Interview by Sharon McElhone
Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio serves District 6, which includes the greater Santana Row, Rose Garden, and Willow Glen areas.
He is the son of immigrant parents who are both retired schoolteachers. He grew up in Willow Glen, attending Booksin Elementary, Hoover Middle School, and Willow Glen High and went on to obtain his B.A. and teaching credential from San Jose State University. Before being elected in 2007 to the San Jose City Council, Pierluigi Oliverio spent 18 years in the private sector working in the semiconductor and software industries.
Councilmember Oliverio wants to be known for his collaboration during the tense negotiations that occurred around pension reform, for championing a reduction of speed limits around schools, and for restoring San Jose’s Municipal Rose Garden, as well as facilitating trail development and maintaining the Airport Curfew. He was re-elected to the City Council in 2012 for a third term and is seeking election for Mayor of San Jose in 2014.
Do you have a vision of how to bring more multiculturalism to San Jose?
“My vision is about providing services to residents i.e. law enforcement, roads and libraries. Multiculturalism exists in our city today. It exists with the art groups and residents. Heritage groups already meet and typically ethnic groups have great festivals. I think we are fine with the way it is.”
Do you have plans to improve the downtown area? What plans do you have?
“The taxpayers have already spent two billion dollars on downtown San Jose. I’d rather see money going into the neighborhoods. When you have a limited amount of money, I think we should put it into neighborhoods rather than downtown, put into road paving, community centers, updating or rebuilding dilapidated structures and spending on the things you don’t see such as a new heating or cooling system. They are things you don’t see but are necessary to do. I think tree planting is a big deal. San Jose doesn’t have an ocean or majestic vistas, and when you see something beautiful in San Jose, it’s usually a tree-lined street. Part of the way of making San Jose pretty is to plant more trees.”
What is your position on the high rents we’ve seen in the last six months and do you foresee a time when the middle class can’t afford to live in San Jose?
“San Jose like other major cities of the world will never be affordable. It will always be expensive. San Jose has spent over one billion on low income housing while our neighbors didn’t do anything. Residents of San Jose have done their best while other neighbors did next to nothing. You can only do so much. I don’t have any more money to spend. If residents want to tax themselves on a countywide basis and spend that tax money on affordable housing, that works for me.”
Do you see how we can avoid high-density housing?
“No, it’s our future. Eighty percent of our housing in San Jose is single-family homes. Land is scarce and you don’t want to build that way anymore. The high-density housing allows for more revenue to pay for police officers and librarian’s salaries. It’s also good for the environment. Traditional single-family homes use up a tremendous amount of water. The number one use of water is landscaping, front yards and backyards. They take a tremendous amount of water. Using the toilet and shower doesn’t even come close. The number one crop in the U.S. is not wheat, corn, or soybeans. It’s actually grass.”
Do you see any problems with our water supply if our population keeps growing with the current pace of high density housing being built?
“High-density housing uses less water per person, and this city will grow because people have children and because people move here for jobs. We have 150,000 school aged children who will potentially want to live and work here when they grow up. You don’t build out Coyote Valley and do another urban sprawl. That’s the wrong action to take.”
How would you address homelessness in San Jose?
“We are addressing homelessness with the money we have. We are working with various groups and the county to address it; however, it’s only a drop in the bucket of the entire homeless population. Areas like San Jose that have a beautiful climate carry a heavier burden in the U.S. and will likely continue to do so based on the weather and economy. Homelessness has been around for hundreds of years. As a kid, I remember a picture on the cover of Time Magazine in the eighties, and it was of a homeless person. It’s an issue that won’t go away. It’s a problem that no individual city can solve.”
What do you think needs to be done in order to restore San Jose’s title as one of the safest cities in America?
“I made a proposal at city council to raise the spending budget for law enforcement from twenty nine percent to thirty percent. The City Council said no. I believe we should have a higher budget committed to police. I believe we should have a minimum amount of spending so that we are always making law enforcement a priority. I’m not concerned about the title. I’m concerned about allocating the necessary founds to do the job.”
What inspirations have you garnered from the successes of Mayor Susan Hammer or Janet Hayes?
“I say Janet Hayes for maintaining the airport curfew and allowing residents to get a good night’s sleep.”
If you become Mayor of San Jose, what do you think your biggest concerns will be?
“A limited amount of money and a high amount of services requested by residents. I also believe that our labor union negotiations should be held as public meetings. This process is painful and burdensome. We need to allow sunshine in to allow taxpayers to see what happens during these negotiations.”