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[whitespace] Hillary Freeman Mic Slight: Hillary Freeman says she didn't do anything wrong when she asked questions at a Palo Alto council meeting.


Gag Order

The first post-election meeting of Palo Alto's more ethnically diverse City Council got off to a rocky start last week when newly elected mayor VIC OJAKIAN cut off council newcomer HILLARY FREEMAN, the first African American woman ever elected to Palo Alto's council, before she managed to get her first few sentences out. Freeman finished first in the field last November, three places ahead of incumbent Councilmember Ojakian, who nonetheless rounded up the five council votes needed to snare the mayor's gavel. The neophyte politico looked taken aback when Ojakian used his gavel to prevent her from asking questions about a Stanford development project, citing what he said were procedural rules. Her eyebrows darted up even higher moments later when Mayor O-Jak allowed Councilmember Nancy Lytle to ask the same questions. "Mr. Mayor," Freeman said pointedly after regaining the microphone, "let me see if this question will be allowed." Ojakian finally let Freeman have her say, which included her remarking that by that time her questions and ideas had mostly been covered by other members. Contacted after the meeting by Eye, Freeman shrugged off the slight, noting that it was also Ojakian's first night as mayor. "We're both just learning our respective roles. He has a learning curve, too." Added Freeman, "[The mayor] changed his mind [as to how questions should be posed] midway in the process, but I don't think it was malicious in intent." Ojakian acknowledged to the Eye that he's new at the job, but he explained, "I was trying to set some parameters to make meetings run more efficiently. We have to keep questions to the point and move through issues." Freeman, however, rejects Ojakian's insinuation that she was unfamiliar with council rules and procedures. "I didn't think I did anything wrong," she said. Although gracious, Freeman did fire off a warning shot about what might happen if the mayor makes a habit of stuffing a sock in her mouth. "If in the future this happens again," she vowed, "I would question it; I would comment on it."

Spell Check

City officials in Campbell are correcting a typo that's been on the map for decades. Since the 1920s, McGlincey Lane has been the name of the quiet street just west of Highway 17. Trouble is, it's named for the McGlincy family, which lived on a farm near what became their eponymous street in the late 19th century. But the misspelling isn't the worst thing that happened to the McGlincys. Four family members and two friends were murdered one summer night in 1896. For almost a century, it was the worst mass murder in South Bay history. But in memorializing the family, someone added an extra "e" to the street name about 50 years ago. "I've been wanting it changed for years," says Campbell Mayor JEANETTE WATSON, who leads a double life as the city's historian. A city commission recently recommended making the change official, street signs and all, and the proposed correction goes to the City Council for approval next month.

An Officer and a Chief

Before he rose to the top, SJ Police Chief BILL LANSDOWNE spent three years as a downtown beat officer. The experience came in handy Jan. 14, when the chief, tuned into the police radio while driving downtown, heard another officer call for assistance with a combative suspect who'd been nabbed smoking crack in a hidden alley near Third and Santa Clara. "I heard the call, and it's kind of hard to find if you don't know exactly where you're going," says Lansdowne, who arrived in time to help Capt. CRAIG BUCKHOUT handcuff the suspect. Lansdowne says he always keeps the radio on when he's driving around and sometimes responds to calls. "It's not the first time," he says.

Promo No-No

Sandwiched between news about a computer class and an upcoming luncheon in the latest issue of the Kirk Senior Center newsletter was one item recruiting volunteers to work on CHRIS HEMINGWAY's campaign for San Jose's District 9 seat. Not big news, but the newsletter is produced in part with city funds, so campaign material is a no-no. Hemingway says a campaign staffer placed the item without his approval. "I was surprised to see it appear," he says. "It seemed odd." "Improper" is the word City Attorney RICK DOYLE uses, though he adds that when he called the candidate about the blurb, Hemingway offered to refund a portion of the printing costs--a whopping $91. Given that the ad promised only the glamorous opportunity to stuff envelopes and work the phones in a small strip mall office on Almaden Expressway, Eye surmises that the ad probably didn't generate a torrent of eager response.

Raised Eyebrows

Eye last week welcomed new county spokeswoman GWENDOLYN MITCHELL to town with a $30,000 raise. For the record, her actual county salary is $114,437, and the impromptu signing bonus is not likely to materialize. Eye does have the power to poke fun of public officials, but it is not incorporated as a public agency charged with collecting and disbursing tax revenue. Yet.

Larry Stone
Larry Stone

Cash Back

Faithful Eye watchers will recall a few weeks ago when county Assessor LARRY STONE lamented his luck at apparently not drawing an opponent in the March election, thus robbing him of the chance to trounce someone. It became official when the filing date passed last month, and Stone was the only one who'd filed to run. Now, the incumbent has cash in his campaign account, and no campaign upon which to lavish it. So Stone is sending supporters a letter that says he's passing the money on "to local nonprofit charitable organizations." Standard for pols with extra cash--but Stone goes on to offer the money back. "I recognize some supporters may be uncomfortable with providing financial support--even if the funds will be used wisely--to a candidate who is unopposed," Stone writes. "Just let me know if you would like a refund." A Stone pal says there haven't been any takers yet. Stone closes by telling supporters: "On the bright side, you can fully say with confidence that you have supported and contributed to a certain winner!" Some of the money, by the way, will go toward paying Stone's hefty fine for missing a campaign finance filing deadline. Stone didn't turn in his disclosure statement for the first half of 2001 until Dec. 28, earning him a $1,480 fine at $10 per day. Stone says the paperwork got lost during a major remodel of his home.

White or Wrong?

San Jose Irish-American ANNE MAUREEN O'HEARN recently launched a one-taxpayer attack on Mayor RON GONZALES for embracing a small buffet of racial slurs. What did Gonzo say? Well, nothing. O'Hearn was alarmed by Spanish for Gringos, a book found on the shelves of San Jose Public Library branches and whose title O'Hearn deemed "derogatory" and unsuitable for kids. "We all know that 'gringo' is a term of contempt that is divisive in our proudly multicultural city," the offended mom of two reading-age sons informed Eye. "Please do not support Mayor Gonzales for re-election until he does the right thing and establishes standards against taxpayer-paid slurs." O'Hearn was clearly miffed that her complaint, which she sent to the mayor and City Council, didn't lead anywhere near a book ban. Instead, at the behest of councilmembers FORREST WILLIAMS, PAT DANDO and DAVID CORTESE, Public Library director JANE LIGHT responded to O'Hearn by talking up the tutorial tome. "It is in such high demand that we have replaced some of the books because of wear and tear," Light responded. O'Hearn wasn't satisfied with the city's response. Absent from her diatribe was any insinuation that Gonzales, who does not habla español, should check out a copy himself.

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From the January 24-30, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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