Saturday, July 08, 2006

Do You Know the Way in San Jose?

Bribery, but the right kind, says the mayor:

Until recently, most of San Jose associated scandal with [Ron] Gonzales due to his soap opera-like affair with a young intern. Now Gonzales has been indicted on charges of felony bribery, conspiracy and misuse of public funds for a deal he made with Norcal Waste Systems, a garbage company.

... in the late ‘90s, our new Latino mayor was addressing the Democratic National Convention and being talked about to succeed Gray Davis as governor of California.

After the [dot com] crash, our economic and political blueprint lost its allure, and so did our mayor. But once famous, it’s hard to go back to being known as a San Francisco suburb (as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom called us at a mayors’ conference earlier this year). We have been desperate to save face ever since.

The Norcal deal with Gonzales was a result of the obsession with appearances that has become a strategy for governance in San Jose. In 2000, Gonzales and his aide struck a private deal with Norcal Waste Systems—the mayor would help get the city to pay an extra $11.25 million to Norcal to cover Teamster wages. Investigations say that Gonzales later convinced the city council, which did not know of his agreements with Norcal, to raise garbage rates to cover the cost.

Gonzales originally denied any previous talks with Norcal, but acknowledged last summer that he made the agreement to support a future pay increase. But even after having been indicted by a grand jury, Gonzales refuses to leave office. What the district attorney’s office is calling bribery, he calls an attempt at “labor peace.” According to Gonzales, he was doing what he could to avoid the most publicly embarrassing of labor conflicts—a garbage strike.

People seemed shocked by his audacity, but I can see why Gonzales feels justified in staying on as mayor. He got caught reaching for an end he and the rest of the city’s leadership has been pushing since the dot-com bust—maintaining San Jose’s appearance as utopian and conflict-free, regardless of the means or the cost.

Take, for example, our new City Hall. A $380 million Star Wars-esque monstrosity planted in the heart of downtown....

That construction was marked by a scandal similar to the current one—city officials worked a secret deal with Cisco Systems to ensure that Cisco would win an $8 million dollar contract for the telephone and wireless systems used in the building.

But even after that initial hiccup, San Jose got back on track to build the most futuristic City Hall/Death Star replica it could. Now the city council is trying to approve a $300,000 subsidy to build a Starbucks inside its walls.

[Emphases in the above, the FLUBA Committee on It Couldn't Have Happened to a Nicer Guy]

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