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While California Democrats were celebrating Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination in Philadelphia, the state was left in the hands of State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson.Even in our always-connected era, California's Constitution requires...

Tom Torlakson takes charge of California with top six leaders gone

While California Democrats were celebrating Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination in Philadelphia, the state was left in the hands of State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson.Even in our always-connected era, California's Constitution requires...

Tom Torlakson takes charge of California with top six leaders gone

While California Democrats were celebrating Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination in Philadelphia, the state was left in the hands of State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson.

Even in our always-connected era, California's Constitution requires that executive power be transferred temporarily to the lieutenant governor whenever the governor is out of state.

But both Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom were in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. And so was Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Kamala Harris. That left Torlakson -- way down in the line of succession -- as the only statewide elected official left in California, and therefore, acting governor.

Normally, acting governors don't get to do much, but Torlakson saw a bit of action during his brief tenure, which lasted from Monday through Thursday.

Some of his moves were ceremonial: He declared Tuesday as Change Lives -- Be a Teacher Day and Wednesday as Be Active Day and led a walk around the Capitol. But on Wednesday, he also declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles and Monterey counties because of the Sand and Soberanes fires, which had burned tens of thousands of acres and forced residents to evacuate.

Not exactly an Al Haig moment, but more than Newsom usually gets to do when the governor's out of state.

SJ mayor hobnobs at Dem convention

Calling it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo hopped on a plane and landed in Philadelphia just in time for Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention.

But Liccardo said taxpayers didn't fund his trip during the San Jose City Council's summer recess.

"I happen to think this is a historic moment, and I'd like to be a part of it," Liccardo said after landing in Philadelphia. "Anyone interested in politics would put a national convention on their bucket list. That's why I'm paying my way to get here."

Liccardo also said the opportunity is critical to putting San Jose on the map. It's unclear how the city might benefit, but Liccardo pointed to potential networking opportunities.

"I think it's critically important we elevate the profile of San Jose on a national stage," he said. "San Jose traditionally has not been in the mix for those national conversations. We're not on the map, and we need to be able to build relationships to get on that map."

Liccardo is hardly the first San Jose mayor to go to a Democratic National Convention. Former Mayors Ron Gonzales and Susan Hammer attended. Former Mayor Chuck Reed -- famously frugal about travel -- did not.

Liccardo spoke on a panel hosted by the National Conference of Democratic Mayors titled "City Solutions: Innovation!" before returning Friday.

Some say the trip to the DNC has more to do with Liccardo's political aspirations than it does San Jose. It would make sense for the aspiring young Democrat to build bridges with the state and national party officials if he's eyeing a future run for higher office.

Liccardo, however, says he only has eyes for San Jose right now.

"I'm absolutely certain I'll run for re-election in two years," Liccardo said. "But that's all my wife will allow me to do."

Vice Mayor Rose Herrera filled in for Liccardo while he was hobnobbing in Philly -- and chaired Wednesday's Rules and Open Government Committee meeting.

Santa Clara sics legal ace on San Jose

Santa Clara has brought a hired gun to its border war with San Jose.

San Jose has threatened to sue its neighbor over the City Place Santa Clara project -- a mega development that promises to create 25,000 new jobs for Santa Clara but could strap San Jose with housing most of the new workers.

Santa Clara fired back by hiring one of the state's leading environmental and land-use attorneys, Tina Thomas, to scrutinize San Jose's projects along the two cities' borders. The move came after San Jose sent attorneys and multiple letters to oppose City Place.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo complained that the City Place project will worsen the city's anemic jobs-to-housing ratio and traffic congestion. He said Santa Clara can house only 13 percent of the new workers and San Jose will bear the burden.

"This takes the city in the opposite direction," Liccardo said during a VTA meeting in December. "It exacerbates the housing and jobs imbalance."

But Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said San Jose has approved dozens of projects near her city's border without considering how they will affect Santa Clarans. Thomas sent San Jose a dozen requests for information about those projects, including the Santana Row expansion, Volar high-rise apartments and the Winchester Ranch development.

Thomas was selected by City Attorney Ren Nosky, but the action was approved by the city's Neighborhood Enhancement Committee. Gillmor and Councilwomen Teresa O'Neill and Debi Davis sit on that committee.

"We need to know what other cities are doing," Gillmor said. "When San Jose threatened us with this legal action, it not only set a short-term bad precedent for the City Place project, but it also set a long-term bad precedent for cities trying to work together."

The most troubling part, Gillmor said, is learning that San Jose has waived traffic impact fees to lure developers. Projects in Santa Clara, she said, pay their "fair share" to alleviate traffic concerns, and now she wants to know "what else is happening" under Santa Clara's nose.

Business group drops housing bond fight

The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce has dropped its opposition to a $950 million housing bond on the November ballot amid increasing political pressure from homeless advocates, businesses and nonprofits.

The chamber's Board of Directors voted to change its stance from opposing the bond to taking "no position" -- allowing the group time to hash out concerns over the measure with Santa Clara County officials who voted to put it on the ballot. Then the chamber board will either support or remain neutral on the bond, which promises to build more affordable housing in Silicon Valley.

"We recognize that we have a regional homeless and housing crisis," said CEO Matt Mahood. "We also recognize that something needs to be done to address this crisis at the local level. But before we move forward with our position on this particular measure, we need to clearly understand the specifics in the county's plan and how they address accountability, transparency and the use of taxpayer dollars."

Over the past few months, chamber leaders have struggled with taking sides on a barrage of fiscal measures headed to voters. Voters will see proposed parcel taxes, a measure to "modernize" (increase) business taxes and the so-called "VTA tax" for transportation.

The Board of Directors agreed to remain neutral on increasing business taxes in San Jose -- which haven't been altered in 30 years. It reaffirmed its position to support the half-cent VTA tax, which is backed by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Businesses also face new regulations from a proposed ballot measure that requires companies to boost hours of part-time workers before hiring more employees -- the "Opportunity to Work" initiative crafted by the South Bay Labor Council.

Mahood called it an attack on business. The board previously voted to oppose Opportunity to Work.

The decision to drop opposition to the housing bond came after an outpouring of political pressure. Letters flooded in from county Assessor Larry Stone, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Destination: Home, the Health Trust and the Valley Medical Center Foundation.

Silicon Valley Leadership Group, meanwhile, is "neutral" on the housing bond.

Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Sal Pizarro, Ramona Giwargis and Paul Rogers. Send tips to internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-920-5782.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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