As part of Mayor Chuck Reed's push for government transparency, the San Jose City Council in 2007 unanimously agreed to post its public calendars online each week to let residents see who is trying to influence the city's elected leaders and their chiefs of staff. And for the most part, they've done a pretty decent job, though some laggards have been called out over the years and the whole process remains a squishy honor system.
But when Reed recently mentioned to us that his chief of staff Pete Furman had spoken with Oakland A's co-owner Lew Wolff a few weeks ago to talk about the status of the team's quest to relocate to San Jose, we scratched our heads. Busy snoops that we are, we scan those calendars weekly and didn't see any discussion on Furman's calendar with Wolff, who's also owner of the San Jose Earthquakes Major League Soccer team and downtown's posh Fairmont and historic Saint Claire hotels.
Furman admitted he spoke with Wolff and didn't list it on his calendar. He said it was just a phone call.
Now, it is true the council calendar policy doesn't specifically say that officials should list their phone calls with prominent figures like Wolff, who would save millions on an option deal with the city on some land for the proposed A's ballpark.
But in the spirit of the law, city officials including Reed and Furman himself routinely report phone calls as well as in-person meetings on their calendars.
Furman last year listed several phone call meetings on his calendar, including five 8:15 a.m. "status calls'' with IBM on his Feb. 2 and 9, and March 1, 8, and 15 calendars. So leaving out a call with a guy like Wolff would seem at least to go against the spirit of the policy. Otherwise, what's the point of having an online public calendar, anyway?
Furman said he'd try to remember to include such significant discussions from now on.
The city was supposed to codify those 2007 sunshine policies in a comprehensive ordinance, but that still hasn't happened. City spokesguy Dave Vossbrink said that as a practical matter there's little difference between a council policy and ordinance, "except perhaps symbolism," as both require a council vote to change. He blamed the inaction on staffing cuts and other priorities.
And by the way, we just passed the four-year mark since Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, Wolff's old fraternity brother, convened a committee to study Wolff's request to move his A's to San Jose over the San Francisco Giants' territorial claims. Furman didn't detail exactly how his call with Wolff went, but we imagine it was something like this:
Furman: "Hi, Lew? Pete Furman here with Mayor Reed's office. Just wanted to check in on the status of our ballpark project. How's it going?"
San Jose mayoral race is getting crowded
San Jose City Councilmen Pierluigi Oliverio and Pete Constant have now declared they are joining the scrum to succeed Mayor Chuck Reed after his term ends next year. They will be vying for the job with at least Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, who quietly filed papers declaring interest in December.
All three are Reed allies and, though they differ in style, would be expected to champion the pension and other fiscal reforms that have been the centerpiece of his administration. Constant said voters would benefit from having so many from Reed's voting bloc in the race.
"We're all going to take the city in a positive direction," Constant said, "just different paths to get there."
A couple of long-shot contenders, Luis Garza and David S. Wall, have also filed papers declaring interest in the race, which officially kicks into gear in December.
Two other presumed contenders, San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, have yet to decide. Liccardo is also a Reed ally on the council, as was Cortese, a former councilman whom Reed nominated as Vice Mayor before he left for the county board. But the supervisor has since criticized Reed's approach to the city's pension mess and is expected to be the standard-bearer for Reed's union foes.
Cortese told us last week that "certainly a large number of constituents have been working on getting me in the race" and that "I'm getting pretty close to making a decision."
Liccardo said he's "been working very hard on critical issues facing my district and the city like crime, homelessness and economic development and won't make any decision for several months."
Cindy Chavez didn't mean what she wrote
When Cindy Chavez announced last Monday that she would run for the supervisor's seat left vacant by George Shirakawa Jr.'s departure, she used some strange phrasing.
After commending Shirakawa for his decision to resign, her press release said: "We are all ready to repair the damage from previous Supervisors."
That's right: supervisors in the plural. Not the singular. So we were naturally curious about which other supervisor or supervisors she meant. Tom Legan lost in disgrace in 1988, but that seemed too long ago for Chavez's reference. And she seemed unlikely to insult any current members. After all, she might work with them.
Chavez explained to us by email that she meant only one: Shirakawa, a man she had endorsed when he first ran for supervisor in 2008. "This is a district in great need," she wrote. "It is time to respond to those needs as community."
That, and maybe get a proofreader.
Retired S.J. police officer helps nab suspect
Retired San Jose Police Sgt. Dan McTeague is a popular man who has been on the edges of local politics for decades. In the past, he's even been mentioned as a potential council candidate. What happened the other day didn't hurt his reputation. It did, alas, hurt his shoulder.
Here's the Reader's Digest version, according to McTeague. A young man was suspected of burglarizing a home in McTeague's Cambrian neighborhood. He fled from police, jumping over fences and leaping into McTeague's back yard. McTeague says he confronted him as he jumped over the front yard gate.
"He gave me an unexpected strong push to the chest, and the fight was on," McTeague explained by email. "My wife ran back into the house and called 911 while I fought the suspect for four or five minutes."
The retired sergeant managed to rip two shirts off the alleged burglar and slow him enough that the cops caught him two blocks away. In the process, however, McTeague suffered a torn rotator cuff.
Police said the juvenile was cited on suspicion of possessing marijuana for sale.
"I was proud of myself seeing that I'm 73 years old and was able to stay toe to toe" with the younger fellow, he explained. "It's sort of strange how you go into autopilot after 30 years of training."
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Tracy Seipel, John Woolfolk, Scott Herhold and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.