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County Hospital Workers Allegedly Stage Sick Out; Strike Looming?

Almost two weeks before she won the election for Santa Clara County Supervisor’s District 2 seat, ex-labor leader Cindy Chavez said she would not cross a picket line. That promise may get tested early since SEIU 521, the 8,000-employee county union whose contract is up for renewal, strategically postponed negotiations until Aug. 11, after the special election, in hopes of gaining a more favorable outcome. About 6,400 of those union members work at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. The day after Chavez was voted in, some technicians in the hospital’s radiology department staged a “sick out,” which is not quite a strike but a coordinated effort to call in sick to work to make a statement. Enough participated that it left the hospital scrambling to schedule replacements.

The Redemption of Cindy Chavez

In what may turn out to be one of the most expensive races ever for a local county office, Cindy Chavez has captured the District 2 Supervisor seat held by her disgraced former ally, George Shirakawa, Jr. The victory places the largest county government in the global home of leading edge technology—from Teslas to Google Glass—firmly in the hands of an old-fashioned political machine; a classic one that delivers votes, wins elections, rewards its followers and dispenses benefits. Over the next two years, the board will vote on billions of dollars in employee compensation contracts—the county spends $3 billion a year on salaries, benefits and pensions—for the members of the unions who returned the former San Jose city official to public office.

Councilman Sam Liccardo Says Gold Club Will Hurt Downtown Development

After voting to raise taxes on pot clubs earlier this year, San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo has found a new vice to tackle: nudie bars. Spurred by the imminent opening of a gentlemen’s club in downtown, Liccardo has asked the city to impose more restrictions on San Jose’s adult establishments. The city already bans nudity in downtown businesses, which leaves us to presume that the Gold Club, slated to open up Aug. 8 in the historic 81 W. Santa Clara St. building, will operate as a bikini bar.

Congressman Mike Honda’s Advisory Council Rallies STEM Education Advocates

I applaud Congressman Michael Honda’s recent convening of the STEM Advisory Council, which I attended last Friday at Applied Materials with 60-plus engineers, educators, policy makers and non-profit leaders. We must act now, as more and more firms in the U.S., like Applied Materials, require science, technology, engineering or math degrees to satisfy their employment mandates.

San Jose, Unions Battle in Court over Measure B Pension Reform

Mayor Chuck Reed’s pension reform plan went to trial Monday in a Santa Clara County court room. The outcome of the case is expected to influence other cities considering ways to cut down on the cost of retirement benefits. The lawsuit, brought against the city by its employee unions in response to Reed’s Measure B reforms, demonstrates the challenge of reforming pension plans despite having to cut public services to pay for them.

Rethinking Summer Break for Students

As we swelter with unseasonably hot weather this summer, too many children are sitting at home, losing months of instructional gains produced during the academic school year. The educational leaders know this to be true based on a wide variety of studies that indicate children without summer enrichment activities lose several months of achievement gains made during the school year.

Graveyard Dig Reveals 1,400 Bodies, Personal Items at Valley Medical Center Site

Archaeologists and osteologists unearthed skeletal remains in unmarked redwood caskets from a pauper’s graveyard Thursday morning. In final excavations to ready the site for Valley Medical Center’s expansion, they found a clay smoking pipe, a wool jacket, an assortment of pocket knives and spectacles, among other personal items buried with the 1,400 or so bodies in the unmarked potter’s field, according to a county spokesperson.

San Jose City Council Expects to Finalize 2013-14 Budget

For the second consecutive year in a decade, the city appears ready to adopt a budget without service reductions and layoffs and a greater focus on restoring public safety cuts.  The City Council will finalize that budget Tuesday while also discussing increased a business tax amnesty, extending a library parcel tax and street maintenance.

Mayor, City Council Should Make Libraries a Budget Priority

Every year around this time, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and the City Council hold a series of public meetings regarding our city’s budget, which the council must pass it before the summer “recess” in July. This year, the city should needs to make libraries one of its top priorities.

Taking Back Saint James Park

It is time downtown San Jose residents took back Saint James Park. Unlike the glory days of almost a century ago, when presidents and unions held massive rallies in the square, neighbors and downtown workers now describe the park as an unfortunate eyesore.

School Suspensions a Civil Rights Issue?

School suspensions go beyond just quick-fix discipline to get an unruly student out of the way. Statistics show that suspensions can lead to to a number of dangerous paths in life. The Santa Clara County Board of Education will hear a report about suspensions at its meeting Wednesday night, as well as an ongoing fight involving Bullis Charter School.

Working Partnerships Rides Half-Million Dollar County Gravy Train

When Teresa Alvarado announced that she was running for George Shirakawa Jr.’s vacated county supervisor seat, County Executive Jeff Smith helpfully forwarded the email to Working Partnership USA’s executive team: Bob Brownstein and Cindy Chavez. The forwarding of memos by Smith highlights the cozy relationship between the County of Santa Clara and Working Partnerships USA (WPUSA), the organization led by longtime labor union executive and current supervisor candidate Cindy Chavez. WPUSA is joined at the hip to the powerful South Bay Labor Council (SBLC), with whom it has historically shared offices, facilities, equipment, political objectives and allocated employees. Last year, SBLC led the effort to raise county sales taxes by $500 million over the next ten years and to increase San Jose’s minimum wage by 25 percent. It also endorsed 70 candidates for political office. Working Partnerships has been the recipient of at least $518,163 from the cash-challenged county in the past two years, performing a grab bag of services. Newly released documents obtained via a San Jose Inside public records request show the county’s contracts represented about 15 percent of Working Partnerships’ revenues for those years.

Rules to Look at Renting Space at City Hall, Nonprofit Health Care Investigation

Parts of City Hall, left a bit empty after layoffs and the Redevelopment Agency’s closure, may soon be open to anyone looking to lease a slice of the swanky 18-story downtown centerpiece. Proceeds from the market-rate rents will go right to the city’s general fund, according to a memo going before the Rules and Open Government Committee on Wednesday. Other items include the Pete Constant-Johnny Khamis memo asking the city to investigate how public funds were used to fund a county sales tax measure carried out by organized labor.

CommUniverCity Helps Downtown Thrive

For decades, institutions of higher learning have been at the forefront of social change. San Jose State University’s CommUniverCity San Jose program is an excellent partnership between residents, the campus community and government partners like the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County.