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September 30, 2022
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Candidates boycott political forum put on by supporters of opponents

Two Council candidates—Mayor Rob Rennie and Rob Moore—boycotted a forum hosted Sept. 13 by the Los Gatos Community Alliance, an organization which has been helping others on the ballot.

A third, Planning Commissioner Reza Tavana, told organizers he was too busy to attend.

“I always hesitate to say something negative, but this is—in my opinion—a bogus forum,” Rennie said. “This is a group that’s already supporting two or three of the candidates—has been sending emails trashing some of the candidates. And then they want to have a forum?”

Three Council seats are up for election Nov. 8. The others vying for elected office this round are Councilmember Mary Badame, entrepreneur Rob Stump and Margaret Smith, the past president of the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce.

Rennie says LGCA has been misrepresenting the truth about the Town’s finances.

“My biggest nit is people that spread misinformation,” he said. “And I just don’t want to be in the middle of that.”

For example, they sent out an email warning General Fund reserves were too low, Rennie said.

“That’s really disingenuous,” he said. “First of all, our reserves haven’t been dropping.”

And secondly, he continued, it was the people behind the Alliance who previously told Council to divert money away from the General Fund to take advantage of better investment returns elsewhere.

Around 2017, Los Gatos—flush with surpluses—put $10 million into pension funds, he noted.

The Town directed funds to a Section 115 trust and was later able to use this money to make sure public pensions would be taken care of into the future, via CalPERS, said Rennie.

“Then, this same group of people put this referendum on the General Plan on the ballot,” he said. “They put two elements of the General Plan on hold. We now have a General Plan that’s in effect but it’s missing a couple elements.”

LGCA founder Jak Van Nada said their organization should be credited with pushing the community in a positive financial direction, and charges that Rennie was against some of its ideas.

The Alliance isn’t happy that Rennie voted for the 2040 General Plan, which—although it left single-family parcels at the same density as in the previous plan—did increase density in some areas.

LGCA tapped former finance committee vice-chair Terry Duryea to moderate Tuesday’s event. At the event, Van Nada told the Los Gatan that Duryea actually supports Rennie and Moore.

Terry asks a question
Terry Duryea directs a question to one of the candidates. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

“I control the forum,” Duryea stressed he’d stipulated to organizers, in his introductory remarks.

In an email sent to candidates, Van Nada had acknowledged members had made contributions to two people on the ballot, but still attempted to dress the forum in a cloak of impartiality.

“LGCA members Van Nada, (Rick) Van Hoesen and (Phil) Koen will not create, nor ask, nor answer questions during the forum to remove any thought that the Forum is leaning one way or the other,” he said.

Philip Koen, listing his job as CEO Montero Partners, gave Badame—the owner of Mary Badame Insurance—$2,500 on Aug. 4, according to financial documents filed with elections officials. Then, on Aug. 23, Koen, noting his job as chairman of Stack Infrastructure, gave Rob Stump $2,500.

Koen was out of the country and unable to attend Tuesday’s forum.

Stump gave Badame $250, on July 28. The same day, Van Nada, listing his occupation as retired, gave Badame $500. He told the Los Gatan he also gave Stump $500.

Jordan Sweetnam, a senior vice president at eBay, contributed $2,500 to Stump on Sept. 11. Also that day, Jon Witty, the owner of Will Power Gym, gave him $1,000.

Badame put $10,000 into her own campaign, July 7.

Moore’s filings include an “accidental personal payment” totaling $165, including refunding $115 to Los Gatos-based NARAI LLC, and $50 to “Kylie,” presumably his girlfriend Kylie Clark, a Los Gatos Planning Commissioner. His largest contribution, for $4,900, came from Richard Moore, a sales manager at Veritiv Corp., a printing and packaging company, on April 27.

One of Rennie’s disclosure forms shows he’s widely invested in tech, health care and energy companies. This includes a valuable portfolio of stocks: more than $10,000-worth in Johnson & Johnson, more than $2,000 in Enbridge Inc., more than $10,000 in Pfizer, more than $10,000 in Verizon, and more than $10,000 in Amazon.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 12, Michael Hsing, chairman of Monolithic Power Systems, gave Stump $4,500.

Moore says he doesn’t have a problem with LGCA opposing his positions but disapproves of their efforts to disguise a biased political venue as an unbiased candidate meeting.

“The Los Gatos Community Alliance is pretty clear in their beliefs,” he said. “However, I was surprised then to see them put on what they are trying to say is an impartial forum when they have very early on in the race decided who their preferred candidates are.”

Van Nada said it’s a shame he couldn’t make it.

“It would have been valuable to have Rob Moore—and even Rob Rennie,” he said. “We want everybody to bring out their views.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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