At first glance, the San Jose City Council's vote last Tuesday on the proposed Rocketship charter school near the Tamien light-rail station looked like a straight party-line affair involving basic political math.
Six council members, all part of Mayor Chuck Reed's business-friendly coalition, voted for the nonunion Rocketship. The four dissenters sympathize with unions. Councilman Sam Liccardo, a Reed ally engaged to Rocketship official Jessica Garcia-Kohl, had to recuse himself from the issue.
Three of the dissenters -- Ash Kalra, Don Rocha and Xavier Campos -- have been mentioned as potential Assembly candidates.
A cynical reading of the vote is that they'd prefer not to offend the California Teachers Association, which has raised questions about the proliferation of charter schools.
That view, however much we like it, overlooks some very local background. Rocha and Campos know what it is to deal with knotty problems of school traffic -- Rocha with Harker School and Campos with charters in his district.
Kalra is a former planning commissioner who stressed the problems of picking up and dropping off kids, an almost inevitable curse with a new urban school.
Rocketship, meanwhile, won a 5-0 approval Wednesday night from the San Jose Planning Commission, which has two members sympathetic to the union side.
No, this is not a mistake: Kalra, Constant agree
And despite the feuding among San Jose's City Council factions, there's occasional consensus.
To wit: During last week's council meeting discussion of a pilot program for curb cafes, liberal Councilman Ash Kalra concurred with conservative colleague Pete Constant's concerns that proposed language might be too limiting.
"I agree with council member Constant," Kalra stated.
There was a brief moment of stunned silence before Kalra and the rest of the council burst out laughing in amazement. You can see for yourself on the council meeting video at www.sanjoseca.gov. It's at the 5 hour, 30-minute mark.
DA Rosen to seek advice on what to do about his old pal
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen has come through so far on his campaign promise to crack down on overzealous prosecutors. But he faces his biggest challenge in deciding what if anything to do about misconduct findings against his best friend and right-hand man, chief assistant district attorney Jay Boyarsky.
A state appellate court late last month reversed a judgment against a felon accused of being a sexually violent predator after finding Boyarsky had engaged in a "pervasive pattern of misconduct."
When we asked Rosen about it last week, he vowed in an emailed response to "carefully evaluate the ruling, briefs and trial transcripts," and said that "as a double check to my work, I will seek independent and outside advice."
"Once I finish my evaluation," Rosen said in the email, "I will treat the Chief Assistant the same way I treat any other prosecutor accused of misconduct and discipline him, if that is warranted."
We're not sure whom Rosen plans to seek out for that outside advice, though surely the DA who promised transparency as a candidate will let us know. Perhaps he'll confer with top ethics experts like Santa Clara University law school professor Gerald Uelmen.
As for disciplining his old pal, there's only so much Rosen is likely to reveal given laws that treat personnel matters as confidential. But speaking generally, Rosen suggested it may never come to that.
"Formal discipline is rarely appropriate for someone who makes an unintentional mistake for which they take responsibility," Rosen emailed. "Most often the reversal itself -- and subsequent training for the prosecutor -- is sufficient to ensure that the mistake will not be repeated."
New standardized tests need a better name
California last week rolled out its much-anticipated replacement for the STAR standardized tests for public school students.
Moving away from testing broad knowledge in math and English, the new tests will assess whether students think critically, solve problems and have in-depth understanding.
Which may all be fine, except perhaps from a marketing standpoint. Whatever its shortcomings, the STAR test had a nice ring to it.
The new tests? They're known as the Smarter Balanced assessments.
Really? You can imagine TV's fictional '60s advertising ace Don Draper snuffing out his Lucky Strike and furrowing his brow in disappointment before sending his young staffers back to the drawing board.
For starters, it sounds a bit too much like that Smart Balance, that spread in the dairy case. "Butter Just Got Better!" Is the state substituting STAR testing with low-calorie learning?
Sacramento Bee columnist Peter Schrag thought Smarter Balanced sounded more like a shoe. Let's face it: It doesn't exactly evoke academic excellence.
Yes, we know the name wasn't the state's idea. It's shorthand for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a multistate group that developed the tests to align with the new Common Core State Standards.
But California's a heavyweight in that consortium. Surely, the state can lean on others to create a new moniker. How can we expect our kids to think seriously about a test that sounds like something they spread on their toast?
Speaker Pérez remains prickly with the media
Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles, has had a prickly relationship with the media since he was stung with reports in 2011 that he'd falsified his résumé showing he'd graduated from UC Berkeley in 1991.
He's short with reporters when asked questions he doesn't want to answer. He exasperates them with windy, arcane pontifications on minute points.
And he's imposed rules that frustrate Capitol reporters, forbidding tape recordings of legislative sessions and requiring journalists -- men and women -- to wear jackets or sweaters in the chambers.
Pérez later relented on the recordings and loosened the dress code for women after journalists cried foul.
But we weren't surprised when he proposed a new rule forbidding interviews with legislators in the Assembly chambers. He said he was trying to keep the decorum of the chamber and minimize the noise, even though much of the chatter comes from legislative staffers.
Pérez has since backed down, designating a small section in the corner of the chamber for reporter interviews.
"We hope the solution we came up with is appreciated," said Robin Swanson, Pérez's spokeswoman. "We all are working hard to make sure everybody is accommodated."
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Scott Herhold, John Woolfolk, Tracey Kaplan, Sharon Noguchi, Steven Harmon and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.