Back in November, when Shirakawagate was just starting to hit the fan, the head of Santa Clara County's Democratic Party had a message for folks worked up over reports of county Supe George Shirakawa Jr.'s lavish spending on the taxpayer dime.
Steve Preminger said then that the party would "stand with George" if any charges were filed over using his county-issued credit card for jaunts to casinos, golf courses and upscale eateries.
Preminger praised Shirakawa as "a good representative of the interests" of people living in his supervisorial district, which includes hardscrabble East San Jose. "He is innocent until proven guilty," the party honcho added.
That's no longer true, of course, with Shirakawa agreeing earlier this month to resign from the board and plead guilty to five felonies, including perjury and misappropriation of public funds.
Preminger seems to have had a premonition that some muckraker was going to haunt him with that quote, because he was ready with a new statement when we called last week to ask if the local Democratic Party was still standing by its man.
"We applaud Supervisor Shirakawa for making this very difficult but honorable decision," Preminger dictated into the phone. "He is placing the interests of his district first by stepping down so he can focus on the personal issues he needs to address."
Those, of course, include the depression and gambling addiction Shirakawa blamed for his fall from grace.
The other fun factoid here is that in his day job, Preminger works for the labor-aligned think tank Working Partnerships USA -- whose executive director, Cindy Chavez, is widely expected to run for Shirakawa's now-vacant seat. We can imagine Preminger's statement was carefully crafted indeed, given the party's need to distance itself from the scandal and Chavez's likely need to court the very residents Preminger referred to in November.
County letterheads get a quick makeover
George Shirakawa Jr.'s political corpse was scarcely cold before county administrators started planning how to handle paperwork in his absence.
At 3:21 p.m. on Friday, March 1, just a few hours after Shirakawa resigned amid criminal charges, the secretary to County Exec Jeff Smith sent out this email to administrators. We reprint its key part verbatim:
"During this District 2 transition, please be sure -- when using county letterhead -- to omit George Shirakawa's name with white-out. Do not remove the names of the other supervisors or the name of the County Executive. Once a District 2 supervisor is appointed or elected, you may submit your request for new letterhead to Printing Services."
Far be it from us to criticize a welcome move to frugality by the county. On Amazon.com, we priced a three-pack of Wite Out for $5.68, including shipping. That should probably last a few weeks anyway.
We did, however, have to question that sentence about not covering over the names of the other supervisors or the county executive. Is this an abundance of caution? Or do they know something we don't?
Ex-San Jose cop has tough job in Oakland
When Tom Frazier was named to oversee Oakland's police department by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson last Monday, he brought Bay Area roots with him. Frazier came up through the San Jose Police Department, reaching deputy chief before he took the job as Baltimore's police commissioner in late 1993. Frazier was a strong candidate for San Jose chief when the job went to Lou Cobarruviaz in 1991.
Frazier, 67, who later supervised a federal agency dealing with community-oriented policing, will have his hands full in Oakland, a department long riven by accusations of racism and brutality. For starters, police Chief Howard Jordan will stay in his position, though Frazier can fire the chief. Oakland has also hired former New York Police Commissioner William Bratton as a consultant.
Frazier, who will be paid $270,000, will have broad powers. His tenure in Baltimore suggests that the deft and polished administrator won't be shy about using them. Already, some folks are suggesting that Jordan will be looking for a new job. In a stroke of double irony, former Oakland Chief Anthony Batts, who interviewed for the San Jose job in 2010, took over as Baltimore's police commissioner last year.
Liberal group seizes on Greig's rape comments
Celeste Greig, president of the California Republican Assembly, the state's oldest and largest GOP volunteer organization -- which Ronald Reagan once called "the conscience of the Republican Party" -- is the latest public figure who can attest to the maxim that words have consequences.
You may have heard that Greig really stepped into it just before last weekend's state GOP convention with some ill-considered remarks on the treacherous topic of rape and pregnancy. She told Steven Harmon, this newspaper's Sacramento correspondent, that the percentage of pregnancies resulting from rape was "small because it's an act of violence, because the body is traumatized."
Ironically, Greig was criticizing former Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin for saying pretty much the same thing last year -- that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." It was a remark that many believe led to Akin's defeat in November and tarnished the Republican brand around the country.
Naturally, Greig's remarks went viral, getting picked up by The Associated Press and TV and radio stations across the state and country, as well as the Huffington Post and Salon.com, where thousands weighed in on Greig's obviously errant opinion. The liberal Courage Campaign, never afraid to seize an opportunity and fundraising possibilities, created an online petition calling for Greig to resign.
Showing Greig pictured next to GOP darling Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the Courage Campaign told readers: "Sign our petition if you are also disgusted by scientifically illiterate Republican leaders attempting to defend rape-related anti-choice policies."
Almost 35,000 signed the petition, but some may have gone even further. Greig said her life has been upended by the barrage of emails and Facebook messages attacking her for what she said.
"This has been overwhelming, very harmful, evil and vicious," she told us. "People are sending hate mail, saying they want to rape me. My family is scared to death."
To the liberal group's call for her resignation, Greig said, "I'm not going to resign. That's the end. Have a blessed day."
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Peter Delevett, Scott Herhold and Steven Harmon. Who's Up & Down was compiled by Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.