A perk of running for higher office while holding a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors includes access to a discretionary budget that can be dispensed to groups and galas to build political support. Memo to District 3’s Dave Cortese: as long as you’re not too obvious about it.
The three-term supervisor has irked some county officials by requesting a slew of community grants in recent months that appear to be politically motivated, not least because several of them benefit events and organizations outside his own district.
Perhaps it’s coincidence that some of those grants went to causes in Cupertino and Campbell—towns repped by supervisors Joe Simitian and Susan Ellenberg, respectively—and other locales that land firmly in the realm of California State Senate District 15, where Cortese’s running to succeed Jim Beall.
County insiders who spoke to Fly questioned why Cortese was the one to request $5,000 for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in Ellenberg’s District 4, where he also referred $1,200 for the Rose, White and Blue Parade and $1,500 for the Hamann Park Neighborhood Association’s National Night Out. Or why he took it upon himself to chip in $1,350 for KMVT 15 Silicon Valley Community Media in Simitian’s District 5 to film an eighth-grade football game.
In an email through his spokeswoman, Cortese batted away the criticism, saying the grants funded things that benefit more than just one district. “The parade draws thousands of people from all over the county,” he wrote via email Tuesday evening. “My office has been a sponsor since inception of the parade.”
And that grant to the Hamann Park neighborhood? Cortese said that owes to the group directly soliciting his office for a sponsorship. “We offered microphone, chairs, etc., after their request,” he said. “They asked for a county donation as well.”
As a similarly labor-aligned political ally, Supervisor Cindy Chavez might be more forgiving of Cortese’s grant-giving in her own D5, where Lowell Middle School got $1,000 from him for a beautification event led by Assemblyman Ash Kalra’s AD27 team.
It’s hard to imagine Ellenberg and Simitian being terribly thrilled about Cortese’s foray into their turf without at least getting them to co-sponsor grants that directly benefit organizations in those districts.
That said, Ellenberg has consistently joined the board majority in authorizing even D4-related grants from Cortese. And her assent helped Cortese rationalize his out-of-district gifts by saying that the board “unanimously” approved them.
“Unanimously” is a bit of an overstatement.
It should be noted, and it seems telling, that Simitian abstained from voting on six Cortese-requested sponsorships at a single meeting in early June.