As the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce political action committee (ChamberPAC) held its annual barbecue Thursday night, a round of finger-pointing continued behind the scenes within the chamber and its allies over the handling of the losing campaign against Supervisor Cindy Chavez. She's the labor leader who replaced disgraced former Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.
One line of criticism questioned the influence of government affairs people in the chamber with strong ties with labor. Among them: Mike Potter, Chavez's husband, now a government affairs manager at Cisco; Jonathan Noble, Chavez's former San Jose City Council chief of staff, who is now at Microsoft; and Javier Gonzalez, a former Shirakawa backer now with the California Restaurant Association.
"It's surprising how many people with strong labor backgrounds have found positions representing business," says San Jose City Councilman Pete Constant. "It's an odd dichotomy."
Chamber leaders say the presence of the government affairs reps did not stop them from putting out hard-hitting mail against Chavez. And Potter, for his part, notes that Cisco is not part of the ChamberPAC.
A second line of critique has been directed -- sotto voce -- at Vic Ajlouny, who ran the independent expenditure committee that put out several pieces criticizing Chavez. The critique is an old one: Ajlouny's pieces are admittedly wordy, and some in the chamber's moderate wing questioned whether they were effective. The ChamberPAC's pieces were handled by Meridian Pacific, a Sacramento political firm.
Ajlouny, who is advising San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen in her mayoral bid, swats away that critique. He says the ChamberPAC's pieces had always been planned and bespoke no lack of confidence with his work, which was based on a polling of Chavez's weaknesses.
Meanwhile, we hear that a group of more conservative business folks is talking about creating its own PAC for next year's mayor's race. The pitch? The group is considering putting the word "Jobs" in its title.
Cindy Chavez charms many during her swearing-in
Even if Teresa Alvarado, the business lobby's favored candidate, had run a flawless campaign -- and she did not -- Cindy Chavez probably would have won the race for supervisor. She was the funnier, more relaxed and better-organized candidate. And she showed it Tuesday in a rousing speech at her swearing-in.
The crowd at the supervisors' chamber was filled with county employees, labor representatives, kids and women who responded enthusiastically to Chavez's listing of their attributes and her call-and-response.
"It was as if people were saying, 'The band is back!'"" one elected official said afterward.
At one point, to much applause, Chavez listed former supervisors, paying particular attention to the women. (On the current board, she is the lone woman.) Among those she lauded were Susanne Wilson, Rebecca Morgan, Dianne McKenna, and U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who performed the swearing-in.
Chavez did leave two women off her list: former Supervisor Geraldine Steinberg, who served in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Blanca Alvarado, who retired in 2008. Alvarado, we don't have to mention, is the mother of Teresa.
Former Campbell councilman torn by bid to end blood donation ban
Campbell Mayor Evan Low has renewed debate over the federal government's lifetime ban on gay men donating blood after pointing out through social media and an online petition that he was barred from participating in his city's summer blood drive.
But he's not the first Campbell mayor to be personally affected by the issue. John Ashworth, a three-term councilman in the 1980s and 1990s, lost his mother to AIDS after she got the bloodborne virus that causes the deadly immune disorder from a blood transfusion during hip surgery. Her operation was a year before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned gay men, considered among those at high risk for carrying the disease, from giving blood in 1983, Ashworth said. She died two years later during the first of his two stints as mayor.
"I just flashed back to all those memories of 28 years ago, and how much times have changed," Ashworth, now 75 and retired in Santa Cruz, said after reading about Low's campaign. "I just thought, of all the cities, and to have it be a Campbell mayor, and 28 years ago this month that my mom was diagnosed."
Ashworth said that had the FDA rules been in place earlier, "my mom might not have died."
But even so, Ashworth said he supports Low's efforts to have the government consider loosening the restriction, as the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada have done recently. Those countries now let gay men donate blood if they wait a specified period after their last sexual encounter with another man.
"Testing on blood these days to confirm its safety is quite superior," Ashworth said. "If there are legitimate scientific reasons, fine. But if it's just a prejudicial thing, let's just get rid of it. We need all the healthy blood we can get into the system."
Group pushes back against data-breach bill
You may have seen mentioned in these pages that Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Nora Campos, D-San Jose, is pushing a bill to require local governments to notify people of data breaches that compromise the security of their personal information. Effectively, it would hold cities and counties to the same requirement as state agencies and private businesses: They must let employees or residents know if their personal data has been stolen, hacked or otherwise breached.
The bill, AB"1149, has backing from civil rights and privacy advocates and some unions. However, it's drawn opposition from organizations representing California cities, counties and police chiefs, who fear it will impose unknown additional compliance costs on them.
"While we appreciate and understand the efforts to keep our state's citizens informed about the potential from identity theft, the approach outlined in AB"1149 would impose significant new duties on public agencies statewide without identifying a means to cover any associated costs," said a letter from groups including the League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties.
Campos finds that more than a little outrageous. After all, she had a brush with this issue when she was serving as a San Jose city councilwoman in the district now represented by her brother, Xavier Campos. The city was kind enough to let her know about the security breach, but she wondered what would have happened if she wasn't a high-ranking city official or whether other cities would do the same.
San Jose hasn't taken a formal position on the bill yet. But city spokesman David Vossbrink said he didn't think it would hurt San Jose. The city, he said, already as a matter of practice lets people know if their personal information has been hacked.
"Fortunately," he said, "it doesn't happen much."
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Scott Herhold, John Woolfolk and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.