The race for Santa Clara County District 2 supervisor is nonpartisan, but not in the eyes of the county's Democratic Party leaders. Both labor leader Cindy Chavez and her opponent, water district communications manager Teresa Alvarado, are registered Democrats.
But the local Democratic Party has bestowed its sole endorsement upon Chavez -- she happens to be its vice chair, while longtime Chairman Steve Preminger worked for her at the labor think tank Working Partnerships USA.
In addition, party honchos have flooded Democratic households in the district with mail painting Alvarado as an elephant in donkey drag, noting that she enjoys support from local Republicans.
"The Republican Party has a candidate for supervisor," one Democratic Party mail piece said, quoting from Republican Party mail that declares "Teresa Alvarado is our clear choice for County Supervisor."
Fair enough. But Chavez also has a history of cozying up to Republicans when it suited her. The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council she led until recently has endorsed Republicans, including Sheriff Laurie Smith and former Supervisor Don Gage. Chavez notes that the labor council is nonpartisan.
Evergreen school trustee Jim Zito and businessman Pat Waite, both Republicans, confirmed that Chavez also tried to recruit them to run against San Jose City Councilwoman Rose Herrera, a Democrat. Herrera had infuriated Chavez by voting against city unions on pay and benefits to balance the city budget.
Zito and Waite wouldn't bite, and Herrera handily won re-election against novice Jimmy Nguyen despite a well-funded union effort to defeat her.
"Why would I want to run against Rose?" Waite said. "She is voting the way I would be voting, and I don't have to put up with the headache of running for office."
South Bay Labor Council silent on BART strike
The recent 4¿"12-day BART strike made national headlines, crippled the Bay Area economy and made life miserable for commuters. For labor leaders throughout the region, it was a chance to stand up and show solidarity with the transit agency's working stiffs.
But the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council was curiously quiet. No news release, no clarion call for workers' rights, no "we've got your back" statement of support from the group. Not even a mention on its website's blog.
Was the labor council worried about jeopardizing its former leader Cindy Chavez's chances in this month's runoff for a county supervisorial seat? The strike hardly produced an outpouring of public sympathy for the BART strikers. With average pay of $78,000 a year, free pensions and Cadillac family health care for just $92 a month, they are the highest paid transit workers in the region. So their demand for a more than 20 percent raise over three years grated on many of the thousands of other workers they inconvenienced by the strike.
"We support the effort of BART workers to get a fair contract," labor council chief Ben Field told us last week when we asked about the group's silence. "But as you know, the labor council represents 89 unions, and the two unions that have been on strike are not among them."
Field also insisted that although the labor council didn't put out any news releases on the strike, it has "not been silent on the issue."
"We're talking about it now," Field said.
Civil grand jury slams Burbank school bonds
California school districts have been taken to task for a form of borrowing that will greatly burden future taxpayers with massive, rear-loaded long-term bonds that will require debt payment beyond the lifetime of the renovations.
But news stories in December surveying districts didn't mention perhaps the worst offender, which now has been highlighted in a Santa Clara County Civil grand jury report on long-term "capital appreciation bond" issues from 2007 to 2012.
The one-school Luther Burbank district in San Jose raised $7.5 million through four capital appreciation bonds, at an initial cost of more than $700,000, the grand jury pointed out in a report released last month. But those bonds will cost more than $40 million to pay off. That, the jury points out, comes to more than $70,000 for each of Burbank's 570 students just to repay borrowed money, not to educate any of those children.
Superintendent Jan Kaay, who was not in charge when three of the bonds were issued, said she was constrained by terms set earlier when the district last year issued a new round for $1.39 million. The district will repay its most recent CAB bonds over 39 years at a cost of $13.6 million -- or a nearly 10-to-1 ratio of debt payments to principal.
Kaay said she was "grateful that a mechanism for funding much-needed school buildings in California existed."
Well, yes. But as jury foreman Stephen P. McPherson said, "There's a huge financial burden that's pushed off into the future."
The district's borrowing binge, however, at least appears to be over. Kaay said she's already responded to the jury and will abide by the grand jury's and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer's advice for a moratorium on capital appreciation bonds.
"I have no intention of doing that again," Kaay said.
Planning commissioner, neighbor in ugly dispute
A Burlingame planning commissioner has been caught making colorful use of a white board to diss his least favorite neighbor, a fellow he accuses of spying on him to report code violations.
Michael Gaul wrote a list detailing "today's show" on the board and placed it in the door to his workshop facing neighbor John Lucero. The message, dated June 22, ended with the profane acronym "GFY."
Lucero didn't LOL. He snapped a photo and shared it with this newspaper, along with a lot of other information supporting his side of a dispute that has generated dueling lawsuits.
The feud revolves around Gaul's new home on Adeline Drive. Lucero claims Gaul has committed a handful of city code violations, including using his garage as a noisy, early-morning workshop for his contracting business, a phenomenon Lucero has captured on video.
Gaul denies the allegations, and claims Lucero has been harassing and spying on his family, including "aberrational sexual gawking behavior," which Lucero said isn't true.
The city of Burlingame substantiated only one code violation by Gaul related to an exit door ramp. Gaul is working to correct the problem, said City Manager Lisa Goldman.
Otherwise the ugly saga chugs along. Mediation talks have reportedly been scheduled and postponed.
Lucero provided a binder of information presenting his side of the case, but declined to comment for the record. Gaul could not be reached for comment.
Gaul told the San Mateo Daily Journal he's dropped his cross-complaint, but he didn't sound eager to bury the hatchet with Lucero.
"I hope he gets a life," Gaul reportedly said.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Tracy Seipel, Sharon Noguchi, Aaron Kinney and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.