San Jose Unified School District Votes to Sue County Office of Education

San Jose’s largest school district will sue the Santa Clara County Office of Education over an allegedly illegal land-use exemption to pave the way for a private charter school. The San Jose Unified School District Board of Trustees last week unanimously voted to sue the county office because it granted a zoning exemption to build the eighth Rocketship charter in the region.

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Who Wasted the Most Campaign Money in 2012? Well, a Lot of People

The deadline for semi-annual campaign disclosure forms covering the last half of 2012 came due last week. The documents provide a clearer picture of how winning and losing candidates raised money and how they spent it—or misspent it—in the final weeks of the campaign. We also tracked a number of political action committees (PACs). The most interesting findings: How much money was wasted in trying to defeat Councilmember Rose Herrera, a potential quid pro quo between the ChamberPAC and a person quoted in its ballot statement against minimum wage, and hangover debt for losing candidates Jimmy Nguyen and Robert Braunstein.

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Let’s Focus on Community over Politics

Omar Torres, executive director of the local nonprofit Santa Maria Urban Ministry (SMUM), joins San Jose Inside as a new columnist. In addition to writing about his work as a community organizer, Torres, who is an elected member of the Democratic Central Committee, will break down how politics work behind the scenes in San Jose and Santa Clara County.

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A Review of Santa Clara County’s Grand Jury, Which is Accepting Applications

Santa Clara County’s Civil Grand Jury—a watchdog of local government—needs 19 new jurors to serve during the coming fiscal year. Every year, the grand jury fields citizen complaints and chooses which to pursue as investigations. Reports from the past two years have included a look at funds used for the construction of San Jose’s City Hall, the treatment of female inmates at a county jail and wasteful spending at Valley Medical Center. The deadline to apply is March 8.

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On Gangs and Doing the Right Thing

The Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force held its fifth annual community summit Saturday, and more than a hundred San Jose residents were in attendance. For me, much of the information presented at the meeting served as an unfortunate reminder of the havoc gangs create in our communities.


Yeager’s Vision for Santa Clara County

Ken Yeager, president of the county Board of Supervisors, laid out a broad plan at his State of the County address earlier this week, listing healthcare, gun violence and the environment among his top priorities. Noticeably, Supervisor George Shirakawa wasn’t one of them.

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Breaking Down Local Legislators’ 2012 Work

When the calendar ticked over to 2013, a slew of bills authored last year by our local state senators and assembly members became actual law. Moving forward, those lawmakers have until late February to introduce bills, which means they’re in the middle of planning a legislative agenda for the coming year. We compiled a list of their just-enacted bills and called up those same representatives to ask them what they have planned for the upcoming year.

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NRA Fires off Letter for Rules Committee Discussion on Local Gun Control

The National Rifle Association heard about a local attorney’s idea to crack down on assault weapons in San Jose and hired a law firm to write up a disapproving missive to City Council. Other items going before the Rules and Open Government Committee on Wednesday include support for a Constitutional amendment acknowledging companies aren’t people, a report on how transparent the city is in holding meetings and disseminating information and more rants from City Hall critic David Wall.

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RDA Clawback Imperils Important Projects

Last week, I attended the meeting of the Redevelopment Agency Successor Oversight Board for the City of Santa Clara. I urged the group to reject the California Finance Department’s move to “clawback” $1.25 million from Bill Wilson Center’s Peacock Commons housing project.

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Council to Discuss Bumping, Police Chief

The topic of bumping and staff reductions takes center stage at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the first of 2013. Other items on the agenda include loaded questions for police chief candidates, the city manager’s upcoming trip to Las Vegas, Curb Cafés, a dog park group getting its due and city property sales, one of which could benefit a local charter school group.


How to Save the General Fund $10 MIllion

A housing report revealed last week at the oversight board meeting for the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency (SARA) shows that the city has $10 million in funds that have yet to be allocated. While some people would like to direct these funds to affordable housing, which isn’t taxable and doesn’t create revenue, a better plan would be to direct the $10 million toward RDA debt. If this occurs, the exact same amount can then go toward the general fund, which pays for police, libraries and other community services.

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Park in the Sky or Pie in the Sky?

Planning departments across the USA commonly create “specific plans” and/or “master plans” for certain streets and neighborhoods within a city. San Jose, not unlike other cities, has many of these same plans. Most of the time these plans are put together with the best of intentions, but they end up sitting on a shelf due to their inherent lack of practicality or feasibility.

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Affordable Housing Study Session

The City Council had a study session last week devoted to affordable housing. The session covered how San Jose could build more affordable housing, even though it has already publicly funded and completed roughly 21,000 such units in years past and has 1,500 additional units currently in the pipeline. As a point of comparison, other cities have done little during the same time period.


Development Rekindles Small Town Feel

The new, privately developed Willow Glen Town Square held its grand opening party Saturday. The event was well attended by happy residents, eager business owners, loyal patrons, and other local well-wishers who came to celebrate this wonderful new addition to our community. It’s just one example of how mindful, well-planned and executed development has the potential to increase property tax, sales tax and utility tax revenues, as well as the number of jobs available to those seeking employment.

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