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Smith: Rumors persist.

The Fly


Eyes are on the county Sheriff's Department as July 1 nears. That's the date insiders say Sheriff Laurie Smith plans to flee for a gig with the state highway patrol (despite not yet having received an actual job offer from the governator, a Smith fan). Well-situated Fly spies identify the department's big controversy du jour this way: Which-up-and-comer will succeed the chatty blonde sheriff? Will the Board of Supes appoint Deputy Sheriffs' Association president Jose Salcido, a.k.a. the anti-Smith, or one of the brown-nosers that Smith wants to leave in charge? It's a tough call at this juncture in part because deep-throated reports on the popularity of the contestants vary. Salcido haters--basically the Smith camp--claim, as Fly readers may recall, that Salcido ticked off union members by draining his union's treasury by spending $80k in attorney's fees trying to win back a vicious canine for its deputized handler. That weakened the union's war chest for negotiating a better pay package with the county. Friends of the union boss, however, argue that Salcido enjoys the backing of his fellow deputies, even in these tough contract-negotiating times. Just last Thursday, April Fool's Day, one meeting attendee relays, union members voted 98 percent to approve the contract that county supes proposed, rather than fight the board. That was a coup for Salcido since he recommended accepting the offer--which could make him look like he is sucking up to the supes in hopes of winning an appointment as Smith's successor. Others, including many of Smith's political supporters, are floating the name of Capt. Lindley Zink as a possible appointee. The 26-year veteran was recently reassigned to the highly responsible Patrol Division, overseeing unincorporated central and east San Jose and a whole lot more. Though a lateral move, it's designed to give Zink more public visibility than he would get shuffling papers at headquarters. He should be careful out there, though. Zink, some might recall, received a coveted award for bravery in the line of duty, when, while responding to a hostage situation one rainy day, he slipped in a gopher hole and twisted his ankle. His team had to leave him behind. Then he scored praise for courageously waving on his troops. Hopefully Zink will have a stronger foothold should he replace Smith.

Blood and Circuses

If it bleeds it leads, which explains why affiliate stations in the Bay Area are reluctant to broadcast election coverage. Three of five stations fared poorly in an election survey conducted by Grade the News, a Stanford watchdog group affiliated with the university's graduate journalism program. None of the five came close to the five minutes of daily issue-oriented coverage recommended by groups like the Alliance for Better Campaigns. Fox affiliate KTVU-TV led the pack, broadcasting nightly three minutes of candidate positions, political ad analysis and other issue-oriented coverage. At the other end of the spectrum was CBS affiliate KPIX-TV, which televised all of 24 seconds of quality campaign coverage per evening news show. The station broadcast another 45 seconds of more frivolous "horse race" politics--polls, strategies and squabbles over who had accepted and who had declined debate. Two Grade the News analysts who conducted the survey, Seeta Peña Gangadharan and John McManus, gave KTVU reporter Randy Shandobil praise for taking the trouble to actually interview candidates. Other stations gave candidates the voice-over treatment as news anchors told us who led in the polls. The analysts reported that 61 percent of evening political coverage focused on the Democratic primary--which John Kerry had all but sewn up by the mid to late February survey period. Such coverage relies mostly on wire service reports and network footage, providing almost no local flavor. Even those stations receiving good marks in the survey had little passion for the job. "Interesting sometimes has to give way to important," Jim Sanders, vice president of KNTV, told Grade the News. Blood, in other words, sometimes gives way to brains.

No Recess for You

In February, the California controller's office completed an audit of the San Jose Unified School District's school repair bond program and sent school Supe Linda Murray a letter that, well, sounded like Murray was on the verge of lunch detention. The audit disclosed a number of problems, including findings that some bond expenditures were not processed in accordance with policy, errors in the reconciliation of accounting records, undocumented verbal bids and, perhaps most seriously, a discovery that bond money was going toward other funds that "may or may not" have been appropriate. Sounds serious, but Fly soon discovered it probably didn't warrant a suspension. Detention will do fine. "It's not necessarily that bad," remarks a rep from the controller's office. "There's a problem with the law. There's not audit guidance [for the districts]. The bonds provide voters with a false sense of security because they say they're going to be audited, but to districts that may mean something else." San Jose Unified's Associate Superintendent Jerry Matranga agreed that the problems weren't his fault. He explained as much to the district's board Wednesday night, using the controller's finding of money going toward other funds as an example. "We went through an explanation of that to show under state law we're required [to do that] to get matching funds," Matranga tells Fly. "We have to transfer funds. Every project was eligible."

Filming Progress

Last week, for the first time, the South Bay welcomed Traveling Film South Asia, a collection of documentary films--including offerings by the critically acclaimed Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar--that have screened in venues across the globe. While the South Bay boasts one of the nation's wealthiest and largest South Asian populations, the festival had routinely ignored the locale, opting instead to screen the films in San Francisco in previous years. "You do find a lot of these things in Berkeley and San Francisco," says Sabahat Ashraf of Friends of South Asia. "I don't think this would have been a significant thing 10 years ago."

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From the April 7-14, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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