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Candidates Vie to Replace Rich Gordon in Assembly District 24

The race for California’s Assembly District 24 appears set, and there are several strong contenders looking to replace Assemblymember Rich Gordon.

  • Josh Becker ran against Assemblymember Gordon in 2010 when the seat was last open and made a good showing.  Mr. Becker, a venture capitalist and social entrepreneur, recently sold his business and should be able to devote substantial time, effort and resources to his campaign.
  • Vicki Veenker, a successful Silicon Valley patent attorney based in Palo Alto, is not only new to the political scene, but is the only woman running for the seat and is expected to raise substantial funds.
  • Current City of Palo Alto Councilmember Marc Berman. Berman was the Development Director at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, but recently left his job to focus on his campaign.  He has been actively campaigning for some time and already has raised a substantial amount of money.
  • Mountain View City Councilmember Mike Kasperzak Jr. is well known and has a base that he does not have to split with candidates from Palo Alto.
  • Menlo Park Councilmember Peter Ohtaki is the only Republican in the race so far.
  • Cupertino Mayor Barry Chang is waging another quixotic campaign.
  • Seelam Reddy is a retired engineer.

San Jose City Council District 2 & 6 Races Take Shape

As 2016 draws to a close, the fields for the San Jose City Council District 2 and 6 races appear to be largely set.

Current District 2 Councilmember Ash Kalra is terming out in November 2016 and is running for California State Assembly District 27.  Here’s a look at those vying to replace him:

  • Sergio Jimenez, an investigator at the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office.  He has been an active community leader for many years and currently serves as Chairman of the San Jose Parks Commission representing City Council District 2.
  • Elias Portales is a lawyer who serves on the Bond Oversight Committee for the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District and has held several community positions in the past.
  • Former San Jose City Councilmembers Forrest Williams and Claude Fletcher are also rumored to be considering a run.
  • Finally, Steve Brown, a businessman and community activist, and Perry Henry, a System Administrator and leader of his Neighborhood Association, may throw their hats in the ring.

In stark contrast to District 2, San Jose’s District 6 has attracted a glut of candidates vying to replace outgoing Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.  Here they are:

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Bankruptcy Reforms Needed to Help Californians Climb Their Way Out of Debt

New U.S. Census Bureau data show the Bay Area is booming, but rising housing costs and poverty rates are making the recovery a spectator sport for many people trying to pay their bills while eliminating their personal debt.  Incomes have increased, but rents have jumped way more, and owner-occupied housing has dropped in the region.  For most people, it’s hard to buy and keep a home.

For Californians in bankruptcy, it’s increasingly hard to hold onto a home too.   The public policy reason for allowing people to file for bankruptcy is to both provide the debtor with relief from crippling debt so that he/she can get a fresh start and to pay out creditors for some of the debt owed.  The goal is to make sure the debtor is not left with so little that he/she cannot pick him/herself up and recover from the bankruptcy.  But while home prices have climbed steadily over the past 40 years, the homestead exemptions in our bankruptcy code have remained flat, making it more difficult to rebound financially coming out of bankruptcy.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

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Chad Walsh Rumored to Resign from West Valley-Mission Community College District

Rumor has it that conservative West Valley-Mission Community College District Board Member Chad Walsh’s resignation is on the horizon.  We wonder why he is making such a sudden move.  Just recently, Walsh campaigned vigorously for fellow conservative Steve Landau to take an open seat on the Board, turning away a more qualified candidate, Randi Kinman.  One possible reason for Walsh’s departure is his inability to work with the College’s chancellor, Patrick Schmitt.  Hopefully, with Walsh gone, the vacancy will attract some well qualified candidates.



Rose Herrera’s Next Step?

When the Santa Clara County Water District Board appointed former Morgan Hill Mayor John Varela to fill the Board seat vacated by Dennis Kennedy, who is battling cancer, they probably were not looking ahead to the 2016 election, but one potential candidate was.  Apparently, San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, who will be termed out at the end of 2016, is already talking about running against Varela next fall.

This could be quite a battle. Herrera opposed raising the San Jose minimum wage to $10 and championed illegal pension reform.  Varela, on the other hand, was appointed by Labor-friendly Water District Board members.  It is unclear where Herrera will draw support for the race, but she is known as an aggressive fundraiser, who is not shy about reminding potential donors that she has a vote on the San Jose City Council.

With Water District CEO Beau Goldie on his way out, the District could certainly use some leadership stability.  Few, if any, of the District Board members want to see Rose Herrera elected.  Expect to see a majority of them rally around Varela.


Shortage of Teachers a Serious Problem in California

In November of this year, a poll conducted by EdSource and the Learning Policy Institute revealed that 64 percent of California voters surveyed regard the shortage of k-12 teachers as a “very serious” problem. A similar proportion feels that more should be done at the state level to encourage young people to pursue a career as educational instructors.

The statewide poll, which surveyed 1,002 voters, showed a high level of concern regarding the limited training available to teachers throughout their careers. 88 percent of voters believe that part of a teacher’s training should include a year of practice teaching under the guidance of an expert. In addition, more than half of those polled opposed polices that would allow schools to hire people who have not completed their training or earned their teaching credentials.

The issue of access to a quality education was also at the forefront of voters mind. Two-in-three voters polled believe the fact that public schools in low-income neighborhoods have fewer qualified teachers than schools in wealthier neighborhoods is a “serious problem.”  Currently, the quality of the education students receive is all too often tied into their socio-economic status, with rich students having access to better trained and higher paid teachers than their less privileged counterparts.

According to an analysis done by WalletHub, California has the 9th worst school system in the nation.  Maybe it’s time we started investing in our teachers and our students.  After all, they are the future of our State and our nation.


Morgan Hill School Board Opts for Special Election Costing Tens of Thousands

In this week’s edition of How the Morgan Hill Unified School Board Turns, a 3 – 3 divided board will attempt to select a new board president and vice president.  It is also the first regular board meeting since The Morgan Hill Times released a series of sexist, vulgar e-mails sent by Trustee David Gerard, so we can expect that parents, teachers, staff and other community members will ask Gerard to resign his seat.

In last week’s episode, the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Education reached a stalemate on appointing a successor to Ms. Amy Porter-Jensen, who resigned her seat due to harassing e-mails and phone calls by parent activist Robert Guynn.  After whittling down the seven candidates to two, Mary Ann Groen (Chief of Staff to San Jose Vice Mayor, Rose Herrera), who was supported by Trustees Benevento, Woolf and Ruebusch, and Adam Escoto (a former educator), who was supported by Trustees Badillo, Borgiolo, and Gerard, there were five excruciating tie-breaker rounds which could not break the stalemate.  At one point the two candidates said they were ready for a coin flip to determine a winner, but the board agreed to skip the coin flip and instead will call a special election to fill the empty seat, costing the students tens of thousands of dollars that would otherwise go toward education.  The Santa Clara County Registrar estimates that a stand alone Special Election will cost the District upwards of $400,000 and a special election held concurrently with the California June Primary would cost the District over $60,000.

The stalemate on the Board means that Gerard’s resignation would be all the more impactful.  Without Gerard, the Board might actually be able to agree on a new president for instance.  It would also mean that his empty seat could be added to the special election.  Then the MHUSD school board could get back to dealing with the education of students, instead of spending their time squabbling.


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

Santa Clara County:

Consider policy revisions to Equal Opportunity/Nondiscrimination provision in County contracts; County to pursue more robust pay equity assessment

After a preliminary review on the County’s demographic data examining classified and certain unclassified County positions under the County pay ordinance and the Executive Management Pay Ordinance, the data showed the following:

Female employees comprise 70% or more of the health service representatives, clinical nurses, eligibility workers, social workers, and hospital services assistants

Male employees comprise 70% or more of the sheriff’s correctional deputies, deputy sheriffs, general maintenance mechanics, and road maintenance workers

Minorities comprise 70% or more of mental health workers, hospital services assistants, eligibility workers, health services representatives, janitors, social workers, and clinical nurses

The median hourly wage for male employees is $44.14 and the median hourly wage for female employees is $37.87

White male and female employees have the highest median hourly wages ($46.61 and $45.25, respectively), whereas American Indian and Hispanic women have the lowest median hourly wages of $30.12 and $30.35, respectively.

The Commission on the Status of Women intends to form an ad hoc subcommittee to work with the Office of Women’s Policy Administration and County Counsel on a more robust and in-depth assessment of pay equity within the County.

The Committee will consider a report from the Office of County Counsel and the Office of the County Executive on proposed policy changes related to pay equity for County contractors and a more in-depth pay equity study to be conducted by Administration in consultation with the Commission on the Status of Women.

The Committee will also provide direction related to the proposed amendments to Board Policy regarding nondiscrimination and the provision of equal opportunity by county contractors. The proposed revisions would add language to match the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity language currently used in County contracts, specifying that discrimination shall not be tolerated with respect to recruitment, selection for training including apprenticeship, hiring, employment, utilization, promotion, layoff, rates of pay and other forms of compensation. The proposed revisions will allow the Administration to, among other things:

Where:  Santa Clara County Children, Seniors, and Families Committee

When: December 18, 2015, 10am

Link to item:

Link to agenda:

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Candidates for Vacant Water District Seat Narrowed to Five

The candidate pool for the vacant Santa Clara Valley Water District 1 seat, has been narrowed from 21 to five. The Board is set to make the appointment tomorrow afternoon.

The final five candidates, all of which received at least three votes during the candidate screening process earlier this week, are:

Morgan Hill Council Member Rich Constantine, President of the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau Erin Gil, and Campbell Council Member Jeff Cristina who, if appointed will have to relocate. Also in the running are John Varela, who is backed by the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce and Tom Cruz.

If the Water District Board Members cannot make a decision on who to appoint by January 4, 2016, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will make the determination.


Morgan Hill Unified to Appoint New Board Member

There are many words that can be used to describe the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Education (Board), but “unified” is actually not one of them. The now six member board has consistently split 3 – 3, making virtually no headway on issues important to the education of our children. The citizens of Morgan Hill hope that the Board will be able to find some agreement on a new member this Tuesday. Only a candidate with a fresh perspective will be able to break a tie.

Seven people have applied for the seat vacated by Amy Porter-Jensen, but one, Angelica Diaz, might be able to bring a new and independent perspective to the Board. Ms. Diaz is a newcomer to politics in Morgan Hill.  Her work with the Community Health Partnerships gives her experience working with many organizations and politicians throughout the county. The Board would benefit from her experience in community and parent organizing. Ms. Diaz would also bring much-needed diversity to a Board that now includes only one woman and one Latino.

Other applicants for the vacated seat come with respectable qualifications, but none seem likely to bring a clearly independent voice to the Board. Julie Zintsmaster, Peter Mandel, and Adam Escoto all have experience with the district, but they also have strong allegiances to members of the Board and district that would not help to change the divisiveness of the present Board.  Other candidates have political ties and agendas that could be counterproductive.  Brian Sullivan is the president of the Morgan Hill Charter Board and Mary Ann Groen is the Chief of Staff to San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Herrera.  Lastly, Tara Bevington has strong experience in both accounting and education, but her position as Executive Director of Second Start Learning Disabilities, Inc. would cause a conflict of interest on very important decisions regarding the placement of special needs students.

The six members of the present Board should appoint Angelica Diaz if they are ready to change the tenor of Board meetings and gain a trustee who will think independently about how decisions impact all students in Morgan Hill.


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