Story of the Week: Larry Stone Punks the Chamber of Commerce

If we’re grading embarrassing flip-flops on a scale of 1-10, the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce’s decision this week to unendorse candidate Drew Spitzer for a seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District board has to rate somewhere in the teens.

Santa Clara County Tax Assessor Larry Stone voiced “serious concerns” this week in an epic letter to the Chamber, which was printed by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, after the business-backing nonprofit decided to endorse Spitzer for a seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District board. Why did the Chamber endorse Spitzer? That’s a good question.

Stone’s right-hand man at the county, David Ginsborg, is running for the position, so it’s no secret Stone wants his guy to win. Barbara Keegan is another highly qualified candidate. But how the Chamber decided to give Spitzer its blessing is an exercise in unproven ideology conquering common sense.

In his letter, Stone describes Spitzer, who has libertarian support, as “a truly fringe candidate, who has raised so little money he was unable to pay the minimal amount to have a ballot statement.”

OK, so Spitzer didn’t have the cash. Big deal. He’s grassroots.

But then the tax man drops the hammer. He lists Spitzer’s resume, which can easily be found on LinkedIn.

“In the past 33 months, he has held 5 jobs, the longest of which was a waiter at the Cheesecake Factory (2 years). The shortest as a pet setter and dog Walker (4 months). During the past 10 years, Mr. Spitzer’s longest employment (3 years) was a pizza delivery driver.”

Now, I have no idea how difficult it is to be a pet sitter or dog walker, but as someone who used to be a pizza delivery driver in college, I can confirm that it didn’t have a whole lot in common with making countywide decisions on flood control and safe drinking water.

I did, however, sometimes carry 2-liter bottles that contained soda, which is mostly water, from my car to homes when delivering pizza. By six degrees of separation, this means I would still be totally unqualified to be on the Water District board.

Spitzer’s LinkedIn profile states that he attended San Jose State University to study aerospace engineering—we can’t confirm he graduated—and is now enrolled in Ashford University’s online entrepreneurship/economics program.

This is where public perception comes into play.

The day Stone’s letter was made public, Chamber President and CEO Matt Mahood announced that the decision to endorse Spitzer was reversed after a recount. A recount!

Mahood told the Biz Journal that he went back to look at the vote totals days later, and “Spitzer received a simple majority of trustee votes,” which is made up of 40 people in the ChamberPAC, “but not the two-thirds majority required for an endorsement.”

It was “as simple as a communications error,” Mahood added. Simple. OK, that’s the end of it, right? Wrong.

Mahood then commented on Stone’s letter, calling it “politics at its worst in Silicon Valley.” This is where the Chamber president, forced to back the idiotic decision of his trustees, made a reach. One could argue that electing people who are woefully unprepared into office is politics at its worst.

Unfortunately for Mahood, this is just another embarrassment where he had to fall on the company sword. A similar instance occurred this spring, after the ChamberPAC released an awful attack ad against City Council candidate Edesa Bitbadal in the final weeks of the primary. Mahood was not in favor of the ad, yet he was overruled.

One has to wonder, if the Chamber keeps putting its president in such uncomfortable positions, will Mahood want to stick around these parts or maybe look at packing up his wagon and heading back to Sacramento.

Ladies and gentlemen, your story of the week.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

8 Comments

  1. If Stone knows so little about the job of being on the SCCWD Board, why should we be influenced by his hand-picked candidate?!

    The manner in which SCCWD egregiously wastes money tells me some libertarian restrain would be better than what we have now, a bunch of spendthrifts with our hard-earned tax monies.

    By the way, the next to the last sentence of your 2nd paragraph contains what one could believe is a Freudian slip:  “… seat on the Santa Clara Valley Waster District.”

  2. I don’t understand the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.  They endorse the parcel tax, Measure B and they endorse Drew Spitzer?

    Do they do any research?

  3. No disrespect meant, but the real story of the week is the exposure of George Shirakawa’s fraudulent and habitual campaign misdeeds.  There is no way he should be anywhere near the county’s $4 billion dollar budget when he is admittedly so bad with paperwork in regards to money he is supposed to be accountable for.

  4. Back in May, the chamber of shame took out a full page add in the Willow Glen Resident newspaper and called Pier, “courages.”?????? Because he stood his ground on Measure B. What a joke! Need a spine to have courage, just to let you.

    That’s what we need, more out of touch politicians fighting with out of touch special interest groups.