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Meet Honest Andy

ANDREW DIAZ arrived at Metro headquarters last week, despondent over what he considered a lack of attention to his political ideas. For the past 40 years, he's run for political office—San Jose mayor and City Council, state Assembly, Congress—and for 40 years, he says, he's been ignored by the media. "I want to be heard," he moaned at a table in Metro's lunch room. Diaz had apparently forgotten the 1998 item we wrote in which Diaz, having lost 86 of 86 elections by that point, called former San Jose Councilman GEORGE SHIRAKAWA JR. "brain dead." Or the 876-word Merc article staff writer KIM BOATMAN wrote in 1994 in which Diaz, who is 61, revealed he was once arrested while participating in an orgy. But that was then, and this is now. Diaz wants to establish a relationship with the media because he's running for office again—this time the District 7 council seat. He doesn't want to fall into the same kind of disrespect as Mayor RON GONZALES. "I'd rather work with you than fight with you," Diaz says. Diaz compares himself favorably to ABE LINCOLN, whom Democratic newspapers of the day commonly referred to as "Honest Ape," a jab at Lincoln's long limbs. Among the 50 things Diaz says he has in common with the 16th U.S. president are the following: (1) he's manic depressive; (2) he owns a small ivory pocket knife; (3) he's God-fearing and reads the Bible; (4) he uses a walking cane; (5) he almost drowned when he was 10; (6) he worked on a farm; (7) he was shot once; (8) he lived in a log cabin; (9) he's a Republican; (10) he had to walk to school. Diaz also wears a Lincoln-style beard, black prickly hair that loops under the chin but not above the lips. Diaz is legally blind in one eye and lives off Social Security but also makes money collecting recyclables. He estimates his net worth at a quarter of a million dollars. He'd like to initiate a youth corps to clean up District 7, which he sees as a mini-Tijuana because of a lack of code enforcement. He'd like to deport all illegal aliens and wishes Gonzo would drop his pie-in-the-sky plans for things like BART in favor of something Diaz considers more practical, like reducing the number of people living in poverty. Diaz left our offices in good spirits, but called back days later in a foul mood, annoyed at San Jose Planning Commissioner BOB DHILLON, whom he grumbled wears "a diaper on his head" and should be outed for changing his surname. "People will think he's European and not Indian," Diaz said. He hung up abruptly when we told him we wouldn't meet him at the city clerk's office to help straighten out Dhillon's name issue. So, anyway, we can't figure out why anyone would ignore this guy.

Reports of His Demise

How far has former Santa Clara Councilman JOHN McLEMORE sunk? He couldn't even win a piddly seat on the West Valley-Mission Community College District board of trustees. The seat opened when KEVIN MOORE was elected to the Santa Clara City Council in November. In January, the remaining six members of the West Valley board voted former Laurelwood Elementary principal BUCK POLK into Moore's old seat. None of the other five candidates, including McLemore, received a single vote. Will the shut-out prevent McLemore from seeking JIM BEALL's county supervisor seat in '06? Not at all, he says. The West Valley field was crowded with good candidates, including former Sunnyvale Councilman JACK WALKER, McLemore says, and he ran only at the instigation of others, including Moore. If reports of his demise are accurate, McLemore says, "someone forgot to tell me." And he doesn't want anyone to forget he's still vice chair of the Oakland-based Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

No Tropicana II

SUZETTE KELO is a registered nurse living in a New London, Conn., neighborhood that's largely been knocked down by bulldozers. It seems New London city leaders had big plans for Kelo's house, part of a 90-acre site they wanted to turn into a mixed-use development. Kelo, however, fought back, and now her case has reached the highest court in the land. It's also a case that might impact how San Jose city officials use one of the most powerful tools available to governments: eminent domain. Eminent domain was the central issue in one of the city's nastier legal battles in recent years, involving the Tropicana Shopping Center near Story and King roads. For two years, the city tried to obtain the Tropicana to hand over to a developer as part of a plan to revitalize the area. Santa Clara Superior Court Judge GREGORY WARD essentially ended the city's pursuit in October 2003, when he ruled the city had not exhausted all the opportunities to work with property owners before trying eminent domain. The city had attempted to seize only part of the property, exempting other property owners, which offended Ward's sense of fair play. However, there is one key difference between Kelo's case and the Tropicana: Kelo's house was not considered blight at the time New London officials attempted to buy it. The mammoth Tropicana, a large strip mall whose clients are mainly Latino and Asian, has been compared unfavorably to a Central American marketplace. Even so, STEVEN ANDERSON of the Institute for Justice, says the definition of blight has expanded in many states to the point it's almost generic. "I've never seen a blight study that didn't find blight," he says. Anderson would like the Kelo case to be the first step in ending eminent domain strictly for economic development, hoping the Supreme Court will limit definitions of blight in future cases. City Attorney RICK DOYLE acknowledges San Jose will likely have to change its practices depending on how the Supreme Court rules in the Kelo case. "We'll have to take a careful look before we move forward with any type of eminent domain cases where we give the property to a private developer," he says.

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From the March 2-8, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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