Alum Rock board disagrees on when to stop disagreeing
contract and troubled bond program. They spent more time disagreeing on whether to approve a time extension.
Trustee Karen Martinez moved to extend the time limit to 11:30 p.m.
“I”m just being realistic,” said Martinez, figuring that if the board acted with dispatch it could finish before then.
Nope, that’s too late, trustee Dolores Marquez complained. Martinez’s
motion failed, 2 to 2 (trustee Khanh Tran left the meeting early on, saying he was suffering a migraine.)
Marquez proposed ending by 11 p.m. That also failed, 2 to 2. She then suggested 11:15 p.m. Martinez said that wasn’t enough time. The back-andforth eliminated a 11:20 p.m. limit.
“Do I hear 11:27?” board President Esau Herrera called out.
Eventually the 11:30 faction agreed to 11:15.
By then, the board had taken up eight precious minutes of however much time it had left.
For the record, the board blithely ignored its agreed-upon limit and adjourned the public session at 11:37 p.m., all four members still chatty. Then the trustees retreated into their second closed session of the evening until 1 a.m. — 7½ hours after they first convened.
The public can judge whether longer Alum Rock meetings produce more reasoned decisions or improved governance. It’s also not certain how many other migraines Thursday’s deliberations caused.
A petition to keep Columbus statue at City Hall
The Italian American Heritage Foundation launched a petition last week demanding that the statue of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, immortalized for introducing Europe to America in 1492 but lately denounced for having enslaved indigenous people, stay inside San Jose City Hall.
The new petition aims to counter a petition from the San Jose Brown Berets, who gathered signatures last month to remove the monument. The Italian American Heritage petition to keep Columbus where he is has gathered more than 1,400 signatures.
“The statue of Christopher Columbus hearkens back to a time when civic pride was a valued quality,” said Dave Perzinski, the Italian American Heritage Foundation’s president. The petition added that the “beautiful marble statue depicts a brave explorer who found a new route to the Americas.”
The Brown Berets’ petition to remove it now has more than 1,800 signatures. Peter Ortiz, a labor organizer who cochairs the Brown Berets, sees the statue as a symbol of “white supremacy and genocide.” And he isn’t surprised by the Italian foundation’s counter-petition to save it.
“Things are changing and they’re getting scared,” Ortiz said. “If they want to celebrate an individual who committed a holocaust, do it on your property. Don’t do it in a public setting that makes our people feel like second-class citizens.”
Councilman Raul Peralez is expected to author a measure to remove the controversial statue, which has sat inside San Jose City Hall since it opened in 2005. The statue was donated to the city in 1958 by the ItalianAmerican community.
As the fight rages on, many San Jose lawmakers have remained mum on the issue. Mayor Sam Liccardo, who is half-Italian, said he hasn’t thought about the statue’s fate but suggested there are better ways to promote racial equity.
Peralez’s proposal to remove the statue is expected to head to the council’s Rules and Open Government Committee on Sept. 20.
Santa Clara campaign missteps lead to fines
Three of Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor‘s closest allies were slapped with fines from the state’s political watchdog, according to the agency’s latest filings.
The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces compliance with election law, reached settlement agreements with Santa Clara Councilwomen Debi Davis, Kathy Watanabe and unsuccessful council candidate Tino Silva.
All three violated the law by failing to disclose campaign expenditures in the 2016 election cycle.
The FPPC’s enforcement team found that neither Watanabe, Davis or Silva had an “intent to conceal” the money. All three individuals paid their fines, according to FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga. The commission is set to vote on the settlements during its next meeting on Sept. 21.
Watanabe didn’t report $1,400 in campaign spending in 2016 and was fined $614. She said her failure to report campaign spending was “an oversight” from a first-time candidate, though she said she called the FPPC for advice on filing deadlines.
Davis didn’t disclose $3,400 and was fined $634. She was unavailable for comment.
Silva, who lost to Councilwoman Pat Mahan, also failed to report $3,400 and was fined $634. Silva said the money was paid to his social media manager at the end of the campaign, but he didn’t realize it should’ve been paid and reported during the filing periods.
Both Watanabe and Silva argued the charges amounted to petty harassment by political rivals who reported them to the FPPC.
“This was politically motivated and malicious,” Watanabe told IA. “People need to get a life and leave the people who were elected to do their job alone. Just leave good people alone.”
“The complaint is absolutely frivolous,” Silva said. “To me, it’s really sad that Debi, Kathy and I had to pay out of pocket. That comes out of my family’s money for something that was beyond ridiculous.”
County charter doesn’t require sheriff to run jails
Santa Clara County jail oversight was on deck at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, and an interesting tidbit came up: There’s nothing on the books requiring the sheriff to actually be in charge of the jails.
That’s because when voters last addressed the issue back in 2012, the language of the law states that the board “may” give jail operations to the sheriff, or to the Department of Correction, or “to any other department or agency that may lawfully exercise such jurisdiction.”
But unlike general law counties, there’s nothing saying it’s under the sheriff’s purview.
“The way the charter’s currently written the board cannot compel the sheriff to take over responsibility for the jails,” County Executive Jeff Smith told the board. “This sheriff has graciously accepted that responsibility and taken on the effort.”
Smith said he brought it up because it could bode for a fight in the future if there’s a sheriff at odds with the board — say, over whom to blame for jail shortcoming. The sheriff, he said, could conceivably say “to heck with it, I’m not taking responsibility for the jails. It’s your responsibility.”
The meeting was the first time a rough draft of how oversight would work went before the full board. Oversight is something that officials and advocates have prioritized in the aftermath of the murder of Michael Tyree at the hands of guards in August 2015, and Tuesday’s discussion revealed a fundamental difference in models.
One, preferred by inmate advocates, calls for a board-appointed director of oversight who would report back to the supervisors. That would require a charter change, and go to voters to decide.
The county executive said he thought that version is “not a great idea.”
“It fixes in stone a situation where you are trying to work out how best to do this,” said Smith, recommending a model where the director would be appointed by county counsel and approved by the board.
But Supervisor Joe Simitian, who brought the oversight item to the board after working on it at the committee level, said the charter-changing model be read another way.
“What might appear a lack of flexibility to some might appear to others as a commitment to oversight to the long haul,” Simitian said.
He said that years from now, for a future board, the tragedy may be in the rear-view mirror.
“They might say, ‘Ah, we don’t need to keep doing that,’ or it’s too much work, or it costs too much money,” Simitian said. “One way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to put it in the charter.”