The Mayor in Question

The Mayor in Question

Yesterday, Single Gal gave her unvarnished look at the six who would be mayor, unfazed and unfettered by any personal knowledge or great familiarity with any of them. I am more encumbered—I know all of them and I like them all as people. Many of them have done good things on the council and in their public careers.  But this is not an election about who we like, though some make their choices in this manner.  It is about the type of city we wish to build for our children and grandchildren and want to live in ourselves. We need to decide who can best deliver this kind of city.

The Mercury laid out some very good questions on their editorial page yesterday.  The real challenge will be to separate the six—and their answers—from the rhetoric, have a close look at their records, and judge who will make the best mayor at this critical time in San Jose’s history.  Ethics and planning and public safety are at the top of my list; others will have their own particular hot-buttons, but separating real answers from pablum is going to be a strenuous task. 

Also in yesterday’s Mercury, there was a report in the Business section on the forum held last week by the Silicon Valley chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). All five candidates present (Pandori was not there) seemed to be in favor of a sensible, orderly pursuit of the Coyote Valley plan. Yet, there have been a number of council votes that belie this and push for a much quicker development. And, since Ron Gonzales was decapitated politically, the committee’s chairman has been Councilman Forest Williams, not known to be particularly astute in planning or developing a long-term vision of what our city should become.  They say that war is too important to be left to the generals, but can we leave the greatest development decision in the history of our city to Forrest Williams?  The coming months will tell the story. They usually do.



  1. Tom,

    Has retirement made you so clueless that you really think Williams is pulling any strings?  Probably not.
    Most people in the building know that Guerra is the Coyote Valley puppet master.  He has been for since they created the task force and will be even beyond the Gonzales administration if he lands another job with soon to be elected Mayor Chavez.

  2. My #1: Planning.  It’s also my number 2 and 3.  The thought of Coyote Valley turning into another strip mall haven is beyond depressing. 

    But at the same time, not developing it at all makes no sense to me either.  People that say leave it alone are either wealthy (and thus will put down the down payment on their children’s houses) or don’t mind if they ever see their children again. I say that obviously because those of us who grew up in Willow Glen or the Rosegarden or anywhere in San Jose have been priced out of the area.

  3. Development is inevitable as longs as population grows.  Managing it effectively and well is the task.  Balance is necessary.  The cost of jumping through bureaucratic hoops to see if a salamander might die is one of the major additions to the already high cost of housing in this area.

    Can Forrest Williams even find Coyote Valley on a map of Coyote Valley?

    Is Guerra really running anything?  Based upon his performance and Gonzo’s performance, I’m surprised that anyone can remain afraid of them.  What in heaven’s name can either of them do, except as allowed by the spineles council?

  4. Why is everybody so critical of Forrest Williams?

    Who are we to trust with the future of Coyote Valley?  We all saw what happened when Calpine came along with their power plant proposal.  Sierra Club, SVLG, Chamber, Tom, Unions, Lung Association, etc… all supported the project even though it did not conform to the long standing general plan. 

    At least Forrest was willing to speak out against the project and was the only one who voted against the agreement with Calpine.

  5. It’s good that local media, including SJI, are putting pressure on Mayoral candidates in the early stages of the campaign to confront the important issues.

    Let’s hope the result will be a campaign in which these issues are clearly addressed and thoughtfully debated. It would be nice if this time the candidates can’t BS voters with consultant-inspired “talking points” that sound good but tell voters little.

    I hope SJI, other local media and voters will continue to keep the heat on the candidates and demand clear positions. We may not always like what we hear, but at least we will know where they stand.

  6. #5. City Council dynamics 101 – Forrest may have voted against Calpine, but did he really try and stop it?  I do not know that answer.  But in my experience, often Council members vote against a project for their political needs, but give a tacit “OK” for the rest to vote for it – cynical, gee, big surprise to many observers of recent city history.
      Coyote ought to be developed when such an action “helps” not harms the rest of the city.    TMcE

  7. JMO, I think most people realize that Coyote Valley is going to be developed sooner or later.  What most people want is for it to be done right, not like the rest of the SJ sprawl and eyesore of strip mall after strip mall surrounded by neighborhoods where pride of ownership is nearly non-existent.  I’d rather have no development than more of the garbage that has earned this town the disrespect it absolutely deserves from poor planning over the past five decades.  Greed and political maneuvering must not win out in Coyote Valley.

    As for your claims that progress demands that we develop, how come up in the Napa Valley they’re not paving over the vineyards?  If you’ve got something planted that makes money, there’s not a landowner around who is going to feel the need to sell out.  It wouldn’t bother me if Coyote Valley became an appellation of its own and was carpeted with grape vines.  If Morgan Hill can produce decent wines, then Coyote Valley can too.  Too bad, so sad, Mayor Cinzo.  Look elsewhere for your tax revenue windfall.

    Yes, there would be fat cat properties among the vineyards a la Corde Valle but it sure would be better than the repeating scenario of soccer moms and their screaming kids dropping ice cream cones in strip mall parking lots all over Coyote Valley. 

    Alas, this is just so much wishful thinking.  The track record at City Hall doesn’t provide a warm & fuzzy feeling about what’s going to eventually happen to Coyote Valley.  Standards of decency prevent me from stating in more blunt terms what the likely outcome is going to be.

  8. While visions of $ dollar signs dance in my head at the thought of picking up a taxi fare in the Coyote Valley I just do not understand the need to build there. Could we stand in front of the tanks – – I meant to say the construction equipment?

    I would support a mayor with the commitment to make San Jose a workable, desirable place to live with a downtown to be proud of. I am not interested in seeing anymore clubs though it would be an amazing thing to have something resembling the Fox Theatre in Redwood City. Why weren’t restaurants and small shops, think little twinkling lights at night, planned along the Guadalupe River Park Trail? Think in the fashion of San Antonio’s Riverwalk.  Build that ballpark! If the noise and lights aggravate “them” let ‘em move to Oakland.

  9. #1 – If you believe Coyote is a done deal then it may well happen. However, if you voice your concerns and get others to do the same, then there is a chance some sane planning will prevail. Any development in Coyote that is largely developer driven, will not benefit the public as much as it will benefit the developer. Until the limping GonzoGuerra machine is completely put out of its misery, it is unlikely any decent plan will emerge from the developer-stacked “task force.”
    Speak out loudly to your Councilmember (regardless of how lame they may be.)
    Don’t give up.

  10. Tom, I like your stance on Coyote Valley development… “when such an action “helps” not harms the rest of the city.”

    With that mindset, run for mayor and I’ll cast my vote your way.

    As for JohnNoHyphenMichael O’Connor, I’m wondering if, as a child, he had a frightful experience with a salamander.

  11. I can still find salamanders under rocks in my garden here in Willow Glen so they all haven’t been paved over yet.  I don’t need to jump out of an airplane to see wide open spaces as JMOC suggests. But as for growth…..why in heavens name do we want to promote growth.  There will be growth as the population shifts. But to promote it????????????  Sorry John I’m not interested.

  12. Yes, many frequently mentioned issues are important but 3 very important complex issues are basic to our city government and public decision making process:

    All San Jose Mayor candidates should discuss these 3 issues since they will determine San Jose character and our future quality of life

    1) Actual Public Participation – How will you have actual public participation in city and redevelopment public policy, city and redevelopment annual budget priorities and tax spending decisions before they are finalized to include spending alternatives for city service and staffing reductions due to tax revenue shortfalls?

    It is common knowledge that many public policy and tax spending “ deal is done” decisions are made out of public sight between our representatives or senior political staff with groups or campaign contributors that benefit from public decisions and tax spending

    The people’s right to (a) easy public access to information concerning conduct of the people’s business, (b) scrutinize government activities and (c) contribute ideas and alternatives to the public decision process

    Our current public decision process brings into question if the public interest is being subverted by our elected representatives, regardless of city government understaffing or other justifications, when determining important public policy, city and redevelopment priorities and tax spending decisions

    Public records are withheld or not easily available or many public meting notices are difficult to find and the public’s right to give direction or comments on public decisions is frequently disrespected since the “deal is done” before our 2 minute public comments

    2) Adequate Tax Revenues Planning – How do you plan to have now and in future adequate tax revenues for our basic and desired city services since San Jose has (a) less than 1 job per employed resident and very low tax revenues especially sales taxes per resident compared to other cities ( b) we do not have adequate tax revenues to support basic or desires city services and city staff and (c) many city public policies and spending decisions especially development plans, policies and exception approvals,  job creation policies and sales tax revenues affect our future ability to increase tax revenues without increased rates or special taxes for basic or desired city services

    3) City Council – City Manager city governance – How will you as San Jose’s elected political leader ( a) actually work with our City Manager government and how will it be different under your administration, (b) agree with and will follow our city charter or if not how do you want to change it, (c) involve public in the selection of your political staff, new City Manager, department heads and other political appointments to staff your administration (d) will you retain any of the current administration’s senior appointees, (e) who locally will you select for key appointments, or give past examples of past appointments you liked, or characteristics and qualifications for key appointed positions
    An essential element of our San Jose public participation is the selection of our Mayor who as our city’s political leader sets direction, character and values of both our city’s political staff and by recommending candidates for City Manager and senior city appointed positions our San Jose city government.

    Unfortunately as we have seen in local politics, recent scandals and well recognized city governance problems, a good “ common sense” rule for the San Jose Mayor political campaign is to ask for “full disclosure political campaigns”

    If it does not occur, they probably do not want public to know their true public policy, city charter, key appointments and tax spending viewpoints so assume the worst and not “ trust me” since what is not clearly disclosed or detailed committed to prior to election is most times unacceptable to many voters

    If they have not developed clear well thought out positions, they may not understand or have solutions, so may not be qualified for public office

    We need less “trust me”’ and more “ full disclosure political campaigns “ if we are going to have future “no surprises” San Jose city government

  13. Tom,

    From what I have seen of Forrest I do not think his vote was as cynical as you describe. 

    Almost any development in Coyote Valley could be pitched as helping San Jose.  For example I read recently SVLG is looking to build a clean coal power plant for its member companies.  Will they choose Coyote Valley?  I am sure they could make a case that such a project would help San Jose. 

    If we are going talk about a long term vision we need people to respect and protect the plan otherwise Coyote Valley is going to look haphazardly planned like the rest of San Jose.

  14. Wouldn’t it be nice, IF

    the candiates for Mayor actually discussed the real issues rather than – staying on their – political consultant taking point campaign mesaages that can mean anything to anybody   like Rich’s creative defination of lying and when it is justified by politicans ( was that always ? )

    we had city government that engaged residents in city government decision making

    at least 1 of our weak reform candidates actually had and would tell us about their city government reform ideas and actual policies beyond vague reforms sound bits and silence so we might support and vote for them

    Well one can dream –

  15. Yo, Greg # 11:

    What’s with “the JohnNoHyphenMichael O’Connor”? Is that supposed to be an insult? You never heard of GianCarlo Minetti (no hyphen), JeanClaude Killy(no hyphen) Pope JohnPaul (no hyphen)???

    No, I did not have a frightful experience with a salamander.  I just don’t believe a salamander has more rights that an entire neighborhood that can be built, with associated retail services we all enjoy.  It’s a matter of priorities—and a salamander has no priority over a community of people in my book.

  16. I guess #16 feels a viable ecosystem matters little if we want to build more housing, retail, etc. I guess he won’t be bothered as we wipe out another species as long as we can build another neighborhood.
    I’m sure he is not alone in his lack of understanding about the importance of a balanced ecosystem. His priorities are generally those of the current Council—they too rarely see a piece of land that they don’t think can’t be improved upon by paving it over and getting rid of those pesky critters.
    It’s too bad for the rest of us.

  17. Dan#12:  I don’t promote growth, but I accept it as inevitable as gravity.

    As long as the human population is birthing more than it is dying, growth in housing is inevitable, indeed necessary.  So, we can mange growth wisely, but we cannot stop it.

    But as long as we have the elitist lifeboat folks—like those in Willow Glen where I live—and those that think a salamander is more imprtant than a community of houses and thriving businesses—we will have this debate.

    We can “save” Coyote Valley and drive workers to homes in Los Banos, and they can see Coyote Valley as a pristine whatever as they drive by it, with perhaps a few of the elitist tree huggers walking and biking along it’s pristine roads, none of whom have a clue about what haveoc they have wreaked to save a salamander.

    Then go talk to the landowners who have been excluded from development in Coyote Valley about how they feel about their neighbors cashing in versus them getting stuck with unsalable land , so that you folks who cavalierly decide how their land should be saved for you and your fellow elitists can have a cause, and perhaps trod on their land and savor the openness.

    You want to stop growth?  Go visit the Pope and tell him to get off his no birth control shtick; tell him the “go ye forth and multiply” just doesn’t work any more.

    But for you to get pious and tell other people how their land should be developed, or kept from being developed, just doesn’t sell with me.

  18. JohnMichael, let’s hope that a genetically altered giant salamander doesn’t someday view you in the same manner.

    As for comparing several thousand houses and dozens of strip malls to a salamander habitat, my vote goes to the salamanders.

  19. Smokey and the rest of you pious elitists:  if you want to save the land and the salamanders on it, do what the Semper Virens Fund does—raise money and buy it.

    Otherwise, put a sock in it.

  20. Tom, I wish it were otherwise but full-scale and rapid development of Coyote Valley is a fait accompli.  The alliance among property owners, developers and lobbyists, all eager to cash in on such an opportunity, is an overwhelming force, with or without Forest Williams. 

    It is indeed sad that some of the most fertile and beautiful land on the face of the Earth will soon be lost to thousands of new homes and strip malls. 

    Existing infrastructure will fall short of supporting this new community on every front… water, roads, air quality, police and fire services, etc.  And for those of us living here now, the overall quality of life will ratchet down yet another notch.

  21. No, Greg, I don’t know what’s best for us, and we need people like you and Dan Sturges to keep people like me in check.

    But I know of no way to stop growth as long as people kep having too many kids.  Where do we put the growing families?  It should be near jobs.  Do you know how to stop growth?  Is it vasectomies and Norplant for everyone after their second child?

    We have no reverse commutes any longer.  Some people choose to live near where they work, but others do not.  But does it make sense to build in Los Banos, Newman, Gustines, Tracy, even Merced for people who work in the Bay Area?  That just kills their salamanders insrtead of ours, and it puts a lot of hydrocarbons into the air that could be avoided if people lived nearer to where they work.  I canot grasp how someone who considers himself an environmentalist would rather put all that extra junk in the air, when it can be avoided.

    The there’s the point of view rarely considered by the tree huggers—the random inequity of some landowners getting to develop their land, and thus make some money from it, versus the group that get’s stuck with a greenbelt designation, thus emptying their pockets, and divesting them of their rights as landowners.

    So I go back to my previous point—if you truly believe the selected greenbelt in Coyote Valley is worth saving, raise some money and buy it from those landowners at the same price that those lucky landowners got who sold to Gibson Speno, etc.  It’s too easy for you to sit back with no money at risk and tell other people what they may do with THEIR land.

    Frankly, I’d rather see more density inside current city limits than build on open land; but at some point—unless we close California to everyone—Coyote Valley will have to be developed to handle the people.  So, let’s do it in a smart way; but to think it can remain open space ad infinitum is dreaming.

  22. After seeing JMO’s incredibly misguided and retro point of view on Coyote Valley I am glad he never made it onto the City Council.

    This is exactly the kind of thinking we DO NOT need at City Hall in the 21st century.

  23. Andrew – great innovative suggestion

    There is no enforcement penalities for Brown Act, Open Meeting or City Charter violations or meeting the minimum legal requirements as is commonly done which is generally unacceptable to the public especially when the public’s trust that the public interest is being served by our elected representives rather than their own political careers or for other political or financial
    interests is at an all time low

    Late, confusing or no disclosure of agenda background information, public records being withheld, not easily available or require court action to obtain very greatly contributes to the public distrust regardless of any reasons.

    Impacts or future taxpayer costs of many public policy, development project or city government proposal approvals are not disclosed, withheld, or stated of even informed residents are confusing as to the public impact or costs is a major factor

    Our Mayor and City Council need to immediately address the issues, start the process of restoring confidence and the public’s trust that the public interest is being served and clearly explain any issues or challenges in our public process rather that make excuses or wait for the elections

    SCC District Attorney and the DA candidates also need to address now how they will assure the public that the existing laws and City Charter provisions concerning local governments are enforced, establish guidelines for an easy effective complaint process or if there are legal or procedural problems make suggestions for new laws or procedures to restore the public trust

  24. The handling of Coyote Valley is going to be significant in my choice for mayor.  It says a ton about the candidate’s character and vision for San Jose. 

    I can see the next mayor putting our city’s future in the hands of developers.  The thought of more manipulation by our elected officials makes me sick.  It’s so easy to fall into the same special interest trap with this issue. 

    We are becoming the Southern California we all know and professed to be better than.  Ahh, forget it, let’s just lay concrete over the whole place.

    Ok, I am being dramatic – but this is just WAY too important to screw up. Heck, move the airport and grow up if we need to smile

  25. JohnMichael..Our philosophies regarding land use are so opposite that I don’t feel I could debate with you about it.  My feeling is that you are in some way associated with a paving company or similar. 
    Go back over this column and read the views of the majority about Coyote Valley.  The best solution for you would be to apply to one of the council commissions involved so that you can make your voice heard.  You have every right to your opinion even if it offends the majority.

  26. Whoa… JohnMichael speaks and we should all heed his words.  Obviously, he’s a cut above the rest of us poor slobs and he knows what’s right for all of us.

  27. a quick suggeston stemmng from #13 point 1.

    Any item added to the agenda withless that three weeks notices has the two minute rule waived and replaced with .. say 20 minutes.  If we can’t know about it first, then let the full Council hear everyone’s full wrath.  That might avail the Brown Act its intended purpose.

  28. Isn’t it ironic… the Tour de California’s inaugural time trial stage pedals through Coyote Valley on a day showing how beautiful so much of California once was.  Some smart environmental group should have been using it as an opportunity to talk to the media. 
    As for #26’s point about buying the land, that’s exactly what’s happened just up the road.  The Peninsula Open Space Trust has bought thousands of acres of coastland, redwoods, hillsides, and former ranches to preserve for future generations.  When will (or why won’t?) someone take the same strategy in San Jose?

  29. Downtown #30:  that’s exactly what I’m talking about.  The environmental elitists want to tell someone what they cannot do with THEIR land.  They have nothing invested. 
    POST and Sempervirens have the correct strategy—buy the land you want to save.

    It’s so easy for people like Thankful and Greg Howe and Dan Sturges to dictate their view of what I can do with my land, since they have nothing invested but their mouth or their keyboard.  If you want to take someone’s land by designating it as undevelopable, then you should pay for it.

    POST and Sempervirens and others do that.  They are intellectually honest and I respect that.  I do not respect the view that anyone can tell a landowner that he/she cannot put that land to the highest and best economic use, unless they want to pony up the money lost by that landowner who is denied development.

  30. I just read Tom McE’s 2/8 blog, “Art for Our Sake” and read a comment from “Lynn Rogers Sr. Public Art Program Officer”

    That implies to me that we have at least one Jr. Public Art Program Officer, and at least one admin.  How much are these people paid?  How the hell do they fill 50 forty-hour weeks with real work?  Under what subheading is their dept. in the budget?  How much does this cost those of us who work and pay taxes?

    Our streets are falling apart and we have a Sr. Public Art Program Officer, who has minions!!  And everyone wonders why we run budget deficits.

    Until this prgram and the undoubtedly dozens of other boondoggles like it are elimated from our public sector budgets at all levels, we are unlikely to have well-paved streets, clean sidewalks, and parks free of druggies and other detritis.

    No personal affront intended to Ms. Rogers and her staff, but when kids don’t get medical care, and those of us who work real jobs have to drive over rutted streets to get to our jobs that pay her to meet with the community and leave us with a dung heap piece of art,  she and her entire staff need to go…permanently.

    I want to know how all our erstwhile mayoral candidates feel about this and other silly public programs that divert money from the necessities.  I know Cindy will get back to me as soon as she talks to Phaedra, but what about the other candidates?

  31. OH, NO, it gets worse!

    The SJDA newsletter just had a blurb from one Barabra Goldstein, who claims to be the “public art director”.

    So now we have a director, a Sr. Public Art Program Officer, probably a Jr. Public Art Program Officer, and perhaps Public Art Program Officers I, II, and III. So now we need at least 3 admins. and a receptionist, several office/cubicles in THE Taj Gonzal; phone lines, computers, desks, etc.

    So, mayoral candidates, how can this grotesque expense be justified when we can’t get street light bulbs changed in less than six months ‘cuz only three guys(exccuuuse me, three persons) cover the entire city to change burned out street light bulbs, and our city streets are crumbling?

  32. Holy Boondoggle, Batman!  I found the public art website.  The public art budget for THE FOURTH QUARTER ALONE was an incredible $18,576,175.00!!  But we can’t replace street light bulbs or re-pave our crumbling roads.  There was one million dollars for public art allocated to a new police substation.  For what, so the cons can get a little culture before they’re booked?

    The Civic Center Water Feature was $2,869,000.00!  How much of the crumbling section of Alma between 87 & Monterey Rd. would that have paved?  Or, it could probably keep us in fresh street light bulbs for a couple of decades.

    See for more details.

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