To many, the current travails of Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. -- from his questionable expenses on his county-issued credit card to his delay in filing required campaign contribution forms -- recall the troubles that led to one-time San Jose City Councilman Terry Gregory's fall from grace.

IA readers may remember Gregory's sorry saga: After a series of editorials and news stories in 2004 reported accusations of Gregory accepting free gifts and pressuring businesses for donations, prosecutors uncovered the scope of his activities. By January 2005, Gregory resigned from office after agreeing to plead no contest to 11 misdemeanor counts.

Prosecutors are poking around Shirakawa's problems with campaign paperwork and county credit cards. And the state's political watchdog agency, led by the county's former top lawyer, is combing his financial records. While he has apologized for the late campaign filings, the board president last week called the media coverage of his alleged abuse of his county-issued credit card a "political lynching."

So far, many of his district supporters, as well as the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and local Democratic Party, are closing ranks around the board president, saying he is innocent until proven guilty. But some others -- notably Rich Robinson, his own former political consultant -- are already publicly calling for his resignation.


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As in the Gregory scandal -- which played out over eight months -- many are waiting to see which prominent party and elected officials will be the first to plant a "Godfather" like kiss on Shirakawa's cheek, signaling that it's time for him to go.

As one veteran politico observed: "As soon as one high-powered person steps forward, then the dam will break."

How's this for justification for a raise -- 'compaction'

For political insiders, what happens after an election is always intriguing: It's a time for elected officials to address matters that might wave red flags to voters if considered earlier.

Consider this: The board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District is due to approve a 12 percent raise for CEO Beau Goldie this week -- from $231,545 to $259,334 a year.

The raise is not unreasonable: Goldie hasn't gotten a pay hike in three years. But the district, also known as the "Golden Spigot," adds another reason: "compaction," which means that Goldie isn't making sufficiently more than his subordinates.

The district's aim is a 12 percent differential between managers and those they supervise. Goldie currently makes 4.9 percent more than his highest-paid subordinates, the chief operating/administrative officers. So the district argues that he should get at least a 7 percent raise, plus an additional 5 percent "performance-based increase."

The board's memo says there's enough money to take care of this, and that much is unquestioned: In the November election, voters approved a 15-year extension of the district's parcel tax for "Safe Clean Water."

Wow, that 'no excuse' zone idea is really working

San Jose used to brag that it was the nation's safest big city, though the definition was always questionable.

Now it can lay claim to a fresh boast.

Self magazine has declared it the nation's healthiest city, edging out fruit-and-exercise havens like Honolulu,

Santa Barbara and Bethesda, Md.

On the television show "Doctors" last week, the hosts revealed why: On average, women in San Jose live to age 84, three years more than the national average.

According to the show, the reason is that more than four-fifths of them exercise.

To illustrate the point, the show ran a clip of a flash dance at City Hall by a group called U-Jam. Mayor Chuck Reed proclaimed the city a "no-excuse" zone, meaning there's no reason not to exercise or eat in a healthy fashion.

Put like that, it doesn't sound like so much fun. But a sometimes-beleaguered city will take it.

Now it's time for Unland to address the REAL issues

The San Jose Police Officers' Association re-elected Sgt. Jim Unland as its president last week despite an internal challenge by Officer Jonathan Baker following this month's losses of POA-backed candidates, most notably Jimmy Nguyen, who tried to unseat Councilwoman Rose Herrera.

Unland's re-election wasn't surprising -- he's survived such internal grumblings before.

"Those guys are good at making a lot of noise," Unland said after the vote. "So be it. It's over."

Unland's critics weren't offering an olive branch toward City Hall from officers who have suffered pay and benefit cuts and a rash of departures that have left the department alarmingly short-handed. Rather, Baker argued that the SJPOA needed new leadership to triumph in its scorched-earth campaign against San Jose's pension reforms and those who supported them.

While Unland can put the SJPOA election behind him, he had nothing encouraging to offer looking forward as the officers continue to battle the Measure B pension reforms in court and gird for contract talks next year, when raises, health care costs and sick-leave cashout perks are all on the table.

"It's going to be a difficult two years, as bad as the last two," said Unland, who's been counting the days to his planned retirement in a couple of years and expects many others to follow him out the door. "The two sides are as far apart as they've ever been."

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 internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-975-9346.