Last week we ran through the biggest, worst and best stores of 2015 in our annual Year in Review. As we pivot to a New Year, here are some of the biggest stories to come.
More Sordid Jail Tales
The abominable conditions in Santa Clara County’s jails came to light after the fatal beating of a mentally ill inmate in August. Reports from multiple investigations still taking place should provide additional shockwaves throughout 2016.
Follow-up reports noted racist text messages shared between several guards, but that might simply be the tip of the iceberg. A previous report by the Mercury News suggested inmates may have been forced to provide sexual favors to the very people charged with maintaining order.
Sheriff Laurie Smith has positioned herself as a no-nonsense champion of reform who intends to clean house at the Department of Correction, but she may find herself holding the bag if more instances of illegal behavior are found to have taken place under her watch.
Honda Stalls Out?
Mike Honda has been simmering on the congressional hot seat for the better part of a year, but the eight-term rep has mostly avoided commenting on the ethics probe he’s been embroiled in—and not just because he keeps falling asleep on the House floor.
The House Committee on Ethics has plenty of information to go on, but sources recently told San Jose Inside that the group hasn’t acted on recommendations to subpoena individuals with knowledge of Honda’s most recent race, such as former campaign manager Doug Greven. Rep. Nancy Pelosi promised to “drain the swamp” when the House committee was created, but she probably didn’t think one of her closest political allies would land in such a quagmire. Even Republicans might be leery of pushing hard for the truth, as individuals who stick their necks out quickly become targets in election years.
A more recent report regarding Honda’s biggest donors—and how these people received concierge-level service—likely won’t be the last hiccup for the congressman, who will have to defend his record and pay top-dollar defense attorneys while trying to fend off Ro Khanna in a rematch from 2014.
Of everything to come out of the violent interactions between police and men of color in 2015, a national conversation on race and use of force actually began in earnest. San Jose, thankfully, doesn’t have many of the systemic issues that plague other cities, but the department can still improve when it comes to transparency.
The city’s new independent police auditor, Walter Katz, seems like an excellent successor to retired judge LaDoris Cordell. He has the pedigree to make sure San Jose’s police department follows through on promises regarding body-worn cameras, drones and bias training.
Windy Willow Glen
Someone has to succeed San Jose’s District 6 Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, but not before hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent—and even more promises are made—in what should be the most expensive City Council race of the year. Oliverio has taken on a kingmaker approach by prodding candidates to answer weekly questions, which he then publishes so the public knows how they would vote on current issues. It’s an unusual approach, which is why it’s perfectly Pierluigi.
Legal Pot Shots
Dozens of medical marijuana collectives didn’t get San Jose’s blessing under the new ordinance, and litigation began in the run-up to the end-of-year deadline. Meanwhile, the “Sweet 16” that did get the go-ahead will likely battle the city to shape the local rules into something workable ahead of the statewide legalization push for the fall ballot.