District 2 county supervisor candidate Teresa Alvarado kicked off her campaign Wednesday with a fundraising event at the new Nemea Greek restaurant in downtown San Jose. She gave a short speech that talked about her parents’ immigration services business in the 1960s and introduced a campaign theme: the need to “transform” and “reform” county government.
Alvarado is running for the seat vacated by the resignation of George Shirakawa Jr., who pleaded guilty to financial crimes committed while serving as a public official. There are five other candidates in the race: former city councilmember and labor official Cindy Chavez, sheriff’s deputy and reserve army officer Joseph La Jeunesse, former East Side Union High School District trustee Patricia Martinez-Roach , former Alum Rock Union School District board member Scott Hung Pham and council watcher David Wall. Chavez, Martinez-Roach and Wall have websites up, but none have posted a platform yet.
Alvarado is the first to announce a government reform agenda which includes a county sunshine ordinance, public posting of officials’ calendars, 10-day public notice on items coming before the Board of Supervisors, evening board meetings and a fully-funded Government Integrity Unit at the District Attorney’s office.
The following is a text of the statement that Alvarado circulated via email:
Ethical governance and conduct are at the core of Santa Clara County’s civic character. Santa Clara University is home to the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, one of our nation’s premier good governance think tanks. Retired state legislator John Vasconcellos, who spent over 38 years representing Santa Clara County, is widely considered a pioneer in the field of governmental ethics. There is no reason for corruption scandals to ever infect the body politic of our community.
Beginning my first day on the job as your County Supervisor, I will propose and push for a series of sweeping good government reforms to advance greater transparency, community engagement, and ethical conduct in County government.
Publish online calendars for all County elected officials and their Chiefs of Staff.
Disclose communications between County elected officials and all individuals or groups proposing or seeking to influence County policy.
Develop an executive summary to the final budget document to provide the public with budget highlights and key deliverables for the year ahead.
Post County board meeting agendas and staff reports online at least 10 days before meetings to allow board members and the public adequate time to review and comment on agenda items during meetings.
Post special and committee meeting agendas and staff reports online at least 5 days before the meetings.
Conduct evening board meetings on a recurring basis to allow members of the public who cannot attend meetings during the workday to have input on decisions that affect our community.
Establish five “County Stores” in publicly accessible shopping centers throughout the county to provide one-stop, convenient and accessible service to residents.
Appoint an independent task force of community members to develop and implement a new Sunshine Ordinance, codified in County law and promoted throughout the County organization.
Relocate the County’s existing anonymous whistleblower program to the District Attorney’s Government Integrity Unit and ensure whistleblower protection from retaliation.
Fully fund a Government Integrity Unit, charged with investigating any improprieties identified by their office or other local agency whistleblower.
These are just a few examples of the slate of reforms I will propose if elected.
It is absolutely critical to change the culture of County government, and that change should begin at the top. To do that, elected leaders and executive management must move beyond a fear of negative publicity and embrace a mindset of continuous improvement, empowering county employees to identify and act upon identified discrepancies and inefficiencies. Rather than waste money fixing problems and cleaning up messes, the Board of Supervisors must demonstrate responsible leadership. That is what the public expects and deserves.
In 1980, the Board of Supervisors — led by former Supervisor Susanne Wilson — established a Management Audit Division to review County operations on an ongoing basis. Now is the time to move beyond operational audits and address the serious gaps in oversight and accountability that still exist at the County.
Our elected leaders need to remember that they work for the public. I intend to be a strong voice for reform, accountability, ethics, and open government in order to restore trust in our County government.