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The Cleaner: Zendejas.

The Fly

More Missing Money

New Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas should get an honorary math degree. Zendejas only recently took the East Side Union High School District's helm after Joe Coto quit to run for the state Assembly. But she stepped in at a time when criticism of the school's financial management started to gain momentum. Now, it's been five months since a scathing Harvey Rose audit surfaced, Zendejas tells the Fly that the preliminary results are in from district's internal audit of the Ernesto Galarza Institute, a nonprofit foundation founded by Coto to supervise social workers at East Side schools. So far, the district has found that of the $487,000 the district spent on Galarza, the institute provided only $343,000 worth of services. This means that $144,000 fell through a gaping hole. "We have discovered--now the word 'missing' would be too strong, perhaps a better word would be 'there's a hazy view.' We're not yet clear about where the moneys were spent," explains a baffled Zendejas. She knows enough, however, to have cut the district's ties with the mysterious nonprofit and as of Monday, Jan. 26, the East Side district and began managing social workers working with the help of San Jose State University. District officials failed to divulge whether heads will roll because of poor arithmetic skills. But former chief financial officer Karen Willett, who watched as the district signed checks, is out, because, as Dr. Z said, "We chose to bring closure to Ms. Willett." Word has it that Galarza Institute coordinator Ramon Martinez is set to retire at the end of the year (just because it's time). In the next couple of weeks, the district attorney might be called in to drum up some justice. Based on the apparent follow-up by prosecutors on questionable credit-card usage and evidence of split bidding, complete closure on the widening East Side financial investigation may be a ways off.

Deaniac: Barry heads south for his main man.

Raising Arizona

When mean, mean Howard Dean tried to rally his troops in Des Moines, he unfortunately rallied the "funny" men of late-night television. But stubborn Bay Area supporters don't accept the resulting TV-based wisdom that a couple of passionate pit stains mean Dean is done. On Friday, Jan. 23, Jude Barry, local Catapult Strategies chief and Dean's state political director, headed off with brainy underling Jay Rosenthal and four regular-joe Dean fans to Arizona to prep Arizonans for their Feb. 3 primary. On the way, Barry's busload ate bagels and listened to the Dave Matthews Band. Rosenthal reportedly kept the minivan to a speed "appropriate for the weather conditions," a trick Dean is clearly still learning. The Dean bus message? The doctor is not "imploding," as one observer not in the van put it. Barry cited the Jan. 23 New Hampshire Zogby poll wherein Dean came in second with 22 percent behind the (literally, but not figuratively) long-faced John Kerry, who scored 30 percent. According to San Francisco teacher Katrina Guinan, 28, and tennis pro Brent Degroot, 36 (two supporters awake when Fly buzzed the bus), Dean's passion for taking back the White House, while perhaps freakishly expressed, is good. It makes him the only viable Democrat who stands out. Plus, they argue, Dean distinguished himself by opposing the war, the Patriot Act and the president. Barry neglected to mention it, but the Zogby poll shows a consecutive three-day decline in Dean's numbers from 25 percent on Jan. 21 and a sweeping 7 percentage-point ascent for Kerry. In an Arizona poll, despite Dean's landing in third place behind Kerry and Wesley Clark, no one knows what 34 percent of the folks who answered the Arizona Republic's voting questions will do. Either way, at least the Dean crew brought comfort food along on their 11-hour ride.

Bond Bend

State Sen. John Vasconcellos thinks California county officials are dumb-asses for not jumping on the governor's bond-wagon. That's the message Mr. Congeniality conveyed in front of Fly spies while Dems commiserated over such things as their recent state convention in San Jose. The problem is that Vasco took his bitterness out on poor Supe Jim Beall, who was called on to give an impromptu report from county headquarters. Beall, Santa Clara County's representative on the California State Association of Counties, just wanted to finish his coffee. But he was trooper enough to relay the message that the counties are down on the governor's county cash grab. They oppose shifting property taxes in a way that would seize county funds to bolster the state's pocketbook. Beall tells the Fly he personally has yet to make up his mind about the bond but would by Wednesday, Jan. 28, when the county Legislative Committee votes on recommendations. So when Beall delivered the dis of the governor's bond at the convention, he was speaking for representatives of the state's 58 counties. "I think there is a little bit of tension between the local and state governments right now," observes Beall. Vasco spokester Sue North says her boss thinks the county leaders' concern that the bond disproportionately chips at their piggy banks is a "foolish" reason not to endorse the bond. She said nothing about her boss mistaking Beall's report from the county alliance as a personal whim. For its part, the county association plans to vote whether to endorse the $15 billion bond slated for the March 2 ballet at its Feb. 5 board meeting. Meanwhile, Pat Leary, a CSAC tax-expert staffer, says county operatives are working on the governor to retract his claws from the counties' funding stream.

Dear God

Those who oppress the poor insult their maker, according to Sandy Perry's read on the Bible. According to President Bush and his tax-cut vision, on the other hand, the Bible apparently warns the poor not to oppress the rich. At any rate, it's with some urgency that Perry and her group, the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry, call for a prayer vigil at the family court in San Jose this Thursday, Jan. 29. Family advocates are throwing the vigil to make the point that Child Protective Services and the court system abuse kids from poor families. And as a fan of religion, Perry plans to pray for everybody involved--the victimized children as well as the system victimizing them. The gripe against social services for children is, of course, well known. First of all, an industrial-sized pool of young 'uns end up getting shuffled around in the cold, cold system. In California alone, the number of children in foster care has skyrocketed by 400 percent in the last two decades. Adoption numbers have likewise increased by 140 percent in that same period. Family advocates complain that state and federal laws actually give financial incentives to break up families and allow the system to hide behind a cloak of confidentiality. So, let the advocates pray for the county's child care. The Fly, meanwhile, hereby begs any higher power to let more than a half-dozen people show up at CHAM's vigil as it takes a miracle to get a decent turnout for a social justice cause in San Jose.

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From the January 29-February 4, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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