Shaping a legacy

San Jose’s mayor is a busy man. After easily winning re-election to a second and final term, the mayor of the 11th-largest U.S. city is turning to childhood lessons as he faces the daunting tasks of dealing with a recession, launching new initiatives and shaking a lame-duck image.

Despite his large corner office with a panoramic view, being mayor

Daunting issues and lame-duck status shadow San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales

BY DAVID SPEAKMAN

San Jose’s mayor is a busy man. After easily winning re-election to a second and final term, the mayor of the 11th-largest U.S. city is turning to childhood lessons as he faces the daunting tasks of dealing with a recession, launching new initiatives and shaking a lame-duck image.

Despite his large corner office with a panoramic view, being mayor of San Jose since 1999 has been an almost thankless job for Ron Gonzales regionally, as public attention in the Bay Area tends to focus on San Francisco and Oakland.

“I think for years, San Jose lived in the shadow of our two neighbors to the north,” Gonzales says. “I think we suffered from a lack of identity because we were trying to copy other people’s identity rather than shape our own.”

This from a man whose own image has remained enigmatic, despite having one of the most public jobs in the valley.

“He has a presence about him that says, ‘I know what I’m doing,'” says San Jose Councilman Ken Yeager, who met Gonzales 14 years ago when the mayor was running for county supervisor. “He has been more successful as mayor than he was on the board of supervisors.”

A guarded expression in Gonzales’ eyes betrays a painful first term in office. A Democrat, Gonzales has been savaged by the left wing of his party for not supporting expensive measures that would have benefited labor causes. His relationship with local media is icy after news reports dug into his personal life in 2000 and revealed his sexual relationship with a female aide and the break-up of his long-term marriage.

Two-and-a-half years later, a now-single Gonzales says he wants to focus on building a world-class city. With a population approaching 1 million, San Jose is the largest city in the Bay Area, beating San Francisco by a hefty margin of about 200,000.

Gonzales believes the days of the world ignoring San Jose are over, even if the rest of the Bay Area hasn’t caught up to reality.

“Because of our size and proximity to the high-tech industry, we’re getting more and more notoriety and recognition,” Gonzales says. “And certainly, we are taking our rightful place in the politics and economy of this state and this nation.”

When Gonzales speaks like that, you know you’re listening to a natural politician — someone with change-the-world dreams in his DNA. That genetic predisposition can be traced to his father, Bob Gonzales, a celebrated labor and Latino activist in the 1960s and 1970s.

The mayor says his life was irrevocably altered almost a generation ago because of the teachings of his father.

“My father was very involved in the community, social justice, the civil rights movement,” Gonzales says. “He was really the first person who instilled in my mind, and in the minds of my brothers and sisters, that whatever we were pursuing in terms of a career, that alongside of that, we had an obligation to find some way that improved the lives of others.”

The mayor’s cool demeanor thaws as he talks about his father, who died in 1994. Gonzales says he strives to keep lessons alive even though his views are not as liberal as his father’s.

“I have found that public service has been the best way that I have found to É improve the lives of others,” says Gonzales, pausing to collect his thoughts. “To provide an opportunity for a child to check out their first library book, to play their first soccer game and to feel safe doing it because they are living in the safest large city in America, to start public education at age three though our Smart Start center — these are the kinds of new things that you can bring to a community than can improve the lives of others.”

Besides his father, the mayor points to his career at Hewlett-Packard Co. as the other major influence in the way he approaches life. Many believe Gonzales’ 11-year career at HP tempered his father’s more leftist influence.

“One of the things you learn in business is to be results-oriented, and I pride myself on making sure to the extent that is possible that government can be run like a business,” Gonzales says. “You can be focused on results and outcomes rather than just spending.”

He says coming to politics from the private sector brought the experience of knowing the bottom line and how to manage costs, even though applying those lessons to a city can be difficult.

“I think the challenge we faced when I came in is that the city of San Jose is a large organization of 5,000 to 6,000 workers trying to serve over 900,000 residents. And big organizations, whether in the private or public sector, tend not to be very nimble,” Gonzales says.

He is fighting to keep control of the city’s agenda. For the first time in his political career, Gonzales may face a hostile council majority after two new members, Judy Chirco and Terry Gregory, won seats despite the mayor’s endorsement of their opponents. Some council members have voiced interest about being the city’s next mayor.

“The first four years, he got what he wanted,” Yeager says. “Now he is a lame duck, and I think the tough times are still ahead for him.”

Gonzales’ primary focus these days is San Jose’s Norman Mineta International Airport, which continues to deal with the double whammy of the dot-com recession and aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Gonzales is lobbying for a special March election to get voter approval of funds for emergency projects to improve the airport.

In that special election, city voters will decide on Measure A, which would allow San Jose to proceed with airport improvements, which can’t start under current regulations until the airport is linked to the county’s light-rail system.

“We have to meet federal safety inspections and we can’t do that now,” Gonzales says. “The federal government knows we can’t do it with the existing facilities and the public knows it.”

Although he is tight-lipped about his post-mayoral plans, he has formed an exploratory committee to possibly run for governor in 2006. So far, Gonzales says he is confident his father would be proud of the strides San Jose has taken under his watch with its school initiatives and efforts to build affordable housing.

“He’d be ecstatic about our effort to bring BART to San Jose, although it won’t be implemented by the time I leave office [Jan. 1, 2007].”

Perot snares 4,600 local signatures

Local Ross Perot supporters collected thousands of signatures in a grass roots effort to put the independent candidate on Indiana’s fall election ballot.

“We collected over 1,500 signatures in the first day,” said Carolyn Wenz, Perot’s Delaware County Coordinator. “During the two weeks we were out, we collected 4,600

(Ball State Daily News – Page 2 – May 14, 1992)

Texas billionaire expected to be on Hoosier fall ballot

By DAVID SPEAKMAN
Staff Writer

Local Ross Perot supporters collected thousands of signatures in a grass roots effort to put the independent candidate on Indiana’s fall election ballot.

“We collected over 1,500 signatures in the first day,” said Carolyn Wenz, Perot’s Delaware County Coordinator. “During the two weeks we were out, we collected 4,600 signatures total.”

To qualify for the Indiana ballot, candidates must collect 29,919 signatures. “Now I believe we are over (the required number of signatures),” Wenz said.

Wenz, a one-time presidential campaign coordinator for Robert Kennedy in 1968, said the country is at a crucial moment. “We are at a crossroads – a make-or-break moment. If this man gets in the White House, we will change the course of history.”

Wenz is not alone in her assessment of the political scene. “The Republicans and the Democrats don’t know how to run the country. It wouldn’t hurt to give Perot a chance,” said Jean Thurman, office manager at WBST radio.

Thurman explained why she signed Perot’s petition. “I didn’t like any of the other candidates. But I did like how Ross Perot came from a poor background and established his business,” she said.

“The choice we have between Bush and Clinton is pathetic,” said Wenz.

“George Bush has forgotten middle America.” Wenz pointed to Bush’s cut of the luxury tax on yachts. “That tax cut really helped me out.”

“Bill Clinton lost his credibility when he said he smoked marijuana and then claimed he never inhaled,” she said. “Yeah, right.”

While many political pundits are writing Perot off as a protest candidate, his supporters say otherwise. “He has a definite chance to win, and I’m not saying that just because I’m working for him,” said Wenz.

“As the summer goes on, Bush will continue to sink in popularity and Clinton will fade away,” Wenz said. “Ross Perot is popular right now and a lot of people don’t even know who he is.”

“Look at the polls,” she said. “He hasn’t officially announced his candidacy and he is winning in Texas and California.

A Fable for Radio

One of the true pleasures of public radio is that it features special programming and takes risks that are cost-prohibitive on television or commercial radio.

Even steadfast public radio programs get into the act.

Saint Paul Sunday Morning will present an unusual and whimsical collaborative work entitled, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear. The special program can be heard on WBST-FM 92.1

(The Muncie Star – Page T-15)

By DAVID SPEAKMAN

One of the true pleasures of public radio is that it features special programming and takes risks that are cost-prohibitive on television or commercial radio.

Even steadfast public radio programs get into the act.

Saint Paul Sunday Morning will present an unusual and whimsical collaborative work entitled, Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear. The special program can be heard on WBST-FM 92.1 at 10 a.m. today.

Little Tricker recalls novelist Ken Kesey’s childhood and the Ozark fable his Grandma Smith used to tell him. Kesey narrates the fable with a musical accompaniment scored by composer Arthur Maddox, who grew up in the Ozarks.

Saint Paul Sunday Morning host Bill McGlaughlin conducts the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for this special performance, with Maddox at the piano. The score brings the animal characters to life, and follows them in their adventures. It promises to be America’s own Peter and the Wolf.

Ken Kesey is perhaps best known for his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which was made into an Oscar-winning film. Kesey – a onetime wrestling champion – won a scholarship to Stanford, where he studied fiction. His 1986 publication, Demon Box, spans a 20-year period of his writing, bringing together semi-biographical articles and fiction. This work inclused the story Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear.

Saint Paul Sunday Morning, the most widely broadcast classical music performance program in the country, features an inviting blend of talented guests, excellent performances and lively conversation.

Art With a Message

At 5:30 p.m. tonight, Horizons continues its look at minorities in America. Producer Elizabeth Perez-Luna presents “Latino Performing Artists: Art for Troubled Times.”

The documentary reveals how these artists are using traditional and non-traditional theatre, dance, music, multimedia elements and other expressions to create connections among art, society and politics.

“This is the first time in which we have Chicanos, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and Latin Americans talking about the similarities and differences in their approaches to art as rituals for troubled times and as a means to reflect their reality within a multicultural context.” Perez-Luna said.

The documentary was taped at a recent gathering at the Yellwo Spring Institute for Art and Society in Pennsylvania of Latino artists from the United States and Latin America to perform, exchange ideas and collaborate on new works.

A Final Tribute

The late Walter Davis Jr.’s last recording session is featured on this week’s Marion McPartland’s Piano Jazz at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Davis, who  played with Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Dizzy Gillespie, joins McPartland to one of Davis’s main influences with their duet, Blue Monk.

On this special program, the great be-bop stylist also displays his unique sound with his own tune, Backgammon.

Prof says group gets more credit than it deserves

(Ball State Daily News; Page 1 – June 28, 1989)

BY DAVID SPEAKMAN

The Moral Majority received more credit for political impact than it deserved, said Steve Johnson, professor of sociology.

Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority disbanded the organization June 11 after taking credit for successfully helping elect President Bush, according to the Associated Press.

“Falwell called it ‘mission accomplished;’ my position is that it was mission aborted,’ Johnson said.

Reagan’s margin of victory

(Ball State Daily News; Page 1 – June 28, 1989)

BY DAVID SPEAKMAN

The Moral Majority received more credit for political impact than it deserved, said Steve Johnson, professor of sociology.

Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority disbanded the organization June 11 after taking credit for successfully helping elect President Bush, according to the Associated Press.

“Falwell called it ‘mission accomplished;’ my position is that it was mission aborted,’ Johnson said.

Reagan’s margin of victory would have been larger in 1984 if the moral majority didn’t exist, Johnson said. Reagan won because of economic issue instead of religious moral issues.

Johnson appeared on national radio last Wednesday to discuss his surveys of voters in 1980, 1984 and 1998 as a part of the continuing Middletown Studies.

The studies are based on the assumption that Muncie is representative of the average American town and have been widely accepted for decades.

The surveys are published in The Political Role of Religion of the United Stateswhich was co-edited by Joseph Tamney, professor of sociology.

The results of the survey showed that religion had very little effect at the voting booth, Johnson said.

Supporters of the Christian right tend not to vote. The supporters also were less educated, more likely to be elderly and more politically conservative than the majority of the populace, he said.

“A typical Christian rightist thinks homosexuals have way too many rights, thinks a woman;s most important role is that of a mother and housekeeper and watches a lot of religious television.” Johnson said.

The popularity of he Christian right is not high, Johnson said. His data shows the public agreement with the Moral Majority peaked around 20 percent. At that time 40 percent of voters were against Jerry Falwell’s organization. Johnson noted that the endorsement Reagan received from the Moral Majority in 1984 actually caused more people to vote for Walter Mondale.

“Falwell and Robertson appealed to people who really don;t give a rip about actually voting,” Johnson said. “People were scared of Pat Robertson and his ultra-conservative supporters.”

Susan Klingel, instructor of speech communication, theorized that the Christian right movement failed to get his message across effectively.

“They could have done things to be more successful. They were hitting so many areas they could have had a large impact, but didn’t have the power to hold the attention of the public,” Klingel said.

The Moral Majority was too negative and their comments and concepts were too narrow to appeal to the public at large, Klingel said. Falwell’s organization was a rule-oriented type of structure and operated under a “thou shalt not” doctrine, she added.

The Christian right could have been more successful if it communicated to the public more like the Christian left, Klingel said.

Johnson said the Christian left, headed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, focuses on the broad issues of helping the disadvantaged, working for broadened civil rights and eliminating the arms race. He added, the Christian left would like to meet with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to discuss arms reductions on a moral high ground.

Although Jackson has a larger base of supporters, his association with religion is a liability, Johnson said.

“Americans don’t want religious principles in the political arena. Americans believe in the separation of church and state. The church rules in Iran. Look at the mess there.” he said and then asked, “If religion gets into American politics, whose are we to use> Jerry Falwell’s? Pat Robertson’s? What about the Jews?”

The reason for Jackson’s success compared to Pat Robertson in 1998 was because Jackson didn’t wear his religion on his sleeve, Johnson said. Robertson, unlike Jackson, gave political speeches with every other reference to the Bible.

“You can’t have a political debate when the Bible is constantly brought up,” Johnson said.

Jackson has never held an elected office and needs to get practical experience like the mayorship of Washington, D.C., Johnson said. Jackson would have been more successful if he had spent a few years in congress.

Bill Gray, the House of Representatives’ Democratic Whip. who is also a minister has a bright future, Unlike Jackson, Gray focused his political career on holding elected office, Johnson said.

Religion has had little impact on politics in the 1980s, but it has had impact in the past, he said. In the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. accomplished his civil rights victories by mobilizing black churches.

Still, people don’t want to be preached at from the White House, Johnson said. “Americans view religion as a private part of their lives, not something to vote on.”