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December 28, 2005-January 3, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Michael For Mayor?

Fly has learned that MICHAEL MULCAHY is seriously entertaining a bid to become mayor of San Jose. If he jumps in, it could easily turn the race on its head, as he will be the first credible outsider who doesn't currently punch a time clock at City Hall. Promoted by friends as "San Jose's answer to GAVIN NEWSOM," the handsome, affable, valley-bred blueblood spent most of a decade running San Jose Children's Musical Theatre and now manages his family's real estate holdings. "I love San Jose," he says. "It's hard not to think about doing it. I think it's a great opportunity and given the right circumstances. ... well, we'll see how it plays out." Without directly mentioning the scandals emanating from City Hall, Mulcahy, who's 40, says, "There's a growing chorus for change in San Jose. We need leadership that's going to meet the expectations of reform." In the meantime, Mulcahy says, "We're going to enjoy the holidays." He's going to "reflect with family" at "a series of gatherings." It's a good family to be a part of if one is thinking of running for office. His uncle, J. PHILIP DINAPOLI, was a key backer of Gov. JERRY BROWN and has helped launch other successful political careers. The grandson of a cannery founder, being part of one of the valley's wealthiest families could be a selling point to voters. In a local political culture swarming with financially challenged politicians who operate amid a backdrop of donations, perks and thoughts about their next career stop, Mulcahy can pitch himself as incorruptible. We can see the bumper stickers now: Too Rich to Be Tempted.

Bizarre Power Triangle

Fly got wind from an alert tipster that Sunnyvale Mayor RON SWEGLES seemed to be in a hurry when he swore in three new members of the City Council on Nov. 29—before the county Registrar of Voters had certified the election results (which were signed off by JESSE DURAZO on Dec. 6). MATT MORALES, assistant spokesman for the Registrar, says state law allows his agency 28 days to complete the job, a deadline they barely met for this election. "We make it very clear to all the local jurisdictions that this is the time we are allotted, and they shouldn't expect [certification] any sooner than that," Morales said. Still, Sunnyvale leaders felt like it was taking longer than usual, according to city spokesman JOHN PILGER, and they decided to go ahead and certify their own election results. But wait a second, isn't that illegal? Didn't they violate the California elections code in doing so? Apparently not. Pilger assures us that everything was OK because Sunnyvale is a charter city, which means it can make many of its own laws with regard to municipal affairs and isn't tightly bound by the state constitution. Incidentally, San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland are also charter cities. This is not a concept most people are clear on—so what exactly does it mean, anyway? TERRY CHRISTENSEN of San Jose State University explained that cities tend to choose the flexible charter status when they get larger and more complex. But—depending on how they stray from the statewide standard—becoming a charter city may not make things any easier. Take San Jose as an example. The nation's 10th largest municipality follows a hybrid model, where the balance of power lies between three points: the council, the mayor and the city manager. Other cities generally give dominance to either the city council and manager or the elected mayor. So the problem, Christensen says, is that authority and accountability aren't always clear. "We have more trouble figuring out whom to blame," he says. Hmm, does that wiggle room have anything to do with why City Manager DEL BORGSDORF resigned last week in the wake of the GONZALES garbage scandal? With that power point taking a fall and the mayor limping after his recent censure, you can bet this is one triangle that will have the City Council at the apex of power for the foreseeable future.

Protest Quote For Real?

They now refer to themselves as the De Anza Eight, the eight demonstrators arrested during a protest of former Secretary of State COLIN POWELL'S November visit to the Flint Center on the De Anza College campus. Seven of the eight were arrested outside of the Flint Center. All seven were minorities, and six of the seven were of Muslim background ("Riot Place, Wrong Time," MetroNews, Nov. 23). Now a juicy back-and-forth has emerged between Foothill-De Anza Police Chief RONALD LEVINE, who had all his men working the night of the Powell protest, and student journalist AMAN MEHRZAI. Immediately after covering the protest, Mehrzai published a story that detailed the religious and racial disparity of the arrests. In that story, Mehrzai quoted an unidentified police officer saying, "when certain people dress they way they do they become a target. ... The reality is that when most officers see some dressed in that kind of clothes [Middle Eastern], they associate that with terrorism"; the officer was also quoted as describing how certain terror training classes and videos contribute to the assumption that Muslims are terrorists. Levine, after confirming to Fly that one of his men was the officer Mehrzai quoted, insisted his officer's quote was taken out of context. Levine would not identify the officer or allow Fly to interview the officer, but agreed to talk to the officer again for Fly. In an email to Fly two days later, Levine denied that most of the quote was ever uttered: "My officer denies he ever discussed ethnic/religious clothing, contents of training videos and perceptions based on those video[s] with Aman," Levine wrote; he said that his officer only spoke with Mehrzai about "yearly update training, that includes terrorism awareness." The 29-year-old Mehrzai, however, stands by his quote. He told Fly his wife and student activist ANTHONY CHOICE were with him when he interviewed the officer and could testify to the veracity of the quote (Choice confirms Mehrzai's account.) "I well know journalistic guidelines," says Mehrzai with a huff. "What you could put in quotes and what you cannot put in quotes. I'm very strict about following those guidelines."

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