Two weeks after giving a speech to California Republicans in Sacramento, GOP strategist and mega-fundraiser Karl Rove was back in the Golden State.

The man behind former President George W. Bush's successful campaigns in 2000 and 2004 was spotted in Ladera of all places, a tony unincorporated community just east of Portola Valley.

We spotted Rove in line at Amigos Grill, looking intently at his tablet computer. He was dressed in gray slacks, a blue Oxford shirt and a navy blazer -- and was accompanied by two men dressed in a similar fashion.

So what brought him to the hills above Silicon Valley? Rove looked up from his device with a smile.

"I'm here on business," he said. "And I'm having an excellent lunch."

Rove declined to elaborate on the nature of his business. Perhaps it had something to do with the initiative he's reportedly backing to update the GOP's digital campaign tools?

The venture, linked to Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy, would create an interactive data platform to help GOP campaigns, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.

Rove laughed when asked what it felt like to visit the liberal-leaning enclave west of Interstate 280. It is a place, after all, where horses likely outnumber Republicans.

"Is that an editorial comment?" he said. "I don't know the political attitudes of any of these people."

Palo Alto schools chief forgets some details


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Kevin Skelly, superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District, has a habit it seems of forgetting to tell the school board he serves about stuff like federal civil-rights complaints.

The supe apologized recently for not telling trustees that in December his administration had settled a case with the federal Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights over allegations that the district failed to protect a disabled student from bullying. In fact, he never told them about the months-long investigation, brought to light in February by the Palo Alto Weekly.

Investigators in that case said school officials didn't understand anti-discrimination laws, didn't have complaint procedures and didn't properly investigate or train employees.

And the district didn't stop the bullying or discipline the students at fault.

Right after that apology, the board found out that Skelly in September had also settled a case in which a family alleged the district didn't do enough to accommodate a child's severe allergies.

The Office of Civil Rights concluded the district didn't conduct a proper evaluation and that its procedures were out of compliance.

Was the superintendent's job at risk? Nope. At a February meeting board members were as cordial and deferential as ever while Skelly, his administrators and lawyer explained away the incidents.

Instead of taking Skelly to task, the board will spend $150,000 to hire a "communications specialist."

Courtesy of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike, Palo Alto Unified apparently has extra dough for things like this.

But will the new specialist solve the problem? After all, communication is only as good as people's commitment to forthrightness, honesty and transparency. And who will be communicating to whom?

Supervisor wannabes starting to line up

The race to replace disgraced Santa Clara County District 2 Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. came into sharper focus last week. San Jose Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen announced she's passing in order to focus on her plans to run for mayor next year, while Teresa Alvarado made it official by filing papers to run for the seat her mother, Blanca Alvarado, had held before Shirakawa.

Alvarado joins a field currently occupied only by longshots Patricia Martinez-Roach, a schoolteacher who last year unsuccessfully ran against San Jose Councilwoman Rose Herrera, and David S. Wall, a retired San Jose worker who regularly attends council and committee meetings to comment on the competency of city leadership.

But still waiting in the wings is labor diva Cindy Chavez, a former San Jose vice mayor who could tap vast union wealth and support should she decide to go for it. She told us she'd make an announcement Monday.

One thing we know for sure is that folks have been testing the waters with polling in the district to assess likely contenders' strengths and weaknesses. One recent poll referred to Chavez as a "nonprofit leader," technically true since she recently quit as executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, a union lobbying group, while retaining her position as director of affiliated think tank Working Partnerships USA.

Folks who were called say the poll identifies Chavez as a champion of Santa Clara County's Children's Health Initiative and the recently passed $2 minimum wage hike in San Jose but also tests reactions to her ties to former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, who left office under a cloud of criticism over a garbage contract and a rushed Grand Prix race subsidy.

The poll also takes swipes at Teresa Alvarado, a communications manager at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. She is reportedly referred to as a "private sector" lobbyist for PG&E and as an employee of a district notorious for its lack of transparency when it comes to spending and wasting taxpayer dollars. The poll also is said to question the "political experience" of Alvarado, who hasn't held a high-profile elective public office.

Target message written with 'wink and smile'

Last week we wrote about a San Jose Target store at Campbell and Saratoga avenues and its pained effort to articulate a reminder through signage that the city now prohibits disposable plastic bags in an effort to promote reusable ones. The store's posted message outside: "Are you reusable bag ready?"

We eventually got a response from the retail chain to our query about its odd grammar.

"This particular sign is designed to remind our San Jose guests of the local plastic bag ban," Target said in a statement, "while incorporating the 'wink and smile' that is often seen in Target's marketing campaigns."

We're sure the grammar cops weren't smiling. But some readers rose to the chain's defense.

"It is a simple statement and need not have you try to correct the grammar," John Shinn wrote.

Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Aaron Kinney, Sharon Noguchi, Tracy Seipel, Scott Herhold and Paul Rogers. Send tips to internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-975-9346.