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[whitespace] Joe Simitian Square Bootage: Palo Alto Assemblyman Joe Simitian is having a tough time finding affordable office space in his peninsula district.

Public Eye

Freedom of Assembly

WHEN NEW ASSEMBLYMAN Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) starts work in the New Year, he'll be spending a lot of time at the bar. Or at least what used to be a bar. Because of skyrocketing office rents, Simitian has been forced to locate--temporarily, he hopes--his district office at a recently shut down tavern on Florence Street in downtown Palo Alto. "It's a little frustrating," Simitian growls. "We had hoped simply to move into the [office occupied by Simitian's predecessor, Ted Lempert]." But Lempert's landlord had other ideas. According to Simitian, the landlady wanted to jack up the rent from $2.80 per square foot to $12 per square foot. Cognizant of Silicon Valley's office space squeeze, Simitian says he anticipated the possibility of a rent hike months ago. Before he got elected, he even warned the Assembly Rules committee, which oversees office leases, that they might want to renegotiate the lease ASAP. The powers that be apparently didn't heed his warnings and acted perplexed when presented with the proposed rent increase. Recalls Simitian, "Their reaction was, 'We're paying $1.50 a square foot in Fresno.'" Well, that's Fresno, atom-splitters. Anyway, Simitian says he eventually negotiated the price down $8.50 a square foot, but he still thought that was too high. He wants to find a place in the $6 range. It'd be a lot easier, Simitian muses, if his district were in San Jose and not Palo Alto. Frosh assemblymembers like San Jose Assemblyman Manny Diaz have the luxury of opening shop in the state-owned Alfred E. Alquist building downtown. The peninsula, Simitian says, suffers from a dearth of publicly owned office space and thus local lawmakers must pay private sector prices. State Sen. Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) is also looking for new digs after his landlord jacked up the rent on his Redwood City office from $1,500 to around $6,000 a month. ... Simitian is planning to move into his temporary barroom space on Jan. 5. Originally, he was going to move in on Jan. 4, but the tavern owners want to throw a New Year's Eve bash at the bar, and will need a little more time to clean up. "I've been assured," Simitian chuckles, "that the bar will be removed prior to our setting up the office."

Evolving Door

A few weeks ago, Eye reported that outgoing San Jose Vice Mayor Frank Fiscalini was considering joining a local lobbying firm. Well, now the deal is sealed and Fiscalini will become a part-time consultant for Silicon Valley Advisers. The firm--a troika of former Mexican Heritage Corp. prez Pete Carrillo, mayoral campaign treasurer Ash Pirayou and one-time A's exec Ed Alvarez--has a formidable client list that includes people doing business with the city of San Jose. That could conceivably cause Fiscalini some conflicts with the city's revolving door ordinance, which prohibits councilmembers from lobbying City Hall for a year after leaving office. Not to worry, Fiscalini assures Eye. He insists he won't be breaking any rules. So long as he doesn't directly contact or lobby anyone in City Hall, Fiscalini says, "I can certainly advise clients" on how to deal with the city bureaucracy. ... A competitor of Silicon Valley Advisers grumbles that Fiscalini doesn't need to actually lobby for the firm to earn his paycheck. The ex-vice mayor's name alone "adds a great deal of credibility. Frank knows all the players, issues and pressure points in this city."

Pajama Party Politics

A decade ago, Los Altos Hills Councilwoman Toni Casey was an early backer of then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. In fact, she co-hosted a Democratic Leadership Council event featuring Clinton in 1990, a year before Slick Willie allegedly asked Paula Jones to "kiss it." For all his faults, Clinton can't be accused of forgetting his buddies. Bill kindly invited Casey--along with seven other old friends including Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone and his wife, Carmen--to spend a night at the White House a few days before Christmas. ... Of course, a lot of things have changed since Casey co-hosted that 1990 Clinton event--like her party registration. Casey's now a Republican. And not just a low-profile one. She served as a delegate at the party's national convention earlier this year, assuming a sound-byte-friendly role challenging the GOP's anti-abortion platform. Oh, and she was an enthusiastic, oft-quoted backer of George W. Bush. But Casey says her conversion didn't cause any discomfort between herself and the Clintons. "The nature of the visit was not political at all," snaps Casey, who knows Clinton assistant Betty Currie on a first-name basis. ... Stone, meanwhile, recalls that during a post-midnight conversation, Clinton didn't let Casey's politics stop him from criticizing the Supreme Court decision that gave Dubya the presidency. "From the way he [Clinton] talked," Stone says, "I didn't think he knew Toni was a Republican."

Holiday Taking

Could there be a crook lurking in San Jose City Hall? Hard to believe, right? But sixth-floor regulars are complaining about prized possessions going missing. ... A week before Christmas, mayoral adviser Meri Maben reported that a "beautiful plant" she put in the sixth-floor ladies room the week before was gone. The plant apparently carried special meaning for Maben because it was a present from former Councilwoman Margie Matthews (and thus deserved a very special setting like a public restroom). ... After news of the missing plant spread, departing Councilor Alice Woody sent out an email saying that her computer backup disks were also MIA. "Those disks," Woody noted, "have been on my scheduler's desk for years without anyone bothering them." Well, 'tis the season, Alice. ... No word yet as to whether the missing items have been recovered or the thief caught. That's because everyone has been missing from City Hall for two weeks during the city's well-deserved annual holiday recess.

Spare the Fair

Willow Glen neighborhood activist Kris Cunningham ran for City Council as an outsider, slamming her opponent as a career politician. Well, it looks as if the outsider has decided to come in from the cold. ... Less than two months after her unsuccessful council bid, Cunningham is going to work for Supervisor Blanca Alvarado as a "senior policy aide." Alvarado backed Cunningham during the campaign and gave the sage political advice to oppose a traffic-relief measure that won 70 percent of the vote. One opines that running for public office gave Cunningham a taste of the big time, or at least a glimpse at how things get done. "It's one thing to be on the neighborhood association; here you're a player." ... The appointment is an eyebrow-raising diversity move for the Blankster. Cunningham will be the only non-Latino on the supervisorial staff.

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From the January 4-10, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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