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[whitespace] Sally Lieber Sitting Duck Sally Lieber's antagonists lined up to take shots at her last week.

Public Eye

Take Her Or Lieber

It was a predictably turbulent affair last week when the Mountain View City Council passed the mayor's gavel from MARIO AMBRA, who is facing corruption charges that could force him from office, to SALLY LIEBER, who is the object of a recall effort. During the public hearing, critics pronounced Lieber unfit to be mayor. They cited a litany of sins, including her votes on a housing-impact fee and development on open space. Others said Lieber shouldn't be mayor as long as she was still running in the Democratic primary for the state Assembly, as her campaign would distract her from performing the mayor's many important ribbon-cutting duties. But the bitter recital was balanced by an almost equal number of Lieber supporters, who urged the council to crown her mayor and ignore the pleadings of the anti-Lieber crew, which they characterized as a group intent on exacting revenge on Lieber for minor snubs, clumsy political slip-ups and taking a stand on controversial issues. But when the hearing closed, Councilwoman MARY LOU ZOGLIN promptly nominated Lieber and got a second from RALPH FARAVELLI. "You, the voters, can judge us every four years, and if you don't like what we're doing, you can get us out of office," Faravelli said, presumably to explain that there's no reason to sidestep the seven-member council's informal rotation of the mayor every year. Councilmembers adopted language outlining the rotation in 1999, but didn't make it binding, leaving them free to break tradition. Councilwoman ROSEMARY STASEK said she supported Lieber, who is her opponent in the Democratic Assembly primary. "The night I was elected mayor, not having been married, was probably one of the happiest days of my life," said a tearful Stasek. "I'm sorry that it couldn't be the same for you."

Gas Pains

For the last five years, JEN SLITER, owner of Donovan's Hair Studio, has been locked in battle with the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, the city's Public Works Department and PG&E over exactly who is responsible for fixing the broken gas line under a public sidewalk that leads to her business. Sliter has been unhappily riding the bureaucratic merry-go-round since she discovered the problem shortly after moving into the premises in 1996. "It was at that point that the game of 'pass the buck' started," she says in a angry letter fired off to Redevelopment Agency director Susan Shick last week. Since the city installed new sidewalks in 1991, Sliter says, the gas line to her store hasn't worked. Sliter says she figured the publicly funded agency would certainly want to help local small businesses when they can't obtain basic utility services. But when Eye queried the SJRA, they offered scant sympathy and not much else. "It's a public right-of-way; redevelopment isn't responsible for it," says agency spokesperson Peggy Flynn. Which is exactly Sliter's beef. "If this were the Fairmont, I'm sure it would have been fixed in two days," Sliter grumbles. Spending $56,000 in the last year alone on electricity bills and two months behind on rent, Sliter told her landlord she'd close shop in April--but then the landlord slapped her with an eviction notice effective at month's end. Sliter says that leaves her with no choice but to walk away from the business and join the ranks of other small-business owners who have shuttered their downtown shops recently. Small-businesses owners are taking a huge gamble by investing in their community, says downtown small-business owner CHRIS ESPARZA. "There are 10 layers of people who should have been helping her," Esparza says. "Everyone was dropping the ball."

Help Wanted

San Jose city officials are getting closer to picking a new planning director. City manager DEL BORGSDORF says the last round of interviews among four finalists is coming up next week. He's expecting to bring his pick to the council late this month or early next month. Two of those finalists, Eye hears, are in-house: Redevelopment Deputy Director HARRY MAVROGENES and deputy planning director JOE HORWEDEL, who is filling in as acting planning director. ... Interestingly, the one applicant everyone was buzzing about, ANDREW ADELMAN, won't be coming to town. Adelman is the former building department chief who left town in 1997 to head the giant Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. A lot of folks wanted him back to run planning, including developers, business leaders and unions. "I've never seen them agree on so much," says Chamber president JIM CUNNEEN. A number of influential pals of Adelman, who was popular with the development types during his tenure here, lobbied him to come back to SJ. But it's not gonna happen. Adelman tells Eye he's staying put. ... Speaking of new hires: San Jose's Harley-riding Redevelopment boss, SUSAN SHICK, has a new number two to ride in the sidecar. SHARON LANDERS fills the assistant executive director spot, which had been empty since acting director RICHARD RIOS axed JIM FORSBERG just before Shick took over two years ago. Landers is an attorney who worked as a transit adviser for two New York City mayors and two New York governors, then as a top state transportation director in New Jersey. Landers later spent less than a year as one of the top executives at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority before leaving to become a consultant. Landers started her new $170,000-a-year job Jan. 7. ... Borgsdorf also has a new number two. Parks and Rec director MARK LINDER was bumped up from his spot, which he'd held since 1997, to assistant city manager. Linder first came to San Jose from Los Gatos and replaces DEBBIE FIGONE, who left in 2000 to become Los Gatos town manager. Borgsdorf says he didn't fill the position because he had other priorities. Linder started Jan. 2 at $178,500. ... At 70 W. Hedding, GWENDOLYN MITCHELL is the county's new director of public communication and community outreach, the post left empty by SUSAN FITTS. Mitchell, an East Bay native, spent 20 years in Washington working for the District of Columbia. There, she managed budget operations for the district and most recently held a top post at the transit agency. Mitchell started Jan. 7 at $144,437. Eye is also pleased to note that Mitchell, whose duties include fielding pesky press calls, grabbed her phone on the first ring.

Lounge Lizards

SJ Councilwoman CINDY CHAVEZ is trying out a new kind of fundraiser: karaoke at a bowling alley. The event Monday in the lounge at Fourth Street Bowl stars her pals RON GONZALES and MIKE HONDA, along with a special mystery guest. Honda, well known for his vocal talents, plans to belt out a duet with the mystery guest. Other acts hadn't been nailed down as of presstime, though donors were asked to make requests. Predicts Chavez, "I'd be surprised if we don't hear 'Do You Know the Way to San Jose?' " Chavez is unopposed for a second term in the District 3 (downtown) seat but is raising money anyway. She reported spending just over half of the $58,000 she'd raised as of Dec. 31. Chavez says she's using the money to tell voters what she's up to and adds that she raised most of it before she knew she'd be unopposed. Chavez, often listed as a contender for mayor or supervisor, also cautions Eye that she "hasn't decided about any future office plans."

Year of the Snake

After the Humane Society raided their San Jose pet shop, Reptile Ranch owners CHUCK and LINDA GRAY charged that the whole thing was part of a plot to crush the pet-reptile trade. Two animal-cruelty investigators and a vet from the Humane Society of Santa Clara Valley dropped in Jan. 3 and told the Grays that they'd received a complaint about conditions at the store. After giving the 3-year-old store a good inspection, the critter cops cited the couple for animal cruelty and ordered the Grays to take eight snakes and a lizard to the vet--stat! But Chuck sees a bigger picture . ... On a national level, the U.S. Humane Society is putting pressure on the feds to ban pet reptiles. A 106-page report issued by the society in September concluded that reptilian pets aren't healthy to have around. "Reptiles don't make good pets," said TERESA TELECKY, director of the Humane Society's Wildlife Trade Program. Telecky says reptiles (not salmon, of course) carry the bacteria that cause salmonella and that the Centers for Disease Control have also issued reptile-related warnings. According to the Humane Society report, 93,000 Americans contract salmonella from reptiles every year, and 20 people (mostly kids) die from the disease annually. Armed with these factoids, the Humane Society petitioned the Food and Drug Administration two years ago to ban the sale of pet reptiles because of the health risks. ... All of which leaves the Grays complaining that they got caught in the crossfire by overzealous animal-care enforcers. After his animals went to the vet, Chuck says, they got a clean bill of health (except for the lizard, which had a minor dental problem). And animal control's JULIE St. GREGORY says investigators didn't find any violations during last year's check. Eye asked local Humane Society spokeswoman LESLIE BAIKIE-khavari if there was a connection between the national agenda and the Reptile Ranch raid, but she said she didn't know. The Grays are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 18 for the misdemeanor violation, which could result in six months in the county jail or a fine of up to $1,000. "The United States Humane Society is trying to shut down the importation and exportation of reptiles," Chuck fumes. "What's next? Dogs and cats?"

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From the January 17-23, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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