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The Lieb Boat: Lieber's identity politics threaten to shake up easy Assembly race.

Public Eye

Hey Ladies

When freshman Assemblymember Sally Lieber recently announced a challenge for females to take on East Side Union High Super Joe Coto in the Assembly's 23rd, it sent a ripple of annoyance through Coto's big Dem support block. "[Congressmembers Mike] Honda and [Zoe] Lofgren were hoping he'd just march in there and keep the Latino seat," says one Eye snitch. Lieber patiently explains: "The tough thing is that women candidates are often more reticent to jump into a race, so if we close the doors as soon as we get a male candidate, the women just won't jump in." Lieber's part-time spokesguy Doug Winslow says the sheer fact that Lieber beat Rod Diridon Jr. to the state Legislature reflects her acumen in battling the old guard of the Democratic Party and speculates that his busy boss' effectiveness makes the status quo nervous. "Coto's got some reason to keep the field clear," Winslow opines. "My personal belief is that he's beatable in the primary." But progressive female Congresswoman Lofgren, hardly a pushover to any kind of Democratic old guard, disagrees. "I think Joe is an excellent candidate, and I think he will win," Lofgren tells Eye, audibly surprised that Lieber is looking beyond her pick. "I am for women in the legislature. I think that's great. But you can't make gender the only concern." If she has to pick between the politics and the gender identity, says feminist Lieber, "Well, if you have two moderates, and one's a woman, if there's a good woman candidate, I'm going to support her."

Eyeing the Race

Eye managed to press several wonk buttons last week with its stimulating coverage of the race to succeed Palo Alto Assemblymember Joe Simitian, who hopes to score a seat in the state Senate. Simitian's final term would end in 2006, but he's bailing early to run for termed-out Sen. Byron Sher's seat. Eye reported that Simitian-seat watcher county Supe Liz Kniss is pushing for anti-frowning Palo Alto Councilmember Judy Kleinberg to jump into the otherwise tepid race for Simitian's spot. The first call to Eye came from political consultant Michael Terris, the man behind fellow Dem and Simitian opponent Ted Lempert's curtain. Terris pointed out that Eye prematurely declared Simitian "termed out," even though the man could take another three years to clean out his desk if he wanted to. Terris also dubbed it "curious" that Simitian hasn't yet transferred his campaign fundraising account from the Assembly to the Senate race, noting that he could be holding out for a last-minute change of heart (alas, did Eye detect a note of wishful thinking here?). The second fussmeister, consultant Greg Sellars, called to object to what he called Eye's "backhanded reference" to John Barton, who is also hoping to become the peninsula's next assemblyman.

Sellars resented that Eye highlighted Barton's spat with the Palo Alto school board because Sellers thinks his client is actually quite legitimate, having been on the winning side of a Simitian-led coup to prevent the governor from taking basic-aid funding from schools. Finally, Barbara Nesbet, a deputy city attorney in Santa Cruz and Capitola, and former mayor and current councilmember in the bedroom community of Monte Sereno, called to let Eye know that she's running for the Assembly seat, too. "I was a little surprised," she sniffed, after reading that Supe Kniss wants Kleinberg to announce her candidacy in order to get a woman in the running for the 21st Assembly District. "I've spoken to Liz Kniss several times, and she knew I was in the race."

Last Dance

Eye hears that Studio 47, the cavernous 900 capacity nightclub at 47 Notre Dame Ave. that catered to both Spanish- and English-speaking audiences, will shut its doors at the end of the month. Located behind Hotel De Anza, the nightclub opened in the '30s and hosted classy ballroom dances with the likes of Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk. During the '70s, it changed into Disco Odyssey, sort of a West Coast version of Studio 54. In the '80s it tailored itself to a Spanish- speaking clientele with salsa and banda music and the burgeoning sounds of Latin freestyle like Sweet Sensation, the Cover Girls and Stevie B. The occasional hip-hop show would be thrown, in particular, a 1991 classic with De La Soul, Leaders of the New School, Brand Nubian and KMD. Naughty by Nature played Studio 47 when "O.P.P." was at its notorious height of awareness. Harry Evans, a former professional ballroom dancer, is proud of the 40-year legacy he kept as Studio 47's owner. "Half the people sitting on City Council now used to go there and dance," says Evans, recovering from recent back surgery. "I think one of the nicest things it did was provide a service to youngsters. Twenty to 30 years ago, most young kids in the streets were either getting recruited to sell drugs or steal hubcaps. We'd take them inside and teach them how to dance and be socially well-adjusted inside of a nightclub." Landlord Garrett Rajkovich issued walking papers a month ago and did not return Metro's calls by presstime. Evans isn't angry or bitter; he'll stay busy teaching ballroom dancing and overseeing his seven other clubs including downtown's Club Miami and Club Wild, and the Sunnyvale nightspot Club Monaco. Studio 47 plans two farewell parties on May 30-31, one for the Mexican music audiences and one for the kids (details available at 279.3387). "I don't think it's a sad farewell, it did what it needed to do," Evans says.

Flag Flip

Adding a twist to the latest flag-waving hysteria, the Milpitas City Council recently voted to raise the red and gold banner of the former Republic of South Vietnam. More than half the city's population is Asian, by the latest census data. Predictably, Milpitas' substantial Vietnamese-American community seemed to favor the multicultural flag-waving resolution and packed the council chambers waving both American and Vietnamese flags. But some members of the political community surprised local politicos with their support. For example, the council voted unanimously at its May 6 meeting to pass a resolution put forth by Councilmember Armando Gomez and Mayor Jose Esteves to fly the Vietnamese flag in back of City Hall or as part of a flag ceremony at the Higuera Adobe. During the meeting, Councilmember Althea Polanski and Vice Mayor Patricia Dixon waved Vietnamese flags in solidarity. But as Milpitans with a memory know, not so long ago both Polanski and Dixon adamantly opposed flying foreign flags on city property. In fact, both made public comments marking their stances. "Why must we allow the flag of another nation to fly at the request of community groups in front of our city government," Polanski asked rhetorically in an October 2001 letter published in the Milpitas Post. "Is it political payback?" A month earlier, the council discussed flying foreign flags during special events, and both officials came out decidedly against the concept. "We seem to be so worried about not offending anyone that we are forgetting to display our own pride," Polanksi said at the time. Dixon railed against foreign flags coming close to city turf. "She had a problem with the pond site, as it would have clear visibility from Calaveras, which would give the appearance it was flying in front of City Hall," according to September 2001 council meeting minutes.

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From the May 22-28, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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