The District 2 county supervisor’s race is one of the most important in this region’s history. Two-thirds of the county budget—about $3 billion annually—goes to compensation and retirement benefits. Virtually all of the public employee union contracts are up for negotiation in the next two years, and there’s an unfunded $1.7 billion liability for retiree health care. The election will determine whether those issues are tackled by a board majority firmly in the pocket of the South Bay Labor Council—or one that might be a little more independent.
Cindy Chavez, who heads SBLC sister organization Working Partnerships USA, is running against Teresa Alvarado for the seat vacated by George Shirakawa, Jr., who was convicted of five felonies and now faces election-stealing charges. The special election is being held July 30, and ballots will be mailed out shortly. The last day to register to vote is July 15.
Chavez says the race is about experience. Like Shirakawa, she was vice mayor of San Jose under Ron Gonzales. Shirakawa served 14 years on the San Jose City Council; Chavez eight. If being one of 11 people on the City Council dais is the main qualification for the job, then Shirakawa was even better equipped than Chavez for the office he screwed up so badly. And now taxpayers have to spend more than $1 million to choose his replacement.
The election is really about transparency, reform and an end to political corruption. Chavez has aligned herself with the politicians at the centers of the biggest local political scandals of the past decade and a half. She’s been allies with Gonzales, who accepted golf games and gifts while in office; of Terry Gregory, who resigned his office in disgrace and was convicted of graft; of Shirakawa; and of Xavier Campos, who was chief operating officer of MACSA when teachers’ pensions were stolen, and who failed to file political disclosure statements. Her operatives ran anonymous websites that endangered the safety of gang prosecutors by publishing their home addresses and hacked the email accounts of City Hall employees to embarrass political opponents.
Chavez failed to answer Grand Jury questions about her role in the Norcal garbage scandal and hampered attempts to pass a Sunshine Ordinance in San Jose. She refuses interviews, doesn’t return media calls and has journalists thrown out of election events. Her campaign attorney recently sued the county to keep it from releasing public documents, and her handlers harangued a radio station that ran a story about that. In an era when the public expects transparency from elected representatives, Cindy Chavez is completely unqualified to hold public office. Electing her would pretty much be a disaster for accountability.
Teresa Alvarado has advanced proposals to make county government more transparent and ethical. Having held a variety of management positions in the private sector and non-profit communities, she has the breadth of experience needed to scrutinize tough questions and remain independent. Electing a candidate who’s committed to reform will send a clear message to Hedding Street that public money must be spent frugally and honestly, and Shirakawa supporters like Chavez shouldn’t be trusted with the public’s checkbook.