San Jose City Councilman Don Rocha is literally turning his back on fellow council members for whom he seems to hold growing contempt.

The District 9 councilman, a left-leaning swing vote, has publicly bristled at a council majority he accuses of excessive rigidity over fiscal reforms. For the last several months, he has regularly retreated from the council chambers during meetings for a break room whenever Councilman Pete Constant, the ranking conservative of the group, presents updates on the city's pension plan as the council's retirement board liaison.

It's become so predictable that Constant has taken to teasing Rocha about giving him a nice long break during meetings.

What gives?

Apparently that beef started after Rocha asked if Constant could provide his updates on the pension system in writing, and Constant tartly replied that he isn't Rocha's secretary.

"I felt this report should be a written report from retirement services," Rocha confirmed, "and I stand by that."

But Constant called Rocha's behavior "childish."

"Why doesn't he get up and leave for any other update from any other council member on other agenda items?" Constant asked.

But that's not all. He and other council members also confirm that during closed session meetings, Rocha -- who ultimately supported Mayor Chuck Reed's fiscal and pension reforms -- refuses to sit with the rest of the council at one table, taking an adjacent seat nearby instead.

Rocha insisted that "it's more or less about leg room."

"It's very tight quarters at that table," Rocha said.

But Constant and others aren't buying it. During a closed session meeting when the council was giving City Manager Debra Figone her annual evaluation, council members said Rocha turned away from Figone, then got up and walked out on the discussion.

Rocha -- who is still debating whether he'll even seek a second term -- insisted he was "present for her whole evaluation."

"Where I did step out," Rocha said, "was when the council started speaking."

Consultant cites short shrift for new library

Yet another tit-for-tat scenario features liberal political consultant Peter Allen, who took some swipes at his San Jose City Councilman, Pierluigi Oliverio, in a blog over last weekend's grand opening of the new Bascom Library.

Allen said Oliverio didn't take the time to send invitations to some of the original politicians and community members who helped to pass a library bond measure in 2000 that allowed Bascom and several other San Jose branch libraries to be built or expanded, or even work very hard to publicize the event.

Yet Oliverio's council predecessor Ken Yeager, along with former San Jose City Councilwoman Linda Lezotte and former County Supervisor Jim Beall, all somehow managed to show up along with 150 other supporters thrilled to see the library open. It was one of four whose opening after being built was stalled because the city couldn't afford to staff it due to budget cuts.

Allen also took a jab at Oliverio over the roughly 10-minute ribbon-cutting event, which Allen felt was hardly enough time to honor a library in the works for more than decade.

"It felt very rushed, and very much like he just wanted to get it out of the way," Allen said.

Oliverio, who easily won re-election last year, shrugged off Allen's criticisms, saying the event had been publicized well before the opening.

"You don't go out and try to invite every public official to everything,'' said Oliverio, adding that he took "zero credit" for the library, but gave Mayor Chuck Reed his due for exerting the kind of budget restraint needed to make the day a reality.

Oliverio credited Reed's budget process and policies for seeking input from residents to make sure it remained a priority during tough times as city worker pay, benefits and even jobs were cut.

"Let's be candid," Oliverio said. "I think Mr. Allen is offended by fiscal pragmatism."

No heart meds? No problem for attorney

Normally, the greatest suspense in a big trial is over the verdict.

But in the SiPort murder trial, where Jing Hua Wu is accused of killing three of his bosses four years ago after being fired, courtroom observers were on the edge of their seats just wondering whether his flamboyant, elderly lawyer would even make it that far.

Now before you accuse us of being ghoulish or ageist, we'd like to point out that there is actual reason for concern.

Last week, J. Tony Serra, the 79-year-old celebrated San Francisco lawyer representing Wu, ran out of his prescription heart medications. And last year, Serra suffered a heart attack right in the middle of a different trial and collapsed in court. And no, it wasn't a ploy to win sympathy for his client.

Serra -- a striking courtroom presence with his long, flowing white hair and energy of a man half his age -- has made a career out of defending rebels and underdogs, with clients from the ranks of the Black Panthers, Hells Angels, Earth First!, the Symbionese Liberation Army and the marijuana movement.

But he has little use for doctors -- or dentists -- he said last week outside Judge Sharon A. Chatman's courtroom, waving his expressive hands and laughing as he noted his missing teeth. Since he's had two stents put in, he's reluctantly agreed to take blood thinners and other medications -- but often can't get around to picking them up.

We even offered to help him get his pills last week. But Serra said he'd just fill the prescriptions when he returns to San Francisco over the weekend.

Not having them last week didn't stop Serra from wearing out the courtroom audience with lengthy questioning on behalf of his client, whom he has argued during the five-week trial is not guilty by reason of insanity.

Business touts bright side of minimum wage

San Jose businesses were not thrilled last year when labor leaders pushed a student-hatched ballot measure to impose a 25-percent hike on the minimum wage in the city with annual inflation increases starting March 11. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a failed effort to defeat Measure D last November, arguing it would be a job-killer.

So we were amused this week when the San Jose Downtown Association's monthly newsletter featured an article entitled "Minimum wage increase March 11 spurs optimism."

It stated that the association has linked arms with the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, which led the Measure D campaign, "on a marketing program encouraging local spending."

Among the talking points: "The community should support San Jose businesses because they pay their employees a higher minimum wage" with an "earn 'n' spend in San Jose" message. And higher wages will draw "higher quality" entry-level workers to San Jose, which can promote itself as Silicon Valley's "most progressive city to live and grow a business."

The association's executive director, Scott Knies, wasn't available when we phoned to ask about the new outlook. Perhaps they drank the Kool-Aid, or are just turning lemons into lemonade.

Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Tracy Seipel, Tracey Kaplan and John Woolfolk. Who's up and down is by Paul Rogers. Send tips to internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-975-9346.