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Tax Problems: Bill Simon wants to fix inner cities with ... tax cuts?

Public Eye

Simon Says: Cut Taxes

Eye was more than a little curious to hear last week that Republican gubernatorial candidate BILL SIMON would be in town to talk about urban renewal. The phrase brings to mind the failed development strategies of the '50s and '60s, when renewal meant knocking down historic buildings to create parking lots or running freeways through black neighborhoods. But Simon, at a quick press availability session between fundraisers Thursday, announced his own plan to revitalize inner cities--by cutting taxes. Simon's plan, unveiled the day before, is to spur growth by cutting the capital gains tax to 5 percent and eliminating it "in especially distressed areas," where folks are generally brimming with high-profit real estate sales. With Labor Secretary ELAINE CHAO at his side, Simon made a few canned remarks about education, another part of his plan, and pledged to "encourage more investment and job creation in our inner cities." To dramatize the need to fix inner cities, the multimillionaire issued his urgent call underneath a large crystal chandelier in a conference room at the Palo Alto Sheraton. But alas, this wasn't enough to throw TV reporters off the scent of the New Jersey businessman's refusal to release his tax returns. In response to one question about whether he would release his tax returns now that the IRS says he may have benefited from an illegal tax shelter, Simon stumbled, then changed the subject. "There's been no claims of anything other than that they're in discussions. So sometimes you've gotta wait and see exactly what's going on. And that's exactly the kind of thing I'll do as governor." To further inform the press corps about his embarrassing tax situation, he offered this additional insight: "What we need to do here is focus on what's on the minds of Californians. ... They wanna hear what ideas I've got. ... They wanna hear what happened to GRAY DAVIS--why Gray Davis is constantly shifting the blame. ... So we're talking about leadership here." Simon finally gave in and called a press conference for Monday and let reporters look at the returns, but with a caveat. "Copies of Mr. Simon's tax returns will be available for reporters to view by appointment only. Each news organization will be allowed one reporter to view the tax documents." Eye reluctantly passed up the invitation, but did get a copy of Simon's statement, which contained gems like "By revealing my tax records today, we will also clear the way to reveal the true record of Gray Davis." Eye will try to get an early appointment for that one.

Ron Gonzales
Ron Gonzales

Mayoral Mansion

Not many mayors can say their house is bigger than their city hall. Loyal Eye watchers will recall the recent item about the Los Altos Hills Town Council's controversial plan to build a new $5 million Town Hall. Opponents say the design is too big. But Mayor BOB FENWICK, who wants to knock down the old termite-infested Town Hall and build a new one, doesn't see what the fuss is all about. "My house is bigger than this," Fenwick boasted in the Merc last week. As Eye noted July 4, the town's plans call for a Town Hall building in excess of 7,000 square feet.

Full or Self-Service?

Eye's curiosity was piqued a few days ago when the Merc nailed state Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing MARIA CONTRERAS-SWEET for using CHP officers as chauffeurs. Surely, Eye thought, she can't be the only one who gets a few car perks from the job. And she's not. San Jose Mayor RON GONZALES, whom Eye often spots in the passenger seat of his own wheels, gets a few perks, too. On the way to various mayoral obligations like, say, ribbon-cuttings, police bodyguard BOBBY AVILA often drives the Gonzomobile, leaving Ron free to sharpen his scissors. Driving, however, is part of the mayor's police protection package. And to make sure he's got something nice to get around town in, the city gives the mayor (along with councilmembers and department heads) a $350 monthly car allowance. But that's not all. The mayor's gas-guzzling Ford Expedition has also been spotted across the street from City Hall taking advantage of the gas pumps and car wash over at the police station. "The mayor's car is washed and gassed occasionally," confirms mayoral mouthpiece DAVID VOSSBRINK. Is this allowed, Eye wonders? "It's a practice that has gone back to previous mayors. It's been allowed for years." Eye pressed for details, and Vossbrink called back to say the mayor pumps about 1,000 gallons a year. The city pays a little more than a buck a gallon for wholesale gas, so the mayor gets about $1,000 to $1,200 a year worth of city gas (in addition to the car allowance). But Vossbrink is quick to note that almost all of the mayor's driving is work-related, and he's not getting reimbursed for gas at the retail price. "So actually the city comes out ahead on that."

Crime and Punishment

While we will never know if AL DeGUZMAN truly intended to commit mass murder at De Anza College in January 2001 ("DeGuzman's Demons," Jan. 31, 2002), unfortunately for the 20-year-old former student, Superior Court Judge ROBERT P. AHERN believed that he would have. After an eight-day, no-jury trial this April, Ahern found DeGuzman guilty on 108 charges that included 54 counts of possessing a destructive device and 54 counts of possessing a destructive device with intent to harm. His sentencing, originally set for June 25, was postponed until July 31 at the request of his lawyer. A De Anza College student at the time of the crime, DeGuzman became known as the "De Anza Bomber" following his arrest for possessing a large number of homemade bombs, guns and meticulous plans for a murderous attack at the school, a plan that he never carried out. In his confiscated writings, exposed in detail during the trial, DeGuzman estimated that "at least 20 humans" would die on Jan. 30, 2001. The prosecution said the arrest on Jan. 29 came just hours before DeGuzman was to start his murder spree, while his attorneys maintain it was just an "elaborate fantasy." According to DeGuzman, there is a good chance that he will spend the rest of his life in jail. "Well ... it doesn't look good," DeGuzman stated in a letter shared with Eye last week. "The probation officer recommends 90 years. TOM FARRIS [the prosecutor] wants 60." According to DeGuzman's other attorney, CRAIG WORMLEY, Farris is actually asking for 95 years. "We'd be happy with anything 30 years or less," Wormley said. Wormley said that he will have DeGuzman speak to the judge on July 31 and "maybe have his family say a few words." Wormley also said that regardless of the sentence, they will appeal the guilty verdict. Several of Al's loyal friends are maintaining a website that includes poetry, artwork and various writings, some created by DeGuzman and others by his fellow inmates. Drawings on the site include a penciled picture of the average jail cell and a self-portrait. Poetry titles include "Dope Springs Ethereal" and "Ladies Night on the All-Gay Cruise." DeGuzman said that he was moved to the mental health ward of the Santa Clara County Main Jail following a letter he sent to the Mercury News in April. In the letter, DeGuzman directly apologized to KELLY BENNETT, the San Jose Longs Drugs photo clerk who turned DeGuzman in after viewing images of him posing with his cache of illegal weapons. Bennett ran out in tears during her testimony in court. According to DeGuzman, it was one specific sentence in the letter that landed him in the psych unit. DeGuzman wrote in his letter that after witnessing Bennett's distress on the witness stand, he was "compelled to self-destruction." DeGuzman will remain in mental health until his sentencing.

Where's The Chief?

Despite an invite, San Jose Police Chief BILL LANSDOWNE didn't show up at the July 19 Filipino-American Roundtable Meeting on the timely issue of racial profiling. "He had a conflict," reveals police spokesofficer JOSEPH DERAS, who would not say what the conflict was. The chief's absence was notable because SJPD members usually aren't ones to hide from the driving-while-ethnic issue. In fact, they're the first to keep notes on that sort of thing. In 1999, they led the pack by voluntarily starting to jot down the race of drivers they stop. In keeping with that go-getter tradition, the boys in blue sent along some questions for the Filipino community via meeting coordinator and Filipino activist BEN MENOR. Menor is scheduled to participate in the Aug. 2 filming of a police training video as a member of a racial-profiling panel that will respond to the cops' questions on tape. It's old news that the SJPD is an enlightened and culturally sensitive department. A June 20 Mercury News editorial broke that story wide open. But now officers are reaching out to the ethnic people even more by asking such probing questions as "Why does every minority think they are being picked on when stopped by the police?" and "Why don't the elders teach the youth to respect police officers?" These questions are meant to promote "a sharing of ideas" that's mandated by the state Legislature, San Jose Police training manager DAVID BABINEAU told Eye. Eye is touched.

Tickled Pink Slips

Looks like labor leaders have the city of Sunnyvale backpedaling on a plan to replace janitorial staffers with cheaper workers. When councilmembers adopted the budget in May, part of the plan was to cut the janitorial budget by two-thirds by contracting out the jobs. At the beginning of June, staff told four janitors they'd be out of a job at the end of the month. But SEIU organizers got wind of the plan and told councilmembers what they thought of the idea. Long story short: Nobody's losing their job. "There haven't been any positions cut," city spokesperson DEBRA CLARK says. "Staff has been asked to make recommendations and look at some options in the next couple months." Organizer BEN HOLGATE tells Eye the city didn't alert SEIU, as required under the law. Holgate has been meeting with city staff, and it looks as if the city will probably put the contract out to bid instead. Holgate says SEIU would be happy to see the contract go to a union agency. The two sides meet again next month. In the meantime, union organizers are fuming about the sneak play. "We were very unimpressed with some members of the council," Holgate says. "There are people on the council who are supportive of labor issues, and there are folks on the council who claim to be supportive but don't come through."


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From the July 25-31, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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