The San Jose Police Foundation is a charity that helps the police department in tough times, raising money through its "Bowling for Badges" event for causes like the canine unit, the mounted horse patrol and a gym for cops. But those noble aims have been overshadowed recently by a controversy that centers on police Chief Chris Moore's objection to the lobbying activity of the foundation's president, Rich De La Rosa.
With former Ron Gonzales aide Sean Kali-rai, De La Rosa has started a lobbying firm, Forest Consulting, which represents Garden City Casino in its dealings with City Hall.
Garden City is a big donor to the police foundation. And it is building a major new casino near the airport, so its regulation by the San Jose police is no small matter. City officials say the cops regard the card club as less eager to comply with the rules than its competitor, Bay 101.
Here's the rub: Moore saw a conflict in De La Rosa's role as president of the foundation and as lobbyist for Garden City. And he recently urged the San Jose insurance man to step down from the board.
"Rich has done a great job,'' Moore told IA. "But when you have the president of the police foundation actively engaged in trying to minimize regulation for Garden City, it's hard to say, 'We'd like to have your help with the mounted unit.' "
De La Rosa agreed to step back, at least temporarily. But in a telephone conference call last week, the police foundation
"I don't see where the conflict comes from," De La Rosa said. "What I do is raise money for the foundation, and the board decides how we'll spend that money."
Board member Vic Ajlouny says the message to Moore was: "We're here to help your department, but you don't own us."
For his part, the chief acknowledges that he can't dictate to the charity. But he hasn't changed his views about Garden City. "I want them to be successful, but they're fighting us every step of the way," he said.
LAO in 'weird twist' in high-speed rail critique
The state Legislative Analyst's Office was caught in an interesting position this past week while critiquing the state's $99 billion high-speed train.
On one hand, the state's nonpartisan auditor discovered that the California High-Speed Rail Authority could be breaking the law by starting construction next year. The legislative analyst fears the authority hasn't secured key approvals, such as funding plans and environmental clearances required in the bond measure California voters approved to launch the project in 2008.
But on the other hand, Kings County has sued the Legislature and other state leaders using a very similar argument. Hoping to halt the bullet train from rumbling through their rural Central Valley county, Kings officials also assert that starting construction on the project would be illegal because it would violate the fine print of the bond measure.
So by slamming the project, the legislative analyst could bolster the case of the group suing the Legislature.
The LAO tells IA it was "a weird twist," but after talking with the state Attorney General's Office, the LAO's duty to be a neutral arbiter won out. So on Tuesday, the analyst's office released its stinging report to lawmakers amid much fanfare.
Minor celebrity, major pain for Postal Service
Long Hoang, a 29-year-old nursing student at Cal State East Bay, became a bit of an exercise celebrity this past week after his story in the Merc got picked up by a bunch of fitness websites.
He's the San Jose jogger who, wearing a weird cardio mask and weighted vest, was spotted by a customer jamming a package into a blue mailbox in front of the Lundy Avenue post office on Tuesday.
The bomb squad was called in. And boom! The package of calendars he was going to mail was suddenly a pile of confetti.
Anyhow, while the CrossFit exercise nut was enjoying his 15 minutes, a Postal Service spokesman, Gus Ruiz -- who was locked out of his office for about four hours -- wasn't smiling.
Sure, the bomb squad and the postal inspectors got a little free hands-on post-9/11 training, and the robot detonator got to do its thing. Still, Ruiz told IA there's a lot of stamps that could have been sold during the postal lockdown.
"It's not a joke," Ruiz said. "But we don't plan on pursuing any lost damages."
Simitian started school early -- why not today's kids?
IA always figured that state Sen. Joe Simitian had been a precocious kid. And we recently learned we were right.
The Palo Alto Democrat, who authored the law upping the starting age for kindergartners, himself started kindergarten when he was barely 41/2.
Simitian's law takes effect next year, requiring students to turn 5 by Nov. 1 in order to start school in August. In 2013, the deadline date will roll back one month, and then from 2014 on will be Sept. 1.
The current cutoff date is Dec. 2.
When Simitian announced last month that he would seek his old job on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors after he's termed out of his Senate seat next year, he mentioned that he was 58 years old. So IA, who knew his graduation year from Palo Alto High, wondered if he had skipped a year.
Simitian started school early when he was living in Cambridge, Mass. He doesn't know exactly why -- it had something to do with a neighbor who was caring for him at the time -- and maybe the cutoff dates were different in those days.
But yes, he did just fine identifying colors and cutting construction paper. And he later graduated from Paly in 1970 before going on to get degrees at Colorado College, Stanford University and UC Berkeley.
But Simitian disregarded his own early educational success after he heard pleas from kindergarten teachers who said today's 4-year-olds simply aren't ready for the rigors -- including reading and math -- of modern-day kindergarten. So he got the state to change the starting age.
Still, IA wonders what would have happened had his law been in force in Massachusetts 54 years ago and teachers had to deal with a likely bored -- instead of an eager-to-learn -- little Joey.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Scott Herhold, Mike Rosenberg, Lisa Fernandez, Sharon Noguchi and Tracy Seipel. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-920-5552.