Why Tam Thinks He Can Be Mayor

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - March 24, 2010
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City Councilman Rod Tam wants to be our mayor.

I would chuckle at the very thought, but ... wait. People keep voting for him. In fact, Tam has held public office for close to three decades - 20 years in the state Legislature and eight as a City Councilman.

Wow. Gee. That means there is actually a chance he could become mayor. Hoooo boy. Pop the corn, please. This should be good.

A little background about Tam. He’s used to being in the public eye, but usually for the wrong reasons. Like when folks were simultaneously laughing and scorning his proposal to pass real life laws to provide snacks and allow government workers to take naps during working hours. I can tell you, quite a few of us in news-rooms got a chuckle out of that (while wishing we could take naps, too).


Then there was the suggestion that the city turn Koko Crater into a landfill. Hmmm. Not many takers on that one.

And there was the time he (along with Nestor Garcia) wanted to ban smelly people from TheBus. The intent was good, but quite frankly the proposal caused quite a stink among those who saw a few problems down the road if it managed to pass.

What else? I know there was something else.

Oh, right. He used the derogatory racial term “wetback” - in public. And afterward apologized.

So now, Tam is in the news again. And once again it is not for anything good. This time he’s in trouble for the way he used his city allowance. Apparently there is some silly rule that prohibits using taxpayer money to pay for stuff that has nothing to do with city business. Well, duh. Who would have thunk?

Well apparently, City Councilman Rod Tam didn’t. I mean, for four years he used his kitty to pay for meals and gifts that were ruled to be ineligible. But the real kicker is that even as the city Ethics Commission was investigating him for possible abuses of thousands of dollars, Tam continued to spend the money in this way.

So let’s get this straight. For months, he knew he was being scrutinized yet he did not feel it necessary to adjust or curtail the behavior in question?

I have one thing to ask. Councilman Tam, what the heck is wrong with you?

Apparently Tam doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with him. He thinks there’s something wrong with the people who are questioning his behavior. He has agreed to pay almost $14,000 - but only after a deal was reached in which the charges were dropped and he didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing.

He says he should be given the benefit of the doubt. He blames misclassifications, misunderstandings. He says the issue is trumped up by his political enemies.

In other words, none of it is his fault.

I guess, if I try very hard, I could see someone making a $13,700 mistake. I could see that maybe someone’s out to get him. Politics can be brutal like that. But when you look at the entirety of his career so far and put all the “situations” together, a pattern emerges.


It appears Rod Tam is just bad at his job. He is politically tone deaf. He doesn’t appear to know squat about what’s important to people or to the state. Why else waste time on silly legislation and pie-in-the sky proposals that no one takes seriously?

As a reporter, I had a tiny problem with him for a different reason. The guy is inarticulate. I would spend time interviewing him, trying to get a cohesive thought or answer from him and end up using the tiniest snippet because there just wasn’t anything there. Now, I don’t know what that means about his thought processes, but you have to wonder. Will he be able to mobilize people and push through solutions to big problems if he can’t even articulate his vision for the city?

Rod Tam has been around a long time - long enough to have maybe learned a few lessons in politics, public perception and, you know, ethics. The fact that he does-n’t appear to have learned anything says something about him. But it says something, too, about the folks who keep putting him into office.

That’s why he thinks he can be mayor, because no matter what he does or doesn’t do, he keeps getting elected. Maybe (shudder) he’s right.

Pass the popcorn. This should be interesting.

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