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Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
MONEY TALKS: Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson (pictured) says a petition being funded by former Town Councilman Steve Glickman could delay a popular library project and cost the town $500,000.

Attack of the Gadfly

Former Los Gatos Town Council member launches a last fight against Town Hall

By Jessica Fromm

WITH a public career on the Los Gatos Town Council marked by controversy and open hostility toward his fellow councilmembers, Steve Glickman now seems to want to retire from politics with as much tumult as possible.

As the main financial backer of two initiatives currently being floated, Glickman has caused tempers to flare around the idyllic community. Citizens are picketing at the Farmers Market, and shouting at Town Council meetings about him and his initiatives.

Glickman says he's "kind of cleaning up some unfinished business" with his initiatives, each of which seem custom made to provoke a ruckus. One would institute term limits on his former council colleagues, and the other would force a delay in the building of a long-awaited and widely supported new library.

Glickman is taking it quite personally, insisting that he is being targeted. "There are people in the town do not think well of me, and some of this is a visceral dislike of me," he says. "It's just an excuse to attack me, because they truly, deeply hate me."

Glickman officially retired from public life last December with a surprise announcement that he was giving up the council seat he'd held for eight years. Still, he sees it as his duty to follow up on the two scourges he'd railed against on the dais: "monument building" and the "insurmountable power of council incumbency."

While he is backing both ballot initiatives financially, he says that only the one that purposes term limits was his idea. He says the other, much more controversial initiative, which proposes limits on capital spending on projects that cost more than $7 million without voter approval, was brought to his attention by supporters in the community.

According to Los Gatos Mayor Mike Wasserman, the only project that could ever be impacted by that ballot measure is the new library project, because the town has no plans to ever engage in a project of that size. However, the library is not mentioned in the initiative that Glickman wrote.

"What is irritating and angering people," Wasserman says, "is that when they wrote up the initiative, it didn't say that this will apply to the new library, and that project has been in the works for several years." Glickman, however, believes the library is the tip of an iceberg—a plan to build a massive civic center.

The fight has been taken to the streets with a series of public clashes between library supporters and the paid signature-gathers Glickman has hired to collect the 1,871 registered voter signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot. Steve Pinney, manager of Lunardi's Supermarket, was involved in an incident involving the petitioners three weeks ago. Pinney says they misrepresented themselves when they asked for permission to collect signatures in front of his store.

"The gentlemen came into the store and asked me if I minded if he set up a table to register voters, and I told him that would be fine, knowing that he has a constitutional right to do that anyway," Pinney says.

"Then about an hour later ... this gentleman is asking people to sign petitions. I had no idea that there were petitions involved."

Evidence on YouTube

Library supporters say the petition gatherers are lying to citizens as well. To prove it, one videotaped a conversation he had with a man collecting signatures at the downtown Farmers Market. The video, which has been posted on YouTube, shows one of the petitioners, who knew he was being filmed, making statements that go from vague to flat-out false.

When asked if the initiative will affect the library, the man dances over the question, saying yes, then no, mumbles something about term limits, then says the petition only deals with shopping centers.

"That's a whole bunch of politics; ... propaganda," the man says, adding that the petition has nothing to do with the library."

"So I can sign this, and our library still gets built?" says the video taker. "Yes, yes," says the signature gatherer, looking away nervously. A library supporter named Donn Waters brought the You Tube video to the June 15 Town Council meeting. Showing the video live, he called on the council to stop "renegades of malcontent [that want] to derail the building of our new library." Waters went on to ask for Glickman's petition permit to be withdrawn for "illegal activities" and for him to be punished.

After Waters spoke, Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson said that inappropriate campaign behavior and misinformation can be criminally investigated by the district attorney's office, and he asked for any evidence of such activity to be reported to the Police Department.

Glickman, who has seen the YouTube video, said that he has fired that particular paid signature gatherer.

Furthermore, he alleges that his paid petition gathers have been physically assaulted and robbed. According to a police report, one of Glickman's paid petitioners was collecting signatures at the Los Gatos Safeway on Pollard Road. She was asked to leave by the manager after a costumer complained she was harassing patrons. As the woman was walking back to her car, she says, the customer who had complained came up behind her and grabbed the clipboard from her hand, which contained signed petition papers.

Sgt. Kerry Harris says the police are investigating the robbery, but, without any other witnesses and no surveillance video, there is not a lot they can do to find the suspect unless more information comes forward.

The Los Gatos community has been discussing the possibility of a new library since the 1980s. The current location was built in 1964, when the population of Los Gatos was 9,000, and currently serves a population of 30,000 and has fallen into disrepair.

Surprisingly, Glickman says that he supports the building of a new public library, insisting that it's the principle of the thing that matters. "If we put it to a vote, I encourage people to vote for a new library, but they are the ones who have to make the choice," he says.

Since 2002 there have been six focus groups, two community forums, a design charrette and seven council meetings, as well as five specific public meetings, a community forum and three neighborhood meetings where the new library was the only focus.

"Well, come on, the only people who came to the meetings were the Friends of the Library," Glickman says. "Of course, the Friends of the Library have gone bananas. They are a group of sweet little old ladies who have been dreaming of a new library for decades. Now it's sort of within their grasp. And along comes this initiative. And they are good-hearted ladies that want a new library, and they want to build it with public money. But, you've got to ask."

Wasserman says that there has already been extensive polling and public meeting to establish that the vast majority of people in Los Gatos want a new library, which will be funded by the town's redevelopment agency.

"I have no idea why Glickman is doing this when he knows it's not the truth," says Wasserman. "He says, Well, I just want the people to vote on it. They already voted on it 10 times. It's a waste of energy, it's a waste of money."

If Glickman manages to collect enough signatures to get his initiative on the ballot, it could delay the library project up to 12 months and cost the city $500,000, Larson says. With the possibility of $500,000 less available to build the new library, the council would have to either downscale the project to reduce the cost, or to supplement the costs with other resources, be it public money or private money.

Glickman makes no apologies for adding significant costs to the project. "People say, Oh, what about the election, that's expensive. I say, I'm sorry, I think that is called democracy."

Pressed, he also seems to back-pedal from his avowed support of the project, offering his opinion that the council is building the library for the wrong reasons.

"This is not just the library," he says, "it's their first phase of the civic center master plan. It's monument building."

Mayor Wasserman, however, sees everything surrounding Glickman's initiatives as ludicrous.

"You write the ballot initiative. The only thing it applies to is the library, and yet you don't put 'library' in there? Why didn't he have the guts to say 'Please sign the initiative if you want to put the building of a new library to the people?' Because he would lose that," Wasserman says. "People are signing the petition to put the initiative on the ballot under false pretenses. ... I don't know about you, but that's not right."

Only time will tell if Glickman will keep his promise not to stir up the pot anymore around Los Gatos after these initiatives pass or fail, but to Wasserman, that time can't come soon enough.

"I would have liked to see him, when he got off council, volunteer to be on a service club, a Lions or a Rotary, or maybe volunteer to be a Little League umpire." Wasserman says. "Instead he is causing negative vibes out there, and what does he have to gain?"

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