San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio terms out in 2016, which will be the first time in a decade the District 6 seat will be up for grabs without an incumbent. Already, six months from the deadline to declare candidacy, seven people have announced their intention to run for the Willow Glen seat. But in what some candidates called typical Pierluigi fashion, the lame duck councilman is trying to run the show, positioning himself as a kingmaker on his way out the door. Leading up to the council meeting this week, Oliverio emailed an assignment to his aspiring successors: send a yes or no vote on two items he picked from the agenda. The idea is that by the time a trio of candidate forums takes place next spring—which he’s also requesting the city fund—he’ll have compiled a months-long voting record for each candidate. “This will provide residents a definitive way to understand how a candidate would vote given the opportunity to serve,” Oliverio wrote. This wasn’t a voluntary exercise, though; candidates who refused to participate would be noted as such. This week, Oliverio’s questions addressed the Santana Row expansion and a lease renewal for the downtown Camera 3 cinemas. Some of the candidates found the request odd, but complied regardless. Willow Glen Neighborhood Association President Chris Roth joked that the whole thing felt like homework, but he responded affirmatively to each item. Others weren’t so cool for school. Political consultant Peter Allen had concerns the councilman may have crossed ethical and possibly legal lines, and parks advocate Helen Chapman refused to participate and posted her response to the councilman on Facebook. This prompted an online debate about whether Oliverio is improperly using his elected office to control the democratic process. City Attorney Rick Doyle apparently received a complaint from a D6 resident and is reviewing the matter.
UPDATE: Residents have started a petition to “take back our debates.” The Change.org signature drive has collected 26 names so far.
UPDATE II: City Attorney Rick Doyle has reviewed the situation, according to communications director David Vossrbink. Oliverio has not used city funds or offered a political endorsements so “there are no legal issues as it currently stands,” Vossbrink said.