On a 6-4 vote, the San Jose City Council has agreed to appoint an interim member for District 4. Barring any last minute hiccup, former Councilmember Margie Matthews will receive the appointment.
Without question Matthews is a brilliant choice to be an interim councilmember. She is smart, experienced and understands San Jose. Adding to her credentials, she has previously served as the District 4 council member. Despite fears to the contrary, she will not be an automatic vote for the incoming mayor, Sam Liccardo.
Moreover, Matthews has gravitas. She garners respect from around the city of San Jose. Many believed she was the natural heir-apparent to former Mayor Susan Hammer. Her decision not to run for mayor opened the door for Ron Gonzales.
Matthews is a throwback to a different and better era in San Jose, when decisions were made through consensus. The city would benefit from her collegial nature.
Those who argue that the process in selecting her has been rushed have a fair point. It is true that community input was bypassed, creating the perception that this is a power play by the new mayor-elect. And there is merit to the idea that newly elected members of the council, who will have to work with the appointee, should have a voice in the decision. So, why the rush?
The answer to that question probably determined the fate of City Manager Ed Shikada. Before Tuesday’s council meeting, closed session focused on the fate of Shikada. The council took the extraordinary step of continuing the meeting until after regular session. Shikada announced his resignation Wednesday.
Tradition has always called for a new mayor to pick his or her own team. It is no secret to insiders that Mayor-elect Liccardo’s first choice for city manager is Kim Walesh, a deputy city manager. The new mayor wants to hit the ground running and establish his team well before he is sworn in to the position. Delay can often result in denial, especially if the body politic has a long time to ruminate over a decision. The downside is the process becomes perceived as unfair and heavy handed.
Which brings us back to Matthews, who, while not a rubber stamp, will certainly be a team player for the new mayor. Of course, all of this drama could have been avoided if San Jose would simply become a strong-mayor form of government.
It remains embarrassing that the largest city in the Bay Area still runs its government like a stage coach stop on the way to San Francisco, instead of a real big city with an economic engine that drives the nation’s economy. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee doesn’t have to have closed-door sessions to fire the city manager or appoint a new supervisor.
But, judging by the way Mayor-elect Liccardo is making moves, San Jose might be able to accomplish a few things by the end of his first term. One can only hope.