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Election Craziness In Sunnyvale

By The Left Hook

Political insiders are rolling their eyes at the strange and costly turn of political events in Sunnyvale.  Dave Whittum resigned from the City Council even though only a few months of his term remained.  He would have been termed out at the end of this year.  His resignation was early enough to force the City Council to call a special election to fill his seat for the remainder of the year, instead of filling the seat in the regularly scheduled general election in November.  The special election on August 16 will cost Sunnyvale $767,600.  Since Whittum is an outspoken fiscal conservative, the costly timing of his resignation seemed strange enough.  But the story gets stranger.  Whittum’s resignation was late enough to force the candidates to file for the November election before the special election takes place.  The filing period for the November election to fill  Whittum’s old seat ends before August 16.  If Whittum had planned it out, he could not have made these elections more confusing or costly for his Sunnyvale neighbors.

San Jose City Council District 4 candidate Lan Diep speaks during a candidate forum for San Jose City Council District 4 at the Berryessa Community Center in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, March 9, 2015.  (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Lan Diep Beats Manh Nguyen…AGAIN

By The Left Hook

The official recount is over and Lan Diep has been named the winner of the San Jose City Council District 4 race, again.

But the news of a confirmed defeat has not stopped Nguyen and a voter from requesting yet another recount, this one at their own expense.  The recount will cost approximately $20,000 and take one month.  The general consensus is that Diep’s margin remains and, in what will be a long, drawn-out race, Diep will, for the third time, be named the new City Council Member for District 4.



Advice To The San Jose City Council: How To Deal With The Chamber Of Commerce’s Lies

By Bob Brownstein

Now that the Opportunity to Work Initiative has been placed on the November Ballot, I’d like to make a prediction. San Jose’s elected leaders are going to hear from outraged business owners who will argue the proposal will do them grievous harm. The source of their information will be the Chamber of Commerce, and the information will be a disgraceful pack of lies. Some might say, lying is to the Chamber as swimming is to a duck. It just comes naturally.

Since I’ve been involved in local government for nearly four decades, I have a solid historical perspective on this issue.

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Policy Watch

By The Left Hook

City of Sunnyvale

Placing Users Utility Tax measure on November 2016 ballot

City Council sponsored a Study Issue to evaluate the potential of a Utility Users Tax (UUT) ballot measure for the November 2016 election. On December 1, 2015, a Council Study Session was held to discuss the City’s current UUT regulations and ways to prevent UUT revenues from declining due the fact that significant portions of the current ordinance have not been updated for virtually four decades, during which time technology and telecommunications have changed dramatically.  It is important to note that this is an existing revenue stream and the City Council is not creating a new tax. The options for updating the existing ordinance included potential rate increases, broadening the base against which the tax is collected, and ways to address modern telecommunication services that didn’t exist when the City’s UUT regulations were adopted. Council comments favored staff returning with an ordinance modernizing the telecommunications UUT without broadening the base or increasing the rate. Council also supported conducting community opinion research to evaluate the public’s potential interest in, and the viability of a UUT update.

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Election Day Scorecard

By The Left Hook


One indicator of the political strength of an organization or individual is the success of the candidates they endorse, particularly in contested races for open seats.  In the hotly contested race for the open seat in the 27th Assembly District, which pitted Ash Kalra, endorsed by Labor, against Madison Nguyen, endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor and the Mercury News, both candidates advanced to the November Election.  Below is a scorecard for the three open seats on the San Jose City Council, which will determine the balance of power there.

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Scott Herhold, it is time for you to resign from the Mercury News

By Bob Brownstein

Scott Herhold

The Mercury News


Dear Mr. Herhold,

Your recent column urging Congressman Mike Honda to step down gave me the idea for this column.

Scott, it is time for you to resign from the Mercury News. I know this goes against your deep seated yearnings to lavishly, inaccurately, and disingenuously support establishment political interests. But you need to face the inevitable. What the Sanders and Trump and Brexit campaigns have all shown is that not just Americans but the whole bloody world is fed up with elites that feather their own nests and ignore the needs of the average working stiff.

That populist rage means there just ain’t no future for a guy like you – a guy who thinks that working people should spend their lives on their knees, that the rich encompass the highest values of our culture, and that politicians should be able to milk the public treasury indefinitely as long as they’re well connected.

In many ways, this step down should be a great deal easier for you than for Mr. Honda. He has a long and distinguished career that, if he is re-elected, he can continue. You’re viewed with contempt by almost everyone who has a sense of honor in the valley. Notice that I did not suggest people’s revulsion towards you is the result of differing political philosophies. Folks have contempt for you because you kowtow before the powerful. Kissing butt is not a political philosophy; it is a character flaw.

This is not to say you should cease writing. You could do a blog. Maybe set one up entitled – “Worshipping the San Jose Upper Class.” I don’t think you’d have much competition. The rest of us would be embarrassed to cravenly defend everything done by those who think they are an aristocracy anointed to rule over – and live off of – the lowly masses.

One last thought. In your final column, admit to your readers what you’ve been doing all these years. While other journalists have bravely struggled to reveal the truth, you’ve cravenly tried to conceal the failings of the powerful. Say that – and at least you can leave with dignity.


Mayor Liccardo speaking at the SBLC Election Night Party.

Labor Wins Big on Election Night

By The Left Hook

Yesterday’s list of election winners was a near perfect match with the list of candidates and measures endorsed by the South Bay Labor Council. Here’s a quick rundown:

Assembly District 27 saw labor’s candidate, Ash Kalra, make it past the primary election despite the nearly $2 million spent against Kalra and in favor of his opponent by outside interest groups.

In the San Jose City Council races, the labor endorsed candidate advanced in every race but one. The November General Election will see the following Labor backed candidates:

  • District 2 – Sergio Jimenez
  • District 6 – Helen Chapman

While Josh Barousse did not make it to the runoff for District 8, the two candidates who did, Jimmy Nguyen and Sylvia Arenas, are good for the labor movement and will no doubt have an open door of communication with the Labor Council.

The Labor Council’s endorsed 9- county Measure AA, passed with 69% of the vote. Meanwhile, a historic  collaboration of labor, Mayor Sam Liccardo and the business community lead to the passage — with 62% of the vote- of San Jose’s Measure B, a quarter cent sales tax to fund vital City Services.

This election cycle however was not a success for the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce that, despite spending $120,000 on attack ads, lost all but one race.

Labor-backed candidates and incumbents who won are:
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren
State Senator Bill Monning
State Senator Jerry Hill
Assembly Member Mark Stone
Assembly Member Evan Low
Assembly Member Kansen Chu
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez
Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese
Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian
San Benito County Supervisor Jaime de la Cruz
San Benito County Supervisor Mark Medina

Recent Articles


Policy Watch

By The Left Hook

City of Cupertino

 Placing initiative to approve Vallco Town Center Specific Plan on the November ballot

Council will be receiving a report related to the proposed impacts of an initiative that would approve and adopt the Vallco Town Center Specific Plan as a mixed use development area – to include at least 389 residential units, as well as retail, office, commercial, hotel space, parks and open space, and designated community benefits including a bike and pedestrian trail, contributions to the Fremont Unified High School District and Cupertino Union School District, at least 80 units of senior housing, maintain the existing movie theater, and build green community spaces – as well as grant property owner initial entitlements to develop in accordance with the initiative and to amend the General Plan and Municipal Code as appropriate to support the development of the project. Council will also be deciding whether or not to approve the initiative as is or place the initiative on the ballot for the November General Election. If the initiative will be placed on the ballot, the Council will decide whether to direct the City elections official to prepare an impartial analysis and whether to enable city council members to submit ballot arguments against the initiative.

On June 6, 2016, the City Clerk certified that the proponents of the initiative had gathered enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. The City Clerk’s analysis finds minor impacts from the proposed initiative, including potential traffic congestion impacts as well as some positive impacts related to incentivizing redevelopment of the Vallco Shopping Mall. The primary distinction between putting an initiative on the ballot vs. adopting it via Council is the environmental review processes, which are required for Council-sponsored initiatives but not for ballot measures. In addition, if approved as a ballot measure, any change made to the plan or development agreements within would need to be voted on by election – which would be complicated, lengthy, and potentially costly to the City. According to the report, for a consolidated election, the “base charge” would be $52,900 and the additional $53,400 per-measure costs would remain the same, resulting in a total cost of approximately $106,300.

Additional details and background information, including the Draft Resolution and environmental and fiscal analyses are available in the agenda packet.

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Policy Watch

By The Left Hook

County of Santa Clara

Funding for the Housing Authority’s Potential Acquisition of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park

County administration is recommending that the Board approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara and the City of Palo Alto relating to funding the Housing Authority’s potential acquisition of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in order to maintain it as a source of moderate income housing for existing residents, in an amount not to exceed $14,500,000 for period June 28, 2016 through June 28, 2018. The MOU has been reviewed and approved by County Counsel as to form and legality. Administration is also recommending the authorization of County Executive, or designee, to negotiate, amend, or terminate Memorandum of Understanding and to take all related subsequent actions with the Housing Authority and City of Palo Alto relating to this MOU. Delegation of authority will expire on June 28, 2018.

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AFL-CIO Votes to Endorse Hillary Clinton for President

By The Left Hook

Yesterday, the AFL-CIO announced that its General Board, which represents 12.5 million members, voted to endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. The endorsement reflects a comprehensive, democratic process started a year ago to capture the interests of the working people the AFL-CIO represents.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “Hillary Clinton is a proven leader who shares our values. Throughout the campaign, she has demonstrated a strong commitment to the issues that matter to working people.”

Lee Saunders, AFSCME President and Chair of the AFL-CIO Political Committee stated, “This election offers a stark choice between an unstoppable champion for working families and an unstable charlatan who made his fortune scamming them.”

While Clinton has earned the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, the federation recognizes that Senator Bernie Sanders brought an important voice to this election that has elevated critical issues and strengthened the foundation of the labor movement.



Candlelight Vigil #WeAreOrlando

By The Left Hook

Please join us tomororw at 5:30PM for a Candlelight Vigil for the victims of Orlando.


Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet to what’s going on in your community

By The Left Hook

County of Santa Clara

 Annual budget hearings; approval of $6.1B budget for FY 2016-17

 The County Executive’s Fiscal Year 2017 Recommended Budget represents a $6.1 billion spending plan (all funds) for the County of Santa Clara for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.

Since the analysis of major revenues was performed in March 2016 for the FY 2016-17 Recommended Budget, the Administration has identified ongoing net revenue increases of $15.5 million, primarily due to increased property tax revenues.

In addition, an additional $13,000,000 in Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Fund Balance is projected to be available after final accounting for the fiscal year, due an unanticipated payment from Anthem Blue Cross to Valley Medical Center (VMC).

Among the notable budget recommendations are an additional $626,000 added to existing grants for legal assistance and related services for unaccompanied immigrant children; $200,000 for a “New Americans Fellowship” pilot to employ 10 DACA youth; $120,000 to add an additional staff position to the Office of Immigrant Relations; $200,000 to contract with two community-based organizations to provide voter registration services; and $500,000 to Sacred Heart, PPMA, SIREN, and Teenforce for projects formerly funded by Measure A funds..

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Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet to what’s going on in your community

By The Left Hook

City of San Jose


Review of the Fire Department Strategic Plan (Vision 2030)

Recommendation from the Fire Chief that Council adopt the San Jose Fire Department Strategic Plan, which includes a roadmap to provide ongoing quality services to the community and establish the San Jose Fire Department as a national leader in all-risk emergency response and fire prevention services. Strategies outlined in the Vision 2030 Plan include maximizing existing infrastructure and resources; use of new technologies; refinement and development of systems; seeking opportunities through interdepartmental, interagency, and community coalitions and partnerships; and empowerment of Department personnel.

The Fire Department Organizational Review was completed in Feb. 2016, and a number of the conclusions offered in the review were found to support the direction already identified in the Department’s Strategic Plan. Where the conclusions differed from the Strategic Plan, the findings were reviewed and the plan updated where appropriate.

Execution of the Vision 2030 Plan positions the Department to not only maintain current, essential services but also serves as a guideline for restoration and expansion of services consistent with the findings of the Organizational Review as funds become available.

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Historic San Jose

The Fiscal History of San Jose — or – Why does the City always seem broke?

By Bob Brownstein

Any grassroots, community or neighborhood activist who has struggled to get the City of San Jose to expand public services has likely encountered a perennial refrain – We’d love to help but the money just isn’t there.

A year ago, my think tank, Working Partnerships USA, and SPUR, a Bay Area urbanist organization decided to take a cold look at the city’s finances since the passage of Proposition 13 in the late 1970’s. Our goal was to determine just what were the problems, what caused them, and what could be done about them? You can check out the entire report here. In this column, I’ll just point out my interpretation of some of the major findings.



Contrary to the hysterical pronouncements that emanated from the Reed Administration, San Jose isn’t Vallejo or Detroit, and bankruptcy isn’t imminent. However, the city does confront some significant fiscal difficulties. Compared to other cities, San Jose does poorly as regards property tax and sales tax receipts – the bed and butter major revenues for urban California. So the city has to scramble to patch together other revenue streams to compensate. Because the patchwork is only of limited effectiveness, San Jose is vulnerable to economic downturns – which translate quickly into painful service reductions. Also, San Jose’s service levels rarely get very high even in good times; it’s staffing levels are noticeably lower than other places. Together these factors mean when you look at San Jose in relationship to its nearby competitors, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Mountain View, San Jose seems underfunded and understaffed with lower service levels and less financial stability.

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Former Staffer Claims Khanna Lied About Owing Him Money

By The Left Hook

In an article published on, Bill Ferguson, a former Ro Khanna staffer, says Khanna refused to pay him $6,000 for work done during an unsuccessful 2004 Congressional race and is now lying about the money owed.  Khanna claims that Ferguson has been paid.  However, emails sent between the two men, starting as far back as July of 2004, show Khanna acknowledging his debt to Ferguson.  Ferguson spent 10 years asking Khanna to pay him.  Each time Khanna came back with an excuse and no payment. Up to now, the focus has been on Khanna’s refusal to pay a debt he owes, but the bigger issue is Khanna’s credibility.  Not only does Khanna owe Ferguson money, but now Khanna appears to be lying about it.

merc opinion

Brownstein: San Jose rent control law still falls far short of the need

By Bob Brownstein

Special to The Mercury News

By adopting only minimal improvements to San Jose’s rent control law, the City Council has allowed our affordable housing crisis to grow worse each year. Wildly escalating rents are the most damaging effect of the region’s housing problems.

High rents displace seniors and low wage workers; they force multiple families to crowd into a single apartment; they make it impossible for working parents to meet the needs of their children.

Contrary to the recent column by the California Apartment Association, the new changes in the law were anything but “harsh” to landlords. In addition to the allowable 5 percent increase, landlords may profit from:

  • Rent increases above 5 percent in order to make a “fair” return.
  • Pass-throughs of many capital improvement costs.
  • Unlimited rent increases to market levels after a voluntary vacancy or an eviction for cause (50 percent of apartments turn over every four years).
  • Full capital appreciation of their property (estimated by the city’s consultant to be 400 percent over 10 years).

In reality, San Jose’s revised ordinance provides renters a mere fraction of the protections guaranteed in other large California cities. By failing to act decisively, the city’s leaders are allowing 44,000 apartments to become unaffordable (state law limits rent control to these older units, about 1/3 of all apartments in San Jose). No combination of other affordable housing strategies can make up for this massive loss.

Similarly, the City Council’s actions on retaliation address only a small part of the problem. The proposed protections cover only tenants who file code enforcement complaints. The ordinance leaves out the renter evicted because she protested drug dealing on the premises or because she yelled at an apartment manager to keep his hands off her daughter or because she had the courage to speak out at a city council meeting.

To respond to our affordable housing crisis, the City Council must strengthen its existing rent control ordinance. Building on this base, it can help generate additional solutions.

Allowing more market rate apartments to be built can be helpful. City leaders must recognize that the reason old and poorly maintained units can command exorbitant rents is that the city restricts the housing supply. However, this strategy has limits.

The amount of new housing needed to actually bring down rents would be massive, possibly doubling the size of the city. Our elected leaders believe — with justification- that there are fiscal and environmental obstacles to allowing new construction on such a gigantic scale.

Recognizing that city planning limits supply, the city council should demand that the effects of this policy be allocated fairly. But right now, the limits force the transfer of millions of dollars from low wage workers to investors. They turn San Jose into two separate cities — one composed of those who gain from a housing shortage and one of families devastated by the lack of affordable shelter.

After strengthening the rent control law and permitting additional apartment construction, there is much that local governments can do to address the crisis.

The county and cities should work together to support a large scale affordable housing bond. Every city should adopt residential and commercial impact fees to generate revenue that allows non-profit developers to construct affordable units.

Homelessness is a blight that we should no longer accept. It is broadly agreed that supportive housing works. All that is required is political will and adequate funding.

However, leaving 44,000 households facing displacement because of inadequate rent controls is the absolutely wrong place to start this effort.

Bob Brownstein is director of policy and research at Working Partnerships USA. He wrote this for the Mercury News. The link to Brownstein’s opinion piece can be found here.






Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet to what’s going on in your community

By The Left Hook

County of Santa Clara

 Special election to be held August 16 to fill vacant Sunnyvale City Council seat

 The City of Sunnyvale submitted a resolution on April 27, 2016, requesting that the Registrar of Voters (ROV) provide services for a special election to be held on August 16, 2016 to fill the Council seat vacated

Where:  Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

When: May 24, 2016, 9 am

Link to item:

Link to agenda:

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