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Silicon Valley News Notes

Laird in Limbo

So who's the saddest person at an election night party? Fly wagers that it's not the losers, who can tell themselves they'll get it next time. Nor is it the spouses of the winners, who, blanch though they may at the prospect of two to four years of stultifying official functions, will at least get to update their wardrobes. Nope, Fly's money is on the termed-out electeds, momentarily stripped of purpose and wandering around with hands in pockets, trying to imagine a fulfilling future built around tai chi or maybe clearing brush. On election night, District 27 Assemblyman John Laird had the look of a man without a mission. Oh, he hid it well; if the southern Santa Clara County rep has been crying himself to sleep at night over having to vacate his Sacramento office, Fly couldn't tell. He was amiable as always, inspecting Fly's new wedding bling, answering questions about his staff ("I think we've secured a landing for all but two") and hinting vaguely about an unspecified environmental post when queried about his own future. It was a classic Laird moment, intimate but not—the kind of exchange that's made him a favorite with reporters. But it was a far cry from the scene around District 27 successor Bill Monning earlier that evening. A bustle attended the newly elected Democratic assemblyman at the swanky Santa Cruz lounge Red, where supporters swirled around, bulbs flashed and a cameraman set up for an interview. Monning's wasting no time getting up to speed with the big dogs; he told Fly he's met several times with Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Assembly Majority Whip Fiona Ma and Appropriations chairman Kevin DeLeon. "John's been wonderful," he added in a nod to Laird. "I'm working with him on a number of things." Asked about the first order of business, Monning said everyone was focused on the special budget session called by the governor to find an extra $4.5 billion in cuts to help close an $11 billion shortfall. He hinted at a preventive measure that his class might be able to enact: "I think coming out of this we'll be exploring how to reduce the benchmark for passing the budget from two-thirds to 55 percent," he said. If that happens, it'll be the thing that could have changed Laird's tenure as Assembly budget chairman from a frustrating struggle—especially this year, with the budget almost three months overdue—to a shining success and a fitting crown to an impressive career. Instead, for his last two weeks in office, Laird is serving as special session assembly budget chairman, essentially tasked with using the jaws of life to rescue the budget from the wreckage wrought by minority rule. It's the kind of job that, on second thought, probably makes tai chi look pretty good.

Cop vs. Ex-Cop

In the same way that some Vietnamese love to hate Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, San Jose cops appear once again to have turned against one of their own—Councilman Pete Constant. In the latest episode of Constant vs. the Police Officer's Association, the POA is furious that Constant, who is a former cop, openly opposes their pick, Dave Bacigalupi, to represent them on the Association of Retired San Jose Police Officers and Firefighters board, which is directly involved in deciding retirement for officers, among other things. This came to light when Constant was at a retirees Oct. 9 general meeting to refute statements hammering him in the POA newsletter. While he was there, he indicated that he wouldn't support Bacigalupi when he went before the City Council for approval. POA president Bobby Lopez believes Constant's opposition is rooted in a grudge against Bacigalupi, who apparently voted against awarding Constant his retirement when he was a cop. Bacigalupi, who is running again for a different seat on the retirement board, eventually supported Constant's request. "Pete holds a grudge on that," Lopez says. "He told me he is angry that Mr. Bacigalupi didn't afford him the retirement and he had to jump through hoops." Constant's office denies any grudge. It's the latest spat between the POA and Constant, who wasn't supportive of the group's request for enhanced benefits when the city was negotiating new contract for police officers. Maybe they were expecting a little more sympathy from a veteran cop who now wields some political power. "He has chosen his political stance over police officers," Lopez says. "I don't think the police officers are happy."

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