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Personality Disorder

Fishing for leaders in San Jose's shallow political pond

By Allie Gottlieb

THE OVERWHELMING lack of enthusiasm surrounding the chance to exchange half of San Jose's wan city leaders for new Mr. Potato Heads is impressive. For comparison, we of course look north. While San Francisco's mayor married homosexuals, garnering headlines, joy and dismay from across the country, San Jose chugged along uneventfully even with its mayor out of operation. Politically speaking, what San Francisco is to an attention-addicted lead singer, San Jose is to milk toast.

Nevertheless, to be thorough, Metro's City Council personality correspondent scoured this year's candidate pool for signs of anyone interesting on San Jose's March 2 primary ballot. Following a series of frequently mood-crushing interviews with nine out of the 11 candidates (one refused to chat, and another clearly didn't want to be found), and after nosing through barely enlightening election paperwork, Metro's correspondent has come down with a terrible headache. The result is an official rating guide for City Council candidates. The guide employs the highly scientific bore-o-meter and freak-o-meter technology, a measuring system accepted in most academic settings to gauge personality levels among those seeking leadership positions.

District 2: Forrest Williams vs. Ted Scarlett

Name: Forrest Williams, 66
Occupation: Councilmember, computer product consultant
Rating: Ranks high on bore-o-meter
Description: Williams is a tall, soft-spoken multilingual black man with freckles, who made more than $100,000 last year moonlighting as an international consulting geek for IBM.

Here's a guy who has the makings to stand out. For example, he reaches 6-feet-2 when fully extended, and he speaks Japanese. But those seeking sparkle must look elsewhere. When instructed to divulge his future political plans, for instance, he offered this unrevealing statement: "I want to be the best councilmember that I can be."

What's his thing? How do people know him? "People know me by my integrity," the yawn master says.

Why does he want to be a politician in San Jose? "I love it here. It's exciting," he says. "It's the basis for the intellectual strength of the world."

Williams' Claim to Fame: Calls Willie Brown for advice

Name: Ted Scarlett, 41
Occupation: Unclear ("entrepreneur")
Rating: Declined interview--said he was "too busy"

Predicted Outcome: Williams wins; District 2 hibernates for another four years

District 4: Chuck Reed vs. Dale Warner

Name: Chuck Reed, 55
Occupation: Councilmember, lawyer
Rating: Registers slightly on freak-o-meter
Description: Reed is a dry-witted cartoon superhero and ethics expert. He convinced his colleagues to pass a pro-public-disclosure policy despite the fact that only a few of them try to make themselves publicly accessible. He's also a starched military-type white guy who consistently supports the civil rights of mistreated minorities. He's best known for wearing his American-flag tie while losing on big-name-issue council votes. He opposed the new City Hall and the taking of private businesses through eminent domain from politically unpopular landlords.

Reed is a freak because he's loose and tight at the same time. For example, he sings karaoke in honor of underprivileged girl boxers but also quotes the Air Force to explain his philosophy as an elected official: "Integrity First, Service Above Self and Excellence." He also used to hold stock in Hilton Hotels, but unfortunately his broker sold it before Paris Hilton's recent fame crescendo.

Name: Dale Warner, 63
Occupation: Lawyer (but he says he's retiring)
Rating: Giant freak
Description: Warner is a corporate immigration attorney who prices his sole proprietorship at an enviable "over $1 million," and whose blue tie and shirt nicely complement his European American skin tone. In his spare time, Warner stands up against defamation primarily on behalf of his fellow oppressed white people. Warner concedes he's running this campaign with no delusion that he's heading toward victory. He mostly wants to raise issues in public during the campaign. Specifically, he's challenging what he calls "hyperdevelopment" and the city's effort "to become wall-to-wall bedroom communities." Warner's platform consists largely of his dissatisfaction with the lack of parks in the district and the push toward denser housing. Ultimately, open space, and by extension, rescuing suburbia, doesn't seem like an urgent enough cause to prompt a run against a credible incumbent during a depressed economy when everything with a price tag is an issue--like paying police and fire overtime, paving potholes and keeping libraries open. But his choice of causes is not what makes Warner interesting. It's his commitment to championing the plight of the white man that makes him special.

Predicted Outcome: Out-freaked, Reed wins.

District 6: Ken Yeager vs. Daniel Beasworrick

Name: Ken Yeager, 51
Occupation: Councilmember, political science professor
Rating: Bore-o-meter king
Description: Yeager once wrote a book on being a trailblazer, since he was one of the first openly gay city officials. But in person, though not antisocial, Yeager doesn't appear to want to lead anyone. He seems shy and contained, though smiley and pleasant. Tellingly, he notes that he likes to jog alone and watch art films by himself. On the other hand, he makes a strong statement now and again, like, "For the billions of dollars that we've spent on downtown, I wish we had more to show for it." He then fails to stamp his foot or pound his fist to convey some passion behind such an assertion.

Name: Daniel Beasworrick, 48
Occupation: Pet groomer
Rating: High on the freak-o-meter
Description: Drinking one of his daily three pots of coffee, Beasworrick says his hands are shaking because he's chilly. He's a fiscal conservative, who suggests the city save money by waiting longer to replace police motorcycles, and who walks his talk by keeping the heat down at home. Beasworrick, whose name calls forth an image of a Viking, is the foster parent of three. He notes that he's an ordained minister thanks to the Universal Life Church. He considers his foster parenthood "a Christian ministry," explaining that the kids, who are 2, 5 and 7, came from Advent Group Ministries. "The idea is to get these kids into Christian homes," he says. Beasworrick's Christian Willow Glen house contains at least one cat, two Shih Tzus and a teenage friend who's crashing there for a while. It smells smoky, like an East Coast Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, the refreshing scent of good, old-fashioned values.
Predicted Outcome: Yeager jogs alone to a landslide

District 8: David Cortese

Name: David Cortese, 47
Occupation: Councilmember, lawyer

Rating: Does it matter?

Description: No one bothered to challenge Cortese, so he doesn't need a personality and can be however he wants to be. His interview, therefore, shall be known as the great softball interview of 2004. It went like this:

Metro: Finish this thought. No one is running against me because clearly I am the greatest City Council member ever and all others cower in my presence. I therefore take this time to say ...

Cortese: "And if you believe all that, you probably should have filed to run against me in the first place. ... People should vote for me not because I'm the best thing since sliced bread," but because "it's a vote for neighborhood empowerment, community empowerment." By that Cortese means that he endeavors to help neighbors negotiate the city's complaint-based system for goodies like traffic signs. The lesson he teaches is that it pays for constituents to work as a team of squeaky wheels.

District 10: Rich De La Rosa vs. Nancy Pyle vs. Ronald Siporen vs. William Garbett

Name: Rich De La Rosa, 51
Occupation: Insurance agency owner, president of Latin American Imports
Rating: Ordinarily boring
Description: When asked for evidence of a personality, De La Rosa says he likes the Beatles and believes Bill Cosby "was the funniest man on the planet." Whatever level of individuality these examples of taste suggest, it's overcome by De La Rosa's track record as a regular community businessman. De La Rosa has led the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He has also collected endorsements from the business-friendly side of the establishment--termed-out Councilmember Pat Dando, the Mercury News, county Supervisor Don Gage, self-important former Mayor Tom McEnery and San Jose Chamber president Jim Cunneen. There remains a glimmer of feistiness in De La Rosa's aura, since he stood on the side of merchants and landlords against much of the City Council during the Tropicana Shopping Center redevelopment war. But when his mouth opens it sounds like it's channeling rote concepts. "Well, first thing we need to do is make San Jose business-friendly," he says. "It's an attitude. We need to change an attitude in the city of San Jose to a 'Yes, we can,' not always 'No.' Businesses create jobs, we treat them as second-class citizens," blah, blah, blah. Translation: I'm a shill for the chamber.

Name: Nancy Pyle, 65
Occupation: Evergreen Valley College trustee
Rating: Reasonably boring
Description: Pyle is the only woman out of all 11 candidates running. That in itself makes her a sort of freak. She is a tiny woman with tall hair that vaguely resembles the shape of the coif on outgoing Councilmember Pat Dando. Just because she has the hair, however, doesn't mean she's a shoo-in. (After all, Dando didn't endorse Pyle or the hair to succeed her.) Pyle used to be a Republican but jumped ship because she didn't like the GOP's school-voucher and anti-abortion kicks. She wants more bars with outdoor patios in downtown San Jose even though she no longer drinks alcohol.

Name: Ron Siporen, 48
Occupation: Former banker and advertising company owner
Rating: Part freak, part bore
Description: Siporen gives a lovely reason for running for office. "In October, I realized there was an election coming up, and I realized I could do it." Siporen seems to have a breezy sense of purpose and of himself. He's sure his campaign speaks to the disaffected voters of the district. He can tell from the random sampling he's done of the people at his 8-year-old son's school, the seniors in his community and the people he knows in the high-tech field. He loves to cook because it's relaxing and social. He says interesting things for a guy who's supposedly trying to win office. "San Jose's had an identity crisis all of its life," he shares. "When I travel, I've learned to say I'm from San Francisco." But his freak status emerges when he comments on his opponent, William Garbett, "He's not as screwy as people think he is."

Name: William Garbett, 65
Occupation: Retired
Rating: Freakmeister
Description: Mr. Garbett is an enigma of contradictions. He loves to speak at City Council meetings. But his phone number is unlisted and missing from his campaign materials. Luckily, he provided a candidate statement to the city clerk, from which we now quote liberally: "Mr. Garbett served as a crash dummy for space' to lift barriers to allow manned space flight. He worked in development and test of aviation guided missiles. He survived nuclear blasts, Agent Orange, and did electronic warfare in Vietnam for the U.S. Navy ... He has been a public advocate as 'the voice' at City Hall. He effectively communicated your concerns in spite of having home destroyed by police helicopter and telephones disconnected by 'jack-booted-government-thugs.' His military police experience shows police auditor is ineffective and must be replaced by civilian review panel promoting good police work without murders." Like the other candidates, Garbett signed the "code of fair campaign practices" agreeing to abide by "basic principles of decency, honesty and fair play" while running for public office. Unlike the rest he wrote "declined" across the page.

Predicted Outcome: Cosby fan and teetotaler in a runoff

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From the February 25-March 3, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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