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Terms and Endearment

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Illustration by Steven DeCinzo

With the changing of the guard in San Jose, the sparks of connections are flying and the wheels of fortune are turning. Suddenly, last term's politicos have cool new jobs.

By Will Harper

IT WAS EARLY November in the final weeks of Mayor Susan Hammer's second term, and she still needed six votes to pass one of her last pet projects, the city's "living wage" ordinance.

And, much to her dismay, there were fence-sitters on the council who needed some nudging before they would vote to require certain city contractors to pay their workers a minimum of $12 an hour.

The mayor knew there was only one man for the job: her surly New York-born budget director, Bob Brownstein--who was once parodied by the San Jose Stage Co. as the DeNiro character in Taxi Driver ("You talkin' to me?").

"He [Brownstein] talked to me, he talked to everybody," recalls Councilman John Diquisto, a Brownstein fishing buddy who was still undecided at the time. "He'd just explain his logic and reasoning for why he thought it was a good idea."

In mid-November, the mayor and living-wage advocates--like South Bay Labor Council leader Amy Dean--had their way. An overwhelming majority on the City Council voted yes, including Diquisto, making San Jose the city with the highest mandated minimum wage for contractors in the state.

Two-and-a-half months later, Brownstein is taking phone calls inside a new office. But it's not at City Hall anymore; it's at the Labor Temple, a sprawling single-story building on Curtner near Almaden Road that several union locals and the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council call home.

Brownstein, in the wake of his City Hall experience, is now the policy director for Working Partnerships USA, a nonprofit organization launched five years ago by the Labor Council's Dean.

Dean, labor's most visible advocate of the living-wage policy, recruited Brownstein for the job, a position that didn't exist before this year.

Working Partnerships, Brownstein explains, is expanding and reorganizing thanks to an influx of grant money from philanthropic organizations such as the Ford and Packard foundations.

His new job pays less than the $81,910 he made working for the mayor. In fact, Brownstein says, he had other more lucrative offers, but turned them down so he could stay in San Jose and do something he believes in.

Brownstein insists that his efforts to pass the living-wage ordinance weren't motivated by a desire to milk a job from labor leaders, but rather by his belief that it was just the right thing to do.

"I would have done all I could for the living wage" in any situation, he says.

BROWNSTEIN'S comments are a familiar refrain from elected officials and their appointees who land jobs via political connections after their terms end.

One year ago, Metro reported how local politicians have cashed in on their political connections after leaving office to land lucrative and sometimes cushy jobs ("Cashing In," Jan. 29, 1998). A year later, term limits have forced a whole new crop of pols--nearly 20 policy aides and three elected officials, including Mayor Hammer--to tap their connections in order to get a new day job.

"Having a connection doesn't mean someone without merit gets hired," argues Jude Barry, chief of staff for new Mayor Ron Gonzales. "I've hired lots of people who were recommended by someone I know and respect. When I do that, the results are usually better than when I sift through a stack of résumés. Connections are just a fact of life in the professional world and not necessarily a bad way to find talent."

Nevertheless, voters and taxpayers might be curious to see how City Hall exiles fared this go-round.

Councilman David Pandori
New Job: Deputy district attorney.
Details: According to assistant district attorney Karyn Sinunu, Pandori competed in a pool of 47 applicants. Like everyone else, she says, he was interviewed by a panel of four attorneys and given an oral exam that covers criminal procedure and ethical issues. "He aced the interview," recalls Sinunu, who sits on the hiring panel for the DA's office. "There was no way any of us could leave him off the list." Sinunu says that the panel initially worried that hiring Pandori might look like favoritism, "but we decided we shouldn't penalize him just because he's a politician." Pandori was given a $54,120-a-year entry-level job--about $6,000 less than he made as a councilmember--prosecuting misdemeanor cases. He is due for a $2,700 raise in June. His new office has no windows and a metal desk.

Sean Morley, Hammer's land-use policy aide (1991-97); chief of staff (1997-98)
New Job: Attorney for the Palo Alto firm of Gray, Cary, Ware & Freidenrich.
Details: Morley was a sought-after legal recruit even though he hadn't yet taken the bar exam when he was hired by Gray, Cary, Ware & Freidenrich in December to handle land-use issues. He even turned down a job offer from Berliner Cohen, a San Jose law firm known for negotiating big land deals like the proposed Giants stadium in 1992 and, more recently, the 600,000-square-foot mixed-use project at Town & Country Village. Attorney Stan Berliner says what made Morley attractive wasn't his political access--"We aren't concerned about access," boasts Berliner, a financial supporter of Gonzales, among others--but his people skills. Morley's chosen firm represents clients such as Hewlett-Packard, 3Com, Adobe Systems and Ascend Communications. The city's revolving-door policy prohibits him from returning to City Hall in a lobbying role for one year.

Joe Guerra, chief of staff for Councilman Frank Fiscalini
New Job: Budget and policy director, Mayor Ron Gonzales.
Details: Served as a strategist for Gonzales during the campaign and was rewarded by the mayor with the No. 2 job in his administration, right behind chief of staff Jude Barry. As the staff chief to Frank Fiscalini, Guerra was the highest paid City Council aide in San Jose, making $66,352. He now earns a $75,000 salary working in the mayor's office. That translates into an hourly rate of $36, which Guerra compares to what he made as a part-time consultant to Metro in 1992. "Adjusting for inflation, I'm making less now than I did at Metro," he sniffs.

Tony Arreola, chief of staff to Councilman Manny Diaz
New Job: Senior policy aide, Mayor Ron Gonzales.
Details: A trusted Gonzales loyalist who previously worked for Gonzales when he was a county supervisor. Like Guerra, Arreola was brought in for his knowledge of how the city bureaucracy works.

Kevin Pursglove, Hammer's press secretary
New Job: Press information officer, eBay.
Details: Pursglove met eBay marketing VP Steve Westly (who hired Pursglove to work for the online auction company) during his days as the host of KQED radio's program Forum, when Westly would come on the show in his role as a Democratic Party official. They also rubbed shoulders when Westly worked for the city's office of economic development before moving on to eBay. Pursglove says he is making more now than the $69,722 the mayor paid him.

Carolina Camarena, Hammer's deputy press secretary
New Job: Community coordinator for city's mentor program.
Details: Mayor Hammer's gang task force recommended the creation of a mentor program, and Camarena helped to set up its structure. Her position was advertised by the human resources division, and parks director Mark Linder says Camarena went through the same interview process all other applicants did. Kevin Pursglove, her old supervisor in the mayor's office, praises Camarena for not pulling any strings to get her new job. "She really went out and did it on her own," Pursglove says. Camarena now pulls in a $48,360 salary; she made $35,381 for the mayor.

Eva Terrazas, Hammer's senior policy aide
New Job: Development officer, Redevelopment Agency. Unadvertised position.
Details: The mayoral right-hand-gal spent her final months in Hammer's office as liaison to the taxpayer-supported agency and now follows in the footsteps of two predecessors, Pat Dando and Carol Beddo, who also made the leap from mayoral pal to agency special agent. Terrazas' new job pays $70,000 a year, a $15,000 bump up from her days with Hammer. Unfinished business likely to be on her agenda: the joint city/university library and the new City Hall.

Andrew Gregg, Hammer's senior policy aide
New Job: Senior account executive, Solem & Associates.
Details: Solem & Associates does most of its work in San Francisco--most recently carrying the banks' water over the ATM fee issue--but Gregg predicts the company wouldn't mind expanding south. "Down the road," Gregg says, "another colleague and I will be trying to do some rainmaking down there." For now, Gregg says he is obeying the city's revolving-door ordinance and staying out of San Jose public affairs for the next year, as the law requires.

Cynthia Ho, Hammer's scheduler
New Job: Staff analyst, Redevelopment Agency.
Details: From Ho's new job description, it sounds as if she was in line to be redevelopment director Frank Taylor's personal executive. With Taylor out (see page 10), only time will tell what Ho will do for her pay hike--from $37K a year to $58K--or to whom she will report.

Dick De La Rosa, Hammer's gang-prevention coordinator
New Job: Same as the old one, but under the parks department.
Details: The parks department (which also oversees youth and neighborhood services) picked up the option on De La Rosa's contract. Parks director Mark Linder says that he is keeping De La Rosa on until June so he can finish his work and help apply for grant money. After that, De La Rosa's on his own.

Kelly Kline, aide to Councilman Pandori
New Job: Development specialist, Redevelopment Agency. Unadvertised position.
Details: As the downtown council aide, Kline became familiar with the gripes of the area--such as parking, which is her specialty issue for the agency. Her new salary of $61,000 a year represents an annual pay hike of 10 grand.

Margaret Tamisiea, Pandori's policy aide
New Job: Chief of staff, Economic and Social Opportunities
Details: ESO executive director Tommy Fulcher says he first became acquainted with Tamisiea because he was a resident in Pandori's downtown district. He got to know her and her work even better when she was campaign manager for San Jose City Council candidate Tony West, whom Fulcher backed. Fulcher says he admired Tamisiea's ability to handle multiple tasks at once. However, he insists that he didn't talk to Pandori about offering Tamisiea a job because Fulcher figured reporters would presume he would have done so as a favor to the former councilman. ESO, a social services agency, has a number of contracts with the federal government, the state and the county. It does have one contract with the city to weatherize homes to conserve heat.

Tona Duncanson, chief of staff for Councilwoman Trixie Johnson
New Job: Chief of staff for Councilwoman Linda LeZotte.
Details: Johnson anointed LeZotte as her successor in District 1. LeZotte, in turn, kept Duncanson and, by extension, some continuity in the office.

Mayor Susan Hammer
New Job: No full-time one yet, but Gov. Gray Davis appointed her to the state Board of Education, an unpaid position.
Details: Hammer remains unemployed, but not for lack of opportunities. She turned down an offer from Gov. Davis to head the state Resources Agency, a job that pays $112,890 a year. Hammer has told friends that she wants to stay close to her family in San Jose, which is why she opted to turn down Sacramento. She has been mentioned as a possible successor to retiring Packard Foundation executive director Colburn Wilbur. Democrats have also been begging her to run against U.S. Rep. Tom Campbell next year.

Councilwoman Trixie Johnson
New Job: Still looking.
Details: Johnson aimed a little too high, hoping to get a seat on the state's Integrated Waste Management Board, a $106,000-a-year political plum. Retired Senate pro tem president David Roberti got tapped instead.

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From the February 25-March 3, 1999 issue of Metro.

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