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[whitespace] Ken Yeager Political Safety: The San Jose Police Officers' Association is backing District 6 City Council candidate Ken Yeager, who happens to be the favorite of Mayor Ron Gonzales.

Public Eye

Contractually Yours

It wasn't much of a surprise last week when District 6 City Council candidate Ken Yeager received endorsements from the San Jose Police Officers' Association and Sgt. Jim Spence, one of Yeager's opponents in the primary. After all, Yeager already had the backing the firefighters' union and the powerful South Bay Labor Council. What make the endorsements interesting are the circumstances around them. Just the week before, Yeager's political capo, Mayor Ron Gonzales, helped push through a generous new retirement package for San Jose cops, boosting top benefits from 80 to 85 percent of an officer's final salary. City Hall sources say that Vice Mayor Frank Fiscalini--who is backing Yeager's opponent in the November runoff, neighborhood busybody Kris Cunningham--privately expressed reservations about the retirement deal (though he voted for the package at the April 4 council meeting, according to the city clerk's office). Spence, by the by, says he might retire later this year. Another intriguing wrinkle: City officials and the police union are poised to start negotiations over wages and other benefits soon. A key player in deciding how the cops fare will be Mayor Gonzales, Yeager's City Hall benefactor. Though the POA backed Spence in the primary, the cops didn't want to cross the mayor again at such a pivotal time, one theory goes. (The POA also backed City Councilwoman Pat Dando against Gonzales in 1998; Dando is supporting Cunningham.) A Cunningham conspirator suggests the cops are backing Yeager "because they want to preserve a working relationship with the mayor." For the record, POA prez Jim Tomaino says he's for backing Yeager "because of his experience with citywide issues and union issues. We know Ken will listen to the concerns of our officers." And hopefully the mayor will, too--at the negotiating table--now that the cops are with his boy.

Revolving Door

Just a few weeks ago Eye reported that San Jose City Council candidate Kris Cunningham was debating whether to dump her San Francisco-based political consultant, Terris Jaye Barnes. As it turns out, Cunningham is sticking with the consulting firm. But now comes word that TJB has parted ways with Rebecca Cohn, the Democratic nominee in the 24th Assembly District. ... According to Barry Barnes, the firm resigned from the campaign because Cohn insisted on making decisions without the input of her consultants. The final straw apparently came earlier this month when Cohn, a business management consultant, hired a new campaign manager before Barnes or his associates had a chance to meet him. "To us that was not productive to the working relationship," Barnes sniffs. "We certainly wish [Cohn] well and are trying to make a smooth transition. But we need a client who will work with us as a team." ... Meanwhile, Cohn offers a different version of events. "I don't feel like I kept my consultants out of the loop at all," she says. "I'd been talking to them for more than a month about [hiring a campaign manager]." Cohn adds that while Barnes and crew did an admirable job for her in the primary, she needs "a very strong team going into the general election" against Monte Sereno Reep Sue Jackson. No word yet as to which muscle-bound consultant will lead that "very strong team."

Jail Escape

The past few months haven't been the best of times for Bob Conroy, the county Department of Corrections' longtime second-in-command. This past October, a maximum-security inmate sawed through his cell bars and climbed down from the fourth floor of the main jail (he is still at large). And earlier this month, another inmate nearly escaped from the main jail, but authorities caught him after he fell two stories and reportedly broke his hip, ankle and wrist. Last week jail officials announced that Conroy--who has served the county as a deputy sheriff and DOC exec for more than 30 years--will be retiring in June. The timing of the announcement made jailkeepers wonder if Conroy was being forced out because of the recent security lapses. One person who suspects that is indeed the case is Richard Abbate, the king of the Correctional Peace Officers' Association. Abbate, of course, has never been much of a fan of Conroy, whom he blames for staffing cutbacks and being a wimp when it comes to using force to restrain inmates. "If Conroy leaves in June," Abbate boldly predicts, "we'll be much better off." (Oddly enough, Abbate praises DOC chief Tim Ryan as "the most level-headed" leader the department has ever had.) Conroy denies that he's leaving to escape from the latest controversy, adding that he initially planned to retire in December 1999 but changed his mind. "It's time for me to go onto the next chapter of this life of mine," he explains. "It's nothing more than that."

Karate Kid

Diminutive Assembly member Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) is well-known for her supersize temper. So let this be a warning to those brave enough to cross the fossilphile: Her hands are lethal weapons. At her annual $125-a-head fundraiser at the San Jose Hyatt last week, Alquist, a dabbler in the martial arts, was commanded by a woman she called "the grand master" to show off her skills to the crowd of 300. According to attendees, the grand master brandished a one-inch-thick wooden board and ordered Alquist to approach it. Lady Al assumed a karate stance and then, to the shock of everyone watching, busted the board in two with a forceful blow from her right palm, drawing raucous applause from the audience. "It was more like a sports event than a political fundraiser," opines one wag who attended.


Shortly after Gray Davis was elected the state's chief executive in 1998, South Bay Labor Council boss Amy Dean began lobbying the guv to appoint her to the University of California Board of Regents. More than a year later, Davis finally did tap local labor's rising star to an educational post, just not the one she originally wanted. Dean is the newest addition to the California Community Colleges' Board of Governors, the body that sets policy for districts like Foothill-DeAnza and San Jose-Evergreen. Dean insists she isn't sore about being passed over for a coveted spot on the more prestigious board of regents. In fact, Dean says, the community college board, with its emphasis on things like worker training, is a perfect fit for the unionista. "When I told the governor what my interests are," she recalls, "he said, 'This is the place for you.' " Unfortunately, Dean's appointment doesn't come at the best time. She'll be in Tokyo for the next two months studying labor issues in Japan and thus will have to miss her first scheduled board meeting in May.

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From the April 20-26, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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