Not a whole lot is known about Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson's brief tenure with the California Department of Parks and Recreation, but we can say one thing with a fair degree of certainty: The man has standards when it comes to food.

A public records request for information about Pescadero Marsh, where nearly two decades of fish die-offs have generated controversy, turned up an offbeat detail about Jackson's visit to the wetland back in May 2013. While arranging the fact-gathering trip to the San Mateo County estuary, Jay Chamberlin, the Sacramento-based head of the State Parks' Natural Resources Division, shared a critical piece of information with his staff about the man they all referred to as "the General."

"One caveat: The General does NOT do sack lunches," Chamberlin emailed the leaders of the San Mateo Coast sector. "So hopefully we can schedule in a dash into Pescadero to grab some sandwiches, etc."

State Parks spokeswoman Vicky Waters checked into the situation for us and discovered that Jackson and his staff wound up eating burritos and chips. On the whole, she said, she did not recall the general having been picky about food.

Jackson's choice of lunch one day last year offers but a wilted cilantro sprig of insight into his leadership of State Parks, the history of which remains oddly blank. He had retired after a long and distinguished career in the Marines when Gov. Jerry Brown tapped him to run the department in November 2012, calling him a "tough man for a tough job." The agency had just been rocked by the revelation that it had hid $54 million from the state Department of Finance.


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But Jackson left his post only 18 months later in a move that was widely characterized as "abrupt," without having left much of a wake in the pool of public record. Waters said Jackson simply wanted to get back to his well-deserved retirement, wandering California in an RV with his wife and spending time with his children.

Jerry Emory, spokesman for the nonprofit California State Parks Foundation, said his understanding from the start was that Jackson planned to stay only a couple years to help get the department back on track. If he left a little early, Emory said, it may have had something to do with the unwieldy nature of governance in Sacramento.

"He came from a military structure, very top down -- where when decisions were made, they were implemented in the field," said Emory, "and the state government is a little different than that sometimes."

One law about what schools must do focuses on Obama

When he overhauled California's Byzantine school financing structure last year, Gov. Jerry Brown declared that schools and parents, not lawmakers and bureaucrats, should control education.

What's happened in the year since then? Well, nature and politicians both abhor a vacuum. The Legislature has churned out more laws proscribing what schools must do. Yes, some of its goals are noble, and some laws are even needed.

Then there's Assemblyman Chris Holden's AB1912, recommending that California school kids learn about the election of Barack Obama and the significance of his being the first African-American president.

The Legislature passed the Pasadena Democrat's bill almost unanimously, recommending the subject to state curriculum writers. Brown -- who last year said his principle of "subsidiarity" is violated "when distant authorities prescribe in minute detail what is taught, how it is taught and how it is to be measured" -- signed the bill.

'Little Saigon' battles over; now it's on to the Brown Act

San Jose's "Little Saigon" battles over how to celebrate the city's Vietnamese-American community around Story Road are seemingly in the rear-view mirror. City officials, led by Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, who had resisted that name, have capitulated. Signs now hail motorists to visit "Little Saigon."

But the fight continues in court. The Sixth District Court of Appeal in an Aug. 26 decision reversed a trial court's dismissal of Vietnamese-American Community of Northern California's lawsuit accusing San Jose officials of violating open-meeting law.

The lawsuit alleged that Nguyen in 2007 had lined up the vote of another City Council member -- Forrest Williams -- before she joined four other council members in a memorandum to designate the area "Saigon Business District." That would mean six of the council's 11 votes -- a majority -- had been lined up in support before the matter was debated in public, which the state's Brown Act open-meeting law forbids. The lawsuit alleged a pattern of San Jose officials flouting the Brown Act, citing as examples a 2000 vote on a Calpine power plant, a 2002 vote on redeveloping the Tropicana shopping center and a 2007 vote on a fire station rebuild.

The appellate justices -- Acting Presiding Judge Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, Miguel Marquez and Adrienne M. Grover -- said San Jose failed to prove that VACNORCAL had no case and that its lawsuit warranted dismissal.

VACNORCAL cheered the ruling and said San Jose will now face trial for its alleged Brown Act violations. City Attorney Rick Doyle said that San Jose will either face a trial or take another stab at pleading its case for dismissal.

Money spent in county judicial race substantial

No other judicial race in Santa Clara County history is on track to cost as much as the current battle between prosecutor Matt Harris and Superior Court Judge Diane Ritchie.

In the June primary, Ritchie outspent Harris by at least 2.5 to 1, for a combined total of $251,780. And Ritchie's political consultant said she may need to spend another $250,000.

Harris pulled off a minor miracle and beat his better-financed opponent anyway by 8,275 votes, or nearly 4 percentage points.

The judge still isn't soliciting contributions, but she has accepted a few, including $2,000 from the California Judges Association's political action committee. So far, Ritchie has lent her campaign more than $192,000.

Harris has raised about $90,000 as of Aug. 26, including the $36,500 he loaned himself. At a fundraiser earlier this month at the Bold Knight on First Street in San Jose, District Attorney Jeff Rosen and other luminaries praised Harris.

"I give him my strongest support," Rosen said, adding that contributors should not be daunted by Ritchie's incumbency. "Change happens, incumbents can be beaten."

"I know a bit about this," Rosen added, referring to his historic victory over former District Attorney Dolores Carr by less than 2,500 votes in 2010. But Carr and Rosen agree that Harris would do a better job than Ritchie. Carr has contributed $500 to him so far.

Harris also won the endorsement of the third candidate in the primary, defense attorney Annrae Angel, who urged her supporters (about 24,000 voters, or 11 percent) to vote for Harris.

Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at local and state politics. This week's items were written by Aaron Kinney, Sharon Noguchi, John Woolfolk and Tracey Kaplan. Send tips to internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-920-5782.