The Right Decision

The city council has an opportunity to make the right decision and appoint Les White interim city manager. He is a man of integrity and competence, and he has served the city well in the past.  Although their options may be limited, choosing White would be a smart and very popular move by the council. 

The job facing White would be a daunting one, but if he approaches it piece-by-piece in his usual workmanlike manner, things could go well; they cannot go much worse than the recent few years. 

It is very difficult to be effective as mayor if you do not have a competent, ethical and dedicated staff.  Without such a group, your chances of even a little bit of success are quite limited. Even in a relatively easy-to-run city like San Jose, so many things can go wrong. As the Duke of Wellington said when asked of the caliber of his men, “I don’t know, sir, what effect they have on the enemy, but they scare the hell out of me!”  Our so-called friends and allies can cause us more trouble than our enemies at times.  So the contenders for mayor—one of which will catch the piano—should be ecstatic that they may have someone in the city manager’s office who can give them a head start on the quality of employees present on their first day.

This is not the city of Dutch Hamann, nor is it the place that I was privileged to be mayor of in the eighties.  New problems, as Lincoln said, demand new solutions.  Without them, we all fail.  The appointment of Les White as interim city manager would be a good way to begin solving our many problems.


  1. Tom,

    Who do you recommend for interim District Attorney?  And should we not call on George Kennedy to resign immediately? 

    Where are the calls for new investigations by the grand jury or by the Attorney General for the DAs Office?

    When it comes to ruining people’s lives, a backroom deal on garbage pales in comparison to putting innocent people in jail for no reason.

    The new scandal in the District Attorney’s Office (and it is only new in the sense it has been exposed), is truly a travesty.

    By the way, this is the same DA we have called upon to further investigate the Garbage Deal.

    So we have a DA who abuses his power investigating a Mayor who abuses his power—sounds more a Key Stone Cop movie than a serious attempt at “reform”.

  2. As for Les White: it remains to be seen whether or not the City Council will let him work his magic.  It’s no good if “business as usual” still takes place.

    Is George Kennedy’s office up for (re)election this November?  If so, we really need to identify candidates with a track record for reform in the DA’s office.  As you read the special report in the Merc, cringe at how many millions of your tax dollars would have to fund settlements for wrongful imprisonment, as well as to house those wrongfully imprisoned. 

    I say we call for a joint state and federal investigation into the county DA’s office under Kennedy.  When our criminal justice system is as corrupt as the criminals they are supposed to prosecute, the innocent will always be guilty by default.  It is another example of how much San Jose – and by extension Silicon Valley – is still a small town.

  3. Mr. Robinson, I continue to be amazed at your ability and propensity to dismiss an action by one party by smearing another party.

    As much as I might agree with you that the DA’s office needs to be cleaned up, that does not forgive the mayor for his numerous errors.

    It’s kind of like a child wanting to do something because “all of the other kids do it”. My mother would point out that while all of the other kids did it, it didn’t make it the right thing to do.

    So Kennedy isn’t going to run again. Let’s make sure he doesn’t ever run again for anything. He seems to be inept at best and we do not need another inept politician.

    And that sir is a problem. To many inept players out there who just keep on going and going like the Energizer bunny. The Peter Principle is alive and well in San Jose politics. What are you going to do about it? The you includes all of us who live, work and vote in San Jose. What are we going to do about it?

  4. Rich – I don’t think it helps to go off on some witch hunt after a DA who has a 16 year record of candor and honesty. Deal with violations, punish the guilty.  The situations are not analogous in the least. At City Hall, or anywhere else, citizens have a right to expect fair and impartial treatment. I am a “let the chips fall where they may” guy. At City Hall, it is raining red, white and blue. Let’s not confuse it with this, that or Iraq. The city deserves better.  TMcE

  5. Eugene, where have you been?  Monday was the District Attorney forum at the Billy De Frank center.  Karyn Sinunu, the current Chief Assistant District Attorney, was the only one who answered the questions direct and to the point. What is interesting is the some of the other candidates, who are republican are being backed by some of our prominent Democratic politicians, although this is a non-partisan position, it still is interesting…keep a close eye on the race!

  6. Tom is correct that we need Les White in City Hall and we need him now. Hopefully, Les will come in and clean house from the Manger’s office on down. Too many leftovers from the House of Borgsdorf who have only there own best interests at heart, not the city’s. That’s not to say that just because someone was affiliated with Borgsdorf they should be let go—they should be let go if they have shown an inabiltiy to be a professional and not just follow the “party line.”
    Les’s arrival cannot happen soon enough. Everyday without him is another day of Borgsdorf-like “leadership” and we can’t afford another day of that.

  7. Tom,

    The DA for years has been more interested in public relations and fattening his statistics than justice. 

    The culture in the DAs Office is to win at all costs, take a plea for a lesser offense even if the suspect is innocent—but get a conviction.

    I would submit it is an abuse of power far more insidious than the Gonzales matter.

    You and I have agreed on the Gonzales administration for many years.  Despite my belief that his “crime” did not rise to the level of resignation, his tenure in office has been a tremendous disappointment. 

    As you know, I have been one of his biggest critics and encouraged you to run against him last time.  I still wish it had occurred.

    I agree we should ‘let the chips fall’, but for too long the DAs office has ruled with an iron fist and fear.  Politicians have demurred because of the retribution that so often occurs with the DA.

    The latest episode involved the Sheriff, who had the temerity to take the Coroners Office——as it is done in most counties.  A move George Kennedy opposed.

    The result was an investigation into her poliltical fundraising activities that caused her to spend large amounts on attorneys fees—even after she produced a letter from County Counsel declaring her activities legal and above board.

    The investigation has since been called-off, but the message was clear—oppose the DA politically and we will investigate you criminally.

    That is far more abusive than anything Gonzales did or could do.

  8. YoungDem,

    Ms. Sinunu biggest backer is a “Republican” George Kennedy. 

    So if you are interested in partisan politics, ask yourself who is the real democrat in the race and who is the republican?

    Don’t be fooled by simple party registration.

  9. Congratulations, Mr. Robinson, your reaction to the newspaper’s cross-eyed examination of the criminal justice system is exactly as expected. “Why bother with this bit of nonsense? Look what they’re doing over there!” How lucky you are to live at a time when your unique talents are so richly rewarded. Had you been born a century earlier you would have spent your life selling snake oil from the back of a dusty wagon.

    After having read the first three installments of the newspaper’s overblown investigation of the DA’s office, allow me to borrow a line from the late Clara Peller: “Where’s the beef?”

    Sorry, was I supposed to be “haunted by the 7-year ordeal” of the defendant because of the aggressive behavior of the prosecutor and the existence of some gray area in a case in which two adult men had sex with a 15 year-old after giving her vodka and champagne? Did anyone notice that although the reporter made it a point to report that the defendants thought the girl was 17, never once were the ages of the defendant’s provided? Why? Because that bit of information would substantially subtract from the sympathy the reporter was generating for the defendant. These predators were adults and the young girl’s particular morals mattered not. In the caption accompanying the photograph it describes one of the defendant’s as “wrongfully convicted of rape and sodomy,” despite the fact (established by DNA) that both men lied to the police investigating the case, and in fact had had sex with a fifteen year-old who was illegally under the influence of alcohol (sex with an incapacitated female is defined as rape by the Penal Code).

    Just the kind of innocent guys you want next door, huh?

    In yesterday’s piece the caption identified alleged gunman Bobby Herrera as “exonerated” of his crime, yet there was absolutely nothing revealed in the reported story to justify using such a word. The existence of disreputable, story-changing lowlifes in a criminal prosecution is the rule, not the exception, and has alone never exonerated anyone of anything. It was no surprise that amidst all the heartfelt—but undocumented—disclosures, not once was the name of the real shooter revealed.

    “Exonerated” my foot! The Mercury, which took the deputy DA’s to task over the accuracy of the words they chose to use in the prosecuting their cases, turned around and used grossly inaccurate words to make its case in the story.

    Guess what folks, lying, conspiring people can get innocent people convicted; it’s just one of the many prices paid when one associates with scumbags. And rare is it that an exposed liar doesn’t have a lie to explain it. Yeah, it’s always the cops or the prosecutor who concocted the lie, but—amazingly—both the lie told and the story recanted always somehow serves the liar.

    The rules of evidence are complex, subject to interpretation, and always changing. The defendants, witnesses, and informants with whom the justice system works are unaccountable and unreliable. Still, as the statistics bear out, the truly innocent are remarkably safe—and the technically innocent should not be mistaken as victims.

    The DA’s and judges targeted by the Mercury are easy targets—not because they are sinister or sloppy, but because their work is as incredibly complex as it is important.

  10. Though I recognize that commenting on the investigative report by the Mercury News is off-topic from Mayor McEnery’s original post, I do think it’s important to call attention to all the findings from this report.

    The Mercury News doesn’t hold the DA office solely accountable for problems with our county’s criminal justice system. In fact, the report shows that there are problems throughout our court system as well as with the public defender’s office. So, laying all the responsibility with the DA’s office just isn’t fair.

    Beyond the rhetoric, I like the honesty of Karyn Sinunu and think that she is the most experienced in being able to improve the overall functioning of our county’s criminal justice system. While I agree that party affiliation may not matter in a non-partisan race, ability and interest in fixing the problem does and Sinunu has my vote.

  11. There is no question that there is a systemic problem in the entire Justice system. 

    My beef is that it mostly stems from the District Attorney’s Office pursuit of positive publicity.

    For years George Kennedy, and to be fair his predecessors, have campaigned on the tough as nails, honest prosecutor.  That’s their image and they like it.

    The problem stems from the pursuit of political image over substance.  The lack of justice for those wrongly accused, the cost to “prove” one innocent in a system that is supposed to assume that fact, the total power that lies in the DAs Office with no recourse for the accused—all contribute to everyone’s worst nightmare—to be denied your freedom without justification.

    The finfan mentality that because of group of people hang together, they must all be guilty has been used successfully to purge socities of dissent, past and present.  It is truly dangerous.

    Here is a little known fact, the DA has more investigators than the Sheriff’s Office.  Doesn’t anybody think that odd?  Who is supposed to investigate crime—the police or the DA?

    I don’t disrespect the opinion of others regarding the goings on at City Hall.  However, if you are to be consistent in your outrage for the need to reform—your attention should be focused on the onerous problem that has been exposed in the DAs office—in addition to City Hall.

    One note:  with the hiring of Les White, I think everybody will be comfortable that the City of San Jose is on the road to recovery.

    The DA saga is just beginning.

    Justice denied for one is justice denied for all.

  12. The Santa Clara County District Attorney race is one of the most important races that San Jose voters will have in 2006 and who is selected by the voters is very important to San Jose residents and how our city government operates.

    It is important that all the candidates before the election for the District Attorney’s office clear explain to the voters their viewpoints on all the issues but especially their written positions on 2 important issues and how their background, experience, operating style and legal philosophy differs from the other candidates that would make them our best District Attorney for us before the election

    We are especially interested in

    1) fairly, accurately and non politically interpretation our laws, regulations and legal procedures for our county criminal and civil justice system for everyone
    2) how they intend to hold accountable to the public our local governments and elected officials especially in San Jose and how they intend to assure compliance in a fair, accurate and non political manner with our complex local and state ethics, campaign finance, sunshine laws regarding open government / access to public records, public participation process and Brown Act or other laws so they protect our rights to participate in government decisions that affect us

  13. Mr. White as Interim City Manager should be a natural choice for the Council.  The Mayor will be out of the loop on major political stuff.  He will be busy polishing his legacy.  On the other hand, the Council can signal to us, as San Jose voters, that ethical, professional local government is the vision for the future.  If the Council misses this opportunity, the current crop of candidates on the Council running for Mayor can kiss that opportunity goodbye.

  14. Rich:

    If you want to attack Kennedy, just do what you usually do with your personal or business enemies, put together a glossy campaign piece and mail it out. 

    You can even use a quote and picture from Laurie Smith…has that ever been done before???

  15. Jeffrey,

    Truth can come in many different forums, glossy brochures is simply one vehicle.

    And remember; there are some people who don’t belong anywhere near public office.

  16. Rich:

    I agree with your analysis.  I think Tom, who has a long running feud with the Mayor, is a hypocrite.  Yes, Ron should be punished as should George.  But, Tom has a relationship with George so he’ll wait for others to pile on and then declare that George is morally bankrupt.

  17. Hate to hear talk about giving more power back to the beaurocrats.  Giving more power to the city manager won’t help.  Keep the power in the mayor and coucil they are accoutable as is being soon finally now.  It took time but people finally see that the Mayor and his flunkies, mostly now lobbyists making thousands, were riping off the city.  it is time for them to pay up.  Please mister DA lets get on with this investigation and make them pay before they all leave the city for greener pastures and better golf courses.

  18. All of you Ronnie supporters (both of you) need to get together at the fruit stand—then you can mix apples and organges all you want.
    The DA situation and the Ronnie’s wrongdoing have nothing to do with each other. Wrong is wrong—independent of what the other has done.
    The discussion has focused on the pathetic actions of a now-desperate mayor and his stooges and the negative impact they have had on all of us who live in SJ.
    The DA story is just becoming public and no “insiders” appear to have written here to share info.
    Maybe we need to try and get one scandal behind us before we tackle another and this mayor has provided us with a wealth of material on which to work for quite some time.

  19. A strong, professional city manager is the best solution to what ails us. A city governed by politicians is a disaster waiting to happen—or in our case, a disaster that has already happened.
    When the checks and balances break down, as they have in SJ, and the city council abdicates its responsibility (as has happened in SJ) the city coffers are ripe for picking (as has happened in SJ.)
    Without professional guidance (witness SJ) you have an ignorant council and an arrogant mayor who run wild and the current results are the by-product of not having a professional manager and staff for the past 7 years. Those who tried to offer their professional input have been exiled, left the city, or just sitting back waiting until a professional like Les White returns to City Hall. We can only hope.

  20. Tom,
    Good thought about Les.  Has anyone asked him if he is interested?  He can certainly provide the necessary steady hand at the helm.  Who knows, he might even stick around for awhile if asked.
    I don’t know how your articles get twisted into diatribes by Richard Robinson and others about issues that are far from the subject.  If someone wants to emote on the DA’s office then that should be a separate topic.

  21. Definately agree with Beau Rocat that a city run by politicians is a disaster since they do not have the best interests of the citizens in mind but their own political careers and paybacks to their friends and political campaign supporters

    The defination of a Strong Mayor is a city government run by a single career politician for their political benefit and their political crones and campaign contributors not the voters or citizens best interests as we have seen in San Jose under Ron and Joe.

    If you liked the Gonzales and Guerra administration then triple ( 3x ) or more the ethics, conflict of interest and special deal contracts and tax money giveaway problems with almost no oversight or review of the back room political deals. 

    The unrealistic lame argument given by a few that – the voters can recall the Strong Mayor – is a laugh just look at the almost non existent number of sucessful recalls versus large number of criminal indictments of Strong Mayor’s and their staff and cronies for bribes, conflict of interest and corruption.

    It tells you a lot about any politician who wants a Strong Mayor city government

    We need to ask every San Jose Mayor candidate their opinion about a Strong Mayor city government before you vote in another Ron and nmoe problems we do not need.

  22. Is there anyone out there that has knowledge of a more than casual relationship between the DA George Kennedy and Retired Judge Read Ambler who is now employed at the arbitration forum of JAMS in San Jose, Christopher Schumb and or Steve Lewis?