San Jose Mayor's Budget Moves Money from Community to Police & Criminalizes Residents with Housing and Mental Health Needs

Editor's Note:

In his promotional newsletter, Mayor Mahan frames his budget proposal as going "Back to the Basics." It is a dog whistle to mean hyper-policing, incarceration of the homeless and those with mental health needs, and moving community resources to law enforcement. Turns out "Back to the Basics" feels a lot like "Make America Great Again"

When Mayor Says “Preserving Our Progress” It Means “Policing the Homeless”
Liz Gonzalez, De-Bug Organizer, South Bay Community Land Trust President
Andrew Bigelow, Participatory Defense & Housing Organizer

The Mayor opens his budget message with things we have heard for years: San Jose doesn’t have enough jobs, it’s a bedroom community, we don’t have enough money for affordable housing, people feel unsafe, we need more police – as if these were legitimate reasons to create a budget message that starts from lack, failing to acknowledge where we over resource or how we will curtail corporate breaks to be a part of this city.

The Mayor’s budget ignores the consciousness changing 3 years we have lived through of a worldwide pandemic, of uprisings against police violence – of everyday people, including so many San Jose residents calling to resource the least resourced and cause less harm by providing for basic needs.

Measure E was passed in 2020 by San Jose voters to build affordable housing and prevent homelessness, dividing the funds to serve very low-income households, low-income, middle income and homelessness prevention programs.

San Jose cannot both be committed to funding & supporting the construction of affordable housing and divert any amount of those precious funds to create a facility that will forcibly jail people and call it mental health treatment. If San Jose were committed to creating affordable housing it would not take every opportunity to lower and allow companies not to pay development fees that would also contribute to affordable housing.

“Preserving our progress” is a very manipulative way of saying “Police the homeless.” The Mayor has entrusted San Jose Police to forcibly move unhoused communities from areas deemed as unfit. The explanation of how we arrived as a city into a housing and unhoused crises would lead the public to think the Mayor has empathy and understanding for the circumstances of the unhoused. But, instead has made the expansion of law enforcement harassment of houseless folks San Jose policy and budget priority. If San Jose really wanted to follow the standards set by the 9th Circuit Court’s Martin v Boise decision cited by the Mayor, it would not be continuously finding ways to criminalize our unhoused neighbors. One cannot have empathy and compassion for the unhoused and then order sweeps. We have seen the devastating and traumatic outcomes of sweeps. The last that someone owns taken away from them as they try to gather their lives to move to the next place by foot. We wish these upon no one.


We Don’t Need More Police, We Need More Accountability
Chandra Jacquez and other families who have lost loved ones to San Jose police

As families who lost loved ones to police violence, we have experienced firsthand a deep loss that has come without any answers, much less accountability, from the police who took our loved ones' lives. Matt Mahan's budget proposal completely ignores this grief. The community does not need more officers or pathways for young people to become officers. We are not suffering a shortage of officers. We're suffering from a lack of accountability from a department where officers throw their 'training' out the window during the most critical moments that lives could be saved. They shoot to kill without caring who's on the other end of their weapons. There is no transparency, no accountability, and no remorse for our loved ones. It is clear to us that the department culture needs to be changed. The problems within the department need to be fixed, or else hiring new officers will just be absorbed into an already unaccountable culture.

We agree with diverting 911 calls. However, Santa Clara County already has the TRUST program that was envisioned by families where law enforcement is not involved in crisis interventions. Matt Mahan should not take credit for 'finding ways' but instead just utilize the current ways that exist. Also, if he is proposing that 911 calls should be diverted from calls involving youth, it seems contradictory to then engage youth in law enforcement careers.

Lastly, it is ironic that Matt Mahan wants to put money that voters earmarked for affordable housing into a locked mental health facility. People are moving from San Jose or falling into homelessness because the cost of living is too high. Yet instead of actually following the will of voters to build affordable housing, he takes money away from it.

Criminalizing The Homeless and Those with Mental Health Needs is Cruel and Inhumane
Cynthia Long
De-Bug Court Support Organizer, Santa Clara County Alternatives to Incarceration Member

Moving money from the homeless budget to lock up those with mental health needs will not help those with mental health needs. They are not criminals, and taking away their rights, will only cause more harm. Stripping San Jose residents of their freedom as a policy will only fuel the mental health crisis in San Jose. The idea of vanishing the homeless and those with mental health needs is a budget policy of punishment.

The funds from Measure E should be used to create housing. Providing housing also helps address those with mental health concerns. A person with mental health needs becomes stable when they have stable housing. Therefore, taking money from Measure E would increase the homeless population and thus San Jose would not be any “cleaner.”

The Mayor's states in his proposed budget, homelessness is a major focus, yet how can that be if the proposal is moving resources away from housing, and literally criminalizing homelessness through the enforcement of “no encampment zones.” This seems contradictory.

When the Mayor speaks of “cleaning up our neighborhoods” I feel there is not a genuine concern for the homeless nor the homeless with mental illness.

Tags: Matt Mahan Policing San Jose San Jose budget