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Suit Case: Bob Livengood says the Milpitas lawsuit 'didn't make sense.'

Public Eye

City of Milk-pitas

The sound of wind whistling across the valley floor may be a group-sized "harumph" emanating from the city of Milpitas. Not only did the city lose a half-million bucks by suing to block a proposed Calpine power plant last year, the city also paid more than $25,000 in attorneys' fees for the privilege of doing so. Mallpitas officials cried that the site where Calpine wants to build the 180-megawatt Los Esteros plant, near the 237-880 interchange and just across the river that divides the two cities, was too ugly to border a city as fine as theirs. Calpine offered to make $1.5 million worth of improvements to pretty up the plant and its 90-foot smokestacks--and to hand the city a check for $500,000 to go away quietly. But that sweetheart deal wasn't good enough for Milpitas, which sued Calpine in March. While Milpitas officials said their beef was about looks, it sounds as if they were just digging for cash--especially considering that the California Energy Commission was itching to approve the plant, and the Milpitas team originally asked Calpine for $12 million. Now comes reality time. Last week, when Milpitas and Calpine agreed to a tentative settlement, the terms included $2 million worth of architectural and landscaping improvements that Calpine probably would have done anyway--and no cash. All of which leaves Councilmembers BOB LIVENGOOD and JIM LAWSON a little annoyed. The two wound up on the short end of the vote to sue in the first place, losing to councilmates TRISH DIXON, JOSE ESTEVES and Mayor HENRY MANAYAN. "In the end, the taxpayers took a bath," Livengood grumbles. "Milpitas should not be in the business of trying to stop a power plant. We need these facilities. The power plant was not within our community, and to attempt to stop it when we knew we couldn't stop it didn't make sense." Adds Livengood: "The whole decision to file a lawsuit significantly backfired on us. We had an opportunity at one point to come out in pretty good shape, both financially and otherwise, but we ended up getting virtually nothing out of the deal." Lawson adds: "It has not been the city's finest hour." Lawson and Esteves, by the way, are both running for mayor. And from what Eye hears, Esteves only voted to proceed with the suit when it became clear he wasn't going to be able to take credit publicly for extracting the money from Calpine.

Eye Told You So

Eye got a nice little note from a foot soldier in LYNDON LAROUCHE's 2004 presidential campaign who liked Metro's barnyard-themed cover story on the state's budget fiasco ("Sacred Cows and Sacrificial Lambs," May 30). "I have a simple statement," organizer ANDREW LAVERDIERE of San Leandro wrote on behalf of his candidate. "He warned you (and everybody else)!" Laverdiere enclosed a photocopy of a lengthy article with the catchall title "The financial bubble: Prosperity for some, tragedy for all" from one of LaRouche's magazines. The bar-graph-and-pie-chart-heavy piece begins: "Years ago, Lyndon LaRouche observed that, were aliens to visit Earth and see what was going on in our derivatives markets, they would write us off as a planet gripped by insanity." Earthlings themselves don't understand derivatives markets, so Eye decided that wasn't a huge concern and quit reading there. But it all reminded Eye of HOMER SIMPSON's exclamation while watching aliens clone naked candidates BILL CLINTON and BOB DOLE in a 1996 episode: "Oh, no! Aliens, bio-duplication, nude conspiracies! Oh, my God! Lyndon LaRouche was right!" Cartoons aside, Laverdiere added that voters, Eye and the state of California can find solutions to the budget crunch and other economic maladies at www.larouchein2004.net, then concluded with a swipe at the media conspiracy: "I think you and your colleagues could make up for your tragic mistake by ending the U.S. blackout on what LaRouche is saying and doing." Thanks, Andy. Consider it done.

Inadvertently Indeed

Mountain View Mayor SALLY LIEBER caused a stir when she showed up at a birthday bash for state Sen. JOHN VASCONCELLOS a couple of weeks ago. As Eye watchers know, Lieber vanquished Santa Clara Councilman ROD DIRIDON JR. in an ugly Democratic primary battle for the 22nd Assembly District. The senator backed Junior for the seat--the same one Vasco held for 30 years. But Lieber came out 8 points in front of Roddy in the March election, helped out considerably by four last-minute mailers from a group of trial lawyers. The independent hits, featuring Sally's mug, misleadingly accused Diridon of taking campaign cash from Big Tobacco. A week after the election, an irate Vasco vented to the Palo Alto Daily News. "I'll never recognize she won the election, because she didn't win fair," the senator opined, adding that her campaign was "just a bunch of lies" and that he'd never accept her as a member of the Assembly. So there were a few gasps when Lieber strolled into Vasco's 70th-birthday party fundraiser at the Saratoga estate of beer magnate MIKE FOX SR.--especially because the senator's mom had passed away a few days before. "John wasn't very happy," reports one party-goer. ... But Lieber tells Eye she got an invitation just like everyone else, wrote a $150 check and briefly wished Vasconcellos a happy birthday. And the way Lieber sees it, things aren't so bad between her and Vasconcellos. "I actually had a really good meeting with him about a month before the election," Lieber offers. "I brought up some policies that I thought were really great and that I wanted to emulate, and it turned out that he was responsible for all of them. So I'm looking forward to a really close relationship with him. He's a great guy. He's the source of so many positive things that have happened." Pals or not, one of the senator's staffers admits, "Sally was indeed inadvertently invited."

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From the June 13-19, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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