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Public Eye

Name Drop

It seems the folks over at the Santa Clara County Children's Shelter school are facing an identity crisis. The school, which is run by the Santa Clara County Office of Education, currently has two names in front of its new Union Ave. building--C.W. Washington and McKenna. C.W. Washington is the school's official (and original) name, McKenna is the name of the well-known local family who donated the money for the building (containing power couple Regis and wife Dianne McKenna, who happens to be lame-duck president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors). However, there has been no formal name change, the county's education flack, Marla Olszewski, told Eye. ... "The county of Santa Clara built the new building and wanted to name it McKenna," Olszewski explained. "[But] as far as the county office of education is concerned, its name is C.W. Washington." ... So then how did the school end up being listed as "McKenna" in the county's directory of public schools? "A mistake," Olzsweski assures us, though school staff remains unconvinced. "I know the staff here would like somebody to let us know what we are called," school counselor and assistant principal Wes Mason told Eye. ... Why all the concern? The C.W. Washington School, formed in the early 1970s, was named after the first African-American board member and pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church. Washington was a community activist who helped build low-income housing before it was fashionable. Mason feels that while the McKenna family is deserving of the honor, some may see the name change as a backlash against the black community. "I don't think it would have been that big of a deal if there had been a process and people came out with a rationale of why it should be named that," Mason says, "but when people play politics, then people start reacting. ... I just wish someone would make a decision and put their name behind it and stand by it." ... Calls to McKenna's office were forwarded to board of education officials while Olszweski said that the school could possibly use both names, in the name of "good relations."

Be Meri?

Possible mayoral contender and San Jose City Councilwoman Margie Fernandes ran a successful campaign (uncontested races have a distinct advantage) to retain her District 4 seat last week. As usual, it took a little financial help from her friends, including someone identified on campaign contribution reports as "Councilperson Meri Maben," cause for a second glance. ... Chuck Reed, the Fernandes campaign's penny counter, swore that the info didn't come from defeated council hopeful Maben (who, by the way, gave her benefactor $250). "It is ironic, but it's just a screw-up," Reed told Eye. "It came through with a series of stuff and someone made a mistake." ... Election watchers will recall that Maben, endorsed by Fernandes, took a licking from Pat Dando in the 1995 runoff election in District 10. "Just wishful thinking, I guess," was all Fernandes could say about the Freudian slip. (Fernandes will probably have to face down the Dando machine in the free-for-all 1998 mayoral race.) But she did promise Eye that there would be a correction filed. ... Maybe the occupation could be changed to county supervisor, considering reports that Maben has been power schmoozing in hopes of filling current supervisor Mike Honda's spot behind the dais if he wins the general election in November. Also jockeying for Honda's still-warm seat are Gilroy Mayor Don Gage, Morgan Hill Councilman Dennis Kennedy and San Jose Councilwoman Charlotte Powers. ... Maben may have the box seat, thanks to her recent fundraising efforts on behalf of current supes Blanca Alvarado and Honda, but Powers is obviously a strong contender, by virtue of her status as an elected official, something Maben can only dream about.

Fine Mess

And on the subject of the Pat Dando candidacy, the Fair Political Practices Commission plans to fine six San Jose companies for laundering contributions to Councilmember Pat during last year's election. Developer Barry Swenson received the biggest penalty--$20 grand for 12 washed checks he steered toward Dando during her 1995 campaign. What's not widely known is that the FPPC investigation was apparently sparked by Jerry Norve, Dando's spurned opponent in the District 10 race. The defeated and lesser-funded Norve started nosing around Pat's campaign reports after the election and filed numerous complaints with the San Jose Campaign Finance and Ethics Review Board (reported in Eye in early September of last year), which City Clerk Pat O'Hearn dismissed as "absolutely inappropriate" as recently as last Monday. Undaunted by the lackadaisical response at City Hall, Norve rode the train to the state capital and hand-delivered five signed complaints, penned by friends, to get the FPPC's attention. Apparently it worked. The political watchdog agency fined six companies a total of $64,800. ... But Dando dodged a bullet: the FPPC did not charge her with any wrongdoing. So in case you observed her last Saturday pulling weeds along Almaden Expressway, be advised it was part of her own pledge to foster community pride, and not mandated community service ... In the meantime, Norve's crusade against her continues. Just recently, he mailed documents detailing Dando's misdeeds to San Jose Chamber Prez Steve Tedesco and Santa Clara County Manufacturing Group chief Gary Burke. ... Norve insists that he doesn't have a personal vendetta against Dando, saying he just wants to clean up campaign financing. But why focus on Pat, the very person who landed the public service gig he coveted? "I chose to look at her," he clarifies. ... Meanwhile, strange episodes continue to haunt him. Norve tells Eye that one of his full trashcans disappeared from the side of his house last Friday, only to reappear on the curb in time for the weekly garbage pickup. He remains suspicious, hinting that someone in power searched the can's contents. Norve, you may recall, once claimed that someone stood outside his house and chanted: "Sorry, you have reached a number that is no longer in service." ... Cue the music from The Twilight Zone.

Money for Nothing

Speaking of campaign contributions ... the San Jose City Council voted in a few of the ethics commission's recommendations at its March 19 meeting, though not without some histrionics. While the council refused to ban business contributions outright, it did agree to forbid taking contributions from both a business and its officers. And the council refused to save the electorate from a full year of mayoral fundraising, going against the panel's recommendation to do so. ... The three-hour discussion took on a decidedly anti-Pando (the duo is alternately known as Dandori) tone when the twosome suggested the elimination of the council members' slush fund, commonly referred to as the "officeholder account." Mayor Susan Hammer appeared to be stuck somewhere between laughing outrageously and blowing her stack. After Dando said she didn't think it appropriate for sitting elected officials to take money from special interests, Da Mayor cried foul. Hammer let it rip that her funding came from "friends" and "people who believe in good government" who just happen to be in business, NOT special interests. ... Other councilmembers claimed their accounts were put to good use. Manny Diaz recently used his account to buy clothes for someone released from jail who was looking for a job. Frank Fiscalini uses his funds to run his field office in Willow Glen, where lots of his fellow senior adults come in to get help. Trixie Johnson said her money went to pay her way into expensive (swanky) nonprofit fundraising events. ... But Johnson was willing to part with her officeholder account--if the council got a raise, though she said that with a smile. Johnson moved, and the council approved, having the Campaign Finance Review and Ethics Board now look at limiting the way an incumbent can spend those officeholder funds.

Show Times

My, how the times have changed. Six years ago Latina activist Kathy Chavez Napoli launched her to-date-unfruitful political career with then-Mayor Tom McEnery over his threat to take over the downtown Studio Theater to make room for the San Jose Repertory Theater. ... Now Napoli is calling the Redevelopment Agency out for not buying the Studio when it became vacant last March and using it to house the Rep. Why the about face? "When the free market went in and said it was vacant is when they should have bought it and put the Rep in there," Napoli told Eye. "It shouldn't have been the city." ... McEnery, however, claims Napoli once described the Studio as "the center of Hispanic culture in Silicon Valley." ... "Either she used overblown rhetoric five years ago," the Macster huffs, "or she was wrong." In any case, the city is now stuck with its own multimillion-dollar construction project to house the Rep, and the Studio is slated to become another--you guessed it--performing arts theater. The agency is spending half a mil to purchase the former Spanish-language movie house and a couple of hundred thousand more to renovate it.

Guns and Money

Two weeks ago Eye "miswrote" in an item about Scott Mathieson, candidate for the District 2 seat on the county Board of Supervisors, and the support he's received from the National Rifle Association. Mathieson drew a bead on Eye's misstatement, saying his campaign records show no evidence of monetary contributions from the NRA or any other pro-gun lobby, despite the fact that they promised to endorse him as a means of punishing Supe Blanca Alvarado for her vote to halt gun shows at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. ... Mathieson, who was careful not to alienate the group early in his campaign, broke with that strategy, telling Eye "I don't have a damn thing to do with that group. I have asked for nothing, I have received nothing and I want nothing from that group."

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From the April 4-10, 1996 issue of Metro

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