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[whitespace] Joe Guerra Joe Pro: Mayoral hatchet man Joe Guerra has managed to tick a lot of people off--and some of them gave a lot of money to his boss.

Public Eye

You Could Be a Winner

Some disgruntled weasel mailed anonymous letters last week to San Jose City Hall insiders containing an "official contest entry form." Sent with first-class stamps, our deep throats say, recipients were implored to guess the date on which mayoral budget and policy director Joe Guerra leaves his job. Contestants also had to correctly answer the question, "Will he be fired or resign?" "Fold and return this form to the City Manager's Office," recipients were directed by the mysterious contest creator. ... Speculation has grown over the past two months that the Willow Glen wunderkind could get whacked--out of his job, that is--at any moment. While that appears to be a lot of irresponsible talk, there's no denying that a few influential Gonzales backers are not Guerra fans. Sources close to the action tell Eye that during the mayor's January "Kitchen Cabinet" meeting--a monthly powwow with his most trusted political advisers--some key Gonzo confidants voiced concerns about Guerra and his often-brusque style that has rubbed both business people and city staff the wrong way. One person in attendance was beer-seller Mike Fox Sr., who served as Gonzales' campaign co-chairman in 1998 and is a Kitchen regular. Fox refuses to spill beans about anything discussed at the behind-closed-doors gabfest. But he acknowledges that he personally thinks Guerra could be a political liability for the mayor. "I've heard that ... he's abrasive," says Fox. Others say Citizen Joe seems to relish the job of saying "no" a little too much. As the mayor's point man on land use, Guerra must often disappoint eager developers, many of whom gave Gonzales lots of campaign scratch. Fox suggests that the style in which Guerra delivers the bad news bugs people, though he won't elaborate. "The mayor's office has to say no to many things," Fox allows, "but it has to remain friendly." ... In spite of his critics, Guerra's job appears to be safe. Mayoral staff chieftain Rebecca Dishotsky insists that Guerra can have his job as long as he wants it. "Joe is a pro," she gushes. "He has the mayor's confidence, and he has my confidence." In his own defense, Guerra states that people will always blame the bearer of bad news. "It's nothing new," he reveals.

Say It Is, Zoe

Ever since being elected to Congress in 1994, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) has had to suffer the humility of being in the minority party. Lofgren had great hopes of a Democratic takeover of the House of Reps this year, which fell a couple of seats shy. According to a Lofgren-friendly source, Mama Zoe's growing tired of the cross-country commute to Reep-dominated D.C. and wants to spend more time with her family in their million-dollar downtown home. Which is maybe why her name is being circulated as a candidate for San Jose mayor in 2002. ... As Eye reported last week, new private polling numbers suggest incumbent Ron Gonzales is more vulnerable than previously thought. ... Since their days on the Board of Supervisors together when they fought over Valley Medical Center, Lofgren and Gonzales have never been great pals. But she endorsed him in 1998 over Republican Pat Dando. More recently, she made a videotaped appearance at the mayor's state of the city speech. But she still clearly has her differences with Gonzales. She didn't endorse his pet ballot measure to bring BART to San Jose, which may not be something to brag about since it earned more than 70 percent of the vote. Regardless, she could be a formidable opponent, who would appeal to the city's female voters as well as its liberal Demo wing. Lofgren couldn't be reached before deadline--she was scheduled to endure yet another long flight back to D.C., weather permitting.

Murky News

Things are palpably tense over at 750 Ridder Park Drive this week after Mercury News publisher Jay Harris sent out a memo warning of imminent layoffs. By all accounts, the newsroom staff may be edited for size--the first time in anyone's memory when the daily paper has laid off reporters. In his memo, Harris said that revenue from job ads by area companies was down $2.5 million from the same time in 2000. He also hinted that the paper might offer early retirement packages. A reporter also tells Eye that employees are being encouraged to take a long vacation--unpaid, that is. Veteran staff scribe Frank Sweeney, the shop steward for the Newspaper Guild, says it's still unclear how hard the newsroom will be hit, which has people nervous "because they don't know what's going to happen. There's a lot of concern. ... It's really murky." Indeed.

Head Hunting

The latest word on the street is that the San Jose Chamber of Commerce and Joint Venture: Silicon Valley are both trying to woo ex-assemblyman Jim Cunneen to be their next top guy. Longtime chamber chief Steve Tedesco resigned last month, as did Joint Venture CEO Ruben Barrales, leaving the two organizations with some important headhunting to do. Eye hears from a reliable chamber source that Cunneen wants a $175,000 salary; Tedesco earned $123,598 in 1999, according to the biz group's executive director. Meanwhile, a well-connected Joint Venturer tells Eye that Cunneen has indicated he wants a $175,000 base salary and a performance-based bonus, something commonly offered to other trade group bosses. Barrales made a reported $150,000 a year. Could there be a bidding war brewing between the two groups? For his part, Cunneen cautiously says, "I am engaged in the necessary 'due diligence' essential before making any decisions. Any comp package will be in line with other like organizations." And get this: Jimbo says he's a finalist for a "position of significant responsibility" with Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI). Next week: Jim decorates his new office.

Airing Out

Here's a hot idea to save electricity during the energy crisis: Ban use of air conditioners during the sweaty summer months. It's an idea that perhaps only state Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-San Jose), the 30-year legislative vet who's in his final term, could come up with. Vasco, of course, led the famous self-esteem movement which hypothesized that prison populations could be reduced if the next generation were raised with a stronger sense of self-worth. And back in 1989, then-Assemblyman Vasconcellos floated a bill that would have banned the sale of most air conditioning units within two years (which, obviously, turned out to be just hot air) in order to save the ozone layer. According to his chief of staff, Sue North, the esteemed senator hasn't actually introduced an air-con bill this year, but notes that he might as summer gets closer. And she also assures Eye, "John doesn't use air conditioning." ... By the by, readers perhaps noticed that Rand Martin is no longer Vasco's chief of staff. After seven years with Vasconcellos, Martin has resigned and is now working as a lobbyist for Rose & Kindel. And guess who's one of the firm's top clients--Pacific Gas & Electric. Wonder if Martin will lobby for or against his old boss' ban on air conditioners.

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From the March 8-14, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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