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Council to Discuss Top Priorities, Audit of Consultants and Contracts

Regulating alcohol sales, electric car plug-ins and cannabis clubs are among the city’s top priorities this coming year, according to a memo up for discussion at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Other items on the meeting agenda include a development deal that could land the city a new park and an audit that finds the monitoring of consultants needs to be much improved.

Councilmembers Constant, Khamis Call for Investigation of Health Care Nonprofits

Two members of the San Jose City Council are calling for an investigation into whether city funds were illegally used in local campaigns. Councilmembers Pete Constant and Johnny Khamis are asking the city manager and city attorney to “investigate whether any city funds that were provided to either Santa Clara Family Health Foundation or VMC Foundation were used to fund any campaign activities in any manner,” according to a memo released Thursday. The memo notes that the city has given the foundations more than $6 million in the last three years.

Parks Require Coalitions for the Future

It will “take a village” to preserve, maintain and expand urban parks in the 21st Century. A key feature of what I call the “new paradigm” of America’s Parks and Trails is that the future lies in forming coalitions—virtual villages—among a variety of interested parties. Re-imagining our parks systems means not counting on government to be the sole caretaker of these community treasures.

Nonprofits Funded Labor Council Political Campaigns

Funds from two local non-profit health care foundations made their way to phone banks and mail campaigns of the South Bay Labor Council in 2012 after routing the money through a Measure A’s campaign committee. Both the VMC Foundation and the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation gave more than a quarter-million dollars each—a total of $539,000—to support an 1/8th cent county sales tax measure, Measure A. At least $90,000 of those monies were transferred to the South Bay Labor Council. An incestuous tangle of organizations, directors and consultants characterized the transactions, with common decision-makers on both the giving and receiving ends. None of the organization are willing to discuss how the funds were used and how decisions were made. Former San Jose vice mayor and South Bay Labor Council CEO Cindy Chavez currently heads up the nonprofit SBLC-linked Working Partnerships USA (WPUSA) and sits on the board for the Health Trust and Santa Clara Family Health Foundation.

Area Youth Need Volunteers’ Help

We live in an extraordinary community where you often hear stories of philanthropists writing large checks from their foundations to personal causes. Last week, Meg Whitman announced in East San Jose that she is giving $2.5 million to Summit Charter schools for 10 new 400 student high schools over the next decade. That same amount would pay for youth gang prevention services for up to 14 San Jose Schools in six districts for four years. Let me explain.

More on the Achievement Gap

Whoa! The achievement gap continues to be a very controversial topic to many SJI posters. I was the guest of my wife, Chris, last Wednesday at San Jose’s Downtown Rotary Club. She invited me because County Superintendent Weis was the luncheon speaker presenting about SJ2020 (a City and school district initiative to close the achievement gap), currently in its embryonic stages. When Superintendent Weis participated in the Q & A immediately following his 20-minute talk, the first question from the audience was predictable

Tony West’s Triumphant Return

Introducing Tony West today at the Rotary Club of San Jose’s weekly meeting, Larry Stone reeled off a list of his old friend’s accomplishments: graduate of Harvard, where he was editor of the Harvard Political Review; law degree from Stanford, where he was editor of the Stanford Law Review; former special assistant to Attorney General Janet Reno; former member of the San Jose Planning Commission; and “two-time unsuccessful candidate for local public office.”

When Stone, the longtime County Tax Assessor, mentioned that last item, a couple of groans were heard among the friendly crowd of Rotarians. “Well, Tony,” Stone quipped, “it all worked out for the best.”

Art is a Valuable Subject

“Art Empowers” is the title of an inspiring new student exhibition at the de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University. I participated in handing out achievement certificates to more than 75 students enrolled in the ArtsConnect program of the Arts Council Silicon Valley (ACSV). The work was created in conjunction with local artists, and includes video, music, sculptures, poems and paintings. This is the 11th year of the student exhibition.

Size Matters

We have traveled a long and winding road in the last fifty years—a very long way—and we are now on the verge of becoming a city of one million people. Wow! But does the size of San Jose really matter?

Virtuosity Matters

This week, a speaker at the Rotary Club noted that we all have to be prepared to do everything differently.  The world is moving on and everything we thought right once is likely to be passed over by other advances.  Long ago, there was a musical entitled “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.”  The title seems apt now. 

Three Quick Hits for a New Week

This week’s quote was a bit unusual in that it comes from the redoubtable Scarlett O’Hara, but how else to emphasize the incredible stupidity of the former Executive Director of the Redevelopment Agency, Susan Schick? I remember how several members of the Rotary Club suggested that I was too tough on her when I criticized her plan in 2001 to seize over fifty pieces of private property, our citizens’ “land,”  in an astonishing, wrong-headed and aggressive plan invoking eminent domain in San Jose.