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[whitespace] Si Se Puede: Prop. 227 author Ron Unz didn't succeed in persuading Latino voters to support his initiative to end bilingual education, but still won.

Race Matters

The pre-election polling for Proposition 227, the just-say-no-to-bilingual-education initiative, suggested this ballot measure wouldn't be as racially divisive as previous broadsides against illegal immigrants and affirmative action. But with just a cursory glance at San Jose's precinct data and statewide exit polling, it's clear that race clearly played a role in how people voted. ... Here in San Jose, precinct results show that Latino voters clearly said "no, gracias" to dismantling bilingual education. Two-thirds of the voters in the Eastside and downtown City Council districts--both of which have a Hispanic majority, according to 1990 census data--rejected Prop. 227. That echoes what happened all around California. A statewide exit poll done by the Los Angeles Times indicated that Latinos voted 2-to-1 against ending bilingual education. Angel Rios, associate director of the Mexican American Community Services Agency, suggests that many Hispanic parents were confused about the initiative, and realized as the election drew near that 227 would actually end bilingual education and not just correct it. "Everyone agrees we need to look at bilingual education," he says, "but this took it to an extreme" that Latino voters didn't like. ... Meanwhile, it appears that non-Latinos gave the Unz initiative its landslide victory. Here in St. Joe, for instance, around 63 percent of voters in the wealthy Almaden Valley council district--which is 71 percent non-Hispanic and 10 percent Hispanic--backed yet another initiative affecting someone else. (The county as a whole voted 56 percent in favor, the registrar reports.) ... Over the past year, opinion polls consistently showed that Latinos were solidly behind Prop. 227. In fact, more Latinos supported it than whites in an early poll conducted last fall. The initiative's author, Palo Alto businessman Ron Unz--who had proudly advertised 227's poll-presumed Latino support during the campaign--bravely concludes post mortem, "It's hard to say what happened on election night."


Smoke and Mirrors

Assemblywoman Liz Figueroa insists she wouldn't ever accept campaign contributions from tobacco interests. But what about accepting big money from a powerful colleague who has taken money from tobacco sources? ... In the final 10 days before the primary, Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Latino Caucus, loaned Figueroa's Senate campaign $100,000 in two installments from his California Friends Latino PAC. Over the past three years, tobacco giants such as Philip Morris have donated at least $24,000 to Polanco's campaign committees. Figueroa tells Eye that Polanco assured her none of the money he loaned her came from tobacco sources. "I have really tried to be ethical about these things," Figueroa says. ... But Polanco's assurance to Figueroa rings hollow to a supporter of Mike Sweeney, the Figster's opponent in the primary. The Sweeney follower observes that funds dumped into one account can't be segregated to distinguish what money came from tobacco and what didn't. ... Bill Mabie, Polanco's flak-catcher, calls the accusations "a stretch." "Any money he took from tobacco," Mabie pooh-poohs, "has probably already been spent long ago." Indeed, the lion's share of Polanco's tobacco cash came in '95 and '96, though he did get a $1,000 check from the Tobacco Institute earlier this year.


Wink and Nod

South Bay operative Gordon Reynolds successfully guided his two clients--sheriff candidate Laurie Smith and City Council aspirant Chuck Gillingham--into the November runoff. Reynolds says he's not sure yet if he will be running Smith and Gillingham's campaigns in the fall, acknowledging that his battle with colon cancer will play a significant role in his decision. Though he helped his candidates survive the primary, Eye-watchers may only recall Reynolds' gaffe during the campaign when he sent out a color brochure from Gillingham touting his pubic safety credentials. "I promised Chuck I'd never again proofread anything while watching the Spice Channel," he assures us. ... This week the Fair Political Practices Commission is handing Reynolds bad news, fining him $2,500 for not registering a campaign committee in Campbell two years ago. At the time, Reynolds was battling the proposed industrial redevelopment of the Winchester Drive-In. His committee raised about $20,000 and sent out 10,000 mailers "informing" voters that praiseworthy candidates Robert Dougherty and Matthew Dean favored making the drive-in a recreational park. "We thought of it as an informational piece, so we didn't think we had to file," Reynolds explains. Informed Campbell voters later handed both Dougherty and Dean victories.


Welcome Back, Again

Two weeks ago Metro reported on the allegations of racial discrimination inside the Berryessa School District. Now, Superintendent Herbert Wadley is planning to contract out-of-state political fixer Vic Ajlouny to do local "community outreach." In fairness, Ajlouny knows the area well--he lived in Berryessa for 14 years before suddenly moving his family to Omaha in 1996. During his Berryessa days, Ajlouny developed a reputation inside the district for being able to make or break political careers. Right now Wadley is in a public-relations battle with suspended Morrill Middle School principal Lorna Manning, an African American accusing the district of discrimination. Though Ajlouny concedes that he might be addressing the Manning situation to the extent that it "affects how people feel about the district." His main goal, Ajlouny says, is to restore the school district's prominence within the community, whatever that means.


Robert and Me

Flint, Mich., is a great place. So says Robert Turk, who left the flourishing capital of the Information Age for the Industrial Age's symbol of decay. Turk left San Jose's Redevelopment Agency two years ago to become director of Flint's Department of Community and Economic Development. Now, in his role as professional Flint flack, he's taken to trash-talking about the self-styled Capital of Silicon Valley. After saying he prefers Flint to San Jose in a story printed by the Knight Ridder-owned Detroit Free Press, he completed the comparison thusly: "This is a nice town. This is a good city with a nice parks system. There aren't any weeds and syringes." Anything to get people's eye off the GM strike and keep them from moving to Silicon Valley for a better job. ... Eye tried contacting Mr. Turk to ask him where we might go look to find the "weeds and syringes" so that we might also begin bad-mouthing San Jose. When contacted by Eye, Turk clarified his previous comment. "It was an obvious joke. I told her [the reporter] that I liked the weather better here." He describes the story as "an abomination" and insists he loves San Jose and his old boss, Frank Taylor.


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From the July 2-8, 1998 issue of Metro.

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