Besides knowing how to teach poor immigrant kids, Rocketship Education is a master of public process, with a proven recipe for subtly pressuring elected officials to approve their charter schools. Outfit parents and students in purple and green shirts, bus them to school board meetings, orchestrate a quiet and respectful audience and present heart-wrenching testimony. How can any public official say no to children begging for good schools?

Rocketship, however, couldn't rely on that tactic last week when it got the OK for a site for its eighth school from the Santa Clara County Board of Education.

The board didn't take up Rocketship's request until after 10:30 p.m., way beyond the bedtime of elementary students, the patience of working parents and the return time for buses. By the time the board finally got around to approving Rocketship's school, the overflow crowd had shrunk to a few rows in the hearing room.

Board President Grace Mah blamed the late start on a long public-comment session as the 5 p.m. meeting began, then a two-hour-plus closed session, then another charter school -- Magnolia Charter -- with 30 speakers being placed first on the agenda because it had asked for a delay from the previous board meeting.

Council decides not to, um, well, tinker with the Constitution


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Don't look for San Jose to be leading any efforts toward a constitutional amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The 2010 ruling held that the First Amendment prohibits governments from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations, unions or other groups. Liberals saw it as unfairly tipping the scales in favor of moneyed corporate interests and have called for a constitutional amendment to overturn it.

But despite San Jose's general leftward political tilt, Councilman Sam Liccardo couldn't find much support at a council committee meeting last week for a memo he authored with council members Don Rocha and Xavier Campos calling for the city to pass a resolution supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.

"I could not support this resolution to have the Constitution say that corporations or other artificial entities are not protected by the Constitution," Mayor Chuck Reed said. "That's pretty far out there."

Reed's Rules and Open Government Committee voted against referring Liccardo's memo to the Elections Commission for further study. Pete Constant and Pierluigi Oliverio sided with the mayor, while Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen dissented.

200 of police chief's closest friends bid him a fond goodbye

San Jose police Chief Chris Moore capped off his nearly 28 years on the force with a retirement dinner at the San Jose Fairmont Hotel that drew more than 200 well-wishers who paid $70 to attend.

Among those who spoke at the Jan. 18 event was Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, a Lincoln Law School classmate of the chief's. There also was Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who'd shared plane trips back to the nation's capital with Moore as he sought funds for emergency communication systems. Los Gatos police Chief Scott Seaman, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, is also an SJPD alum who said he "grew up with Chris" in the department. And there was San Jose fire Chief William McDonald, who reminded everyone that Moore had begun life as a firefighter, then somehow lost his way to begin a police career as a UC Berkeley cop.

"I'm not sure where he got derailed," McDonald quipped as he presented Moore with a massive honorary firefighter's ax. McDonald assured everyone that Moore's wife, Mary, who was present with daughter Linden, was unlikely to use it to decorate their home.

By the time Moore got up to thank everyone for attending (he said most folks are lucky to get 50 people to show up to these affairs, much less 200 -- especially at the beginning of a three-day holiday weekend), the outgoing chief was overwhelmed by the praise.

"I learned from all of you " I started here," he told the audience.

Others in attendance included City Manager Debra Figone; Moore's predecessor Rob Davis; former assistant police chief Tuck Younis, now chief in Los Altos; and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. David Johnson, FBI special agent in charge in San Francisco, kiddingly asked aloud in the midst of the city's seemingly endless search to replace Moore: "Who am I going to train next?"

Also on hand were Victor Garza, chairman of the LaRaza Roundtable, a San Jose-based education and social justice advocacy group; Councilman Sam Liccardo; and Carlos Ponce Martinez, counsel general of Mexico.

Moore lauded the SJPD's top-notch reputation nationwide, its contribution to the deep pool of law enforcement talent in the Bay Area, and his belief that it will remain one of the best despite the challenges it faces in the wake of a recent pension reform measure.

"You have no idea what it means to be a San Jose police officer," Moore said during his final goodbye.

Mineta airport still searching for a way to stay aloft

The temporary grounding of Boeing 787s just as Mineta San Jose International Airport began hosting All Nippon Airways' San Jose-Tokyo service using those big new jets was certainly a bummer. But while the grounding is expected to be only a temporary measure while federal authorities try to figure out why the jets' batteries overheat, the San Jose airport's long-term self-sufficiency loomed as a greater worry last week.

At an airport committee this week, Director of Aviation Bill Sherry said he plans to pay consultants $100,000 to help the city figure out other strategies for either cutting costs or growing business to ensure the airport is able to cover the massive debt on its $1.3 billion makeover.

"We want a fresh set of eyes to take a look at this," Sherry said.

Mayor Chuck Reed noted that the airport's options appear limited: The airport can add new flights, though it is dependent on the graces of the airlines to schedule them. It can lobby Congress to raise the customer facilities charge. It can outsource police services at the airport, perhaps to the sheriff, though that is fraught with political difficulty. Or it can borrow from the city's general fund, which already is stretched thin.

"We've kind of run out of ideas," Reed said.

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