Shirakawa Scandal Dishonors Community, Future Minority Candidates

As an active resident in Santa Clara County’s District 2, I, like so many others, am ashamed of George Shirakawa. The former supervisor blatantly violated the trust of the most vulnerable residents of our district. His deplorable actions have led this district, which suffers from high rates of poverty, gangs, drug issues, under-education and lack of healthcare, to have absolutely no representation until August.

Just recently, politicians like Jesse Jackson Jr. and Shirakawa have become entangled in corruption and other scandals. Every single elected minority politician in Santa Clara County and beyond must recognize that if you are an elected official, your job is to move our communities forward. You should do the job with dignity, hard work ethic, integrity and respect that we all, including yourself, deserve. Your actions must enhance, protect and defend the community that elected you in the first place.

The media already portrays our minority communities with horrible negative connotations.  However, we cannot continue to blame the media for the actions an individual commits. The actions of Shirakawa and disgraced Councilmember Terry Gregory make it difficult for future minority candidates to break free from the suspicion of wary voters that they will be corrupt, like other tainted minority elected officials of the past. 

I am also dismayed that our Board of Supervisors chose a special election over an appointment. Plain and simple, an appointment would have been the cheapest alternative. We would have had an appointee who would immediately start to repair the damages caused by Shirakawa and his staff. Making a tough decision like an appointment is why most of you were elected in the first place. At the conclusion of this ongoing saga in August, it is going to cost the taxpayers of Santa Clara County approximately 2.5 million dollars. What a waste of taxpayers-money! This total includes money Shirakawa scammed and the expensive investigation that ensued.

Those $2.5 million could be used to improve Valley Medical Center, especially its Emergency Room services; address gang and drug issues; or fund other health and safety programs for our seniors or disabled residents. Many of us who live in this district, including myself, grew up speaking a language other than English. Many of us saw the struggles of our parents and their endless quest to make ends meet. We saw our friends, classmates and neighbors fall into the grips of gangs and drug addictions. Thousands of us are first-time high school and college graduates. We deserve a representative who will fight for us diligently and honestly with dignity and self-respect.

In the latest 2010 Census, 87 percent of the district is non-white. But it’s not important for the next representative to be Latino, White, Vietnamese, Indian, a woman, gay or straight. What district two needs is a representative that will be open-minded, progressive, genuine, passionate and, most of all, honest. This not a Latino or female seat; race or gender should not be an issue. He/she should represent the whole community, not the special interests that have historically dominated San Jose politics.

With such a short election time frame, this does not give a potential community member, whose resources may be lacking, to mount an aggressive grassroots campaign. As a result, someone who has superior name recognition and is able to raise large amounts of campaign funds will surely be the front-runner.

At a recent local Democratic Party gathering, Cindy Chavez and Teresa Alavardo—political heavyweights in our local scene—both acted and sounded like candidates. We also have perennial candidate Patricia Martinez-Roach running yet again for a seat. However, her time and service at East Side Union High School District was less than stellar. ESUHSD is just now recovering from the fiscal mess its board created in the mid 2000s. As a voter in this district, she would never earn my vote. I have personally known Teresa Alvarado for many years, but her most recent move back into District 2 after 12 years makes some of us in the district feel uneasy.

Former San Jose Vice Mayor Cindy Chavez represented the Washington Area very well during her time on the City Council. However, as labor chief and an ally of Shirakawa’s, she should have done more to prevent this P-Card saga from spiraling so far out of control. I cannot continue to see representatives that Labor and the Chamber of Commerce help elect and not hold them accountable when they knowingly commit illegal crimes.

We will have to wait and see who will be the next representative of our district. I hope the special election does not get too messy—the victor battered and bruised. Whoever it may be, they will have their work cut out for them. They must work hard to regain the trust of all our communities.  It has to be earned and, because of Shirakawa’s dark legacy, it may take that person the entire 12 years—or three terms—of service.

Omar Torres lives in the Washington community in the greater downtown San Jose area. He works as executive director of the Santa Maria Urban Ministry.

16 Comments

  1. If 87% of County District 2 is minority, then your concern about the stigma associated with a minority candidate is misplaced.  Every candidate you mentioned is Chicana.

    You are complaining about the fairness of an election given the short lead time, but let’s face it if the 4 white guys appoint someone, people are going to complain anyway.  I would rather the people of District 2 decide – and then live with their decision.

    BTW, if you’re going to run, then run.  People are going to start thinking that you’re disingenuous.

    • Just some more news on who may be gearing up to run. After talking with some connected Dem & Repubs this week the word is Joe Coto and a bi-lingual candidate from District 4 who has already been courting East Side residents, are ramping up for the battle royale.

  2. YOU, Omar are the perfect candidate to run. Your service, volunteerism, love, commitment, integrity, and dedication are worthy of holding this office. I would support you 100%, if you decide to run.

    Please, give it some serious thought. Your district needs and deserves good representation, and I believe with all my heart, that you sir are the one who could provide it.

  3. “Every single elected minority politician in Santa Clara County and beyond must recognize that if you are an elected official, your job is to move our communities forward. You should do the job with dignity, hard work ethic, integrity and respect that we all, including yourself, deserve. Your actions must enhance, protect and defend the community that elected you in the first place.”

    This should be true of every elected politician, minority or otherwise. Would that it was…

  4. Omar, we need more clarity.  For example, you said above, “As an active resident in Santa Clara County’s District 2, I, like so many others, am ashamed of George Shirakawa.”

    Why would anyone be ashamed of an office-holder who left the high moral ground for the more jovial pastures of abuse of power?  We in the diverse white American community have seen plenty of office-holders from our ranks engage in corrupt activity.  It’s the way of the world for a certain part of one’s own demographic affinity group to go astray.  Deal with it and move on.  No one is judging all members of Shirakawa’s demographic affinity group by his conduct.

    You also say, “Every single elected minority politician in Santa Clara County and beyond must recognize that if you are an elected official, your job is to move our communities forward.” 

    Why would you want only certain candidates to play by the rules?  Shouldn’t they all play by the rules to the benefit of all residents?

    And the word “minority” is problematic.  The diverse Asian Americans and the diverse Hispanic Americans already each amount to larger shares that the diverse white Americans in San Jose, and taken together they are a very large majority.  And besides that, “minority” is no longer PC in the higher reaches of thought management in the USA.

    You mention former city council member Gregory along with former county supervisor Shirakawa as wrong-doers.  You would do better by asking how the prosecutorial establishment of Santa Clara County is able to limit prosecutions to just one person per case.  It takes two to tango as well as to bribe and set up vague rules. 

    Haven’t you noticed that the other parties to both scandals have never been brought to justice?  The bribery alleged in the Gregory case obviously required a person offering the bribe. And who knows how many others enlisted Gregory’s services.

    And the cluster of persons surrounding Shirakawa who are seemingly exempt from prosecution include those who conspired with him to commit the acts he did, those who modified the county rules in 2003 to allow such weak oversight, all those lobbyists who enabled him to do what he did, and all his fund-raisers. 

    Enlarge your thinking just a little to take in the entire picture, and ask, “How do you abuse power without a lot of enablers, lobbyists, fund-raisers, and hangers-on?” 

    And then ask, “How do the city and county stage-manage these prosecutions to shelter the other guilty ones and keep the focus on just one defendant?”  It’s a toughie.

  5. Omar who?  Go find sonthing to do bato. You sound like that loco Cortese who says &@^%$ about todos you sound like the good old Alvarado days do notting not a damn thang except help her amigos.  Oh, yeah the Macsa escandalo
    you have the racist herhald o como se llame calling Blanca “her gente”  Im not her gente.  La hija moved to Japan town and she owns a casa en another district? cochinadas

    • The MACSA scandal doesn’t belong at Blanca Alvarado’s feet it belongs solely at Councilman Xavier Campos incompetence.  He “escaped” MACSA as the DA began investigating to be shielded by none other than Gluttonous George Shirakawa who made him a policy aide while he propped him up to shove down the throats of D5 in the city council election. 

      You’re obviously a troll for the now disgraced Shirakawa, Chavez, Campos, Coto & Eddie Garcia failing power group. They couldn’t win an election now if they ran against Hitler.  Most of them get power by manipulation and appointment.  Glad they’re all out of office except the Campos’ and they will be next.  Los dos!

  6. Mr S Randall and Kathleen Flynn,
    All announced candidates are women of color. I hear Jose Salcido is going to run. Vice Mayor Nguyen is rumored to be interested. Richard Hobbs name has been mention…remember he did almost beat Shirakawa in 2008. I hear the community of D2 drafting a candidate not closely linked to Labor (Chavez) and Chamber (Alvarado)…and NO IT IS NOT ME…I am not interested in running for D2 Sup. There will probably be a dark horse candidate.

    • I get the feeling that those that would prefer the Supervisors make an appointment seem to believe that they’d make a better choice than the voters of District 2.

      Any contest, political or otherwise, has structural or other issues that favor certain contestants over others.  That’s just the way it is.  Regardless, it’s still better to have the contest than to have someone make the determination.

      There were 2 surprises in the water district races in November.  Sometimes voters are smarter than people give them credit for.

      • Good point about the water district!  And even after the attempted meddling by the SJ Merc News in one water district race, the voters made a good choice (Barbara Keegan.)

    • Omar,
      Jose is NOT going to run, nor is he even considering it. Richard Hobbs is not a viable candidate for D2. I’ll just leave it at that.

      I’m saddened to hear you aren’t interested because that will leave the citizens of D2 with the same old, same old, and they deserve better.