Alum Rock board dis­agrees on when to stop dis­agree­ing

The Mercury News - - Local News - By hour six of last week’s Alum Rock Union school board meet­ing, it be­came eye-rollingly clear the trustees would not fin­ish their 77-item agenda by 10:30 p.m., when board pol­icy calls for meet­ings to end. So what did the trustees do? They didn’t hus­tle

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.”

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