Sometimes I wonder if ordinary residents who get elected to public office suddenly become part of an "Elected Officials" club and thus feel compelled to support each other.
Like their personal support for each other: I am often at social events when the elected official in charge of the gathering makes absolutely sure to introduce every person in the room that has ever been elected to any office. There may be corporate CEOs attending, or vice presidents of universities, but it's the elected officials who get recognized. And it's usually with a fanfare announcement: "And there in the corner is the Honorable Former Mayor of Palo Alto (…fill in the blank)." By the way, we have scads of former mayors.
It sure sounds like a political club to me.
What prompted this thought about politicos supporting each other is the recent official outpouring for Measures A and C on the June ballot. I think nearly every elected official (council members, school board members) endorsed Measure C, which was the $490.8 million bond measure for the Foothill-DeAnza College District.
I watched the Palo Alto City Council at its meeting when it endorsed Measure C. There was a brief presentation by board members from the junior college district, and then totally supportive statements from each of the council members. Not a single question! Not a single qualm!
But there should have been. The measure was levying a $24 per $100,000 assessed valuation tax so the average homeowner would be paying an extra $100 to $150/year to support renovating and repairing the infrastructure at the two junior colleges. And the previous bond measure by the district also for building improvements was only six years ago. Certainly that should have raised at least an inquiry, a skepticism, a question from local council members. But it didn't.
By the way, I personally supported Measure C because I thought the money was needed. I went on the website and read everything. But the council members, in public, asked nothing.
Ditto for the legions of officials who supported Measure A the half-cent sales tax increase for Santa Clara County their outpouring absolutely amazed me. Our own County Supervisor Liz Kniss from Palo Alto cast the key vote to put the measure on the ballot, and then wrote op-ed pieces and letters to the editor. That's fine. Just let us remember she supported it.
Sure, there were a few dissenters from elected officials, like Palo Alto Councilmember Yoriko Kishimoto. But most of the other council members went blithely along with their support, and some, like Mountain View's Mike Kasperzak, sent out e-mails urging his friends over and over to vote for A.
Forget about the fact that it was a 30-year sales tax increase, and forget about the fact that it would have given anywhere from $160 million upward a year for county supervisors to spend as they wish council person after council person voted to support the measure. Thank goodness the voters substantially rejected the proposal it got only a 42 percent yes vote (and needed more than 50 percent).
Mountain View City Councilmember Greg Perry, who led the drive against Measure A, was bucking the establishment, but he well understood the pulse of the people. Maybe he should run for county supervisor.
My point here is this rubber stamp of approval. We have a group of very bright council members here in Palo Alto, and when I read that they endorse something, I would have appreciated knowing that they asked probing questions, heard from the opponents, analyzed the needs of the district, determined whether the half-cent sales tax was really needed.
Why? Because in endorsing these measures, they are lending their names to urge our support.
Did they do all their homework? Or were they merely scratching each other's political backs?
I may be cynical, but I suspect they have realized that it is much easier to go to the voters to ask for more funds rather than to cut their own budgets. Cutting budgets is hard work. Asking all of us to fork over more of our money is the easier route. They have learned their lesson well.
The lesson we have not learned is to understand where they are coming from.