Second San José Human Services Commission

Here’s the full agenda and below are updates on some of the work I’ve been doing on the Human Services Commission. The items I requested to be added to the agenda were:

  1. A presentation from Mr Anthony King of Silicon Valley de-bug on improving how people who are homeless’s property is returned to them after city-run sweeps.
  2. More details on the current state of the law enforcement and service provider’s responses to human trafficking from the DA’s office and the head of the South Bay Coalition to End Trafficking
  3. A vote on inviting a representative from ICE to attend to a future meeting to explain why they’ve so dramatically changed their enforcement of existing federal immigration law, leaving many in our community vulnerable and afraid.

Workplan Topic: Children’s Rights
Workplan summary: Explore ways to meaningfully improve the lives of children through alleviating stresses: Look at ways mental health access and impacts of national immigration policy

Summary of work since last meeting

  • Researched organizations currently addressing the impact of national immigration policy on children and youth in San José.
  • Wrote on Facebook to  San José-area high schools inviting their students to join the Youth Commission and attend Human Services Commission meetings to help shape the city’s response to national immigration policy. I attempted to invite all high schools in the city limits, but most didn’t have Facebook pages with messaging capability; I can try to connect with the others. Here are the schools I reached:
    1. DCP El Primero High School (Confirmed they would pass on invitations to students)
    2. Latino College Preparatory Academy
    3. Leigh High School
    4. Santa Theresa High School
    5. Willow Glen High School
    6. Gunderson High School
    7. Independence High School
    8. Bellermine College Preparatory
    9. Notre Dame High School
    10. Presentation High School
    11. Liberty Baptist School
    12. Harker High School

Proposed action

  • Vote to approve that the Commission send a letter inviting the Gilroy ICE spokesperson James Schwab to attend an up-coming Commission meeting.
  • Benefit: If they send a representative, we might be able to get clarity which can guide City Council in their work protecting all children in San José. If they do not, a member of the commission can deliver the invitation in-person and invite the press to cover it, to raise awareness of and support for the children whose families are being targeted.
  • Cost: No financial cost. None of the dozen-or-so members or representatives of the immigrant community I’ve asked for advice on this plan have thought it would cause harm.

Relevant Agenda Item: VII. E. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) invitation

Workplan Topic: Human Trafficking
Workplan summary: Create an education campaign for Commissioners to share what to look for as signs of human trafficking: Work with District 3 and 7.

Summary of work since last meeting:

  • Reached-out to Maja Marjanovic in Supervisor Chavez’s office
  • Met with Maribel Villarreal of Councilmember Jimenez
  • Met with Lt. Ta of SJPD
  • Met with Sharan Dhanoa of the Coalition
  • Spoke with Stephanie Richardson, Policy Director of CASTA LA
  • Spoke with Johanna Rodriguez of Councilmember Tam Ngyuen’s office
  • Received feedback and advice from friends who work or have worked at the CA DOJ, Oakland city government and Congress, as well as survivors of trafficking, lobbyists, and social workers.

Proposed action

  • For the next year’s workplan, add development of a report on what an excellent response to human trafficking from a city looks like, including what laws need to be on the books and enforced, what funding streams need to be targeted towards service providers, what policies judges, patrol officers, and others in the judicial system need to support them, etc.
  • Discuss partnering with a legal clinic at Lincoln Law School, San José State, Stanford, Santa Clara University to have law students and social work students help research best practices for cities and municipalities. Question: Can the commission host interns? Is there a city council member’s office who could share 1 day a week of work space?
  • For the next 3 months, in preparation for adding that to the work plan, continue to research and document best practices.

Relevant Agenda Item: VI. A. Human Trafficking and Prostitution Follow-Up

Other Topic

Relevant Agenda Item: VII. C. Women’s Bill of Rights Policy.

Summary of work since last meeting:

  • Met with Commissioner Ellenberg to get her feedback
  • Met with Ketzal Gomez, county staff for the county’s Commission on the Status of Women
  • Spoke with Michelle Osorio, county staff tasked with implementing CEDAW for the Department of Women’s Policy
  • Spoke with Dr Emily Murase, Director of San Francisco’s Department on the Status of Women

Human Trafficking, Census Outreach, Women’s Bill of Rights, and Ad Hoc Committees!

Tonight was my first San Jose Human Services Commission meeting and we started to dig into some really interesting issues. I asked my big question and signed-up for the two committees I mentioned in my pre-meeting post (Children’s Rights, with  focus on helping those impacted by federal immigration policy; Human Trafficking, with an open mind towards which communities are particularly impacted in San Jose).

The answer to my big question about the proposed San Jose Women’s Bill of Right’s mixed use of the terms “sex” and “gender” and how that might impact transgender and gender non-conforming San Jose residents is going to the Assistant City Attorney who drafted the memo about it, since he also drafted the bill.

Human Trafficking

We heard a presentation from our liaison to City Council about the city’s current approach to serving survivors of human trafficking. Given my background on that issue, I brought a lot of technical questions which she’ll be bringing answers about to the next meeting:

  • The council liaison reported that in the past 6 months, the San Jose Police Department has arrested 230 women for engaging in commercial sex and 4-5 purchasers of sex. I highlighted the injustice represented by this ratio and brought up the promising work of Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes on flipping the ratio of arrests of women arrests of purchasers of sex (Read about the policy in his own words). I will be following-up.
  • The council liaison reported that the District Attorney’s office was offering a diversion program for the 230 women in commercial sex who now have arrests on their records. I asked:
    • Does this diversion program include record expungement? The council liaison was interested when I mentioned I had model legislation and a policy brief to add this to the city code, if it wasn’t already included.
    • How many women were offered services and by whom?
    • What training does Law Enforcement in San Jose receive to allow them to determine whether someone is a survivor of trafficking or not? There was an emphasis in the presentation on the women being arrested being over 18, but as anyone who’s met me and heard me talk about trafficking for more than 30 seconds knows, millions of adults are survivors of trafficking too. The council liaison mentioned many of the women had pimps, which is a strong potential signal of a trafficking situation.
  • The council liaison mentioned how happy residents of District 7 and 3 were that so many women were being arrested, which is a deeply troubling approach.
  • Another commissioner asked how many of the women were vulnerable to trafficking because of their immigration status; thankfully, the county does not track status at the jail, but this is something perhaps a service-providing nonprofit might be able to shed some light on.

tl;dr: If the tone of the presentation was anything to go by, there is a lot of room to help San Jose approach ending human trafficking in a more survivor centric way.

Census 2020

Our excellent staff liaison shared some of the work local nonprofits have been doing in identifying people who need to get the census but whose living situation isn’t necessarily up-to-code (living in a shed, a garage, etc). It turns out, the federal census bureau relies on cities to give them the addresses of all of their residents, and as more and more people are moving into tenuous living situations, San Jose residents could lose millions of dollars in federal funds because they don’t get counted.

She said the nonprofits had helped find nearly 12,000 people who the US Census Bureau did not have in their records.

I asked if there was a way people could self-identify to a nonprofit to help with the count, without outing themselves as to their code/immigration situation and she said not easily, but she would look into it.

This is an interesting window into the impact of not having the right kinds of housing for our growing community and how hidden housing can create a funding spiral for local governments.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

Our commission staffer let us know the Human Services Commission would probably end up being the oversight body for at least some of the San Jose Bill of Rights. I asked for us to find out how much other cities had spent implementing their CEDAW integrations, given that budgets are statements of values and by passing this bill, San Jose should be making as strong a statement as San Francisco did when they funded a department to carry out the bill (which included $4.3mil in grants from their Department on the Status of Women to 31 community organizations).

The San Francisco Department on the Status of Women recommends budgeting $.10 to $.25 per woman resident of a city, which for San Jose would be about $100,000-$250,000 to carry out a local ordinance. To be clear, our commission has no budget, but we can make a recommendation to council that they fund this work. All budget processes are competitive, but if we don’t ask for something, we’ll never get anything.

Ad Hoc Committees

I made my first substantive motion today as an appointed official! I moved that we accept the proposed ad hoc committees.

Big Take Aways

I very much enjoyed my first commission meeting. The chair has created a collegial and engaged atmosphere. I was very disappointed by the non-survivor-centric approach to ending human trafficking that was reflected in the report, but that just means there is vital work to do on that issue. I’m pushing for some interesting items to be on the next meeting’s agenda; I’ll post it when it’s official.

I’m still thinking through the best ways to connect with District 2 on the issues and priorities of the commission; I was thinking of hosting office hours at the library, in addition to keeping an open inbox. If you have seen a great approach, please bend my ear.

I’ll have a commissioner’s email soon, but if you want to get in contact with me about this or anything else before that goes live, feel free to reach out at 650-804-9044 or

First San Jose Human Services Commission Meeting

Tonight is my first meeting as a Commissioner on the Human Services Commission for San Jose after a joyous swearing-in on Tuesday. As a way of sharing this experience with my friends and fellow District 2 residents, I’ll be posting updates before and after commission meetings. Here’s tonight’s agenda.

After reviewing the commission’s FY18 work plan, I think the sub-committees our district needs the most action on are:

  • Children’s Rights: specifically the impact that capricious and cruelly-enforced federal immigration policy is having on families in the South Bay.
  • Human Trafficking: I need to get a better sense of what specific trafficking networks are most active in South San Jose; my fellow commissioners probably have a good sense and if not, I can reach out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. From my years working in the anti-trafficking movement, I know that every community is hurt differently by this crime which degrades our common humanity.

My big question: There’s a vote on the commission doing work to support the city’s new (and needed) Women’s Bill of Rights. The San Jose city ordinance incorporating the UN’s Women’s Bill of Rights (i.e. the The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women or in NGO-speak, CEDAW) uses the term “sex” in the “Purpose of the Charter” but uses “gender” predominantly throughout the document, except in the most powerful section, “Powers and Duties” which switches back to “sex.” The text is a done deal for now since council has passed it, but I’m curious about how this mix of language choices will impact gender non-conforming and transgender residents. If it impacts our community members negatively, I would ask council to fix the language to be as inclusive as possible. Specific action on this question: Confirm whether commissioners will be required to examine both gender and sex harassment/discrimination/violence in the annual report, if approved.

As Ross Hunter, the chair of the Washington State Appropriations Committee whose office I worked in during the 2015 Legislative Session, always used to say:

“When in doubt, read the bill.”

So read it for yourself here, along with the resolution in support, letters from the Vice Mayor, the memo from the City Attorney, and the actual CEDAW convention,

If you have questions or just want to see how a commission works, you can find me and the other commissioners at 6pm tonight at San José City Hall Tower, Conference Room 1753, 200 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113.

I’ll have a commissioner’s email soon, but if you want to get in contact with me about this or anything else before that goes live, feel free to reach out at 650-804-9044 or

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