The Future of San Jose Politics: Change or the Status Quo

The November election will either shift the body politic in San Jose toward change or provide a continuation of the status quo. With the problems facing the city, change should be in the air.

Consider the primary results and council members who will remain for at least the next two years: Ash Kalra and Don Rocha are experienced progressive members of the City Council; Rose Herrera, Pierluigi Oliverio and Johnny Khamis have been strong votes for Mayor Chuck Reed—although Oliverio has an independent streak that baffles even some of his supporters.

Kansen Chu is headed for a state Assembly victory, leaving a potentially progressive hole in the mix. Magdalena Carrasco replaces Xavier Campos, who was a reliably progressive vote. Carrasco won’t be a rubber stamp for either side. While she received support from the business community because of their antipathy toward Campos, her natural political leanings and those of her district are progressive.

So the new council members in Districts 1, 3 and 7 will have a major influence on which side has the majority. In District 1, Assemblyman Paul Fong is well positioned to win. He finished first in a crowded primary of mostly progressive candidates. Charles "Chappy" Jones is a Sacramento transplant and has little experience in government. His support, including the endorsement of Mayor Reed, comes as a result of the fact that he is not Paul Fong. It is tough to win on an "I'm the other guy" basis. Fong has the edge, but we shall see.

In District 3, Raul Peralez shocked everyone with his first-place finish.  Again, this primary race was full of progressive candidates and held in a progressive district, despite being currently represented by Reed ally Sam Liccardo. Don Gagliardi is the choice of big downtown businesses, but Peralez has the backing of most of the neighborhoods. My money is on Peralez, who as a San Jose cop can speak confidently about the issue of crime. Edge to Peralez.

In District 7, Maya Esparza came in second in the primary. She has experience in government, the backing of the local Democratic Party and seems to be the progressive favorite in the district. Tam Nguyen surprised many people when he came in first, with several other Vietnamese candidates splitting the vote. A patriot in his community, Nguyen’s life's work has been that of an anti-communist advocate. Based on demographics and turnout, he very well could win. But his city agenda is mostly unknown. By the looks of his website, he is staking out a progressive agenda. It will be an interesting race to watch. Edge to Esparza.

If Fong and Peralez win, and assuming both Esparza and Nguyen are truly progressive, there is a strong chance the council will receive a dramatic makeover. If you count Carassco as a progressive, and I do, there will be six solid votes on policy matters and only four disparate individuals in opposition. Without Reed to unite them, they could potentially become even more splintered. You might even get Herrera, who has been known to cross the fence, to begin supporting more progressive policies. And Oliverio will always be that wild card.

Of course, I could be wrong, which would make the district 4 race essential for both sides of San Jose’s current body politic. Suddenly the next mayor, either Dave Cortese or Sam Liccardo, would have much more influence over the future agenda of San Jose. But in a weak-mayor system, the ability to rally six votes determines the direction of the city.

Regardless of who becomes mayor, what divides us is not that significant—in fact, it’s mostly personalities. The real issue in the mayor’s race isn't crime, though it will be the focus of both candidates thanks to polling. No, it is the ability to bring this city together in a shared vision.

There was a time in the not too distant past when mayors Norm Mineta, Tom McEnery, Susan Hammer and Ron Gonzales could govern with consensus. Not since Janet Gray Hayes was mayor and the infamous gang of four ran roughshod over the council has this city been so divided. That group included Larry Pegram, David Runyon, Al Garza and Joe Colla, and their excesses led to a new era of reform politics in San Jose. That era also resulted in district elections, binding arbitration for essential personnel and a positive working relationship between labor and business. The result was a progressive consensus that allowed San Jose to flourish.

It would be nice for that spirit to reemerge in the Capitol of Silicon Valley.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

43 Comments

    • This City can be great again. We were once the safest big city, cleanest big city. People wanted to come here for work of all kinds. Public and private alike. We boomed together. The Chuck and Sam crew had many options when the belt needed to be tightened. They chose to vilify the public employee as the cause of city finance issues. Never once stopping to think long term what this could do to the city. Well folks here we have it. We have been on fire everyday asking for help from our neighboring cities fire departments. Crime is through the roof. Great employees are leaving. And all that was done is rightfully been contested in courts. The economy is booming again, restore all pay to city workers. They will take back the city with us. We can be great again with new leadership!

  1. Vote Raul Peralez and Cortese. This council has to change or we are going down the toilet for a long time. Chuck, Sam, PO, And others have destroyed this once great city. Now we have to hire others (and you call them officers) just to report your house was broken into or your car was stolen? Gee must because we no longer have enough dispatchers who use to take these reports over the phone. Just call your insurance company because there will be no police follow up. What a joke. And do not think the crooks know this!

    • Peralez, does he have a record that’s not dictated to him by Jim Unland? I mean talk about union bought and owned. POA telling officers to leave the force, that’s a disgrace.

      Cortese, I’m sure where to start. When I think of Cortese though, I think of Cindy Chavez and disgraced Supervisor George Shirwakawa, and disgraced attorney Ben Field. I mean the the nexus of corruption coming out of Almaden Road and the South Bay Labor Council, why hasn’t the FBI raided the place like they raided MACSA under another Cortese acolyte, Xavier Campos. With friends like these, I think we know all there is to know about Cortese’s character. If he’s elected, I give him about a week before he’s kowtowing before Cindy and kissing the ring.

      So San Jose, do you want Tammany Hall or do you want some independent thought? Tammany Hall is exactly what you’re voting for if you vote for Cortese and his “friends.”

      • You understand that Unland is the president of the POA , which means his duties are to his membership . all officers are told the pros and cons of staying or leaving employment with the city of San Jose . It is THEIR choice what they do . For those that left it made total sense . Everyone has the right to seek better employment , better work environment , better pay , better benefits . Realize that Reed created this mess and was warned what would happen , he just chose to ignore those warning . The Public Safety in SanJose can not and will not improve under Liccardo , should he win the Mayorship. He has already shown his disdain for public safety and he is neither liked or trusted by Public Safety. The Mass exodus will continue . I do not agree with everything that Cortese says or does , BUT at least he has shown that he is willing to compromise and that is something Liccardo has been unable to do at all

        • I understand that Unland is doing his job, to look out for what’s best for his POA members. Chuck Reed and Sam Liccardo is doing his job too, which is looking out for what’s best for the future of the residents of SJ.

          Both he and Sam have the kahunas to stick their necks out there, to ruffle feathers and do, to the best of their knowledge, what is best for the city. They inherited a financial situation that was unsustainable and had to make tough, fiscally responsible decisions. Voters need to keep in perspective that at the polls, you are voting for the person who can best sustain ALL our city services for our communities.

          • And you do know that Pete Constant was a San Jose Police Officer and received an endorsement from the SJPOA and look how that turned out.

          • Are you safer now or before Reed got into Office? Reed has done his job by promising “sunshine reform” or “open Gov” but has done all of his (confirmed)Lying,cheating and stealing in the shadows . His many lies are beginning to come out Since measure B , San Jose has dropped to less than 900 street ready Officer , can’t hire a full academy , can’t retain the newly hired recruits , can’t stop the mass exodus of public safety , all of this as all crimes are on rise . Especially violent crimes

      • lol let’s vote for Liccardo and vote 1% wealth concentration, guilt by association lol you bean heads and your alinskys and your reverend wrights lol…..dog whistle!!!! TEABAGGER!!!

        • You sound a lot like a Teabagger yourself. Hey, interesting fact, did you know that Cortese actually is wealthier than Liccardo. Cortese comes from older and wealthier landowning families in the area. Maybe you should do your research, or did not Cindy Chavez forget to mention this in her internal memo.

          • At least that land was in San Jose…Can “Saratoga Sam” say the same?

        • I’m gravitating toward the conclusion that clever little Anthony is a “false flagger”, but it’s just not clear yet who he thinks he is helping.

          Certainly, he is annoying and offending gays, whites, and fiscal conservatives, and if you understand that Sarah Palin and other strong women are icons of the Tea Party movement, you might even suspect that clever little Anthony is somebody’s loose cannon in the “war on women”.

          Certainly, clever little Anthony is the stooge of somebody’s dirty politics and it will be very interesting when all the cards are on the table.

          But, at this point, if dirty politics is clever little Anthony’s game, there are too many suspects.

          Is he trying to discredit Cortese (and help Liccardo) by making Cortese look like the candidate of bigoted nut jobs?

          Is he trying to HELP Cortese on the theory that Cortese voters are receptive to and hungry for slurs against gays, fiscal conservatives, whites, and women?

          It is even possible that clever little Anthony might be a misguided REPUBLICAN paid by the Koch brothers who thinks he is making ALL progressives look bad. Who knows?

          So far, I haven’t noted any political camp taking ownership of clever little Anthony. If and when someone associated with one of the campaigns stands up on his or her hind legs and announces that “clever little Anthony is one of our passionate and energetic volunteers who is helping get our guy elected” … when that happens .. we will know who to hold accountable for the campaign of slurs against gays, fiscal conservatives, whites, and women.

          So, for the moment, I will be non-judgemental and presume that clever little Anthony is just an isolated lone nut lacking adult supervision.

          • Lol what is funny to me is that you bean heads think that commenting on a blog is politicing….lol that is hilarious….let it be known that i love to insult all you insulters, it is an insult fest and please spare me with righteous indignation. REED and LICCARDO are done and so is The Capital of Silicon Valleys regression….can’t even capitalize on californias resurgence…missing the boat – LEADERSHIP hahahahaha HILARIOUS!!!

    • Retired- please go back to work. Your pie hole needs something else to do. Mayor Sam is the right choice for San Jose. And cousin Cortese…..you sure are confident on the sidelines. Why don’t you get involved & run for office so you can take other peoples money and lose also.

      • Insideman,

        Would you please give your reasons Sam is the right choice for San Jose?

        • Review the Cortese voting record. His track record and the policies he supported while on the City Council literally bankrupted the San Jose RDA and almost the City. Sam is fiscally responsible and is a leader who will make decisions in the best interest of the City overall. Even when those decisions are unpopular. Cortese on the other hand makes decisions for a small interest group and to be popular. Clearly he can be swayed and bought off. Dave has led a County that has many issues in addition to all his and other board members corruption. I’m sure the FBI will uncover some of it. Who knows, Dave may already be in jail by election night.

          • Why is it that the sky only seems to be falling in San Jose? Reed/Liccardo saw the meltdown of the Bush years as an opportunity for regression. My mind wonders if that was the goal of right wing think tanks – global meltdown = opportunity to concentrate wealth even more than it was already.

          • Insideman,
            Sounds like you have inside knowledge of an active FBI investigation. Please share with us what you know regarding this.

          • Insideman,
            Still waiting on what you know about an on-going FBI investigation and possible arrests. The validity of how accurate your statement is regarding this has an impact on how valid anything else is of what you stated. Thanks in advance for your response.

        • Also, Liccardo is very even-handed in who he endorses. Liccardo endorsed and campaigned for Labor stalwart Ash Kalra….on the other hand, CORTESE ENDORSED XAVIER CAMPOS RE-ELECTION BID!!! Those two endorsements speak to values and understanding who is best public servant for their constituents.That is a character test Liccardo succeeds at and David fails at.

          Explain this retired, disgusted, et al

          • lol still stuck on stupid i see…..you have any other issues besides hating on the eastside hispanics???

          • Anthony, calling out Cortese’s endorsement of Xavier Campos and Cortese’s inability to explain his error in jodgment is hating on Eastside hispanics???

            Please explain :-)

          • Xavier Campos is a Eastside Hispanic and you are certainly hating on him….mr stuck on stupid!!

          • I think they were. I was responding to:

            “And cousin Cortese…..you sure are confident on the sidelines. Why don’t you get involved & run for office so you can take other peoples money and lose also.”

          • Ahh I didn’t see that, thanks Carthagus.

            To Insideman: Last time I ran, I didn’t take any money. I was sort of thrust into candidacy with no experience campaigning or the like. Didn’t do too badly, 4th place in a field of 7. I might run again in 2018 after Rocha terms out.

  2. Retired: you speak for one single issue–YOU. The entire taxpayer base of this city has been held hostage by you and your cohorts–one-third of the general fund budget going to pay fewer than 10,000 city employees and former employees. SJPOA has alienated a whole bunch of former police supporters with their self-centered, greedy demands.
    Cortese, Chavez, Gonzales, and even Reed got us into this fiscal mess by caving in to public employee union demands ten years ago. It took almost a decade for the backlash to form and pass Measure B, and your pushback has alienated a whole bunch of former cop supporters. Of course you want Cortese and Peralez–they’ll re-institute the situation that almost bankrupted this city. It’s all about YOU, isn’t it?
    The cops who are in it to protect and serve are still on the force. Those who are in it just for the paycheck have left. Good riddance!

    • Yes, those darn greedy police officers. The same ones that took a 10% pay-cut and pay almost 24% of their gross salary right back into their retirement and medical fund. Those same police officers that come July of 2015 will be making about the same as they were making in 2009.

  3. Bemused has apparently convinced himself that the pension crisis was the direct effect of actions taken by the council a decade ago, but let’s see how that stacks up against the facts.

    A decade ago there was no pension crisis, nor was there one for the next several years. In fact, the pension had never experienced anything close to a crisis; the fund’s performance — for instance, at the century’s turn it was 100% funded, was award-winning. I doubt that any city obligation, be it to provide maintenance or manpower, ever came close to being so responsibly met.

    Suddenly, at exactly the same time the nation’s mortgage industry melts down, and a number of major financial institutions are on the brink of collapse, the pension experiences a crisis. For the meltdown the government blames Wall Street, the financiers blame the government, and Chuck Reed blames greedy employees. In other words, it’s business as usual: lives are being ruined and politics are being played.

    And now you, playing your own game of politics, blame the former councilman running for mayor. Feel free to make your case.

    In truth, Wall Street, the government, and the council all deserve some blame, as the disastrous elements that preceded the meltdown had been theirs to control. The same cannot be said for city employees who lacked decision-making authority, never had any power to make “demands,” and who’d been consistent in feeding the fund during times good and bad.

    In the case of the city, had councils going back four decades treated their debts and windfalls with due diligence, the meltdown would have been a mere bump in the road. But by way of neglecting both the possible and the inevitable, it set itself, its employees, and its citizens for the hit it took.

  4. RE: Paul Fong vs Chappie Jones (District One)
    Rich Robinson writes that Jones is a “Sacramento transplant.” I believe Mr. Jones has lived in San Jose for almost twenty years. Mr. Fong bought a condo in San Jose so that he could run for city council.
    Speaking of “Sacramento,” METRO has reported that Mr. Fong still owes a Sacramento lobbyist $100K, and as far as I know, Fong refuses to explain this or answer questions from the press about it.
    Robinson dismisses Jones as having “little experience in government.” Given the fantastic job that government at all levels is doing, I’m not sure that that is a negative.
    Chappie Jones is a smart and serious guy…I think that he has a real good chance of winning D1.
    Pete Campbell

    • When Rich Robinson was covering the campaign of Steve Kline’s race for D6, never did he describe him as a “San Francisco transplant”. That is because Rich Robinson is a political operative who masquerades as a political pundit with supposedly unbiased opinions.

  5. ANTHONY reports his symptoms:

    > Lol what is funny to me is ….lol that is hilarious….hahahahaha HILARIOUS!!!

    Humanitarian that I am, I hate to see diseased people suffer.

    So, I would like to appeal to all members of the SJI blogging community to heed ANTHONY’s cry for help and to participate in an intervention and encourage ANTHONY to seek treatment for his tragic affliction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughing_sickness

    • i should be more like you…..hahahaha…..now that is hilarious……some smart (at least in his own mind) guy telling me i need help lol i don’t need help pal……insulting you pea brains is funnn and easy…..see no help needed. was there an insult in there somewhere? lol…..hahaha “oh it was the laugh at the end”…..

  6. > The Future of San Jose Politics:

    Well, it is now crystal clear.

    The future of San Jose politics is arrogant, insolent contempt on the part of the ruling clique for America as a nation with borders, America as a civil society governed by the rule of law, and an America where the prosperity and quality of life accumulated over generations is stripped away to be bestowed on desperate and predatory foragers from failed societies all over the planet.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_26196817/mercury-news-editorial-santa-clara-county-leaders-reach

    > “Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilman Sam Liccardo and members of the area’s congressional delegation signed a proclamation last week expressing unity in the wish to extend a hand to the refugee children.”

    > ” But every now and then, something happens to just make us proud of who we are, where we live and the leaders we’ve elected. Last week was one of those times..

    Proud?

    Cynical, Lawless, Disgusting.

    The Mercury News is proud that it is cynical, lawless, and disgusting.

    And our much remarked upon mayoral candidates, the cynical, lawless, and disgusting LICCARDO, and cynical, lawless, and disgusting CORTESE, knew this was being hatched behind closed doors, and accepted it as DIvine Mandate passed down from the Holy Papacy of progressivism as manifest destiny for ensuring the permanence of a Democrat Party majority founded the ignorant tribalism and desperate, foraging instincts and appetites of a permanent underclass.

    What trust can voters place in the pronouncements of buck toothed trial lawyer LICCARDO when he so eagerly and “proudly” blows off the rule of law and accepts that what was “illegal” yesterday is merely “undocumented” today?

    What trust can voters place in the “candidate of the working man” CORTESE when, in the midst of a severe national JOB SHORTAGE, he gleefully and “proudly” embraces millions if low skilled workers who will flood the labor markets, take jobs away from American “labor”, and suck even more taxes out of the paychecks of the dwindling number of American workers who are drawing fulltime paychecks?

    Utterly, totally contemptible.

    These politicians are vermin and scum.

    NONE OF THESE BASTARDS FOR MAYOR!

    • you spend that much time on an anonymous blog board comment lol and who needs help…….you do realize that people don’t read diatribes that long don’t you

      • > you do realize that people don’t read diatribes that long don’t you

        ANTHONY:

        Well, I do know that helpless, diseased people read my postings.

        Have the interventions provided any help yet? Have you entered a treatment program? Is your condition covered under Obamacare?

  7. This article is clearly labeled Opinion. That is because calling it factual cannot be justified. There may be facts embedded within it, or there may not. His predictions may prove accurate, or only some may prove accurate, and some may prove inaccurate, or all may prove inaccurate. Blog arguments won’t change that. I encourage each person who feels strongly about the future of San Jose to get involved by actively working for those candidates whom they prefer, and leave off shouting insults and making derogatory comments like schoolyard antagonists. It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and sling mud. We should applaud all the candidates who are willing to take the risks inherent in running for office, and actively support those we believe are the best choices.

  8. In District 3, aren’t we getting a gay council member whether it’s Don or Raul that’s elected? I’ve been impressed by both men.