The executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, Scott Knies, ordinarily presents an entertaining year-end summary at the association's annual meeting. His slide show Friday at the Camera 12 theaters was no exception.
At long last, Knies had good news on the real estate front: He told the crowd that the 50 W. San Fernando building -- with the big Knight-Ridder sign -- is under contract to CBRE, the big commercial real estate firm, for $90 million. Oracle has quietly expanded its presence in its South Almaden Boulevard high-rise to seven floors. Talks have renewed about building a Marriott Courtyard hotel at Highway 87 and Santa Clara Street. And the city's vacancy rate for class-A office fell below 20 percent for the first time in three years. Knies quoted Jeremy Neuner, the CEO of NextSpace, as saying, "San Jose isn't cool yet, but it's cooler than you think."
The kicker to Friday's presentation was Knies' admission that -- at the insistence of his board -- he had gotten a cellphone for the first time. The first app he downloaded was for Groundwerx, the service that lets downtown folks report vandalism or graffiti.
School board, new chief differ on housing loan
Having goofed in extending an overly generous housing loan to its previous superintendent, the Santa Clara County Board of Education is trying to fix the loan it gave to its current schools chief, Xavier De La Torre.
Like his predecessor, De La Torre was not required to make a down payment on his San Jose home, or even monthly mortgage payments on his $960,000 loan.
Joseph Di Salvo, who chaired the board and led the loan renegotiations, said the board extended a proposal and is awaiting an answer.
De La Torre, seemingly taken aback by that public statement, said, "I have not received any proposal from the County Board of Education." Instead, he has offered to make monthly payments for four years, up to $144,000. "That would insulate the County Office of Education from worrying about whether it will receive a return on its investment."
The board is trying to rework its loan, of course, because former Superintendent Charles Weis walked away from his luxury condo, purchased with a low-interest board loan. Last week the board filed suit against Weis for more than $950,000 it claims he owes.
The seven board members have been red-faced because they didn't realize that they hadn't required Weis to make any payments on the now-underwater loan on his 18th-floor condo.
De La Torre said he might take his proposal to the full board. "I don't think the board or community would expect me to continue to negotiate against myself."
Kalra blasts mayor's 'victory tour' in Iowa
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed went to Des Moines, Iowa, last month to meet with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and a taxpayers' association to build support for his Measure B pension reforms, which voters approved in June.
Reed didn't bill the city for the whole trip. He paid $39 himself for a "legroom" upgrade on the flight out. The Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa covered his $207.20 hotel stay in Des Moines. And the mayor paid for his own car rental for a drive to nearby Wichita to see his mother, as well as the return flight to San Jose. He also charged no "per diem" or incidental expenses to San Jose taxpayers.
But when Reed sought partial city reimbursement for the trip -- $210.60 for the San Jose-Des Moines flight -- some City Council colleagues who fought his pension reforms objected.
Reed's reimbursement request first went before the council for approval Nov. 27, when he was away on other city business. So council members Ash Kalra, Xavier Campos and Nancy Pyle voted against, leaving the absent mayor a vote short of getting the OK that time.
Reed resubmitted his request last week and got the approval over continued opposition from Campos and Kalra. But not before Kalra again accused the mayor of politicking on the public dime, dismissing the trip as "a victory tour" for Measure B.
Reed argued the trip was worthy city business. San Jose, he said, needs support from elected officials around the country like Branstad to enact a key piece of the city's reform package: IRS approval to let current city employees choose a cheaper and less generous pension. San Jose and several other cities and counties have pending requests before the IRS. Reed said treasury officials told him they have a lot on their plate, but that rallying more support for pension approvals would prompt them to act sooner. Reed said San Jose already has received support resolutions from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities.
Pete Constant, among council members who backed Measure B, defended Reed against Kalra's carping.
"It's important that we continue to build support nationwide on this," Constant told Reed, "and whether it's interpreted as a political trip or not, you're the political head of this council ... and that alone makes it appropriate for you to do so."
State senator wins Capitol Twit award
State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, is fast becoming the most fascinating and entertaining tweeter among California legislators, so we'll pronounce him our first annual Capitol Twit award winner for 2012.
Lieu is unafraid to tangle with political foes and critics. He uses refreshingly candid language. He shares his kids' funny comments. He has wide-eyed appreciation of the extraordinary. He admits he's a Cleveland Browns fan. He is unapologetically patriotic and liberal, but openly questions his own party's orthodoxy.
Among our faves from the more than 4,100 tweets @tedlieu has sent out to his 3,178 followers:
On sports and politics: Much excitement today at Capitol, but let's not downplay fact that Cleveland #Browns won 2 games in a row yesterday. Anything is possible.
On California's much-criticized Environmental Quality Act: CEQA being used to keep a Nordstrom's from leaving one city to go to an adjacent city. Is this the purpose of CEQA?
On his dining preferences: With apologies to food critics everywhere, I highly recommend Radagast's Red Velvet Pancake Puppies from Denny's hobbit menu. #HobbitFood
On his party's political rivals: I am not jealous of Romney's wealth, but I am jealous of the low taxes he pays.
On his kids' observations: Our 7 year old asked if the Arctic was in San Francisco. I said no, thinking that is taking climate change a bit too far.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Scott Herhold, Sharon Noguchi, Tracy Seipel, Steven Harmon and Paul Rogers. Send tips to email@example.com, or call 408-975-9346.
Perennially bad team is suddenly winning, knocking off the world champion Miami Heat, and just in time to build excitement for a politically difficult new $1 billion arena project on San Francisco waterfront.
University of California
A new university logo sparked near unanimous opposition from faculty, students and alums who likened it to a bidet, leading the UC Office of the President to "suspend further use" of the hated monogram Friday.
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