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[whitespace] Too Manny: Councilman Manny Diaz says he has no interest in running against Assemblyman Mike Honda next year, although people have suggested he do so.

Drive By

In this era of term limits, Assembly members are essentially elected to a six-year term. True, incumbents must run for re-election every two years, but in a safe district re-election is little more than a procedural formality. Potential challengers prefer to wait and run for an open seat rather than assume the monumental task of de-throning an incumbent, especially one from the same party. Nevertheless, San Jose City Councilman Manny Diaz's name has recently been floated as a possible challenger to Assemblyman Mike Honda next year for the Democratic nomination in the district. Honda isn't termed out of office until 2002, and observers didn't expect Diaz--whose council term also expires in 2002--to make his move until then. ... According to a Diaz ally, Honda hasn't embraced the eastside councilor as his heir apparent. Diaz tried to make inroads with the Hondas earlier this year when he recruited former Honda press aide Ruben Pulido. But the Diaz camp still suspects that Honda has a greater affinity for gregarious Councilman George Shirakawa Jr., who will also be looking for a job in three years. ... Upon hearing about the possible mid-term challenge, Keith Honda, Mike's cousin and $89,000-a-year chief of staff, joked, "I don't support gambling, but I bet Manny won't run against Mike." His hunch was correct. Diaz tells Eye he is endorsing Honda and dismissed the idea of his insurgent Assembly candidacy as a rumor. "People have talked to me about it," Diaz acknowledges, "but for me it would be pre-mature [to run now]." ... Even if Diaz doesn't run for Assembly next year, don't count him out for 2002. In fact, he is taking early steps to ingratiate himself with party leadership. This week he is hosting a $100-a-head fundraiser for state Sen. Richard Polanco, the Democratic floor leader and godfather of the powerful Latino Caucus, to be held at the D.P. Fong Gallery on South First.

Water Quirks

Seven months behind schedule, the Santa Clara Valley Water District moved into its brand-new, $18 million digs this week. And sources in the district are saying that the move happened before the building was really ready. On Monday, the building's opening day, the toilets on the south end of the building weren't working. And there was no hot water coming out the faucets, according to a couple of district staffers. The mishaps inspired one of the water district's more clever mucky-mucks to bring a plunger to a staff lunch and declare, "I came prepared for the move." Another employee groused, "It's a mess. I think it was too early for us to move in."

Social Upheaval

Tensions are mounting between Social Services Agency Director Yolanda Lenier Rinaldo and labor reps in the department. Union leaders are circulating a petition to declare a vote of no confidence in Rinaldo, who has overseen the department's welfare-to-work programs. Labor heavies are blaming Rinaldo with letting the department become understaffed and overworked as evidenced by a growing backlog of cases. Sylvia Sanchez, the chapter president of the Service Employees International Union, Local 535, says inefficiency is rampant and clients are being lost in the shuffle. In one case, she says, the county is still mailing benefits to a dead person. The unions are demanding an audit of money spent on consultants, contracts and programs.

"The employees have gotten to the point," Sanchez asserts, "where we're saying enough is enough." Behind the scenes, skeptics suggest that the union is positioning itself for upcoming contract talks--Local 535's contract expires in mid-September and Local 715, which represents the agency's clerical staff, is in negotiations right now. Observes one unsympathetic county insider, "They're freaking out because their whole world is changing; the welfare system has changed from an entitlement system to a job-training program."

Grapes of Gaffe

Soon after trumpeting his message of "ethnic healing" (as the Mercury News put it) at the Mexican Heritage Cultural Gardens this weekend, presidential candidate Bill Bradley's campaign failed to check its next venue for the requisite cultural sensitivity. A couple of blocks down at Sousa's Restaurant, Bradley partisans were offered a variety of finger foods including the forbidden fruit deplored by Latino activists--grapes. ... The Sousa's stop seemed slightly chaotic, with Bradley's voice drowned out by the din from a birthday party on the other side of the restaurant. In frustration, Bradley's wife, Ernestine, interrupted her husband at one point and beckoned everyone to move their seats closer so they could hear him. ... Among those straining to hear was esteemed state Sen. John Vasconcellos, who munched on a couple of drumsticks while Bradley worked the crowd. Vasco insists he hasn't decided whether he is supporting Bradley or Al Gore, but described Dollar Bill as "very impressive." ... As for his own career plans, Vasco was equally hard to pin down. Asked if he was going to run for re-election, the well-tanned senator replied, "I haven't made an announcement yet." He did let it slip that he isn't entirely pleased with the regime of new Gov. Gray Davis, who Vasco feels is spending too much money on prisons instead of health care.

Fazzing Out

It looks as if Palo Alto Mayor Gary Fazzino won't be running for supervisor next year to replace the departing Joe Simitian. Fazzino wouldn't totally rule out a run, but he admits "it's increasingly unlikely." Fazzino has told pals that the timing isn't right for him. After all, he's making the big bucks as a lobbyist for Hewlett-Packard.

Jury Duty

Could this be an indication Kathy Chavez Napoli won't be running for the District 2 City Council seat in San Jose? This week the court will randomly select the 19-member 1999­2000 grand jury from a list of 30 nominees. Presiding Judge Jack Komar says that Napoli--who has run for mayor twice and co-owns a truck salvage company--won't be disqualified if she does indeed run for public office and appear on the March ballot. "We'd have to talk with her about that," Komar allows. Serving on the grand jury would look good on a campaign mailer, but it also would take up a lot of time--time that could be spent walking precincts and making phone calls. A friend of Napoli's tells Eye that the Scrappy One would have to re-assess her situation should she be selected to the grand jury. According to Greg Sellers, consultant to candidate Maria Ferrer, Napoli hasn't been making much noise recently about running. "But she's the kind of person," Sellers says, "who I wouldn't count out until after the filing deadline."

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From the June 24-30, 1999 issue of Metro.

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