Scott Herhold on the D6 Candidate Transparency Project
|Pierluigi Oliverio’s spreadsheet: Seeking clarity in a council raceWhen he leaves office at the end of 2016, San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio will have spent nearly a decade on the job. A fabled precinct-walker, he has won three races for council and lost one for mayor. He could be forgiven for strolling into the sunset.
Instead, Oliverio is embarked on an effort to hold the feet of his potential successors to the flame. In emails to the eight likely candidates of District 6, he is asking them to declare — yes or no, please — how they would vote on issues on the council agenda.
He plans to use the results to make a spreadsheet that will be made available online and to people who attend three candidate forums that he has planned for next spring — forums which Oliverio himself will moderate.
Like a few other things Oliverio, this has caused a kerfuffle. At least one candidate, Helen Chapman, has declined to participate, saying she doesn’t have enough information. Other folks say Oliverio is unfairly trying to leave his imprint on the race.
The councilman says he’s doing all this in the name of clarity, and I think he has a point. “Traditionally, when candidates are running for office, they fill out yes or no questionnaires from special interest groups, and that whole process is private,” he explains.
“So why not give them real-world scenarios of what’s on the council agenda?” he asks. “They have access to staff reports, to council member memos and the city clerk’s public comments. They then can say how they’d vote.”
As a first test, Oliverio asked the candidates how they would vote on two items on Tuesday’s City Council agenda — a below-market rent deal for the Camera 3 cinemas and a new office building proposed for Santana Row. He says he’s gotten responses from about half the field so far.
Unlike a lot of politicians, the councilman shuns the obfuscations that characterize most campaigns. His questionnaire allows a candidate to change a vote based on the council debate. But if an aspirant is not answering yes or no, the flames beckon.
“What I’m doing is setting up a forum that provides transparency in voting record,” he said. “If the question is not answered, then I have the background to say the question has been answered or not.”
To grumbling that he is trying to guide the results, Oliverio points out that he is asking the same questions of every candidate — and that he plans no endorsement. His questions focus on the nitty-gritty.
“Sometimes, it’s about where the next dog park should go,” he explains. “Should it go here? Or maybe over there? Residents have the expectation that elected officials will do their homework and make a decision.”
The eight presumed candidates in District 6, which includes Willow Glen and the Rose Garden neighborhoods, are Norm Kline, Dev Davis, Chapman, Chris Roth, Erik Fong, Alex Shoor, Peter Allen and Jeff Bedolla.
I’m not sure I envy their duty in responding to the questions. But Oliverio, who says he’ll post results on nextdoor.com and sjdistrict6.com, is doing a public service. If you don’t learn more about the candidates, blame yourself.
Contact Scott Herhold at 408-275-0917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
POSTED: 09/23/2015 10:15:18 AM PDT