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Motormouths: San Jose politicians piled up sizeable cell phone bills over the past two years.

Cellular Reasoning

San Jose politicians don't want to reveal whom they're phoning using the public's dime. Eye asked Mayor Susan Hammer and six councilmembers with city-paid cellular phones to release their itemized phone bills from fiscal years 1995-96 and 1996-97. All except Councilman Frank Fiscalini refused. Legally, they can refuse, thanks to a 1993 court case out of Burbank, but there are persuasive reasons why the public would want to inspect a politician's phone bill: for instance, to make sure elected officials are using the phone for city business and not the psychic hotline.... After consulting with City Attorney Joan Gallo, the mayor and the rest of the bunch declined to disclose their itemized bills on the basis that doing so would interfere with their constituents' "right to privacy." We tried to obtain the numbers of those taxpayer-funded cell phones so all constituents could enjoy the same access as high-rollers. But Assistant City Attorney Bill Hughes argues that the numbers should be kept secret because each incoming call costs the city money. At least we still get to find out how much public officials have paid for cell phone bills over the past two years. Councilman Manny Diaz prevailed as the chattiest, outyapping even the mayor and amassing $2,467 in toll calls. Hammer's bills totaled $2,346. Motor-mouth Manny explains that he's out in his East Side district a lot, so he often calls his city hall office to check in. Here's the rest, with a few top appointees thrown in for good measure: ex-Planning Director Gary Schoennauer, $2,145; ex-Police Chief Lou Cobarruviaz, $2,114; Councilman George Shirakawa Jr., $2,120; Kevin Pursglove, press aide to Hammer, $1,949; Councilwoman Pat Dando, $1,415; Public Works Director Ralph Qualls, $1,378; Chris Galios, Hammer's bodyguard, $1,294; Councilwoman Alice Woody, $1,007; Councilwoman Trixie Johnson, $940; City Manager Regina Williams, $923; Fiscalini, $806.


Promise Keeper

When San Diego Mayor Susan Golding pushed the eject button on her campaign for Barbara Boxer's Senate seat this month, Democrats wondered if that might open the door for another moderate Reep to pull candidate papers. According to a high-ranking Demo party official, a name they nervously tossed around was that of Lincoln Club darling U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell. The Camster gives Demos the jitters because he's a pro-choice Reep who could foreseeably cream a limousine liberal like Boxer. Last time Campbell ran for the Senate, the Demos got lucky. Campbell lost to right-wing radio kook Bruce Herschensohn in the primary because late congressman Sonny Bono split the moderate vote. This time, if he were to run, Campbell would encounter fewer obstacles, thanks to the new open primary system (and a big redwood tree). Furthermore, the remaining "moderate" Reep candidate, state treasurer Matt Fong, looks shaky, especially after he dumped his consultant mid-campaign a couple months ago. But there's just one itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny problem: The Congressman from Campbell promised the voters of his district he wouldn't ditch them to run for Senate. Well, Demos, breathe easy. Campbell assures Eye he is keeping his pledge to stay put.


Elvis Spotted on Mars

From the sixth floor of the mother ship at 801 N. First St. sometimes emanate strange prophesies and conspiratorial tales. This week's three-headed baby story involves city hall regulars Frank Fiscalini, a possible mayoral candidate, and his trusty sidekick Joe Guerra. Now, keep in mind that insiders have long doubted that Fiscalini will really run. The question then is, Why all the talk about Fiscalini pulling papers now? Here's the theory: The well-known Fiscalini doesn't intend to run but wants to put a scare into announced candidates Pat Dando and Ron Gonzales, both of whom would lose votes if the Willow Glen senior ran. Why the scare tactic? So Fiscalini can get more negotiating leverage with them to appoint the ambitious Guerra to replace him when he retires early. One wag quipped, "So, the bottom line is that Fiscalini steps aside so Guerra can run the show? And how is that any different than what's going on now?" Like all conspiracy theories, this one exists within the realm of possibility, though not probability. While Fiscalini might achieve some bargaining power with Dando and Gonzales, that gives Guerra only one vote when he'd need six, far from a sure bet. Moreover, the recent trend in the South Bay is to call a special election rather than appoint a successor. As expected, Fiscalini's office dismissed the scenario as bunk.


Di Fidelity

While we're on the subject of conspiracy theories, there's a grand one detailing the real reason Dianne Feinstein didn't run for governor. It goes like this: By waiting so long, Feinstein screwed over prospective cash-needy candidates like Leon Panetta and helped out zillionaire candidate Al Checchi, the one-time business partner of DiFi's hubby, Richard Blum. Unsolved mystery: Feinstein is expected to support Panetta if he runs. Also, Eye suspects her decision to bow out has more to do with lust for a job as Al Gore's running mate in two years.


Where's Gilbert?

Eye picked up a copy of the premiere issue of San Jose Magazine this week and reveled in the glitzy shots of what passes for Silicon Valley high life, of which editor and publisher Gilbert Sangari appears very much a part. First, there's the traditional photograph with the editor's letter. But then, amid snapshots of runway models, raised glasses and drunken looks at the Silicon Planet fundraiser is ... Gilbert Sangari. The multicolored tie is doing for Gilbert what the red hat does for Waldo. Where's Gilbert? There he is, popping up under the arm of a random blonde Raiderette on page 31. Uh-oh, there he is again, Gilbert Sangari pulling reluctant members of the B-52s into the picture. OK, we gave you hints this time, but for issue No. 2 you're on your own.


I'm Quoted, Therefore I am

Speaking of Senate candidate Matt Fong, he'd do well to think about hiring a P.R. guy who doesn't hog the soundbites. Last week the Fong campaign issued a one-page press release announcing that Fong is challenging his opponent, millionaire car-alarm maker Darrell Issa, to a series of debates. For half the press release, however, the public is treated not to the musings and deep thoughts of Matt Fong but, to those of campaign spokesguy Steve Schmidt. Fong, the alleged protagonist of the piece, isn't quoted at all. At one point, Schmidt pontificates, "The idea that voters and the media should be able to hear candidates in their own words ... is as American as apple pie." No debate there, Steve.


Public Eye welcomes tips. Leave messages 24 hours a day by calling 408/298-7818 and then pressing 2, followed by 412, to reach Eye's voice mailbox. Send email messages to eye@sjmetro.com.


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From the January 22-28, 1998 issue of Metro.

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