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June 20-26, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

What Brown Won't Do

It was hard to miss that huge "GONZALES CLEARED" headline last week, which was about as accurate as a Hearst newspaper headline during the Spanish American War. Fact is, former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzalesnever got his day in court, and there was never a ruling on the merits of the mayor's backroom private garbage negotiations. Superior Court Judge John Herlihy based his dismissal of charges against the mayor on faulty jury instructions by the prosecutor in the case. Which makes the case dead, unless Attorney General Jerry Brown decides to file an appeal. And, trust us, that's not likely to happen. Even before the ruling, Jerry told Fly privately he thought District Attorney Dolores Carr should drop the charges and made it clear he didn't think much of the case. As a former Oakland mayor, the empathetic AG is familiar with the kind of horse-trading that goes on in mayoral chambers. He knows Gonzales as a fellow Bay Area mayor, and his view seems to be that it's politics as usual. So, while the mayor may not have been cleared in the sense of a not-guilty verdict, it looks like it's clear sailing from this point forward.

Gonzo vs. Sunshine

Mayor Chuck Reed thinks the dismissal of the charges against former Mayor Ron Gonzales and his former aide Joe Guerra are one more example of why San Jose needs a sunshine law. First off, he tells Fly he wasn't surprised about the charges being dismissed after reading the judge's earlier skeptical remarks. Reed says he himself had read Julius Finkelstein's indictment and pondered the question, "Where's the bribe?" but he figured the case would get to trial and jury would make the final decision. Still, he argues, maybe the whole Norcal deal wouldn't have happened the way it did if good sunshine laws were in place. "It's the secrecy that created the problems," says Reed. Imagine if we'd avoided this whole proving-bribery fiasco in the first place. If the Reed Reforms had been in place, "the council would have had a hearing, taken action on its own, and perhaps the district attorney would not have had to file charges," says Reed. "Sunshine laws don't stop people from doing bad things," he acknowledges. "They just make it harder for them to hide it from the public and easier for the public to do something about it."

I'd Rather Be Shopping

It was supposed to be a breakthrough dialogue between opposing parties on the BAREC issue: Santa Clara, Santa Clara County, the state of California and San Jose. But Save BAREC supporter Kathryn Mathewson only got one side to come to the table for the "legislative summit" at the county's Office of Human Relations. Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan, who has spearheaded the city's plans to approve housing on the property, didn't show. Save BAREC supporter Kirk Vartan said he saw Mahan at the Santa Clara farmers market during the meeting —Fly tried to run this by her, but she hadn't returned our calls by presstime. Oliverio and Constant from San Jose said they support open space on BAREC, but can't offer anything more than political persuasion. Last week, the city's rules committee voted to stay out of the issue. Even though BAREC borders San Jose near Stevens Creek Boulevard, it's still in Santa Clara territory. State Assemblymember Elaine Alquist and County Supe Ken Yeager both sent staffers to Saturday's shindig, but it's unclear how much help they'll be. Yeager's aide Megan Doyle said the supervisor doesn't have authority over land use decisions. She also acknowledged the political tension between her boss and Santa Clara's Mahan —the two ran against each other for the county seat last year. But in spite of the friction, "people have a job to do," pointed out Oliverio, who sits in Yeager's old City Council seat. "The elections have been over for a long time. They should have settled their issues by now," he added. We wouldn't bet on any miraculous cooperation if Santa Clara's unilateral attitude were any indication. For the past two years, city leaders have resisted thousands of community voices in the persistent movement to stop housing on BAREC. As Brian Lowery, chair of Santa Clara's citizens advisory committee, put it: "I think they sort of made up their minds already."

Kicked Out!

The SJPD's press conference last Monday was held in response to the Independent Police Auditor's report, and to remind the public of Chief Rob Davis' good standing with the community. Unfortunately, some members of the community were there to ask Davis actual questions about the report. When the SJPD and City Manager Public Outreach director Tom Manhiem saw Metro reporter and DEBUG community organizer Raj Jayadev, Manhiem asked Jayadev to step outside—escorted by two police officers, per Davis' instruction. Manhiem told Jayadev that the event was for the press, and the public could not attend. Duh, Jayadev is the press, and yet Manhiem told him that he and others would not be allowed to ask questions to Davis. "I know what you are trying to do, you are trying to reframe the conference," he said. When Jayadev suggested it might be a good idea to let people ask their questions, Manhiem told him, "If you ask questions, I will see to it that you never be allowed to a city press conference again." Fly doesn't know if you personally have ever made the mistake of telling Jayadev not to do something, but sure enough, he attempted to ask Davis questions about the report, as did other community members. He was not called on. What a week for open government!


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