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Dean Makes Scene

The sometimes liberal, sometimes conservative pol from Vermont Howard Dean swept through the neighborhood last week to pick the pockets of what seems to be a growing cadre of local believers. Dean--the former Vermont governor, who legalized a marital hybrid called "civil unions" (although he admitted at the time that gay marriage makes him "uncomfortable"), opposed the war in Iraq and received an "A" from the National Rifle Association--is shooting for victory in a field of nine Bush alternatives competing in the 2004 Democratic primary. Dean made it to only fourth place in April's California Field poll. With 20 percent of surveyed Californians inclined to vote for him, that puts him behind Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (43 percent), Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (42 percent) and Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt (35 percent). But according to his San Jose consultant team, Dean's got as much of a chance as early front-runner Kerry, since the two are tied for tops in New Hampshire, where watchers know an early lead nets cash prizes. Catapult consultant Jay Rosenthal says local support for Dean is strong. Though he wasn't around for this money dance, trailblazing San Jose City Councilmember Ken Yeager eagerly held a fundraiser for Dean about a year ago. Former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Silicon Valley business stars Steve Kirsch, Reed Hastings and Kathy Leveson all have lined up behind straight-talking Yale grad and medical doctor Dean. Rosenthal estimates that between 25 and 30 supporters went to Rebecca and Mitch Mandich's house for last week's Palo Alto fundraiser. About 60 or 70 folks, including Susan and Phil Hammer, showed up, wallets in hand, at another fundfest at Martha and Stawsh Murawski's Los Gatos pad. According to the Dean camp, the Mandiches and Murawskis are just a few of the thousands of ordinary people so turned on by Dean's antiwar stance and blunt talk about both the failings of the Republican administration and recent Democratic impotency that they're taking unsolicited action. Meetup.com, a venue for like minds, has become a key mobilizer for the Dean campaign. Rosenthal points out with glee that Dean's campaign has raised $750,000 over the web. Dean's last fundraising event, held in San Francisco by the Bay Area Democrats, brought at least 200 people, Rosenthal says. Dr. Dean, who runs a practice with his doctor wife, Judith Dean, champions a move toward health insurance for everyone and penned a detailed plan to that effect. Labor power broker Amy Dean (no relation) says the influential union lobby hasn't endorsed yet. But as she is a huge fan of this presidential wannabe's "genuine commitment to health care," it won't bother Amy if Howard keeps using the Dean name. "I was really impressed," she says.

Sharing the Wealth

Meanwhile, Amy Dean's union leadership has reportedly blown many minds. Dean's phone started ringing the second she announced she was leaving the valley as a "bazillion" awed onlookers called to ask the South Bay labor queen to work for them. "Amy's had dozens and dozens of offers from progressive organizations and foundations as well as labor unions," says Steve Preminger, director of Working Partnerships' Union Community Resources program. "She is known almost better outside the community that she lives and works in now. Her community now really has expanded to be the whole country." But Dean isn't interested in doing individual consulting work on behalf of other groups. Instead, she tells Eye, she plans to continue on with the economic- and social-justice nonprofit Working Partnerships, which she founded in 1995 and where she is currently president and board chair, to expand its role at the state and federal levels. Dean has also selected a working title for her book on rebuilding and redirecting the labor movement: Toward a More Perfect Union. "I really believe that there is a new New Deal to be made in America," says Dean. She intends for her book to present, as its subtitle may ultimately read, "a vision for the next generation of unions based on Madison not Marx." This sendup of the United States' fourth president as a representation of timeless ideas for strengthening democracy also foists a major (perhaps defensive) ribbing at the familiar pinko union stereotype, another thing she hopes to leave behind. Dean says her book proposal is raking in contributions from pro-education and social-justice groups. She's expecting $25,000 from the Carnegie Foundation, $25,000 from the Ford Foundation, $10,000 from the Albert Shanker Institute founded by the American Federation of Teachers, $5,000 from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and $10,000 from the McKay Foundation. Dean mentions that the MacArthur, Russell Sage and Rockefeller foundations funded research for the book. Dean has just one month left before she moves to Chicago, where she'll finish the book and act as a consultant to Working Partnerships for a year. Unlike what Eye would consider a normal human, Dean is not scrambling to tie up loose ends. Young Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, a 26-year-old who began as a student working at the South Bay Labor Council, is poised to seize the council's massive reins on July 1. As for Dean, she's "really excited about the future." She hums, "We've already shipped everything we own to Chicago."

Harms in Asking

The DA's office tells Eye that its all-star investigative team led by Assistant District Attorney Karen Sinunu has finally finished reviewing the reams of evidence in the 22-month-old Jeanine Sanchez Harms missing-persons/homicide case (reported in Metro's March 20, 2003, cover story, "In Harms Way") but is mum on whether they've reached any earth-shattering conclusions. The latest word is they've kicked the case back to the Los Gatos police for a bit more digging. In April, Sinunu assembled a "huge" meeting with the lab, police, in-house investigators and attorneys, she reports, to apparently discuss the case and follow up on loose ends and possible leads. "At this point, we're working on new directions in the investigation," Sinunu says. "We have a lot of different areas within this investigation we're looking at, [involving] all the players. ... We're still picking up pieces of evidence." Though the continuing investigation could dig up solid circumstantial evidence or the prized direct evidence needed to make an arrest, the news that police are still hunting for clues has some of Harm's friends and family reading tea leaves. "The recent surge of activity in the case is encouraging, and we're more hopeful than ever that there'll be a resolution," says Harms' friend Janice Burnham. "But the waiting, and not having answers, is still very frustrating." The Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department, meanwhile, has a full-time detective still working the case, says Capt. Alana Forrest. "The minute we get a really good, superpromising lead we'll act on it," she affirms, a bit testily. What all this could mean for the maddeningly unsolved case is anybody's guess. An arrest or referring the case to the grand jury could be a ways off or, on the other hand, may be just around the corner.

Driving Mr. Cortese

To some, returning his recent car-allowance raise made San Jose Councilmember Dave Cortese look like a fiscal hero making a plain statement about self-sacrifice in troubling budgetary times. Or depending on whom you ask, Cortese's having voted to pass the council expenditure increase but then turning down his share of the boost the next morning made him look like a guy who wanted to appear leaderlike without having to cast an unpopular vote. The truth is, Cortese tells Eye, he wasn't making any leadership statement at all. "I'm not going to cast a vote that disallows any of my colleagues from getting any of their expenses reimbursed," he says. The City Council voted 7-3 to raise its monthly car allowance from $350 to $600. Councilmembers Chuck Reed, Linda Lezotte and Forrest Williams opposed the increase. Cortese voted for raising the car-expense allowance to "make a statement that the amount is wrong," he says (and he readily admits, to support the mayor, who pushed for the increase). But whether or not to actually take the raise "is a personal decision," Cortese says. "If I could afford to do this job completely for free," adds the councilman, who, incidentally expects to run for mayor next, "I would."

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From the May 29-June 4, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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