Former San Jose City Councilman and county supervisorial hopeful Forrest Williams apparently has ended his flirtation with the San Jose mayoral race. Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, considered labor's leading horse in the race, announced to supporters in a campaign email Friday morning that Williams the night before "announced that he will be dropping out of the race for San Jose mayor and that he will be throwing his support behind my campaign."
"This is a huge boon to our campaign," Cortese wrote, adding that he's "profoundly grateful for Councilmember Williams' support."
Williams served eight years on the San Jose council, representing the Blossom Hill and Santa Teresa areas. He lost a 2010 bid to represent the area on the Board of Supervisors to Supervisor Mike Wasserman.
Williams said at the time that he planned to run a grass-roots campaign rather than compete for labor money he assumed would go to Cortese. However, his appearance on the ballot raised the specter of splitting the liberal vote and denying Cortese a spot in the assumed November runoff in a contest against several City Council members aligned with outgoing Mayor Chuck Reed.
New registrar of voters brings her own baggage
Santa Clara County's Registrar of Voters office has had some rough sledding. The last registrar, Barry Garner, left a year ago under a cloud of suspected sexual harassment. His predecessor, Jesse Durazo, retired in July 2011 after a nine-year reign marked by mishaps.
Filling in since Garner's departure has been Shannon Bushey, a veteran insider whom Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith appointed the new registrar last week.
Bushey is an 18-year veteran at the Registrar of Voters' office, but she comes with baggage. Her management of the registrar's Candidate and Public Services Division drew scrutiny last year in the unraveling of former Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr.'s career.
Shirakawa's misdeeds that led to his felony conviction first came to light with revelations that he'd failed to file required campaign finance reports with the registrar's office. Bushey sent 16 letters to Shirakawa from 2008 to 2011 about his missing filings, threatening to report him to county prosecutors and state authorities. But she never did.
As registrar for real at a cool $168,814 a year, she now has a chance to do better.
A bigger banner for Heroes -- for just $30
Draper University of Heroes in downtown San Mateo is sporting a new, bigger American flag after some complained that the old one was too small. But Tim Draper, the ridiculously rich venture capitalist behind the entrepreneurial school, didn't have to pay for it.
City Councilman David Lim decided he would just go ahead and buy it himself. He found a flag for $30 on eBay and presented it to school officials at a study session Jan. 21.
"It's pretty big," he said. "I'm amazed it didn't cost more. I hope it doesn't rip up in the first wind. That's my donation to good will in San Mateo."
Asked about the flag last week, Draper couldn't resist a reference to his latest brainstorm: splitting California into six states. "I haven't seen the flag yet," Draper said. "Does it have 55 stars?"
Firefighters say no to 2 percent raise
San Jose firefighters have approved an extension on their contract, turning down a 2 percent raise, to keep existing work rules intact, the union announced, saying 99 percent of its members last week voted in favor. The City Council still has to approve the deal.
In October, the city offered the firefighters a one-year wage increase of 2 percent as part of a deal that would have included elimination of sick-leave payout, but the union declined and did not provide a counter-offer.
It came after firefighters, like all other city employees, agreed to a 10 percent pay cut in 2011. Since then, general city employees have agreed to a 2 percent wage increase, while police have gotten nearly an 11 percent raise. Firefighters have been the one holdout.
If they had agreed to the wage increase, firefighters risked having an arbitrator eliminate work rules they favor, such as the minimum number of firefighters assigned to a truck.
A similar strategy worked for the police union, which turned down smaller proposed pay bumps before eventually landing a bigger raise. But unlike the leverage the cops had because of a staffing shortage at the police department, the city has had no trouble finding firefighters.
"It is our hope that the City Council will adopt this tentative agreement and immediately begin an honest and transparent negotiation that will result in restoring firefighter pay and provide the necessary resources for them to do their jobs," union President Robert Sapien said in a statement.
National Hispanic University turns to Congress for help
IA has confirmed two honchos from the financially troubled National Hispanic University quietly met recently in San Jose with aides to local members of Congress Michael Honda and Zoe Lofgren. However, it looks like there was more hand-wringing than hand shakes.
"I don't know what we can do for them," Lofgren said from Washington D.C., after the visit by NHU President Gladys Ato and Jennifer Blum, an exec with Laureate Education Inc. The giant for-profit college chain bought the struggling Latino school four years ago with big plans for taking it online. That strategy crashed, and the school has stopped enrolling new students.
Laureate said the congressional visits simply were "part of our dialogue, in addition to the conversations we have had with our NHU familia."
Well, we've also learned that some angry and disillusioned students and staff in la familia aren't willing to just listen. They want a say in the school's future, if there is one.
How NHU got into this mess still isn't clear. Laureate and the NHU Board of Directors won't spell it out. But here's one possible explanation:
According to a congressional aide, Ato and Blum said Laureate did not know that the federal government was cutting financial aid to liberal arts students at for-profit colleges when it bought NHU. About 25 percent of NHU students were liberal arts majors, but NHU officials reportedly did not warn Laureate about the financial aid hit.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by John Woolfolk, Aaron Kinney, Mike Rosenberg, Joe Rodriguez and Paul Rogers. Send tips to email@example.com, or call 408-920-5782.