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[whitespace] Ron Gonzales
Power Outage: A new poll suggests San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales isn't as politically invulnerable as everyone thinks he is.

Public Eye

Power Hungry

California's energy crisis clearly could pull the plug on Gov. Gray Davis' political career. But it also isn't doing anything to recharge the popularity of San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales. Gonzo has repeatedly been spanked by the Mercury News editorial board and state lawmakers for opposing a proposed power plant in Coyote Valley. And a new countywide poll done on behalf of Calpine Corp. and Bechtel--the companies behind the proposed Metcalf Energy Center--indicates that some voters think the mayor could be doing a better job to address the problem. ... Pollster Jim Moore surveyed 500 registered county voters in mid-February and asked, "Are you generally satisfied or dissatisfied with how San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales is currently addressing the state's electricity crisis?" Of those polled, 29 percent responded they were satisfied with Gonzo's performance; 35 percent were dissatisfied and 36 percent had no opinion. ... But what really caught Eye's attention were the mayor's not so great overall approval ratings: 44 percent of polled voters had a favorable opinion of him, 28 percent had an unfavorable opinion, and 28 percent had no opinion. The political rule of thumb is that, ideally, favorables should double the number of unfavorables. At the beginning of Gonzales' term, mayoral staffers boasted of his favorable ratings in the high 60s and single digit negatives. The latest numbers suggest that Gonzales--considered unbeatable after the November election in which numerous ballot measures and candidates he backed won--is far from invincible. Clearly, the October revelation of an office romance cost the mayor a few points. But now Gonzo detractors may look to exploit his position on the energy plant as his Achilles heel. There are some signs that high energy boosters have been candidate-shopping, if only to turn up the heat on the independent-minded mayor. Failed congressional candidate and former councildude Jerry Estruth, a backer of the Metcalf plant, is mulling a mayoral run. "People keep talking to me [about running]," Estruth says. "I won't say it's out of the question."

Mr. Mother

So what's Jim Cunneen up to these days? Not a heckuva a whole lot. The newly unemployed former assemblyman has been spending a lot of time around his Almaden Valley home playing Mr. Mom while his attorney wife, Jennifer, brings home the dough. "I'm enjoying time off with my family," Jimbo enthuses. "It's nice to be off the 'bubble machine.'" Cunneen reveals that he has no plans to work in the Bush administration or in any other public sector job. "It's time for me to spend some time outside of government," he reasons. Then again, he acknowledges that he's talked to Rick White of TechNet--high-tech's government lobbying arm--"to discuss more than one position possibility." ... Last week, Eye speculated that Cunneen might be a logical replacement for Ruben Barrales, who's has been tapped for a job as a Bush adviser in D.C., as jefe of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley. Cunneen is a favorite son of Joint Venture founders Jim and Becky Morgan, having worked for both of them at different times during his career. But Cuneen assures us he hasn't spoken to anyone about joining JV, "though, I've just returned to town" from a family vacation.

Historic Giant

Why was San Jose Mayor Emeritus Tom McEnery talking to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig earlier this month? According to the Macster, he tried to explain to Selig the history of how baseball owners gave the Giants territorial rights over San Jose and turned SJ into "a colony." Territorial rights have become a major league issue again because if Selig rules that the Giants have a legit claim to the South Bay, the Oakland A's won't be able to relocate down here. The Giants' claim to San Jose was formalized in 1992 when then-Mayor Susan Hammer unsuccessfully tried to persuade voters to pay for a new ballpark for the team. McEnery, unbiased historian that he is, modestly pointed out to Selig that discussions with the Giants really began in 1985 during his mayoral tenure. "He [Selig] listened very politely," recalls McEnery, who managed to persuade Selig to commit to giving his historical lesson some "consideration." ... Still, Eye wonders why the ex-mayor of all people was waxing historic with Selig. Did fellow Bellarmine alumnus Steve Schott Sr., co-owner of the A's, ask the Macster to weigh in? McEnery will only say, "A friend of mine asked me. I'll leave it at that." Well, that rules out most of the current administration.

Drawing a Card

Last week, the Mercury News announced that it is endorsing architect Richard Tanaka for the open east San Jose city council seat for taking the strongest position against card clubs among the three candidates. "We really don't need card clubs," the Merc quoted him as saying. But the Merc neglected to mention that Tanaka was a fiscal beneficiary of the card rooms. Tanaka acknowledges that he "worked as a production person on the [architectural] drawings" for the Garden City card club on Saratoga Avenue many moons ago. "I don't have any vested interest [in the club]," he protests. ... By the by, does anyone realize there is a special election on March 6? Tanaka and his two opponents, jeweler Bud LoMonaco and hack-de-camp Nora Campos, have run stealth campaigns, eschewing publicity and candidate debates. Campaign experts are predicting a 10 percent turnout, meaning the candidate who best targets his or her backers and gets them to the polls wins or makes an April runoff. And despite Campos' formidable war chest--the most recently available finance report shows her with nearly twice as much cash on hand as either LoMonaco or Tanaka--practically no one thinks she can win outright next week.

Billy Blob

As was reported in this space first, super stud Billy Bob Thornton was due to steer his way into San Jose's Cinequest 11 to pick up the Maverick Spirit Award Feb. 24. But just two hours before his 5pm showtime--and after insisting that his hotel room be located close to a gym--Thornton called in sick, claiming a "family emergency." Lyla Ross, Cinequest's publicity director, swears that the night turned out "totally positive." For instance, a cheese-and-crackers party for lesser-known directors ran long, giving the filmies more face time with their pals in the press. "One little party turned into one big party," gushes Ross. Still, partiers had plenty of fun making up rumors to explain the Bobster's MIA status. To wit: A Camera Theatre gossip hound said BB was peeved his food basket didn't include the color orange.

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From the March 1-7, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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