The Outsider: Metro endorses Michael Mulcahy for mayor of San Jose.
June 6 Election Results
We Scam Free Food Because We Care
The Fly went into extra innings this week to do its own brand of election-night precinct walking. Well, stalking, really--but hey, if these people win, that means they're elected officials, and better get used to being held strictly accountable to the public. Oh wait, we're in San Jose! ...Have you noticed that voting technology is an orange-alert-level threat these days? It was one thing when those freaks in Florida and Ohio couldn't keep pesky "irregularities" out of their voting, but one of the biggest stories across California this election day was bad ballot-box juju. Alameda County, for instance, couldn't get its act together after its Diebold voting machines were certified hazardous to democracy as long as they lacked a paper trail. Instead, county supes there goofed around with other options and then decided at the last minute to go back to paper ballots. Apparently, they were able to find people who still know how to count those, but add that to the fact that millions of absentee voters were holding on to their ballots until the 11th hour--the opposite of conventional wisdom about these supposedly Type A breed of voters--and you can see why local officials were predicting early on that this election count was going to be a long slog ... On the plus side, several local voters told Fly they were happy--nay, ecstatic--over Santa Clara County's new paper trail for electronic voting. You may remember the previous paperless system gave a lot of voters the heebie-jeebies, and while you still have to suspend a fair amount of disbelief when a computer assures you "Your ballot has been cast!", at least the paper receipt you're allowed to look at before you pull the trigger offers you some reassurance your voting rights won't have evaporated into cyberspace in the event of a recount. ... So maybe then we don't need those "observers" from the Justice Department looking over our shoulder, eh? Santa Clara County was one of three California counties to be monitored by the feds on Tuesday for compliance with the Voting Rights Act (there were 18 counties chosen in five states). You'd think if there was voter fraud going on, they'd hear about it from one of their illegal wiretaps.
Though it was relatively early in the night, Chuck Reed could barely suppress his surprise or pleasure (not glee--never glee with Chuck) at playing the favorite in San Jose's hotly contested mayoral primary. Returns had him outpacing pre-election favorite Cindy Chavez--the candidate he looked to be facing in a fall runoff. Reed didn't get to the party at his office-park campaign headquarters on the outskirts of Willow Glen until almost 9pm--he was interrupted in the midst of a dinner with his wife after the first returns showed him storming ahead. His campaign consultant, Vic Ajlouny, gleefully pointed out that Michael Mulcahy, the beneficiary of the plum Chamber of Commerce endorsement that the fiscally conservative Reed was aiming for, was lagging badly in the polls. Reed, meanwhile, held court among his supporters wearing his usual American flag tie. "It's very good so far," Bob Dhillon, a Sikh-American community activist and a member of the city's planning commission, said. "It's not surprising. Personally, he's very organized--what he has been saying for six years, he is saying now." "The political establishment hardly supported him," said another supporter. "This proves that you don't need the political establishment all the time." Read, meanwhile, candidly admitted that he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. "I have some things to prove," he said, "because there are people who didn't support me that I felt should have supported me. I definitely have that in mind." San Jose, take note--Chuck Reed is taking names.
Wait, He Lost?
Amid the chatter and cheer of the DiNapoli clan, Mulcahy's campaign manager Lisa Poelle turned white with worry. She had just finished telling Fly how confident they were despite a recent poll that ranked Mulcahy last among the five heavyweights vying for San Jose's mayoral seat. "It was a robo-poll," she said, rolling her eyes. An electronic probe couldn't really gauge what voters might do, right? Well, if that made her happy, then sure. No one at this election night bash seemed to be fretting. The gleaming foyer of the newly remodeled Garden Theater in Willow Glen was swarming with upper-middle-class revelers, indulging in the open bar and nibbling at elaborate platters of sushi and crisp vegetables. Then a serious-looking woman approached Poelle (a campaign cheerleader-turned-party-pooper) and whispered, "Did you hear?" At 8:15pm, just after the polls closed, initial results from absentee ballots came through. Reed was leading the pack with 37 percent of the votes. Mulcahy lingered in fifth place with 10 percent, the same number predicted by the robo-poll. Damn those machines. Poelle's smile dissolved and, forgetting about formalities for the moment, ditched Fly and marched to the backroom to make a phone call. Meanwhile, Fly got tossed among members of Mulcahy's extended family. Phil DiNapoli, Mulcahy's uncle and legendary landowner, said everyone had pitched in for the campaign, working the phones or stuffing envelopes. And what did he do? "I wrote a check!" he said. Of course, Mulcahy strolled in at 9pm, fashionably late as everyone anticipated. Not a single shiny brown hair out of place, he glided through the crowd, gracefully juggling handshakes and hugs. If Fly didn't know better, it would have thought he just landed one of the top two spots for the run-off.
Blogger Tom McEnery and the remnants of his once-invincible machine held court over at the Brit on Santa Clara Street. The once future Ambassador to Ireland toasted Sicilian Sam Liccardo beneath the Queen's flag and took a shot at fellow Irishman Mulcahy. (OK, he's half Irish.) "The next time Chris Schumb and his buddies go into the wine cellar and come up with a candidate, tell him to find someone more qualified," he said. Spirits picked up at the pub when results came in around 11pm showing David Pandori overtaking Dave Cortese for third position in the mayor's race. McEnery said he walked precincts in Cambrian, Almaden, downtown and Evergreen and said he found "a visceral negative response to the direction of the city. ... The last time people were this upset there was a lynching in St. James Park," he said. Hey, can we get a mayor who gives quotes like that again? Meantime, strategist Jay Rosenthal checked results on a mobile device and speculated that opponents of the Liccardo juggernaut simply gave up. He noted that Manny Diaz hadn't sent mail in the week preceding the election and that Joel Wyrick had fired out only one piece of mail before falling silent. Down the street, at the Vault Ultra Lounge, Jim Shore celebrated his victory over Marc Buller, but the early returns showed 75 percent of the vote going to the two women in the District Attorney's race. We've come a long way, baby! Although Shore wasn't ready to concede the obvious at that point, he wouldn't tip his hand as to who he would endorse if he failed to qualify for the runoff. "I'm going to take some time off." To be courted for his endorsement? Shore replied with only a wink.
District 3 Food Fight
District 3 candidate Joel Wyrick held his party in a secret upstairs luxury suite at 39 South First Street, above the now defunct popcorn joint Hip Pop. Wyrick owns the building and he rents out the suite on a daily and weekly basis. So the price for the party apparently was right. He originally bought the building from Pauline--that gal who ran the old Two Virgins gift shop that used to occupy the address years ago. The joint boasts a Jacuzzi in the bathroom, a full kitchen and living room, as well as a grand-scale view of all the transients at the light-rail station across the street. A private chef cranked out pasta, duck, beef, lamb and vegetables while a Tower of Power concert video emanated from the hi-def TV. Bottled Gordon Biersch beer flowed as folks gobbled up the food and discussed the issues of the day. Candidate Jose Posadas, who eventually dropped out and went on to endorse Wyrick, made an appearance. The number of snazzily dressed folks: priceless. Despite Liccardo being so far ahead that at one point he looked like he might even be able to avoid a run-off with Manny Diaz (Wyrick was a distant third as of presstime), it didn't change the fact that his food was nowhere near as good as the stuff at Wyrick's party. It was satisfactory enough for candidate Candy Russell, who didn't even bother to throw her own election party for herself. Instead, she infiltrated Liccardo's bash and immediately began rifling through all the free food, filling her plate with meatballs and pastries. She then stated she was on her way to Wyrick's get-together, obviously to do the same. There's just something to be said about one candidate showing up at the others' parties just for the food.
Hug Hug, Bang Bang
At 12 minutes after 8pm, current county supe and assessor-hopeful Pete McHugh was seen hugging a Buddhist priest wearing a bright orange robe. Ten minutes later, after he called in for the early election returns, McHugh would need more than a hug from a religious authority. He trailed incumbent Larry Stone by a huge margin, for a race that was captivating if only for the acrimonious back and forth between the two candidates, a bad loss could have the otherwise genial McHugh eating crow. "So that is not very impressive," said McHugh flatly after announcing the returns. The Buddhist priest, meanwhile, turned out to be the Most Venerable Thich Gac Luong of the Phap Duyen temple on Second Street. He had come to the City Restaurant, a cozy Vietnamese joint directly across Santa Clara Street from the upscale Saigon 75 restaurant, because, he said, he was good friends with McHugh--who, according to the priest, is unfortunately not a Buddhist. McHugh, however, was in no mood to deconstruct the race. "So I'm going to contemplate shooting myself, and then I'll have something to eat," he muttered as he squeezed through his supporters.
We'll Need More Balloons
If the excitement of an election night party could magically boost a candidate's chance of winning, then David Pandori ... didn't stand a chance. OK, to be fair, Fly did swing by his modest office complex (only blocks away from Mulcahy's swanky shindig in Willow Glen) earlier in the evening, before the mayoral aspirant had even shown up. But really, things were so dull that a campaign volunteer offered to buy more balloons to fill up the almost-empty room. A Merc photographer was so desperate for some action that she focused her lens on two kids scribbling comments on a whiteboard. "Vote Pandori (or else)," wrote 12-year-old Jim. With the good intentions of a few loyal supporters sporting campaign T-shirts, I guess you could say this party had potential. They contributed home-cooked tamales and fresh mozzarella cheese balls to the potluck-style spread. One volunteer even brought fresh brownies oozing with mint filling to match Pandori's green motif. And thumbs up to the candidate's eco-friendly décor: the waste bins were labeled to separate trash from recycling.
Our recommendations on June 6 ballot races
Michael Mulcahy for San Jose Mayor
For San Jose to rise to its potential, it needs a mayor who can rally people behind a vision of a better city. In a field of candidates that includes four current and former councilmembers, there's competence and commitment but not much that can be called inspiring—with one exception: Michael Mulcahy.
Mulcahy is stylish and speaks well, which are good qualities for a big city mayor in the media age, but there's substance behind his million-dollar smile. In a short period of time, Mulcahy has demonstrated an impressive command of the nuances of city politics and won over a growing roster of endorsers, of which we are pleased to be one.
He has taken firm stands against government secrecy, lobbyist influence and development sprawl. He knows San Jose well because he has lived here all his life, and he has proved his management skills as the executive of a nonprofit arts organization and as the head of a family real estate firm.
Things are so messed up at City Hall right now that only fresh blood can bring the kind of dramatic changes needed to put San Jose back on course. We need someone who isn't beholden to lobbyists, special interest groups, unions or contributors, who hasn't participated in the deals and decisions that have kept the city in a chronic state of almost-ness.
Mulcahy is not a politician, and that's probably an advantage. He thinks outside the dome, more like the rest of us than the others swaddled in layers of government—think. (If anyone thinks being on the City Council makes you smarter, sit through an entire meeting sometime!) Many talented mayors, from New York's Michael Bloomberg to ex-Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, have come directly from the private sector. And other high office holders, from California governors Schwarzenegger and Reagan to Minnesota's Jesse Ventura, possessed even less relevant experience before ascending to state houses.
Of the current crop of past and present public officials seeking the city's top job, Chuck Reed is the most exemplary. He has shown courage and independence by taking stands for integrity and fiscal responsibility.
David Pandori has articulated this election season's best critique of this financially irresponsible and morally challenged city administration, but we question whether he has the personal skills to lead a city of this size.
Dave Cortese has taken principled stands as well but has gone with the flow at other times. Cindy Chavez has been a silent partner in the scandalous Gonzales mayoralty and remains tight-lipped about her knowledge of events surrounding the half-billion-dollar Norcal garbage deal. If she has nothing to hide, she should come clean instead of referring questions to an attorney she won't even identify.
Mulcahy has demonstrated an open and direct style. Unlike his opponents, he declined the politically expedient step of signing a public pledge requested by People Acting in Community Together (PACT) because it would have been "a promise outside the process." He says he wants to be "someone who can pull this community together;" however, he has shown that he knows how to say "no," and we think a spine is a good thing for a mayor to have.
Mulcahy knows that the current council has engaged in a capital spending spree that has blessed the city with a surplus of showcase projects—schools, libraries, community centers and parks—that it can't afford to operate. His solution is to grow the economy by reforming policies that make it unpleasant to do business in San Jose. "We're losing business to other cities," he says.
He also thinks that San Jose needs to get rolling on a master plan for the areas surrounding a BART line, "otherwise we'll be BART's biggest bus stop for people going to Oakland or San Francisco."
Fresh ideas like that are needed, and Mulcahy has shown the ability to communicate them with passion and intelligence.
We hope San Jose voters give him a shot to leave his mark on the city as its next mayor.
Sure, anything new is a risk. The biggest risk at this juncture, however, is politics as usual.
Larry Stone for Assessor
While we'd prefer that County Assessor Larry Stone weren't moonlighting as a developer, we haven't seen any evidence that his extracurricular business and political interests have affected his performance as the county's tax guy. He runs a clean, modern shop with the kind of independence that should be the hallmark of an elected department head. His opponent, Pete McHugh, has failed to make a case why Stone should be sacked. Moreover, McHugh's aborted attempt to dispense with public process in the replacement of an elected agency head who abandoned a post midterm calls into question McHugh's commitment to open public process. If anything, the assessor's office, which determines how much in taxes every county homeowner pays, needs transparency. Stone has done a good job as his agency's spokesman, remaining open and accessible. Keeping Stone on the job is the right choice by us.
Yes on Measure B
At last, an opportunity to give our parks a second chance. A world-class park system in San Jose should have been the legacy of the Mayor Gonzales, who made it a priority early in his tenure and deserves credit for the new park facilities he championed. But it's not just the ethics scandals that have tarnished his accomplishments, it's also the fact that proper resources haven't been allotted to keep pristine these areas that should be the pride of Silicon Valley. Offering the entire county a chance to improve on the current state of open space, Measure B doesn't create new taxes. It's a renewal of the Park Charter Amendment, which since 1972 has dedicated a portion of existing property tax revenue for county parks. But what we like best about this year's measure is that it comes connected to a long-term vision for area parks, a comprehensive Strategic Plan that was recently completed by the Parks and Recreation Department and was rooted in an impressive attempt to incorporate feedback from the people whose input on parks matters most: the communities that use them. Having acquired 6,500 acres of new parkland in the last 10 years, no one would argue that county officials haven't been aggressive with their acquisitions. But our biggest concern remains park management. If voters are willing to prioritize parks in this election, those entrusted with Measure B's money must put the ones that already exist first.
Jim Shore for District Attorney
The replacement of longtime DA George Kennedy has been a particularly Machiavellian succession characterized by a nasty race. The unfortunate politicization of this arm of the justice system has divided the prosecutor's office and the ecosystem of agencies that interact with it. Members of the public have a direct interest in how well this agency performs its role, because public safety affects all of us. The person best equipped to unite the office following this bruising race is Jim Shore. An experienced crime fighter who organized the California Prosecutors Association, he is well equipped to boost Internal morale and serve as the public voice of the office. He is a good mix of the tough-on-crime talk that the public seems to like, tempered by support for prosecutorial and judicial discretion to produce reasonable and compassionate results when appropriate. Most importantly, Shore is the most independent of the candidates. He is not afraid to speak up when he sees something inside the department that he feels needs to change, and he has not compromised himself through a web of backroom deals. For these reasons, we're supporting Jim Shore for DA.
Joel Wyrick for District 3
Downtown San Jose faces a number of challenges. Commercial competition from various directions, policing issues, development questions and a public-relations problem are just a few obvious items on a long list that will await the next person elected to represent this crucial district. There is no room to "learn on the job" what the heart of San Jose is up against, and that's why District 3 needs one of its own to represent it on the council. Joel Wyrick has lived in the neighborhood for more than 25 years and has contributed more to the district than any of the other candidates. That he was the first candidate to release a downtown retail strategy—something the area desperately needs—shows he is ready to act quickly, decisively and thoughtfully for District 3. He has run businesses downtown and understands the club policing issue well. A Wyrick victory will also help preserve diversity on the council, and his strong passion for local history will be an asset to a downtown that needs a sense of place.
Westly for Governor
We're supporting Steve Westly for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination because he's independent and has shown good fiscal judgment in managing the public's money. Westly's endorsements include the Sierra Club and the United Farmworkers as well as Silicon Valley billionnaires. His ability to cut across traditional boundries has allowed him to work side-by-side with Republican legislators and the governor to help solve the state's fiscal crisis. More than his opponent, Steve Westly has shown he has what it takes to be the governor of all Californians. For those of us in the valley, he's a known quantity who has paid his dues in the public and private sectors and understands this area's unique interests well. Judging by recent polls, Californians elsewhere like what they see as well.
Yes on Measure A
Rising prices at gas pumps will hit the valley's workforce hard if the valley doesn't improve its transportation systems. While taxes are painful, it costs time, money and air quality for valley motorists to sit at stoplights and on freeways with idling engines. Measure A is a solid investment in transit, health-care and other county services. Even for those don't like the idea of underwriting health services for the uninsured, most people sleep better knowing that restaurant cook can be screened for tuberculosis or get a flu shot. Just look at the broad-based support that this measure has inspired—as impressive a show of South Bay solidarity as any we've seen in some time. There's a good reason for that: Santa Clara County needs this half-cent sales tax, which will cost each valley resident less than a dollar a week. It's the same funding mechanism that for two decades has allowed the county to improve its freeways and light rail systems, without which we'd have a congested mess. Even some groups that don't support a BART extension—by far the campaign's most divisive issue, since Measure A's opponents have tried to make hay pointing out some of the revenues could go to that project—support this measure. This is not about VTA efficiency, pensions or any of the other side issues that have somehow become central battles in this campaign. Measure A is about meeting community needs.
Governor of California: Steve Westly
U.S. Senator: Dianne Feinstein
U.S. Representative, District 11: Jerry McNerney
Proposition 81 (Libraries): Yes
Proposition 82 (Preschools): No
District Attorney: Jim Shore
County Assessor: Larry Stone
Board of Supervisors, District 4: Ken Yeager
Mayor of San Jose: Michael Mulcahy
San Jose City Council, District 1: Pete Constant
San Jose City Council, District 3: Joel Wyrick
Measure A (Sales Tax): Yes
Measure B (Parks): Yes
Measure C (Colleges): Yes
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