of what is best for the city overall.
While SPUR has concerns about placing multiple unrelated provisions in a single ballot measure, we think this was fiscally wise and that the descriptions of the various provisions are sufficiently clear to avoid voter confusion. SPUR believes these charter amendments would achieve greater transparency, oversight, accountability, democratic participation and equitable representation in city government and that they are worthy of support.
1. Side Letter Agreement Between the City of San José and the Police Officers' Association, Independent Police Auditor Expansion of Duties and Responsibilities, https://www.sanjoseca.gov/home/showdocument?id=59458
3. Ramona Giwargis, "East San José Leaders Decry San José Planning Commission Appointment," San José Spotlight, April 10, 2019 https://sanjosespotlight.com/east-san-jose-leaders-decry-san-jose-planni...