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Los Gatos Council Votes to Hold Election Despite Uncontested Race

Leaders say voters need choice to restore confidence in democratic process in town, after allegations surface that two potential candidates were 'bullied' against running.

An election to decide who will fill will take place Nov. 6 after the government body voted Wednesday evening 3-1 to hold the referendum at a cost of $37,700.

The election will take place despite being uncontested with only and , who's indicated she wants the seat vacated by being listed on the ballot.

Voting in favor of the election were Los Gatos Mayor Steve Rice and Council members Joe Pirzynski and Diane McNutt. Opposing the move was Council member Steven Leonardis.

The highly charged vote came after several town residents addressed the Council, some expressing dismay that and another potential candidate, Dennis Byron, decided against running after pulling papers.

Some of the speakers said Wilcox and Byron were bullied into dropping out of the race with bringing up alleged improprieties brought against her while serving on the Santa Clara County Office of Education and reported in a 2007 Mercury News article.

" ... Two other potential candidates have been anonymously attacked and intimidated in a disgraceful way before they could even fully express their views," said Los Gatos resident Glenn Boyd, referring to Wilcox and Byron. "Evidently the supporters of the existing candidates believe the citizens of Los Gatos aren't either entitled to, [nor] capable of making choices among candidates ... Well, I'm entitled. I'm capable and I expect a choice." 

Boyd said the situation presented the opportunity for a sitting Council member to step forward and provide real leadership to the town and that Spector and Jensen, "benefiting from the disgraceful tactics," would withdraw their candidacies until an election could be held.

Los Gatos community advocate Jak Van Nada said the town was not the only municipality facing an uncontested Council race and cited the Campbell, Los Altos Hills and Saratoga Council races, which are unopposed this year with incumbents being appointed. "I just don't see, or understand why we would spend $37,700," he said about the election's cost estimated by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters' Office.

Longtime Los Gatos resident Larry Arzie said he had written a letter to the Los Gatos Weekly-Times expressing his outrage at those who had engaged in character assassination against the potential candidates, but that his anger paled to his anger at an editorial the newspaper ran this week where its editor suggested that those involved in the character assassination of Wilcox, particularly, were part of the Council.

"His mere putting in print that it could be possible is as much dirty political tricks as what happened to both potential candidates. Innuendo is a powerful tool, especially when used by the editor of a paper, creating gossip and rumor," he said.

Vikki Foley Boyd spoke against the appointment of the candidates. "I'm sure Vice Mayor Barbara Spector and Mrs. Jensen are not proud to [not] rightfully earn their positions." She then noted she was frustrated by the prospect she would not get a chance to vote. She asked the Council to postpone the election until another candidate would come forward and hold a special election.

Dick Allen was upset at the insinuation that Spector and Jensen didn't earn their positions on the Council.

Douglas Clark encouraged the Council to save the money of holding the election and appoint the candidates.

And Chris Wiley said it was unfair to not appoint after Spector and Jensen had completed all the proper paperwork to run on time and were now denied the appointment because other possible contenders felt threatened and bullied.

But to no avail. Pirzynski made the motion to hold the election, indicated it was an uncomfortable time in town history and revealed many had expressed to him wanting a chance to vote in the Council race.

Pirzynski said although he had high regards for Spector and Jensen, the citizenry deserved the candidates' discussion of the issues in various forms during the campaign.

He added the Council would be doing the citizens a disservice by appointing the candidates and stopping the electoral process. "When you look at election code, there's still opportunity for someone to run as a write-in candidate ... Is that realistic? I have no idea, but my sense is ... that this is one of the legal options that's available for those in the community," he said. "I believe this community deserves an opportunity to hear from the candidates."

Leonardis, strongly opposing the election expenditure, said Spector and Jensen should have been appointed because they completed the filing process and met the deadlines. He also reiterated how Los Gatos was not alone in having an uncontested race.

"Why would we spend nearly $40,000 when we have a $2 million budget deficit this year?" he asked. "When it's all but certain that these two people who did follow the process ... will win. I'm all for democracy and potential write-in elections, but when I googled write-in election, the top-two vote-getters are Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse ... It's a waste of the taxpayers' money."

Rice took exception with Leonardis saying the town had a budget deficit and said Los Gatos balances its budget every year. He then said Alaska elected a U.S. senator two years ago on a write-in ballot. "It does happen in much bigger venues than the Town of Los Gatos. I really came in this evening somewhat undecided on which way I was leaning on this, but one thing that is very clear about Los Gatos is that it values debate. It values discussion of ideas and to appoint council members, one who has never run for Council, would rob the citizenry of that debate and that discussion," Rice said. "On that basis ... alone ... I believe it's worth $1.20 per citizen of the Town of Los Gatos to have that debate."

Leonardis said the candidates could still participate in debates coordinated by the Santa Clara County Leagues of Women Voters and other organizations.

Councilwoman McNutt lamented that the two candidates who dropped out of the race were bullied and intimidated and said she found it disturbing. The end result, caused by perhaps supporters of Spector and Jensen who may have participated, is that it was disrespectful and insulting to the women. "What's the message here? Well .. the only way we can get these people elected is to scare off all the competition."

"This is not [about] dollars, but the principle and the idea of democratic principles. We have deprived, through a set of circumstances, voters from the opportunity of voting for whom they want to have on the Council," she said. "The dirty political tricks that apparently were seen in this community don't belong here and obviously did not seem to work. I hope we never have this experience again."

AR August 23, 2012 at 10:32 AM
3:29 am on Thursday, August 23, 2012 you should all be ashamed for subverting the rules. your candidate CHOSE not to run. your candidate CHOSE not to defend these claims of bullying themselves. a coward. and claims they can represent me? this candidate cannot even defend their own integrity. i am ashamed that i signed this candidate's nomination sheet, i am now party to this illegal subversion, against my intentions. jensen and spector should sue.
AR August 23, 2012 at 10:54 AM
and can mcnutt prove her claims? she had better start gathering some data to support her bogus suppositions
Fred Williams August 23, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Looks like the majority of the council wants to back Ms. Wilcox to replace Steve Rice. They are desparately grabbing at straws with Ms. Wilcox. When you google her name all kinds of bad things come up. I feel sad they are pushing her out there to make some kind of political point, costing Los Gatos 40K.
Larry Arzie August 23, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Your supposition that one or all three of the council majority voted as they did in order to find a write in candidate is more than plausible. If that write in candidate turns out to be Ms Wilcox and if she wins as she just might, then I think the council majority is in for a surprise. She is not the stooge that they are hoping for. She is a capable executive and will not roll over for, the elites of commerce, reality, developers, the press, government or monied individuals. Her character will not let her be a yes person.
James George August 23, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I agree with Fred's comments. I am not sure how up to date and current Ms. Wilcox is on Los Gatos' town issues nor do I know if the accusations against her are true but I do know that Spector and Jensen are currently working everyday to make our town a better place and have no political black eyes against them. If given a choice between the three just on those facts I would vote Spector & Jensen all the way.
James George August 23, 2012 at 06:27 PM
It's time to rethink recalling Pryzinski and McNutt. Wasting the town's money for a power grab is beyond reprehensible. To watch Pyzinski pontificate like we are wayward children and that smug smile on McNutt's face was enough to incite civil unrest.
AS in LG August 23, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Pryzinski and McNutt need to go. Your observation is astute Buzy. Pryzinski's pontifications are embarrassing. When not rambling on at council meetings he struts around Los Gatos like a cock in a hen house. He is not at all objective, he always knows best. That's it. I can't stand it any longer. This was the straw for me with him. And McNutt seems to only be ther to help her Chamber of Commerce connections for her PR business. We never see her anywhere in town or hear from her at all. Completely not engaged. But like you said, what a smug look! They both need to move on.
Clyde Sebastian August 23, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Looks like Wilcox would fit in well being that she also chooses to violate the Brown Act. A perfect replacement for Rice. http://missioncitylantern.blogspot.com/2007/09/colleen-wilcox-our-little-secret.html
Larry Arzie August 23, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Clyde, the Brown Act is broken regularly. I'm pretty sure a daisy chain call from one to the other of the council majority happened and it was decided to go forward with the election prior to council meeting. I am also pretty sure they are hustling some poor sole to run on a write in ballot. We need to leave Ms. Wilcox alone. The more talk about her the worse we look. By the way Leonardis sure shined last night. I think he is tired of playing second fiddle to the council majority being afraid to insight them. Now that he is sure there will be a new majority he is burning his bridges behind him taking no cover. Good for you Steve. You can not represent your constituents until you have equal standing.
Tim Lundell August 23, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Larry....I know you have never been shy, so I'm not surprised that you don't hide behind a pseudonym when you make comments. I also appreciate anyone who steps to the podium at Council chambers and voices their objections (and even insults) in the light of day. On the other hand, my respect for the anonymous mud-slinging that goes on in this forum, as in the case of the faceless torrent of criticism that Colleen Wilcox endured...not so much.
Dianne Rhudy August 23, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Oh please! Almost 40M to be spent needlessly. Are we that affluent? I'm embarassed. When I see and read about the real needs in so many of our communities in our county, and we do this? Not how i want town funds spent.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz August 23, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I would have to agree with Dianne. It seems like everyone wants you $$!
James George August 24, 2012 at 12:15 AM
I reread the comments and Colleen was not the recipient of mud slinging or criticism. We are commenting on the process and our unhappiness with the Town Council's methods.
AR August 24, 2012 at 01:13 AM
why are these discussions continually cast as "bullying" or "mudslinging"? freedom of speech and an active, critical press are essential to any democracy, even when it makes you uncomfortable. was someone slandered or defamed? if so, seek redress in the courts. otherwise realize that elected leaders or candidates are open to scrutiny. as for people using aliases, get over it, the internet will outlive you
KMD August 24, 2012 at 03:06 PM
$40K not $40M :-)
Larry Arzie August 24, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Thanks Tim for the kind words (compliment I think). I have lived in Los Gatos for 45 years and have seen many manifestations. The divisiveness of the past 10 years due to the power block on council has been the worst. Hiding behind a pseudonym has it purposes but to do so to destroy someone is unacceptable. When politicians act in their own self interest they deserve harsh criticism "and even insults", but not the way this was done and she is not even a politician but someone wanting to do some good for our community.

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