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Whistling Tricksy: Doug Winslow can't stop seeing slime in local politics.

Public Eye

Money for Something

Eye liberated some chatter with an item two weeks ago on Silicon Valley Advisors' Pete Carrillo, who, astute readers may recall, went postal on Assemblywoman Sally Lieber's political aide, Doug Winslow, for his boss' meddlings in the East Side Union High School District superintendent's assembly race. It seems that Lieber got some boxers in a bunch by recruiting Kathy Chavez Napoli to run against Latino power structure anointee Joe Coto. Carrillo was perturbed, but why such forceful language during their little confrontation at County Supe Jim Beall's assembly-campaign coming-out ceremony? After receiving three phone calls from Eye readers with theories about Carrillo's interest in the race, Winslow discovered that candidate Coto slipped a $120,000 contract for Carrillo's Silicon Valley Advisors group into the district's April 17 consent calendar so that SVA could continue conducting "community outreach services and land-use planning" for the district's property on North Capitol Avenue, where its headquarters are located. Carrillo characterizes his interchange with Winslow over the Coto-Napoli contest as "very direct and very clear." The point, he says, is that he's a "longtime supporter" of Coto. He denies having any interest in putting a pal in power for financial gain. Winslow smells a rat. "This is real bad stuff. Real bad," says ethics-violation whistle blower Winslow, who ratted out an ethics scandal last election, which left the candidacy of Ed Voss for City Council in tatters. One real-estate savvy source speculates that the $120K contract could be a disguised 10 percent bonus for SVA's help in raising the value of the district's Quimby Road property sold last year to Citation Homes by $1.2 million. SVA lobbied the city to tinker with the traffic counts and allow more homes to be built on the property. ... Eye will be watching to see if any money from that six-figure lobbying contract winds up in Coto's campaign coffers.

New Blood Ties

Local wonks speculate about whether labor's outgoing mastermind, Amy Dean, will continue to pull the strings of the local labor lobby from her new digs in Chicago. Clearly, the recently relocated Dean and her appointed newbie chief, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, remain attached by the phone chord, as Eye observed during a visit last week. But sharp young Ellis-Lamkins (an economics buff who prefers dense reading to easy fun like alcohol and is currently barreling her way through the low-wage-worker-sympathetic Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States) is herself ready to poke at San Jose's sore spots. Though technically in her first week as South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and Working Partnerships head, she has been in charge since January. Her first target: to do what apparently has up to now been impossible--evaluate 10 years of publicly funded redevelopment, a subject about which Eye can only say it's about freaking time. Monitoring the return on investment after years of monster spending that now totals almost $2 billion seems as obvious as the need for, say, a grocery store and movie theater downtown. Nevertheless, local government has not managed to write that report, Ellis-Lamkins observes. In response to this void, labor council propaganda printed in April lectures that for the embarrassing United Artists project, among others, "a report would have been helpful ... [something perhaps offering] a solid reliable base of data on which to make decisions." Ellis-Lamkins expects to turn in the report to the City Council in the fall.

Political Shuffle

When the government issued its "Iraqi most wanted" playing cards amid patriotic fervor, it was only a matter of time before another deck with alternative points of view eventually surfaced. Kathy Eder, a teacher of morality and social justice at San Jose's Bellarmine High School, created a new deck titled Operation Hidden Agenda. The cards feature photographs of high-ranking U.S. officials like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and even Dubya himself. Statements, quotes and questions on the cards attempt to inform people about possible hidden agendas of various U.S. leaders, organizations and corporations. One card mentions that 20 years ago Rumsfeld tried to strike a business deal with Saddam on the same day the U.N. declared that Saddam Hussein gassed the Iranians. Another quotes Arianna Huffington saying that Dick Cheney, while CEO of Halliburton, did $73 billion in business with Saddam after the Gulf War and then denied it. Yet another quotes Bruce Springsteen saying the Dixie Chicks got a raw deal. But this is America 2003, where people are free to express their opinions and be hysterically attacked for them. Witness Eder, who has been called a "gutless traitor," "anti-American" and guilty of treason. The first email she received said, "You want to be dead, right?" But no one who has complained actually disputes the accuracy of any of the information on the cards themselves. "They contain quotations from journalists and quotes from people like Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright," Eder said. "No one's disputing the words on the cards." Eder considers her venture like eBay. "I'm not selling anything new," she says. "I've just put it all together in a really convenient place." In the first two weeks, Eder sold 3,000 decks for $9.95 each and ended up ordering 5,000 more. They are available at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Cody's in Berkeley, Anno Domini in downtown San Jose and on the web at www.operationhiddenagenda.com. Eye has only one question, who is the Joker?

Judge, Jury and Assessor

The county has a problem keeping good, trained workers in important jobs. The 2002-2003 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury just discovered this problem outlined in a report released last month. Meanwhile, Assessor Larry Stone has been mouthing off about the thick red tape gumming up the county's hiring practices for years. "If an employee gives two weeks' to six months' notice that they are leaving or retiring, in most cases county personnel policy prohibits you from even beginning the recruitment process for a replacement until the employee has left the county," Stone told the local Rotary and Commonwealth clubs in the year 2000. Now, it's 2003, and the civil grand jury explains, "There is an inability to quickly replace key personnel and to provide for sufficient overlap between the person leaving and the person coming into the organization." Stone is glad to be heard, finally. But, of course, 8 1/2 years in his elected position and Stone's got too many complaints for one civil grand jury. So he gets creative. For instance, when it comes to running a tight ship, Stone fancies himself a doer. When he first started with the county, he tells Eye, there were "four delinquents" on his ship. He got rid of one after spending $6,000 to hire a private investigator to follow the reckless employee around. That employee, it turned out, would regularly cut short his appraising workday at noon and drive home early in his uninsured vehicle despite his license suspension. Insofar as bending the grand jury's ear, of course, no one has to listen to a transient civilian group that sees a change in makeup every year. Concedes Stone, who's "not optimistic" about the recent report's potential impact, "It'll only matter if the elected leaders and the management of the county take it seriously."

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From the July 10-16, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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