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[whitespace] Sub-Way: Supervisor Jim Beall has been named an 'ex officio' member of the Valley Transportation Authority board. Beall won't be able to vote, but he will be able to collect the $50 meeting stipend.

Fight Rail

Eye-watchers will no doubt recall the stir caused by Board of Supervisors chair Pete McHugh earlier this year when he yanked colleague Jim Beall off the Valley Transportation Authority board so McHugh himself could get on the VTA gravy train. Beall, who considers himself something of a transportation titan, wasn't happy about being pushed aside. ... In order to make nice, transit sources say, McHugh proposed creating a new ex-officio slot on the VTA board for Santa Clara County reps on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional body of which Jimbo happens to serve as chair. Santa Clara City Councilman John McLemore, another MTC director and innocent bystander, came along for the ride, too. Under the proposal, the new ex-officio members wouldn't be able to vote, but could attend VTA gatherings, impart their wisdom during the proceedings and collect the $50 meeting stipend to boot. ... When the proposal came before the VTA board at its March meeting, not everyone immediately jumped on the bandwagon. San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, who also sits on the VTA board, asked that the item be held over so he could look it over more closely. Gonzales, of course, never got along too well with Beall during his days on the board of supes (and Beall and McHugh were among the few local Dems who didn't endorse Gonzo in the mayoral election). Mayoral mouthpiece Leslee Hamilton says that her boss's concerns were purely policy-related. "The concern," Hamilton says, "was that there wasn't a clear policy or guideline on how to expand the board or create ex-officio members." ... If the mayor did any behind-the-scenes lobbying to sink the deal, those efforts proved unpersuasive. The VTA board unanimously approved adding Beall as an ex-officio member. Well, it was almost unanimous. Gonzales showed up late for the meeting and didn't even vote on the proposal.


Fuzzy Logic

Palo Alto Mayor Gary Fazzino has been in the headlines recently for his desire to have the voters directly elect the mayor. But behind the headlines, insiders have been more interested in whether Fazzino will run for the supervisorial seat being vacated by Joe Simitian next year. Were he to run, some say, he would be the early frontrunner by virtue of his high-tech connections (his day job is designated government butt-kisser for Hewlett-Packard) and his formidable ability to thin the wallets of contributors. Assessor Larry Stone--who has entertained the idea of vying for the seat, but says he would only do so if no one to his liking runs--dined with Fazzino three weeks ago and urged him to run. "He expressed some interest," Stone recalls, "but indicated, fairly conclusively, I thought, that the timing wasn't right for him." Stone adds, "If he ran, it would take a lot of pressure off of me and I could stay where I am happily. ... He's one guy I think would be almost a slam-dunk candidate." This week Fazzino told the Palo Alto Daily News that he was pondering the possibility, but stressed that he is not a candidate at this time.


Salary Captain

Who was the highest-paid person in Mayor Susan Hammer's office in her final year? Well, it wasn't the mayor. And it wasn't her $62,015-a-year chief of staff, Sean Morley. Nor was it former budget and policy director Bob Brownstein, who made $81,910. In fact, it was one of Brownstein's assistants, a woman named Scarlett Li Lam. According to the city manager's office, Lam raked in $113,514 in calendar year 1998 (as opposed to the July 1­June 30 fiscal year). By contrast, the mayor's annual salary is $90,000. How could this be? Lam, who is now doing some work for councilmembers Manny Diaz and John Diquisto, blames her inflated 1998 salary figure on an administrative snafu. Apparently, a budget analyst forgot to renew her employment contract in June 1997. So for the final six months of 1997, Lam says, she didn't get paid, even though she continued to work for the city on an intermittent basis while studying for her Ph.D. at Berkeley. The City Council ultimately did reauthorize her contract retroactively, but not until April 1998. The bottom line: The city didn't cough up the back pay it owed her until 1998, thus inflating her salary figure for that year. "We got our money's worth," gushes Brownstein, Lam's old boss.


A Fine Sign

Five days before the June primary, Reep Assembly candidate Donna Courtright says she got a call from a Los Gatos bureaucrat warning her to take down some illegally posted campaign signs. But the town official wouldn't tell her where the offending signs were located. After the election, the town sent her a bill for $1,350 (27 signs at $50 a pop). Courtright, who lost to incumbent Jim Cunneen, complained that she should have been given a written warning first, but town administrators were unpersuaded. So Courtright appealed the fine to the Town Council. But the town's elected leaders didn't seem too sympathetic either. Mayor Jan Hutchins, for instance, lacked empathy because, as he noted, he didn't have campaign signs when he ran for office. Councilman Steve Blanton--who Courtright recalls was cleaning his fingernails with a pocketknife during the hearing--suggested the fine be lowered to $500, but got shot down. The council ultimately stuck her with the full fine. ... "I just think it's punitive," Courtright groused later. "It's a lot of money to me." Warning to town officials: Ms. Donna tells Eye she is talking to an attorney, though she won't say what she has planned next. "I don't want to show my hand," she says slyly.


Bo Knows

There are a handful of eateries in San Jose where pols like to power lunch. Bo Town Seafood Restaurant in SoFA, just a kung pao hiccup away from Metro's downtown office, isn't one of them. Be that as it may, Eye spotted District 6 City Council aspirant Kris Cunningham nibbling on a $4.25 lunch special at Bo Town interviewing political consultants Barry Barnes and Eric Jaye last week. Eye salutes Cunningham for dining with the common folks. "Where I meet isn't important," Cunningham replies, "it's what gets done." ... Meanwhile, Cunningham's likely opponent, Ken Yeager, bragged to Eye this week that he had gotten the official endorsement of Mayor Ron Gonzales. Ken might want to check these things out with the mayor's office first. Gonzo gatekeeper Jude Barry said the mayor has made no endorsements in any City Council races yet. "Ken is confident and probably accurately so," Barry sniffs, "but the mayor is not making any public [endorsements] until after he begins discussions with council candidates after the State of the City speech."


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From the April 15-21, 1999 issue of Metro.

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