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Where's Ron?

KEN YEAGER was there. So were fellow Councilmembers FORREST WILLIAMS and NORA CAMPOS, as well as former mayors SUSAN HAMMER of San Jose and GARY FAZZINO of Palo Alto. For sex appeal, former 49er RONNIE LOTT showed up, playing fast and loose with the sports clichés in the lead-up to the big announcement. The event was Councilmember CINDY CHAVEZ's much-anticipated declaration that she's running for mayor. Chavez immediately established herself as the "education candidate" (every race should have one!) by not only focusing much of her announcement speech on schools but also by hosting the press event in the sunlit courtyard of Horace Mann Elementary, which sits across Santa Clara Avenue from the new City Hall. She's also considered the early frontrunner based on her connection to labor unions (she was director of education for the South Bay Labor Council, the area's AFL-CIO umbrella organization) and the belief she's more personable and visionary than her two announced opponents, Councilmembers CHUCK REED and DAVE CORTESE. Her negatives at this point include strong ties to San Jose's current mayor, RON GONZALES, who can't seem to find a public relations crisis or low-level scandal he can't make worse. Of course, it would have been strange to see Gonzales in the VIP lineup alongside mayors and football players since the city's CEO usually delays endorsing candidates until close to election time, which isn't until June 2006. Even so, none of the speakers, including Chavez, so much as alluded to Gonzales. Besides schools, Chavez focused her speech on projects in her downtown districts she "helped to shepherd," projects like BART she would concentrate on if given the chance as mayor, and reserved time to celebrate the city's diversity, wealth and safety. When she was finished, she fielded questions about her ties to labor ("I'm not a hostage to anyone," she said) and how she planned to connect with suburban voters ("We've had enough successes downtown to take them citywide," she said). Did she plan to shed Gonzales at some point—her boss from the days when he was a county supervisor? Not at all, she said. She'd ask for his endorsement at some point. He wasn't at the announcement, she said, because he was on vacation in Mexico. The question left unanswered until next June is how much, if any, will Gonzales hurt Chavez. San Jose State University political scientist TERRY CHRISTENSEN, who has endorsed Chavez, says not much. "I'm not sure the public is as antagonistic to Gonzales as the media and political insiders are—his approval ratings in any poll I've heard about have been in the 50s. Despite his problems—and they are many—he's done some popular things, including leading on BART, building affordable housing, launching the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative and getting millions of dollars in bonds passed to build parks, libraries and public safety facilities."

Where's Deep Throat?

"You are being lied to," begins the anonymous, two-page letter addressed to District 4 Councilman CHUCK REED. The letter goes on to outline how Norcal Waste Systems, the San Francisco garbage hauler implicated in a scheme to circumvent the city's bidding process, plotted to outwit city taxpayers to obtain an additional $11.25 million in a recycling contract originally signed in 2000. According to the letter, Norcal planned to low-bid the $250 million, 11-year contract, then work with union officials to scare city officials into thinking a strike was imminent. Armed with the threat, city leaders, already pro-labor, would agree to pay the union more cash through Norcal—the $11.25 million the S.J. City Council agreed to last December. An anonymous letter would be easy to dismiss in light of a civil grand jury report released last month, alleging that Norcal had worked with Mayor RON GONZALES early in the bidding process to ensure the additional millions would be paid at some point. But the letter arrived at Reed's office last September, well before the grand jury began investigating. And the author claimed to be an insider, someone who "was in meetings when the plan was designed." "I cannot state my name at this time," the author continued, "but at the right moment I will. I was a senior manager at Norcal, and I deplore their actions." The letter writer claimed to have spreadsheets proving that Norcal intentionally low-bid the contracts but was concerned that a "less ethical city councilmember" would tip off Norcal, allowing the company time to produce fake spreadsheets. "You may be hearing more from me," the letter concluded. In fact, Reed did hear more from the letter writer, who sent the councilman a similarly styled missive dated June 14. This time the author identified himself as "a senior vice president at Norcal Waste Systems until January 2004." A copy of the first letter was attached. The second letter mostly took Norcal CEO MIKE SANGIACOMO to task for what the letter writer described as a failure to tell the truth in an article published shortly after the release of the grand jury report. The author also wanted the city to rebid the recycling contract and called the council "a sad bunch of puppets." The second letter concluded, "No Strike ... Better Service ... Cheaper Rate. All total B.S." A Norcal spokesman, who received the letter from Metro via fax, said the company would not comment on the alleged whistleblowing. Reed, meanwhile, said he turned a copy over to the district attorney's office and the grand jury.

Where's Your Hand?

When Fly heard about a new kind of "Pocket Fly" shorts—well, what else could we do but bite? Incredibly, this is a new level of truth in advertising: a Santa Clara company has designed a pair of skateboard shorts with a single pocket sewn strategically into the crotch. Why sew a pocket into this, er, sensitive area? Well, it's not easy to make pants punk rock. "It's offensive," says MAURICE PARDUE, co-owner of the Skivys clothing company that designed the shorts. "They push people back a little bit. Kids like them because they piss off their parents and they're comfortable as hell." Pardue's partner, SCOTT HUTFLESZ, designed the shorts because he liked the idea of wearing boxer underpants in public. His boxers didn't have a pocket, though. Nor did they allow the requisite amount of privacy. So Hutflesz went to work on Skivys, which have become so popular they've adorned the hips of JET LUCAS, GEORGE LUCAS's adopted son. Pardue admits the shorts aren't practical for all occasions, especially for active people who load the pocket with heavy items. "They're not the most comfortable short for jogging or whatever," he says.

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From the July 13-19, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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