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Silicon Valley News Notes

Pay the Man

If the San Jose City Council think their pay sucks, they have only themselves to blame. They've been too afraid to give themselves a raise over the years—and who can blame them? It's kind of awkward—not to mention usually unpopular—for public employees to give themselves a salary boost. That's why the council wants to revamp the way things are done when it comes to council compensation. The way it works now is that a salary setting committee (appointed by the council) meets every other year. They bring recommendations to the council, who then vote for or against giving themselves more money. The council was thinking about asking the voters to amend the city charter and take that responsibility out of the hands of the City Council. The ballot measure read like this: set the mayor and council salaries equal to 80 percent and 60 percent of the salary of a California Superior Court judge. But polls show that voters weren't really into that. The council agreed that maybe there were just too many tax measures going on the November ballot and now wasn't a good time to address the subject, even if it meant changing the process so that in the future councils didn't have to vote on their pay increases. "I could support this at some other time, but I think going on the ballot this time, with the other tax measures on there, is a negative distraction," said Reed. The council historically has been forgoing raises despite the recommendations from the salary committee to boost its pay. But last year, the council decided in a 6-5 vote to take a 20 percent raise over two years (the mayor has waived his raise). Some argued that a council seat shouldn't be about making big bucks, while others argued that council work is a full-time job and they have financial obligations and families to raise. "I don't want this to become a retiree hobby for the millionaires club," said Councilman Constant, who pushed for the pay increases last year. "I feel strongly about it. I long advocated to get quality people on council, and they won't because they say it's a pay cut."

Multilevel Housing

The lazy angle on Sam Liccardo's affordable-housing position is that it's oh so wacky! It goes like this: Liccardo has been an outspoken advocate for affordable housing. But he's refusing to endorse an all-affordable-housing project in his district. See, crazy, right? Except that to Liccardo, this makes perfect sense: He says he is responding to neighborhood concerns about having too many affordable housing projects concentrated in the same area. Stuffing too many projects in one area can have consequences, the councilman believes. For instance, housing projects with below-market-rate units are not obligated to pay for fees to build parks in the neighborhood. That could create a park deficit in an area that already has several affordable housing projects. What Liccardo wants is a mix of both market and below-market-rate housing. "The goal is not to warehouse poor people in one part of town and one neighborhood," Liccardo said. He added that he has made that clear to the developers since the start of the project. "'I'm hoping to work this out," Liccardo added.  Constant couldn't help but go after him on this one. At a recent council hearing  Liccardo asked his colleagues to  defer the proposed  300-unit  project while he and city staff worked with the developer to agree to include market-rate housing in the project. Constant said he was surprised that Liccardo would try to block an affordable housing project of any kind at a time when the city is considering an ordinance (that Liccardo initiated) to force developers to build more low-income housing.  "It defies reason." Constant said. "It's like saying  'I'm  for affordable housing, but not in my district,' ... that's the impression." Liccardo couldn't help himself either:  "I'm confident that Councilman Constant's interest in the project had nothing to do with the fundraising prowess of the developers," he said.

Due South

Yeah, Barack Obama made another stop in San Francisco last weekend for another private fundraiser from Bay Area donors, where tickets were $2,300. Big deal, what we want to know is where's the Obama love in Silicon Valley? He apparently can't stay away from San Francisco—he spoke at an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees event there just a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps it should be noted that Obama only won two congressional districts in Northern California; one was S.F. and the other was right here in Silicon Valley (Anna Eshoo's district, covering parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties). So when will Obama make a swing through the South Bay? Are we not audacious enough or something?

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