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[whitespace] John Musumeci
Niner Faithful: John Musumeci, who attacked green groups in the South Bay, is now allegedly on the warpath in Oregon with the help of an old nemesis.

Public Eye

Gang Initiation

REMEMBER Arlie Land and Cattle? That's the Oregon-based developer, led by John Musumeci, that acquired 1,000 acres of hillside above Los Gatos and, in 1998, tried to build luxury homes and a golf course near Lexington Reservoir. Environmentalists had fits, and a legal brawl ensued. The fight, which was the subject of a Metro cover story ("Reservoir Dogs," July 16, 1998), ended when Musumeci unloaded the land on an open space group for millions more than the original price. During the brawl, Musumeci threatened to sue the Los Gatos Weekly-Times, a Metro-affiliated newspaper, over a cartoon drawn by Metro staff scribbler Steven DeCinzo that portrayed Arlie as an octopus with long tentacles. ... This summer, an anonymous group called The Gang of Nine turned up in Eugene, Ore., where it started accusing the City Council of impeding development. The mystery group placed daily ads in the Eugene Register-Guard with written attacks on the council illustrated by DeCinzo, who was personally hired by Musumeci, the group's ringleader. The ads got the town talking and visiting the group's website (www.thegangof9.com). The ads have been running for more than a month at $800-$1,600 a day, but Register-Guard advertising staff refuses to tell editorial staffers who's paying. So far, gang members have kept their identities secret, but one councilmember has suggested the group may need to register as a PAC and disclose its supporters. Interestingly enough, the group's spokesman, Michael Kearney, is the same Oregon attorney who helped Musumeci set up holding corporations to buy the Los Gatos acreage. ... Eye knows Musumeci from its days in Los Gatos covering the Lexington mess, and when Eye called him this week, Musumeci confided that he was looking to hire a good investigative reporter to dig up dirt on the City Council in Eugene. When Eye asked if he was one of the gang, an angry Musumeci said our chat had been off the record and--yes, this actually happens to Eye--hung up. The land baron called back to "vehemently deny" any involvement. DeCinzo is finished drawing for the Gang, but the Gang isn't finished tweaking Eugene officials.

Impending Slugfest

Excitement-deprived local political animals have been panting madly at the prospect of a gladiator-style match between Tom McEnery and Ron Gonzales. Now, it looks like the race is on. "He's running," whispers a source close to McEnery. "It'll be a 99.9 percent chance he is." Eye hears Tom is trying to get the family business to run itself this month so he can start getting his hands dirty planning the race full time in August. Building and Trades boss John Neece, by the way, is still considering a bid. When Eye asked to see his cards this week, Neece said he wasn't going to say anything until he could have a face-to-face with Gonzales himself. "We've just got stuff to discuss," Neece explains without much in the way of elaboration. Although Neece says he's been friends with both men for several years and he's still on good terms with them, he concedes that things have been a little strained lately between him and the current officeholder. Speaking of labor powers, McEnery bought lunch for South Bay Labor Council Director Amy Dean last week, which seems like a pretty good indicator that he's serious about getting serious. Dean says she brought Tom up to speed on the council's endorsement process and tutored him on the changing landscape of the labor movement. Next week on Dean's lunch schedule: Gonzales. Eye called McEnery last week to check out a rumor that he was putting together an exploratory committee, but Tom shot back that something formal like that isn't his style. "I'm doing some exploring but I don't need anybody to help me except the advice and counsel I'm getting every day. No, I don't have any committee like that formed," McEnery said. "My thought process I'm going through now is with myself and a whole variety of different people, but I don't have any committees set up." In any case, if and when McEnery comes through with a bid for his old job, one thing is certain: It will make for good political theater. "This race will make every past mayoral election look like a student-body contest. It'll be a steel cage death match," enthuses one observer. "This will be the end of one person's political career."

Poll Mole

Whether or not Garden City's best known pols duke it out, polling has already begun. Eye knows as much because the pulse takers called the home of one of Metro's scribes last week. The survey checked name recognition on a bunch of local pols and only asked about two direct matchups: Ron vs. Tom and Ron vs. Jerry Estruth. Callers also tested name recognition on just about everyone in town, including the entire SJ City Council and Reps. Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren. A couple other names were Superior Court Judge Joyce Allegro and Sheriff Laurie Smith. Pollsters kept people on the line for a while, asking if the city got a good deal with the Calpine power plant resolution, what people think about growth plans for the Coyote area and even the unsexy issue of using yard waste receptacles--which the city plans to offer next summer. If the last question doesn't sound mayoral enough, other queries that appear to have Ron's fingerprints on them centered around closing card rooms in the city--which the mayor wants to do--by either using city funds to buy them out or dropping the card-room tax now and closing the card rooms in 10 years. Before hanging up, pollsters also asked if respondents think they can trust the mayor and if they had heard of his affair with a staffer. If the poll was done on the mayor's behalf, it wasn't done by his usual polling firm. Instead, it was done by Oregon-based consultant Rick Lindholm, whose only previous involvement in South Bay politics has been running Allegro's bench bid. Eye hears that someone close to the mayor fed Lindholm the questions for the poll, which was done for free. One source tells us that, given the line of questioning, it seems like an indication that the mayor knows he doesn't have the momentum to coast to success based on past successes. If Gonzales is polling, he may not be the only one. We hear McEnery has done a poll of his own that shows him ahead of a certain incumbent, although McEnery denies doing any polling. "I don't make decisions," sniffs Tom, "based on polls."

Opting Out

Eye reported June 21 that tech CEO and Demo party donor Jesse Singh was weighing a bid for mayor of Milpitas next year. But Singh called back last week to say that, after talking with family and friends, right now isn't the time to make politics a priority. "The kids are still in school and they need time and attention," Singh says of his two high schoolers. "They won't let me go yet ... they're at a crucial stage." Singh says he also needs to stay on top of things at work. "I think I'll let somebody else take charge," he shrugs.

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From the July 26-August 1, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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