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[whitespace] Price War: Chamber of Commerce director Steve Tedesco predicts it will take hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat an initiative to stall expansion of the airport.

First Class Club

To the delight of political consultants around the state, the campaign to defeat the March 2000 initiative blocking the expansion of the San Jose International Airport promises to be an expensive one. Chamber of Commerce executive director Steve Tedesco estimates that it will take "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to defeat the neighborhood-crafted measure, which proposes to ground expansion of the airport until certain traffic improvements are made. And because it's an initiative campaign, there are no annoying contribution limits to interfere with anyone's First Amendment right to throw cash around indiscriminately. Several operatives have expressed an interest in taking the lead on the "no" campaign, including Sacramento heavies Barry Wyatt and Townsend, Raimundo, Besler & Usher (the latter guided Measure A and Measure B to victory in 1996), San Francisco's Terris & Jaye and Don Solem, and Staton & Hughes. Other people who have a keen interest in who gets to pilot the campaign are Mayor Ron Gonzales and his top strategist, Jude Barry. ... When Tedesco organized an initial meeting of the committee to fight the initiative last month, he neglected to invite anyone from the mayor's office (though Councilwoman Charlotte Powers, the council's liaison to the Airport Commission, did get an invitation). This displeased Barry, who quickly phoned Tedesco to let the Chamber chief know that he wanted the mayor's office included in the committee's goings-on. Tedesco tells Eye that the snub was unintentional. With the election a year away, Tedesco just thought it a bit early to bug the mayor's office, he says. ... But early birds get to influence who will reap the spoils of the airport campaign. Tedesco dutifully reports that the selection of the campaign team is now being coordinated with the mayor's office. Word is that Paul Maslin will likely be hired to do the polling (Maslin is a business partner of Gonzo's regular pollster, John Fairbank) while Mary Hughes, whose firm ran the mayor's campaign last year, is a "leading candidate" to be the primary consultant.

Robe Warrior

The unification of the municipal and superior courts last year was supposed to simplify court operations, but it has also complicated matters. Take, for instance, the sticky situation involving the two court unions, the Service Employees International Union Local 715 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 101. Prior to unification, AFSCME represented 200 Superior Court clerks and reporters, while Local 715 handled 350 muni court employees. After consolidation, Local 715--the union which represents the most county employees--made a power grab and argued that all rank-and-file court workers should have one union. An arbitrator agreed with that logic. The result: Court employees vote this week on which union they want to represent them. Local 715 is already a heavy favorite, so AFSCME stalwarts didn't find it amusing when retired Superior Court Judge Edgar Taylor, who still does spot duty, was seen walking around the Hall of Justice wearing a Local 715 button last Friday. "Having a judge get involved [in a union election] is illegal," asserts Linda Dittes, AFSCME's business agent. But presiding Judge Jack Komar says Taylor, who removed the button after he was told it was inappropriate, suggests his colleague was poking fun at the situation, not taking sides. "I think he was just horsing around," Komar downplays.

Commando Decision

While some Local 715 officials were busy last week preparing for the court election, labor organizer Gabriel Hernandez was busy storming the office of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. Hernandez and a couple dozen other demonstrators protested the mayor's decision to allow the Marines to conduct "Urban Warrior" exercises in Oakland, but unfortunately Hernandez and 21 of his fellow protesters were arrested. According to Hernandez, officers accidentally sprayed each other with pepper spray during the fracas. Hernandez argues that the $4.5 million the war games were supposed to raise for the local economy should go toward education. "They should kick in that money to fix the schools," Hernandez declares. ... Hernandez and his comrades aren't the only ones protesting the military's urban war exercises. So is a right-wing group called Citizens for a Better America, which claims kooky ex-Congressman Bill Dannemeyer as its honorary national chairman. In a press release issued this week, CBA blasts President Clinton, the radical gay agenda, partial-birth abortion and the recent urban warfare exercises. Hernandez assures Eye that his group has no affiliation with the conservative coalition.

Unfair Ground

A man thinking about running for higher office shouldn't tick off, if at all possible, people who might come in useful at election time. So Supervisor Jim Beall's impolite replacement of Carl Cookson on the Fairgrounds Management Corporation board of directors is quite puzzling. Cookson had just been re-elected board chair shortly before Beall appointed real estate lobbyist Jerry Strangis (Beall's old high school football rival) to take over for Cookson, without bothering to tell Cookson that his services were no longer needed. Cookson apparently learned of the lineup change by reading about it in the local daily. A spokesman for Beall claimed that the supervisor had previously gotten the impression that Cookson no longer wanted to serve. At first Cookson, once named one of the county's 10 most powerful people by the Mercury News, was reticent to criticize Beall's poor social skills in the press. But earlier this month he shot off a testy missive to Beall. Just to make sure everyone knew how he felt, Cookson sent copies of the letter to the other four supervisors. "I feel very disappointed that I had to learn of this change from rumors and the newspaper," Cookson concludes. "A 'thank you,' or 'We don't need you anymore' would have been nice."

Not The Easter Parade

With the whole separation of church and state thing, most cities steer clear of directly promoting religious events. This is why the city of Campbell is not helping fund an Easter Parade the day before the April 4 holiday, but rather a "Bunnies & Bonnets Parade." With $3,000 in city fees waived for the event, any mention of the holiday of the resurrection is verboten. Campbell residents, who talk without inhibition about the upcoming "Easter Parade," clearly aren't privy to the important semantics involved. Parade sponsors and city staff however, know better. "We're very careful not to call it Easter, so we just call it a spring event," says Claudia Cauthorn, director of recreation and community services. After the actual parade, parents with kids will move to the Campbell Community Center to take photos with the "Eggstravaganza Bunny" and partake in a "candy hunt."

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From the March 25-31, 1999 issue of Metro.

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