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[whitespace] Breaking Balls: Talks between San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and Oakland A's reps have reached an 'immovable impasse,' says a source close to the negotiations.

Public Eye

Athletic Supporters

THE OAKLAND A's are notoriously thrifty. And San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales is notorious for being a finger-to-the-wind-politician. Those two characteristics don't bode well for baseball diehards who would love to see the San Jose A's in the near future. A source close to A's executives says a deal to bring the team to San Jose seems unlikely unless the mayor will commit to spending at least another $40 million of public dough toward financing a new stadium, which officials estimate will cost around $300 million to build. ... So far, the mayor's office has reportedly offered $80 million for traffic improvements and land acquisition toward the cause. But the mayor is loath to go above that dollar amount, especially into the $120 million range the A's are talking about. Why? The mayor's propagandists have privately cited to A's reps the results of a poll done earlier this year that showed voters don't want to use public money to finance construction costs for a new ballpark. Team co-owner Steve Schott apparently wants the city to increase its share of the stadium-related costs in order to keep the club's debt-service payments down and have more money to spend on players. "The mayor's office didn't want to go to a vote of the people with any kind of deal using any public money for the construction of the actual stadium," an A's sympathizer familiar with the negotiations says, "and Schott doesn't want a deal involving a huge debt service. So let's just say talks have reached an immovable impasse." A mayoral adviser also reports negotiation constipation, opining that the A's don't just want to minimize their debt service, "they want no debt, which is a euphemism for saying they want someone else to pay for it." Another factor here that bears mentioning is that Gonzales has already suffered two defeats at the polls in the '90s trying to build a stadium for the Giants. That history certainly contributes to his current cautious stance. Of course, the third time could be a charm. Or it could be strike three.

Tax Bondage

The economy may be overheated, but pundits are skeptical whether voters will feel warm and fuzzy enough to pass a $381 million special tax measure that the Santa Clara Valley Water District is expected to get on the November ballot. And those pessimistic political assessments have prevailed even without knowledge of a bombshell that could blow a tax measure out of the water, so to speak. ... A whistleblower lawsuit filed by former water district budget officer Ilse Eng says that district officials have acknowledged "overcollecting" more than $3.7 million in taxes between 1992 and 1994. More specifically, Eng claims that the district overcollected for a tax it charges annually to pay the state for water it gets pumped from the Delta to the South Bay Aqueduct. Furthermore, the suit alleges that water administrators never bothered to return the money to taxpayers or even tell the district's elected board of directors about the surplus cash taken in. ... The district's attorneys, meanwhile, dismiss the allegation as mathematically challenged nonsense. They argue that the district has actually undercollected when numbers are viewed "on a cumulative basis" over several years. Says Eng's attorney, John DiNapoli, "You have some restructuring of history here. These are theories [the district has] developed since the lawsuit started. ... They will obviously try to make this a mathematical game." Still, DiNapoli acknowledges he can't prove that the district actually misspent its allegedly ill-gotten gains. The suit is scheduled to go to trial in October, one month before the election. Can you spell S-E-T-T-L-E-M-E-N-T?

Bend or Break

By now, Eye-watchers are well aware of Sunnyvale City Manager Robert La Sala's facility for fender-benders (he's had three of them in his city-owned car in his three years as the city's top bureaucrat). But Sunnyvale City Attorney Valerie Armento apparently feels that her bosses on the City Council should know as much as they can about those accidents. A reliable City Hall source says that Armento sent councilors a confidential memo in mid-April in which she focused on the city manager's driving exploits. The city's leading legal lady kindly provided council members with photos taken of the crash-related damages and pegged the associated costs of the accidents at more than $12,500. ... According to the well-placed Sunnyvalean, Armento says in the memo that the accidents were avoidable and advises the council it might want to reconsider La Sala's contractual vehicle perks in the future. Sources say tensions between the two strong-willed bureaucrats have escalated this year into an all-out power struggle. "If [Armento] worked for the city manager," speculates one sunny-city insider, "she probably would have been fired by now." La Sala can't ax Armento because she reports directly to the City Council. ... Ms. Valerie wouldn't comment on the car-crash memo, but did say she and LaSala have had no battles worth telling Eye about.

Mistaken Identity

Earlier this year, 27-year-old San Jose pol Jose Villareal got a call from Hispanic magazine asking for his photograph. When he asked why they wanted his picture--let's be honest, why would a national periodical be calling a lowly legislative staffer no one has ever heard of?--a magazine rep explained that they were doing a profile of Latinos in politics. Villareal got a little suspicious when he asked the caller if she wanted to interview him and she said no. Still, he dutifully sent off a photo of himself. Villareal's mug did eventually run in the May issue of Hispanic in a story about Latino movers and shakers. Unfortunately, the Jose Villareal featured in the story is a 46-year-old lawyer from Texas who happens to be Al Gore's national campaign treasurer. The story reports Villareal got his start in Democratic politics in 1988 as the Texas political director for Mike Dukakis--when our Jose from San Jose was only 16 years old. "It was obviously a mistake," chuckles Jose. It was also mildly ironic since the local Villareal used to be a policy aide to state Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), who backed Bill Bradley against Gore in the recent primary. Now, SJ Jose works at Joint Venture for Ruben Barrales, a committed George W. Bush backer. Anyhoo, Hispanic editor Carlos Verdecia tells Eye he's not sure how the photos got mixed up, but says the magazine is running a correction in its June issue. No word from the Real Villareal in Texas, although Eye assumes he enjoyed looking like a 27-year-old, at least for one issue.

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From the June 1-7, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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