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Power Failure?: Mayor Gonzales is outnumbered.

Public Eye

Hunting Duck

Four whole years splay before San Jose's newly re-elected mayor. Meanwhile, the question of whether Ron Gonzales is still relevant, given San Jose's new, more decidedly union-friendly City Council, has one clear answer for some local journalists and political junkies, and another for some City Hallsters. "Mayor faces tougher time pushing his agenda," a Dec. 27 Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal article headline suggested. The article's author, Timothy Roberts, explains, "Perhaps it's because he's now a lame duck. ..." He goes on to say, "Whatever reason, the mayor hasn't been lining up the votes like he used to, and the result could mean some nasty divisions on the council, not to mention delays in projects." Roberts isn't the only scribbler to question Gonzo's potency on his current political plane. "In the clearest sign yet that he's pondering a bid for statewide office--or at least trying to avoid lame-duck status in his final term--San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales is formally launching his own political action committee this week," noted the Mercury News' political-columnist society of Mike Zapler, Kate Folmar, Ann Marimow and Rodney Foo on Dec. 1. The common theory is that Gonzales has no friends left on the council since John Diquisto and George Shirakawa Jr. were replaced by Judy Chirco and Terry Gregory. Says one source intimate with said theory, since Gonzales "has no friends" on the council, he is "potentially one of the weaker mayors in San Jose history." Another source familiar with the mayor's workplace relationships sums it up more succinctly: "I think the mayor's in trouble." ... But council loner Chuck Reed doesn't see the big deal in the personnel/alliance change. "He's lost a couple of trusted and loyal [members of the fold] with Shirakawa and Diquisto," Reed acknowledges. "But the mayor's a talented and creative person. I don't think it's a big shift." Gonzales frontman David Vossbrink, who has yet a different take on his boss, concedes that "there will be some cases where people would disagree" with the mayor. For instance, Vossbrink points out, the mayor isn't a big fan of labor's flagship issue: the "living

Lovable Landlord

Eye learned an interesting thing about city property the other day. No, not that the city has redeveloped a lot of itself only to have buildings sit shamefully empty. Instead, Eye found, San Jose's City Council doesn't even know who's using its land--an unsettling thought in a time of budget crisis. Thanks to fiscally attentive Councildude Chuck Reed, City Auditor Gerald Silva whipped up a report called "A Survey of Citywide Real Property Inventory." The report, which is available online, details the various deals city departments have cut for such uses as airport hangars, car rental lots and cell phone antenna towers. Some leases show shrewd negotiations on the public's behalf; McDonald's, for instance, pays almost $10 a foot each month to vend fast food at San Jose International's Terminal A. DFS pays $18 a foot to sell cigarettes, liquor and perfume at its duty free shops. ... Our local daily pays a more reasonable $350 a month for the right to use Room 206 at City Hall. A number of nonprofits get $1 a year leases, among them the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara County and the Santa Clara Valley Rifle Club. Christmas in the Park gets free use of a 32,000-square-foot warehouse. ... One of the most generous landlords is the Redevelopment Agency, which, according to the report, manages a couple hundred thousand plus square feet of space and collects less than a quarter mil a year. That works out to under a dime a foot per month, less than a 10th of market rates. Among the tenants are various visual and performing arts groups that contribute benefits to the community. But some are cush deals with private businesses, like the 96 North Second St. lease with architects Reel Grobman for less than 25 cents a foot, which was done to keep a parole office out of the St. James Park area. Also, some of the deals detailed in the audit may not be as sweet as they seem. For example, it reports that the Camera Cinemas are paying less than a penny a foot for 37,026 square feet. "I wish I was paying that," says cinema operator Jim Zuur, who swears he's paying market rates for his theater, and that it is actually about 7,500 square feet. "We have a sublease from Kimball Small Properties," he reveals, which controls the master lease on the building. Auditor Silva plans to present his findings at the council's Finance and Infrastructure Committee meeting on Jan. 22.

Cohn's Call

As newbies start their jobs as electeds, nearby political eavesdroppers are already (or still) speculating about who's going to run for what next election. One potential domino line is that Assemblymember Rebecca Cohn will vie for a state Senate seat in 2004, leaving her Saratoga Assembly seat open, which Santa Clara County Supervisor Jim Beall could then run for. That would open up his supervisor position. If Eye's source's crystal ball is correct, likely contestants for Beall's seat would include San Jose Councilmember Ken Yeager, former Santa Clara mayor and, as of last week, newly hired ethics guru at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics Judy Nadler and Santa Clara Councilmember Rod Diridon Jr., who lost a run for the Assembly last year to Sally Lieber. "Of course, we haven't heard formally about what Rebecca's going to do," Beall says. "But informally, she's been discussing whether she'll run for Senate." As for Beall, a guy who ran in Cohn's District 24 in 1992 and lost to Republican Chuck Quackenbush, he's waiting for his cue. "I think I could make a contribution in Sacramento," he says, adding that if Cohn (whom he supports) gives way, he'll throw his hat in the Assembly race next year. San Jose Councilmember Yeager's a bit cagier. "There are so many ifs in there," he says when asked if he'll chase after Beall's supervisor position given the chance. "The problem is that the seat actually has to be vacant before you can run for it. ... we'll see who lines up for Rebecca's seat, and [Manny Diaz's] seat."

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From the January 9-15, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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