Curse of Reed

The city’s fearless and occasionally politically tone-deaf leader, Chuck Reed, was riding high after successfully placing pension reform and binding arbitration on the ballot with a carefully stitched-together coalition that seemed to spell the end of organized labor’s control of the San Jose City Council.

The afterglow was short-lived, however. Reed threw the new majority into chaos with his divisive endorsement of gay marriage opponent Larry Pegram for a council seat, just a day before a California court overturned Prop 8.

Though he won’t say so publicly, among the dismayed was cat-herder Sam Liccardo, the downtown district councilman who helped orchestrate the 7-4 vote. Judy Chirco, who holds the council seat for which Pegram is now battling Don Rocha, was “visibly sickened” by the mayor’s announcement, according to one 18th floor source.

As Fly noted last week, it’s the latest in a series of Reed endorsements that seem to be based more on personal loyalty than high strategy. These have ranged from his support for labor back-watcher Dolores Carr, the defeated DA, and his baffling recent endorsement of Richard Calderon, who also lost.

The Pegram bombshell also recalls Reed’s disastrous 2007 endorsement of Hon Lien against Kansen Chu, which showed that Reed couldn’t even secure his own council district for a successor. While Reed’s personal popularity remains high in polls, his endorsement seems to be more of a curse than a blessing these days.

The effect will likely be to drive Rocha, who was hoping the mayor would stay out of the race, more tightly into the clutches of the South Bay Labor Council, rather than cost him the election.

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. The endorsement defies all common sense. Reed is indeed politically tone-deaf when it comes to supporting candidates. Pegram is simply a bad fit for the council and the city. Religious zealots can cloak themselves in whatever garments they want to try and fool people, but they are still religious zealots.
    Besides, how much does Pegram really want this job? He first announced he was moving away and running for Congress—a very different job description—then dropped out of that. Next, he decided it would be fun to be a councilmember. Hopping around from race to race is not the sign of someone committed to public policy.
    I don’t think we will have to worry about him winning in District 9, but I’m sure it will get ugly soon no matter what his “family values” are.

  2. Its pretty easy to explain Reed’s “baffling endorsement” of Richard Calderon for Sheriff.  In 2006, Laurie Smith issued a baffling endorsement of her own, for Cindy Chavez in the Mayoral race.  So he gave a boost to her principal opponent for re-election in 2010. Under the circumstances, its difficult to entirely blame him.

  3. Peter

    ” A city that experiences public employee wage and benefit cost increases of over 70% in the same eight year period that revenues rise only 20% should focus on fixing that problem. ”

    How will Reed, Pegram fix 70% employee cost increases vs only 20% revenue increase ?

    Is employees cost the only budget problem ?

    • I agree that this isn’t just an arithmetic problem where we have a broken budget and need to either raise revenue or cut expenses – this is a governance issue and the system is failed.

      The term-limited, district elected city council system with the so-called strong mayor and weak city manager system that has come about through a half-dozen incremental charter reforms has produced short-sighted self-serving political light weights.  The current council is the closest we’ve gotten to responsible leadership and that’s 8 years into a budget meltdown and with highly interested public attention being paid to dumb practices like running up wages and pensions without having the money to pay for it.

      I think we need to work our way through the next year or two of this mess and then fix some of the problems at the top.  Maybe going to a smaller at-large elected council that gets people looking at big picture and city-wide issues and not micromanaging development and contributions from their own district (or larger interests with deeper pockets in “pay to play” quid pro quo deals for matters before either the council or redevelopment agency board.)

      I’d also like to see some indictments and trials for the criminal racketeering around land deals.  I know its a new era, but the old game was take the big wigs out and get them drunk to find out what land your wife could buy and sell to redevelopment for the next project.  We’ve had 20-30 years of this crap.

  4. Chuck Reed’s endorsement of Larry Pegram is based on one thing…the most important thing.  Larry Pegram will support the reforms needed to bring some fiscal sanity back to the City of San Jose.  Governing San Jose isn’t about gay marriage or abortion.  Irrelevant social issues are simply a distraction.  A city that experiences public employee wage and benefit cost increases of over 70% in the same eight year period that revenues rise only 20% should focus on fixing that problem.  That is what Pegram and Reed will do.

  5. Reprint from a local article on Larry Pegram. I do not think it is possible for Pegram to seperate church and state. I consider myself middle of the road and Mr. Pegram is just too far over the top for me to vote for.

    “Inside the Church on the Hill in San Jose, hundreds of Christians gather before the pulpit, fixated on the one subject that’s rocked the religious community this year: gay marriage. It’s a final attempt to mobilize the local Christian vote on Proposition 8, the statewide gay marriage ban going before voters in November. …

    “Do we support homosexual marriage?” one speaker yells to the crowd.

    “No!” the group shouts back, the echo ringing through the church.

    The man behind this rally scene last Sunday is Silicon Valley’s Larry Pegram. The former San Jose Councilman-turned Christian political activist has long been a flickering presence in South Bay politics, stepping out on issues that run against his “values” agenda, especially those advancing equal status for same-sex partners.

    The unapologetic Pegram, also a former cop, has been positioning himself against the gay community’s political agenda for years, dating back to his term on the city council in the 1970s when he voted against a gay event being organized in San Jose. As the gay community has progressed with its civil rights agenda, Pegram, 63, has remained unwavering in his convictions against granting new legal rights to gays and lesbians.

    Three decades after his council term, Pegram founded his own Christian organization, the Values Advocacy Council, which has been out front on local issues, particularly same-sex marriage. …

    “We feel very strongly that marriage for 5,000 years has been defined as being between a man and a woman, and we are not sure that this rush to recognize same-sex marriage is all that prudent,” Pegram says. “It’s the beginning of the destruction of families as we know it.” …

    Pegram has stayed out front on this culture war even when it has weakened his position as he struggles for his Values Advocacy Council to gain a deeper political foothold in a liberal bastion like the South Bay. …

    Religious and conservative leaders were infuriated when the California Supreme Court in May ruled to legalize gay marriage; they immediately launched the effort that led to Prop 8. Pegram’s group worked the local campaign to get the measure on the November ballot; they gathered and sent off more than 35,000 signatures in favor of placing a gay marriage ban on the November ballot.

    Since then, he’s worked to unite church leaders on the issue. He’s hosted events, bringing prominent church leaders to speak to members about the “Armageddon of marriage.”

    Win or lose the Proposition 8 battle, you can bet this isn’t Pegram’s last fight. …

    In 1977, Pegram cast his first anti-gay vote. Members of the San Jose gay community came to City Hall, asking for permission to host a gay event…

    In 2003, he joined his pastor from Venture Christian to establish the nonprofit Values Advocacy Council, giving Christian conservatives a chance to shape public policy with a “values” agenda. …

    In 2004, Pegram and his Values Advocacy Council led a charge to recall Mayor Ron Gonzales after the city voted in favor of same-sex benefits for city employees and to recognize same-sex marriages performed in San Francisco. …

    With a $200,000 annual budget, Pegram has been building his membership (there are some 10,000 families listed in their database) over the last five years, hosting events that have been slowly unifying Christian leaders and megachurches in the South Bay. Probably his greatest political mark has been publishing a “values voter guide,” a questionnaire local candidates fill out that places them “in” or “out” of the values camp on hot-button issues like homosexuality and abortion.

    As the organization grows, Pegram says, they will probably get more involved in identifying conservative candidates to run for office. …

    Pegram doesn’t particularly have much pull with the majority of Democrats in the South Bay—except perhaps one. There have been whispers about Pegram’s personal and political connection to Mayor Chuck Reed…

    The two go back to the days when Pegram was on the council… Despite Pegram’s reputation as a religious extremist, Reed has kept his ties with him. Reed has been spotted speaking at Pegram’s Values Advocacy Council lunches and National Day of Prayer events. The two have also been known to attend church services together, according to Reed.” …

    • Article speaks volumes. Pegram and D9 don’t mix. Let him stay in his extremist church and away from forming public policy.
      He is tainted by his extremist views and if by some chance he is elected he would be ineffective in advancing any financial reforms. Once a zealot always a zealot.

    • > I do not think it is possible for Pegram to seperate church and state. I consider myself middle of the road and Mr. Pegram is just too far over the top for me to vote for.

      And which road would that be that you are in the middle of, Joe?

      Friends in Texas report that are two things commonly found in the middle of the road:

      1. yellow streaks
      2. dead armadillos

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