An Independent Referee is Needed for Reform Effort

Two years ago, San Jose’s Sunshine Reform Task Force began their work on restoring our citizens’ trust with more public participation and scrutiny and real reform. The mayor and the council, who have walked the walk and done much to open up meetings, deserve our thanks. The city now gets agendas out ten days in advance. This is a huge improvement and minimizes the chance of big surprises like the Grand Prix debacle.

There is much more to debate, such as whether an independent commission or official should be appointed to hold the city accountable in the judgments that must be made in this area in the future. It seems that no matter how good and independent a city attorney we may have now, that has not always been the case. There have been city attorneys in my memory and even in my administration that were more concerned with how “high to jump” when the mayor and council requested it than other considerations. That should make the decision to go with an independent referee an easy call. It will help restore confidence and provide the city and its citizens with the guarantees of the real reform change that is necessary.

Some are worried about the cost of this independence. I would say that such cynics know the “cost of everything and the value of nothing.” If we fail to have real independence, then all else is meaningless.

A new commission brings to mind the Elections Commission in our city. Although much good work has been done by this group in the recent past, I have been amazed that they have not weighed in on the independent expenditures in the last election in a cogent way. The over $3 million spent by business, labor and the political parties makes a farce out of what was once the best and most straightforward electoral spending regulations in any California city. The decisions that accompany the vast amount of independent spending basically repeated the old basketball bromide, “no harm, no foul,” and moved on. This was wrong. There should be a real effort to isolate those groups that engage in such practices, and secure a “ceasefire” in future elections. Good people on all political sides can participate in this action. Just as in the Sunshine Task Force, the parties should all be interested in improving the political climate in the city. After all, if the citizens of our city do not have basic confidence in the honesty of our decisions and our elections, can anyone feel good about their role in these matters?


  1. Tom, hate to do it to you again but I felt I needed to ask everyone in viewing the Republican Convention—did everyone noticed the “sea of white” again?  Not only was it that, but it appeared it was the old cronies—business as usual crowd that that always existed.  Even last night’s speakers were all from the regime that has gotten us into the mess we’re in and they tried to tells us that they are against the group they represent and they will bring about change.  Sounds like the fox trying to convince the chickens—things are going to change.

    Concerned Citizen

  2. Chairs Ed Rast and Dan Pulcrano and the rest of the Sunshine Reform Task Force deserve our great thanks for all of their time and hard work. 

    I’m concerned that budget constraints will be used as an excuse to block some of the Task Force’s recommendations.  With regard to the city attorney…the city attorney should always represent the interests of the people before the interests of the council.  (We remember when the attorney sided with the council when it came to releasing e-mails, etc).  If the mayor or council need legal representation, they can hire their own).

    Pete campbell

  3. Yes, CC, the Bush Administration could have used an ‘independent’ watchdog and babysitter the last eight years – no one needed it more!  TMcE

  4. Greg- I respectfully disagree that city commissions are reluctant to criticize. That is not always the case- sometimes its the case where the criticism is circumvented to avoid “issues” and the commission is told not to rock the boat.

  5. Tom,

    Unfortunately you’re out of touch.  The 10 day rule is routinely violated in this building.  Councilmembers do it with development issues in their districts.  Mayor Reed did it with his gambling expansion proposal.  Sometimes proposals or amendments arrive the day before.

    A. Friend

  6. #7 hit the nail on the head. The rules don’t apply to the Council. Late memos still pop up after 5 PM on a Friday, etc. Talk to your pals, Tom. The rules should apply to all, not just to a select few!

  7. There is an independent referee.  It is us. 

    Any city appointed committee will be reluctant to criticize their appointors.  You won’t get a champion for sunshine.  You’ll get whitewash.

  8. It’s a shame that we think so little of our elected and appointed officials that there are constant calls for “independent” watchdogs to keep them in line.

    Yet they keep getting re-elected.

  9. Dear Barnum – when I have ever disagreed w. “the rules applying to all…” ; I agree.  I think Chuck is the fairest mayor in a long time, present writer incl.  TMcE

  10. “Even last night’s speakers were all from the regime that has gotten us into the mess we’re in.”

    Bill Clinton and his NSA Chief Sandy “documents in pants” Berger were at the convention?

    Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri were in the hall?

    Dear heavens, don’t leave us hanging like this!

  11. HEY #10—get it right—it’s “barack obama” you idiot—if you don’t want to say it correctly—get out of the u.s. and go live in iraq…we’re tired of people such as yourself…

    #11—-got everything correct on that statement—TOTAL TRUTH… the republicans wouldn’t know the truth if it hit them in the face..LIARS—LIARS!!!!!!

  12. #3

    I watched Palin tonight and I thought of your comments.  The Republican party is an embarrassment to the United States.  As was said in another thread, the GOP is the party of the grumpy old white man, and any other demographic is just for show.

    Tonight’s convention coverage just proved it. 

    Also, did you notice how the only thing the Republicans are good at is trying to mock and denigrate others?

    All in all, Palin’s “speech” was awful.  No substance, no coherence, no thought, no ideas; just ridicule and derision of others.  I bet Novice was in heaven.

  13. West Side Citizen.. er Concerned Cheri.. aw rats I give up,

    Help me get this right, Barack Obama and Zawahiri were in the convention hall the other night? 

    (If that’s the case then we have a scoop that blows Todd Palin’s 22 year old DUI right out of the water!)

    But let me close by leaving you with this parting thought.

    “Moderation in the mockery of effete elitism is no virtue.”  Novice 9/4/2008

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