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[whitespace] Puff Daddy: Don Gage's opponent says he will provide a 'leaner' alternative to the portly supervisor.

Twinkie Toes

Term limits have created an impact not given serious study by pundits and wonks: the kook factor. It just seems like there are more eccentrics running for public office these days. With term limits, "serious" candidates have been loath to take on local incumbents up for re-election. Instead, they wait until an incumbent gets out of office and then it's a free-for-all. The only opponents brave enough to risk political capital before then are those who have none. That's right, the Koo-Koo for Cocoa Puffs crowd. Perhaps it's not that much different than before, but without any "legitimate" candidates running, these guys end up getting more attention. OK, it's a free country where homicidal Twinkie-eaters like Dan White can run and get elected. But at times it sure doesn't seem like these unique, independent thinkers are serving any noble democratic purpose or furthering serious public debate. Take Ted Scarlett, the pilot who's challenging Supervisor Don Gage in District 1. Scarlett attends practically every board meeting and rants about problems at Reid-Hillview Airport. Control tower to Ted: Reid-Hillview isn't even in District 1. Earlier this month, Scarlett told the Gilroy Dispatch that the portly Gage was too fat and therefore the political novice would offer a "leaner, quicker" alternative. "If you can't manage your body, how can you manage a county?" Scarlett told the Dispatch. "I think Don comes in in the morning looking tired." (Scarlett later backed off when he found out Gage has diabetes.) It's the kind of insight worthy of rollerman Bill Chew, one of three underdogs to run against Mayor Susan Hammer in 1994. Chew, Eye-watchers may recall, submitted naked pictures of his svelte self when applying for the chief-of-staff job in Supe Pete McHugh's office as part of his "fitness for office" theme. Andrew Diaz, the wandering Vietnam vet running against City Councilman George Shirakawa, doesn't appear to know what year it is. On his ballot statement, where he didn't write anything, he listed the election date as June 2, 1989. There weren't even term limits back then.

Willow Ron

Last Saturday was opening day for the Lincoln Glen Little League in Willow Glen. In years past, W.G. City Councilman Frank Fiscalini tossed the ceremonial first pitch and Mayor Susan Hammer uttered a few inspiring words. This year, however, Fiscalini was a no-show and Hammer did her bit alongside mayoral aspirant Ron Gonzales, who came to announce the "volunteer of the year award." Suitcase Ron is trying to make his face well known around Willow Glen--where he opened his campaign headquarters recently and where the blue-hairs and yuppies alike tend to vote. One regular opening-day attendant huffs, "Ron Gonzales wouldn't know Willow Glen if it bit him in the ass." ... Meanwhile, the Gonzales camp mulled over the idea of filing a court challenge protesting opponent Pat Dando's ballot designation, in which she lists her occupations as "city councilmember/educator." Educator? Dando hasn't been a full-time teacher for more than a decade. For the past 12 years, she's been in city government doing politics and redevelopment. Clearly, Gonzales would have had a persuasive case. Nevertheless, his handlers chose to bypass the opportunity. The same thing happened three years ago when Dando took on Meri Maben for the District 10 council seat. Maben's team feared a backlash if they lost, giving Dando a chance to grandstand. Gonzo's crew took a similar view. "We didn't want to raise her profile," a campaign source discloses--a profile that garnered Dando a scant 2 points higher than Bill Chew's 3 percent in a Merc poll about the mayoral race.

Public Self-Service

In this weekend's Merc, the paper's editorial board printed an edited transcript of the "community discussion" the paper convened to debate the proposed Town & Country project. Attendees included downtown landowner Tom McEnery, ex-McEnery aide David Pandori, Councilman Frank Fiscalini, mayoral budget chief Bob Brownstein, developer rep John Richman, downtown association rep Judy Stabile and Merc associate editor Barbara Vroman. The following is Eye's version of events, what the participants were really thinking but didn't say:

Vroman: Well, by convening this meeting I'm sure you all can see that Knight Ridder (sans hyphen) is a benevolent corporation and that Tony Ridder really cares about San Jose, even though he now lives in Miami.

Richman: I just can't believe that after bankrolling so many political campaigns, this is the kind of crap we developers have to deal with.

McEnery: Don't you get it? This damn project's gonna screw up my property values and take away business from my San Pedro Square.

Pandori: (Shining McEnery's shoes) That's right, Tom.

Brownstein: Let me explain something. The sky is falling. Cities need tax money and upscale fashion boutiques in lookalike malls with overpriced housing. And right about now I could use a knish.

Stabile: If we allow this project to go through, we can never restore the Pavilion to its original glory.

Fiscalini: Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Brownstein: Someone wake up Frank--and get me a knish.

Too Confident?

Pundits are starting to sense the makings of an upset in the District 1 City Council race between Sheriff Chuck Gillingham and attorney Linda LeZotte. The betting money is on Chuckles to win, but apparently that betting dough isn't finding its way into his campaign account. So far the lawman has raised a paltry $9,200, according to the latest campaign reports. LeZotte, who's been hitting the tarmac since summer, has shaken more than $45,000 from the money tree. Some insiders see visions of another upset a la Zoe Lofgren, who beat a heavily favored Tom McEnery for Congress in 1994. In that case, McEnery rested on his laurels and got scorched at the ballot box. Gillingham, too, appears to be banking on his name recognition to carry him to the sixth floor of City Hall. A couple of weeks ago, Gillingham astounded insiders when, in the middle of a campaign, he took a leisurely trip to the mountains. "Not even McEnery would have done that," one wag says in disbelief.

'By,' Not 'From'

Damn those pesky prepositions. By inadvertently substituting the word from for the word by last week in a piece about Walt Adkins' enemies in the SJPD, Eye made it appear as if it had received an internal police memo directly from its author, Lt. Ken Stewart. That most definitely wasn't the case. After reading the item, the previously close-mouthed Stewart also felt compelled to suck up a little to his new boss, acting Chief Adkins. Though the two may have had their differences, Stewart insists, "I'm not his enemy. I wish him the best in his career." Eye apologizes for the prepositional mix-up.

Name Game

This month, the American Journalism Review reports that Knight-Ridder Inc., the Miami-based publisher of the Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times and the Monterey Herald, is no more. In its place has risen a newer, sleeker entity unfettered by the ambiguities of awkward punctuation. CEO Tony Ridder announced that his newspaper empire--the second largest in the nation--will now be known simply as "Knight Ridder," without the hyphen in between. It would appear that the two appendages were fooling Internet search engines for Web surfers trying to reach Knight Ridder Web sites. "For many years, the public has had a limited knowledge of Knight Ridder--or none," Ridder overexplained to the AJR. "Now, because of stepped-up competition and the need to differentiate online, it is time to change this lack of knowledge."

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