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.