Journalists have a special place in their otherwise cold little hearts for the true public servants who pursue the public good even when it runs counter to their personal interests.

Steve Weir is such a man. He retired Friday after 24 years as Contra Costa County's election chief and clerk-recorder.

Many people know the diligent Weir for his unyielding political neutrality, his extraordinary kindnesses and his willingness to stand publicly for same-sex partner equality.

But reporters know the former Concord mayor as that exceedingly rare elected official who routinely sent out news releases that detailed mistakes no one knew -- and might never have known -- about.

"Steve was not only totally forthright when you asked him questions, but he would also tell you things you needed to know, even if it didn't make him or his office look good," said one journalist who covered Weir for many years.

His biggest crisis came when scrutiny over a tight 1996 San Ramon Valley schools tax measure revealed thousands of incorrect or missing sample ballots and the destruction of ballots. Weir ended up in court, and the grand jury published a critical report.

But Weir didn't duck and cover.

Instead, he moved his desk into the election department lobby and faced the crisis head-on.

Oh, there were still mistakes. Since then, Weir has confessed to everything from ballots mailed to the wrong houses to ballots with missing races to ballots missing altogether.


Advertisement

"I believe you should confess, fix the problem and move on because there is always another mistake waiting, and the next one could bury you," Weir said.

Elected officials everywhere would do well to model themselves after Weir: Tell the whole truth early and often. Shoulder all the blame but generously share the credit. Adopt a "give respect, get respect" approach both inside and outside the office.

These practices are not only the right thing to do; they pay big dividends when it comes to voters' trust -- not a single person challenged Weir in six elections.

intervention needed: Richmond Councilman Nat Bates may want to study Weir's constituent style, which was firm but unfailingly polite.

Bates fired off this acerbic and sarcastic email in response to an unnamed resident who objected to his no vote on the city's climate change plan:

"I did not get your vote but of course, you, (Richmond Progressive Alliance) and (Richmond Councilman) Tom Butt are the exceptional people God anointed to save the world.

"That kind of thinking and attitude is exactly (why) I refer to you and your group as plantation politic because you consider yourself superior and masters of the universe and everyone else must be holding to you and your group."

Sigh.

do the math: When a deputy attorney general said the state wants to consolidate into Contra Costa Superior Court pension reform lawsuits filed by public employee unions in four counties, Judge David Flinn didn't leap for joy.

"If I give you my firstborn, can we hold this somewhere else?" Flinn asked.

He was kidding.

Then again, he may have been eyeballing his smallish second-floor courtroom in Martinez and doing a body count: Add the state's lawyers to the four county pension associations and their lawyers, then tack on the dozens of public agency retirement system members and their lawyers plus all the union reps and their lawyers.

Gosh, is the Shark Tank available for rent?

Looks like pension reform is doubling as the Attorney's Full Employment Act.

GOT POLITICS? Read PoliticsWithLisaV.blogspot.com:

  • Former East Bay Rep. Ellen Tauscher was picked to lead Gov. Jerry Brown's new military council, a group charged with advocating for the state's military bases and defense industries in Washington, D.C.

  • State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will call for a hearing on misdeeds of Caltrans workers who falsified test data and claimed overtime they didn't actually work.

    AND FINALLY: As the Metropolitan Transportation Commission grilled Caltrans last week about brittle steel rods on the new Bay Bridge, board member and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan held up her pink cellphone in front of her face and appeared to snap pictures of herself.

    Does the Oakland mayor think that taking snaps of herself in the middle of hearings where she sits as a governing board member who is supposed to be listening and making decisions is a good use of her time?

    Just askin'.

    Contact Lisa Vorderbrueggen at 925-945-4773, lvorderbrueggen@bayareanewsgroup.com, politicswithlisav.blogspot.com or Twitter.com/lvorderbrueggen.