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July 5-11, 2006

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

Too Far Gong

By Gary Singh

LAST WEEK, media everywhere reported on the "historic" San Jose City Council meeting where most of the council emotionally asked Mayor Ron Gonzales to throw in the towel. Following Gonzo's recent indictment on several charges including bribery and conspiracy, the councilmembers unleashed a last-minute agenda to thrash out the details of what they should do in case he doesn't resign. More than the usual amount of television cameras, reporters and security guards filled City Hall for this "special meeting." Every possible emotion—joy, sorrow and disgust—was thrown right in your face.

By the time you read this, everyone will already have written, screamed and blogged about it, so allow me to furnish an alternative description of the clown show that this was: You see, back in the '70s, America was blessed with an ingenious TV program called The Gong Show. Legendary game show impresario Chuck Barris went out and solicited the worst acts he possibly could, put 'em onstage and paid three celebrities to get drunk and judge the whole thing. If the celebrities deemed an act absolutely atrocious, they would stand up and bash a huge gong, signaling the end of the performance. The concept of the "gong" thus forever ingrained itself in American pop culture.

This special session of the City Council should have been an episode of The Gong Show. Here are a few of the highlights: At the onset, Gonzo defiantly declared: "I plan to complete my term as your mayor." One person booed, and one person applauded. About 20 members of the Gonzales family were in the audience and he directed them all to stand up while he explained that this whole ordeal was about preserving the Gonzales family name and the family pride. Someone in the audience immediately yelled, "Save it for the jury!"

As the grumblings from the crowd escalated, the mayor reminded the audience that they must remain quiet until the public session commenced. He then asked his staff to stand up as he bragged that their combined efforts added up to two centuries of public service—a claim about as meaningless as a tag-team pro-wrestling duo being ticketed at a "total combined weight" of 750 pounds.

Councilmember Forrest Williams—one of two along with Madison Nguyen who didn't vote for Gonzo's resignation—went on to compare the efforts of those calling for Ron's removal to the 1933 lynching in St. James Park. I immediately thought, Where's the bloody gong when you need it?

Councilmember Linda LeZotte, on the other hand, did not deserve a gong. In a poignant attack, she told this to Gonzales: "I am judging as I can under the charter your fitness for office and whether or not the 10th largest city in the country deserves a mayor with your obvious lack of judgment and the ability to lead under this cloud. Your refusal to resign speaks volumes about your arrogance, and of your failure to recognize your ethical shortcomings, not about your guilt or your innocence. Today is not about you. It's about what is best for this city. So again I ask you to do the honorable thing and resign, for the good of the citizens of San Jose." Hear, hear!

The public session constituted the main attraction of this episode of The Gong Show and many folks actually defended Gonzo, blasting the council for originally assuming they could simply sit down and remove the guy from office. Bill Chew went to the podium, sans the roller skates, and accused the council of being a lynch mob. Several Latinos also took center stage and played the race card, saying things like, "This didn't happen to the last white mayor." The lack of a gong really became apparent when a Bible-thumping zealot took the podium and compared Ron Gonzales' adultery to King David's adultery. He then blasted Gonzo for supporting gay marriage and voting to give health benefits to fornicators.

Lastly, let me point out that a regular on the original Gong Show was the Unknown Comic, that famous comedian who wore a paper bag over his head. There's a metaphor here somewhere, although I just don't know what. Let's just redo this whole City Council meeting with Chuck Barris as the emcee. I'll volunteer to be one of the judges.

Contact Gary Singh or send a letter to the editor about this story.