It’s the kind of town that’s so upright that it can’t even muster a decent corrupt politician. Yesterday we heard that San Jose’s former mayor, Ron Gonzales, will have all criminal charges against him dropped. Gonzales had all these charges against him because he cut a secret deal with a local garbage-hauling outfit — not to line his pocket, but to ensure he’d never get tagged with the blame for a garbage strike. Mind you this secret deal ended up costing the city an extra $11-plus million and Gonzales didn’t precisely have the authority to make this “labor peace” agreement without consulting his colleagues on the City Council. An ambitious prosecutor had it in his head that because Gonzales benefited politically from the deal, he could be charged with bribery and sundry other crimes.
Yesterday a judge said the indictments against Gonzales were bunk. So, game over. (Gonzales had been out of office for months because his term ended, so not much was really at stake anyway.)
I worked on the editorial page when this controversy came to a head — we called for him to resign; he declined, probably because he figured he’d done nothing wrong. Well, committed no crimes.
But what happened to the dear ex-mayor is instructive: He ruled like an emperor, ran roughshod over everybody at City Hall, and tried as he might to do as he damned well pleased and didn’t care who he pissed off. When the City Council got word that he’d cut this garbage deal behind their backs, the mayor’s comeuppance arrived: They couldn’t force him out of office so they did the next best thing: ruined his political career, guaranteeing he’d never, say, run for Congress or Governor or something.
Gonzales was a career local politico who, as far as I know, had no money beyond his paycheck. It had to have cost him a fortune in legal fees to make these charges go away, money he probably didn’t have and furthermore, probably can’t raise from supporters because he doesn’t have any. So, add major legal debts to his bill of woes.
Gonzales wasn’t really a bad mayor — he had a decent vision for where the city ought to be going, as far as I could tell — but he was terrible politician. When he found himself in a jam he had nobody watching his back, so a minor controversy caused by a proper urge to spare the citizens of San Jose from the perils of a garbage-worker strike ended up forcing him to serve out his last few months in office friendless, powerless and disgraced.
Sort of a lesson there about how being nice to people is actually in your self-interest.