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Will Work for Votes

Look out Silicon Valley companies: San Jose mayoral candidate CHUCK REED wants your workers on his campaign team, full-time. Reed plans to approach the boardrooms of the region asking companies to lend workers to his campaign in the '06 race. Companies will pay salaries and benefits while receiving unprecedented access to the election process. Reed gets free labor. Sounds dicey? Reed doesn't think so. Not if the region's unions can pay workers to canvas neighborhoods on behalf of pro-labor candidates. Last week Reed asked the city's Election Commission to determine whether free workers violate city ordinance and whether candidates must document them as in-kind contributions. His request stems from information that labor queen AMY DEAN provided to Wayne State during a study conducted by the university in which she boasted she routinely donated 40 paid union workers to political campaigns. If the commission sides with labor, Reed says he'll ask the City Council to change the law. Failing that, he'll go on the offensive, rounding up legions of free campaign staffers paid by HP, Cisco or anyone else willing to lend free workers. Chamber of Commerce president JIM CUNNEEN didn't return a phone call. But one business source called the idea "intriguing" and "fascinating."

Dems Nip Smith?

A rumor circulating about Sheriff LAURIE SMITH's failed bid to land the CHP commissioner slot involved intrigue at the highest levels of state government. As the theory went, Gov. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER opted not to select Smith because Senate Democrats sent a message she wouldn't be confirmed. Why not? In essence, she was too good. As a Republican female in the most visible law enforcement position in the state, she could have easily stepped into nearly any elected statewide office. Dems supposedly feared another strong GOP candidate. Smith says the theory is off-base for a number of reasons: she's not interested in a state position, especially not the Assembly, and the Senate has confirmed her for other positions, namely the Pace Commission. A source connected to Senate Dems said it's rare for senators to try to influence the gubernatorial appointee process, though that's apparently what happened to former State Board of Education member REED HASTINGS, who was formally rejected by the Rules Committee last month for endorsing a more aggressive English-based curriculum. A spokesperson for the governor's office said his administration wouldn't comment because the rumor about Smith was hypothetical.

Risky Business

Want to lose $200,000 the easy way? The Milpitas Unified School District obviously does. It's holding a stand-alone election March 8 to try to pass a $140 parcel tax, which the district hopes will pay for class-size reduction, science teachers and computers. Parcel tax elections are almost certain losers. Only three of seven districts were able to pass similar measures in the November election. What's worse is that Milpitas would have saved about $120,000 if the parcel vote had been held in November. Why wasn't the vote held then? Superintendent KARL BLACK says there wasn't enough time to raise money for an election once the board decided to move forward last summer. And board members also didn't want to co-mingle the election of board members with the parcel tax vote. "Our board felt like there were too many things going on," Black says. The parcel tax is steep, $140, compared with what other districts were asking in November. But this is the first time Milpitas has asked for a parcel tax, giving board members hope, since it's not an increase to an existing tax. Supposedly, political consultant LARRY TRAMUTOLA polled strong numbers three months ago. He actually spins the debate the other way, saying it would be irresponsible of Milpitas Unified to hold an election in which it couldn't educate the public. Even so, Black is aware voters won't be kind to the Milpitas board if it loses this election. "There will probably be some second-guessing," he says.

Boys Club

Unlike mayoral candidate No. 1, CHUCK REED, who quietly notified the media last month of his intention to run, candidate No. 2, DAVE CORTESE, went the pomp and circumstance route to kick off his campaign. In the chandeliered Kona Room at Lou's Village Restaurant, a Vietnamese drummer pounded away as Cortese took the stage, backed by members of his family and a room elbow-to-elbow with supporters. Dignitaries included county Supe JIM BEALL, fellow Councilmember LINDA LeZOTTE and at least one representative of developer KB Home. Like most announcement speeches, Cortese offered little in the way of substance. His main effort seemed to be to distance himself from the City Hall scandals of '04. Cortese's best line of the night was "Ethics should be a prerequisite to office, not a platform on which to run." Expect to hear that line again as the campaign begins to heat up next fall. Cortese wasn't completely without ideas. He said SJ should seek to build a Smithsonian West as a way to bring culture and history to the city. Cortese told Fly before taking stage that he didn't plan to become immersed in a confrontation with unions as Reed did last week. Even so, both Reed and Cortese share more than a seat on the SJ council. Both are the stereotypical overachieving oldest child, Cortese of a family of five children, Reed of three.

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From the January 26-February 1, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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