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[whitespace] New Kid on the Block: Why wasn't Ron Gonzales in City Hall on his first official day as mayor?

Susan Doesn't Work Here Anymore

City Hall is still adjusting to life without Mayor Susan Hammer. On Monday, the official beginning of Mayor Ron Gonzales' reign, a receptionist answered the phone, "Mayor Hammer's office," then quickly corrected herself. The new mayor, however, wasn't anywhere near the premises. Instead, Gonzo and his sidekick Jude Barry were in Sacramento at the inauguration of Gray Davis. In fact, Gonzales, a self-professed 49ers "bleacher creature," missed the big game Sunday against the Packers to be in Sacto. The sacredness of Niners Sunday apparently meant nothing to the Graymeister, who gave a speech at the beginning of the game and then called an impromptu press conference with 34 seconds left in the fourth quarter, right before The Catch II. . . . Gonzo was back in San Pepe the following day, getting acquainted at City Hall and smiling for the photo ops. To his credit, Gonzales has nearly finished assembling a well-paid staff, including the troika Barry ($79,000), minister of budget and land-use Joe Guerra ($75,000) and press secretary Leslee Hamilton ($75,000). He's also brought in senior aides Tony Arreola, Rebecca Dishotsky and Jim Webb, the latter a free-agent pickup from the Sunnyvale city manager's office. Now that the mayor has put together a crack staff, let's see if he can devise a coherent legislative agenda. . . . Don't expect many specifics in his first mayoral speech next week, though, like what he plans to do with the controversial $820,000 statue of San Jose's most famous 19th-century white guy, Thomas Fallon. The statue is scheduled to come out of hiding this year. But that would warm the cockles of San Jose's most famous 20th-century white guy, Gonzo antagonist Tom McEnery, which probably means the statue stays put in the gulag. . . . Curious readers may take a peek at the forbidden Fallon symbol by checking out local public art deconstructionist Eric Carlson's Web site. Carlson, by the by, thinks the Fallon statue is a genuine work of art depicting a historical San Jose figure. "You have to love the sheer craziness of a city that will imprison its finest artwork in warehouses, while at the same time showcasing Quetzalcoatl," he pooh-poohs.

Like It's 1999

Sheriff Chuck Gillingham's early retirement last month seemed a chivalrous act of political courtesy on behalf of his successor, Laurie Smith. By bowing out when he did--instead of the originally scheduled torch-passing date of Jan. 4--Gillingham enabled Smith to become the first woman in California to be sworn in as sheriff (beating Virginia Black from Yuba County to the punch clock). But was Chuckles' early farewell really a rare example of altruism in the Darwinian world of political primates? Consider this: County personnel chief Pete Kutras confirms that by retiring before the New Year, Gillingham will receive a cost-of-living adjustment to his pension in May 2000. If Gillingham waited to officially call it quits on Jan. 4, when he was supposed to, he wouldn't have gotten a cost-of-living increase until the following year--i.e. 2001, when, as we all know, the world will come to an end. . . . Shortly after Smith was sworn in (and after she received a congratulatory kiss on the cheek from Judge Ray Cunningham, another first for a sheriff), Eye asked Gillingham why he decided to hang up his holsters early. Chuckles denied that it was out of chivalry. He also insisted that it would not affect his retirement pay in any way. "It's time to go," Gillingham answered repeatedly.

Oh Brothers

The Alexian monks have been silent about the details of their deal with devil health-care giant Columbia/HCA, but judging from the financial numbers coming out, the serpent still knows a sucker when he sees one. According to records gathered by Consumers Union, the nonprofit Alexian Brothers is buying two Illinois hospitals--Hoffman Estates Medical Center and Woodland--from Columbia for $285 million to $295 million, properties which Columbia originally bought for under $35 million total. The Brothers have told the Chicago Tribune they are selling the San Jose Alexian Hospital to Columbia for $66 million. Alexian got into a bidding war to buy the Illinois hospitals, which are close to another hospital the Catholic order runs near Chicago. Consumers Union is asking the Illinois attorney general to investigate whether Alexian's board is paying too much and thus is breaching its fiduciary obligation. "If this were a transaction involving two for-profit companies," argues Consumers Union lawyer Julio Mateo, "they would be lining up to file shareholder lawsuits." . . . Columbia execs insist they aren't making a killing and are only breaking even by unloading all their Chicago area hospitals.

Mr. Roberts' Neighborhood

Sunnyvale City Councilman Jim Roberts boldly went where no South Bay politician has gone before by recently declaring actually having been inside--GASP--a strip club in his life. Roberts made his faux confession while the City Council debated enacting an ordinance banning total nudity and direct tipping in local boob joints. After prudish councilor Fred Fowler sniffed that he never ever had been inside such places of ill-repute, Roberts retorted, "Well, I have been to these places." This bit of bravado (as well as his principled opposition to the proposed ordinance) fueled speculation that Roberts is a regular patron of the Brass Rail, among other Houses of Sin. Not true, Roberts says, though he acknowledges that, having grown up in Sunnyvale--which displays more silicone per square mile than anywhere else in the valley--he has frequented all of the city's cabaret clubs at some point. Jimbo explains that he opposed the proposed law because existing regulations have proved satisfactory.

Love and Money

Tenth-grade economics textbooks say that the basic human needs are food, clothing and shelter. But the clever marketing scientists at Pacific Bell have apparently found that basic human needs differ depending on a person's native tongue. This is according to an insert that accompanies recent phone bills. On one side of the insert, which is in English, Pac Bell luminaries list the three basic needs as "food, water, phone." On the other side, which is in Spanish, the rudimentary life requirements are listed as salud (health), dinero (money), amor (love) and telefono. . . . As it turns out, the different slogans are the product of Pac Bell's separate English- and Spanish-speaking marketing teams. Explains Pac flack Paul Cohen, the Spanish team discovered that "health, money and love" resonate better with Romance-language readers than "food, water, phone." One reason for the difference, according to Cohen: a once-popular novela on Spanish TV called Salud, Dinero y Amor. Or was it "sex, lies and telephones"?

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From the January 7-13, 1999 issue of Metro.

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