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Stand by Your Manny: Assembly wife Sandra Avila-Diaz cheers on Latina-power activist husband.

Public Eye

Mrs. Manny

Anyone who wants to be someone in Silicon Valley politics had better consult with the local Latina power squad. Just ask Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, known these days for her not-so-gentle nudging of women into legislative races. On Sunday, June 15, she successfully convinced recycling truck wrecker and Alum Rock Ed Foundation Pres Kathy Chavez Napoli to officially jump in the race against popular East Side schools guy Joe Coto for Manny Diaz's Assembly seat (and also continues to parade frown-phobic Palo Alto Councilmember Judy Kleinberg around Sacramento to tempt her to jazz up the flaccid race for Joe Simitian's seat). Keeping right on track, Lieber held court at the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley's monthly luncheon last week at Eulipia Restaurant. The coalition, founded by Santa Clara County Supe Blanca Alvarado's daughter Teresa Alvarado, strives to propel Latinas' political careers by replacing the old-boy network with a kind of buena mujer network. Sandra Avila-Diaz seconds that mission. "I'm here to support the Latina Coalition," she told Eye after the salads were gone and the speeches on the evils of Prop. 13 had been given. Would she support the coalition by running for office, Eye wanted to know. "No," said Avila-Diaz, San Jose Police Department crime prevention specialist and wife of Assemblyman Manny Diaz. "I think one politician in the family is enough." Mr. Diaz, who apparently is close enough to a Latina to get invited as a guest speaker, chatted with the estrogenators about the budget. Of course he did, say the coalition heads, Alvarado, Veep Miriam Ayllon and Pres Tamara Lopez. "I think we are so well connected that if a woman joins we could easily put her in a strategic position [in office]," says Lopez. "The demand is there for us to be in office."

Stanford Scolded

Stanford Medical Center got sent to the principal's office last week. SEIU Local 715 snooped into the hospital's record of fairness in treating patients and came up with some problems that warranted a bad progress report. Namely, says SEIU analyst Kevin Christensen, Stanford serves Latinos in Latino-heavy East Palo Alto less often than whites who live there and then charges them more for the majority of the most profitable sicknesses. Christensen tells Eye that when Stanford and Stanford's Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital sucked up to the California Health Facilities Financial Authority for a couple mil in bonds, SEIU whipped out its PowerPoint presentation signaling the disparity they discovered in community care, and it was not a Kodak moment. SEIU clocked East Palo Alto's population as approximately 40 percent Latino, while only 14 percent of Stanford's East Palo Alto patients were Latino in 2000. The union also found that, on average, Stanford hospitals and clinics charge Latinos 37 percent more than whites for the same services. While the fuss ultimately failed to deter the approval of both bond requests, SEIU calls the outcome a victory. After a two-week delay, last Thursday, June 12, while approving Packard's $120 million allowance request for the Children's Hospital, the health authority cited the union's concerns and gave Stanford a lecture, reminding the hospital powers of their community obligations. "We're satisfied with that," says SEIU's Christensen. "It was kind of getting their attention by delaying the bond for two weeks."

Strong Medicine

Metro readers will likely remember the case of Palo Altan Nelson Galbraith, who was tried and acquitted of homicide in his wife's apparent suicide death ("Death Botch," Dec. 9, 1999). The tortuous situation (which now includes the recusal of not one but three judges in a recent twist) this month inches closer to potential resolution. On June 30, former Santa Clara County Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Angelo Ozoa--charged by the state Medical Board with gross negligence, incompetence, unprofessional conduct and acts of dishonesty or corruption while performing a 1995 autopsy on Galbraith's wife--pleads his case before an administrative law judge in a three-day public hearing in Oakland. Ozoa, now retired, could be stripped of his license or put on probation. Less likely is that Ozoa will voluntarily surrender his license. "Dr. Ozoa wants to clear his good name," says his attorney, James Towery. "We have several coroners who are prepared to testify that what Dr. Ozoa did was perfectly appropriate." Eyewatchers may recall that Galbraith sued Ozoa and the county for $10 million for malicious prosecution and fraud; the case now pends before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The four federal district court judges in Santa Clara County who presided over the case and have now bowed out (one retired and three recused themselves) forced the case to be reassigned to a district court in San Francisco or Oakland, which some observers believe might help the plaintiffs, as the county won't have to investigate itself. Another boost to the Galbraith family: Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg has come on board as a consultant. "The family approached me and showed me extensive documentation; I find the case compelling," says Weisberg, who teaches criminal law. The case could have far-reaching implications, as it could open the county to a potential flood of lawsuits over autopsies conducted on Ozoa's five-year watch. "This is not a case of misplaced anger," says Galbraith's attorney, Michael Goldsmith, a law professor at Utah's Brigham Young University. "This is a case that seeks systemic reform, to remedy past abuses and ensure that they don't occur again."

Weird Science

Eye shivered last week to learn of some uncomfortable and wrong human connections going on. For one thing, Mayor Ron Gonzales, the "big city" leader who's too frightened to talk directly with the media and must always use spokesguy David Vossbrink, was consulted to help give out an award to SJ City Manager Del Borgsdorf. "Del's leadership style is marked by communication and collaboration," announced the Mayor Who Shall Not Be Spoken To. Meanwhile, Eye reminds alert readers, Borgsy wasn't voted most popular or most likely to collaborate a few months ago when the well-paid chief called a meeting to calm mutinous city workers who were afraid they'd get canned to balance the bloated budget that contained six-figure salaries for many managers. ... On an entirely different, but similarly oddball subject, an enemy soldier crashed labor's big party on June 7. When outgoing Labor Queen Amy Dean gave her cherry-topping speech at the COPE Awards Banquet on "The State of the American Labor Movement," San Jose Chamber Jim Cunneen was embedded within the crowd. Not to call labor easy, but all it took for him to infiltrate was a bottle of Dom Perignon.

Dutra or Don'tra

Assembly acrobat John Dutra shocked few with his endorsement flip in the race to succeed him in three years. His leap from business guy's guy Henry Manayan to labor's angel Alberto Torrico was predictable, campaign-centric gossips tell Eye. J.D. is the convener of the Assembly Moderate Democratic Caucus and receiver of large sacks of dough from thoughtful insurance companies and doctors' groups. Word has it the reliable mod is looking to gain some progressive cred to carve a path for a Senate run against less business-friendly candidates vying for 2006 termed-out Liz Figueroa's seat. The western edge of the party is associated with labor and trial lawyers, and not Manayan, which could explain why he turned to Newark City Councilmember Torrico, a lawyer who works for UFCW Local 428 fighting, for instance, union-free Godzilla Wal-Mart. Torrico sent out a press release last week bragging about J.D.'s blessing. He brushes off the question of ideological differences between party wings. "I don't feel very comfortable with those kinds of labels," Torrico confesses to Eye. He insists that he and Dutra think identically on the grand party-divide issue--capping lawsuits against doctors--the root of ongoing power spats between the party's doctors and lawyers, moderates and progressives. But he falters when asked if, once elected, he'd follow Dutra to the moderate caucus. "That's a good question," Torrico observes. "I want to get to know people on both sides."

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From the June 19-25, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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