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Editor's License

[whitespace] Ron for Mayor

RON GONZALES'S principal opponent suggests that he isn't the best choice to lead San Jose because he previously lived and held public office in a nearby city. We disagree.

In working for Hewlett-Packard, one of Silicon Valley's best managed companies, and in serving as mayor of Sunnyvale, one of America's best run cities, Gonzales gained experience that uniquely qualifies him to take the reins of power in this dynamic region's principal city.

San Jose can benefit from fresh perspectives, progressive management and new leadership. Its recent police chiefs, city managers and mayors have all risen through the ranks, and when that happens for too long, a city's governing elite becomes too ingrown, inefficient, collegial and cozy. Outsiders often bring needed reforms, and Gonzales is a reformer at heart. As a county supervisor, he challenged conventional thinking and took on powerful interests to see that the public got the best deal for its tax buck. He pushed technology bonds to update county information systems and was a voice of reason in questioning Valley Medical Center's big-ticket expansion program at a time when area hospitals suffered from excess capacity.

If he makes good on his promises--and Gonzales's record on follow-through is keen--he would as mayor apply a new school of thinking to San Jose's billion-dollar annual operating budget and its free-spending, inadequately supervised redevelopment program. Gonzales says he is conviced that a system of "performance-based budgeting" is needed in San Jose, one that sets goals and measures output. Too much time, Gonzales believes, is spent figuring out how to spend money, and not enough time looking at results.

Gonzales says he would demand accountability from city department heads by setting "high standards and expectations," and, "if they don't meet them, move 'em out." He pledges that he would follow through on City Auditor Gerald Silva's 1992 largely unimplemented recommendations that the Redevelopment Agency clearly define and prioritize its program, as well as improve its financial reporting, forecasting and contract administration. He would further look to increase the ratio of private investment to public redevelopment spending, and believes that San Jose's program is "low leverage" in comparison to other redeveloping cities.

This type of reasoning offers San Jose an opportunity to set its sights high and finally realize its potential as one of America's leading cities. It's hard not to make a city better when you are spending billions--and we're better off than we were, to be sure. But is San Jose as good a city as it can be, and are we getting the most for our money? Our belief is that San Jose can do better.

Others also want to be mayor, Pat Dando worked as chief assistant to the Redevelopment Agency's executive director. At redevelopment, she assisted Frank Taylor by obstructing public access to how the agency uses public funds and dishing dirt about redevelopment adversaries. Now a member of the City Council, she has become more public-spirited. Like Gonzales, she champions vanilla issues like housing, transportation, education. She, like her opponent, supports urban growth boundaries and would improve on Mayor Hammer's disgraceful record on historic preservation by not joining the rush to demolish such landmarks as the Jose Theater and Montgomery Hotel. She is moderate on social issues, supporting the mayor's strong stance on protecting local women who visit family planning clinics, and she supports implementing the voter mandate for medical marijuana dispensaries. Dando is knowledgeable about district problems and particularly good with nuts-and-bolts issues, bringing up issues like utility billing and yard-waste scoopers that damage pavement. She will continue to be an asset to San Jose in her current role as councilmember, where she still has two more years of her term left to serve.

Still, for mayor, we prefer Gonzales's big-picture thinking and systematic approach to improving governmental performance. We do wish he would talk more about quality of life issues: arts, parks, open space, environmental quality. A city is not just business; we live here.

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From the May 21-27, 1998 issue of Metro.

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