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Girl Georgy: With a thong in her heart.

Public Eye

Claim to Blame

On Saturday, July 26, short-term former Assemblymember Audie Bock lashed out at the Democratic Party leadership's do-nothing strategy and threw her obscure Democratic hat into the contest to oust our beleaguered governor. This week, another Dem, Mountain View's Georgy Russell, took advantage of the chaos by announcing her candidacy as well. (Russell got some columnists' juices flowing because she's only 26, is cute and advertises her campaign by way of thongs with her name on them.) On the law front, Mountain View consumer-rights attorney Scott Rafferty also chimed in with what he calls an "elementary" legal challenge to the Oct. 7 recall election, calling it unconstitutional. Well, these grumblers and adventurers can get in line because, while not everyone is bothering to run for governor, or to sue, it seems the whole country is watching the spectacle. And judging by an onslaught of snippy editorials, the country largely disapproves. Not just of the recall election, but also of California. The Hartford Courant frowns on the outcome of voters' remorse but chalks that up to California's madness. "In a representative democracy, voters are supposed to live with the choices they make on election day. But that's not necessarily so in California, the land of perennial propositions and recalls," it hissed on July 20. The Omaha "World" Herald has already given up on the state and predicted doomsday. It warned on July 23 that "political malcontents will exploit the system to keep [the] state in continual partisan upheaval." The Boston Globe concurs, predicting the recall will lead to further attempts to "destabilize state government." In a July 25 editorial, the Globe dubbed the recall a "relic of the Progressive era," whose current irrelevance reflects California's "democracy by blunt plebiscite." The same day, the St. Petersburg Times added, "What is happening is best described as subverting democracy." Also on the 25th, the London Times called the governor "gaunt." It described vascillating potential replacement candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger as "a liberal Republican who posed nude for photographs, killed nearly 300 people on film, smoked pot and missed the funeral of his Austrian father to attend a bodybuilding competition." Then it rehashed all of California's embarrassing fiscal issues, insulting the injury. (But as if, in fact, inspired by California, in a letter to the editor of Syracuse, N.Y.'s Post-Standard, a guy recommended using the recall process on Gov. George Pataki and lamented that it couldn't work on George W. Bush.) Teri O'Rourke, treasurer and spokester for the superstar Recall Gray Davis campaign, discounts all the badmouthing. "I think that the people who are on the East Coast or in other states don't really understand what's going on here," she tells Eye. "This is something that makes us unique ... independent, progressive and active."

No, no, no, says Carroll Wills, a voice for the Taxpayers Against the Governor's Recall Committee, the recall should bring to mind three other adjectives: "partisan, costly and destructive." As for the onlookers in other states, Wills says, "They'd like very much to say, 'Oh, that's wacky California,' but in truth, they're really fearful that it's one of those situations that starts in California and spreads to the rest of the country."

Innie or Outie?

John Diquisto may never have seemed like much of a threat to Jim Beall. But the former firefighter-turned-San Jose councilman announced in May that he'd take on the county supe to succeed Rebecca Cohn in the state Assembly. Diquisto may now be giving the idea a second think. Three sources, two in City Hall and one perched less conspicuously, told Eye that Diquisto is dropping out of the race. The Fair Political Practices Commission and the secretary of state's office couldn't come up with any record of a campaign intention statement or funds for Diquisto. Meanwhile, although it's still early, Beall camper Rich Robinson notes that his candidate is well on his way, with about $90,000 in the bank and a pack of swell endorsements. Former Mayor Susan Hammer, for instance, lends her support, says Robinson. Beall's backers list also includes Linda Lezotte, Rod Diridon Jr. and Matthew Dean, politicos who could have run for the seat but opted instead to cheer Beall on. The first deadline to file campaign paperwork with the secretary of state for the March 2004 primary election isn't until this November. But it's never too early to stash some dough. "If he hasn't formed a committee and he hasn't raised any money, that wouldn't bode well for his campaign," suggests Robinson. Of course, adds the noncatty consultant, "We have no animosity toward John Diquisto and wish him the best of luck in whatever he does." Diquisto is out of town on a fishing trip until Tuesday, Aug. 5. His wife tells Eye that her husband has raised some money but hasn't filed anything formal. In terms of whether he'll stick it out, she says, "Nothing's definite yet." According to Robinson, firefighters are already calling to meet with Beall and Diquisto is definitely out.

Fringe & Purge

San Jose's cocky establishment figures and wacky village criers have no use for each other. Take, for instance, bus lover Eugene Bradley, founder of the 3-year-old Santa Clara VTA Riders Union. He's bringing his fight against what he sees as the capitalist swine establishment of big public transit to Capitol Hill. Routinely ignored, it probably doesn't much matter that Bradley is now armed with alleged factoids gathered by the Riders Union's Oakland buddy group, the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, slamming VTA and BART extension finances. Bradley is targeting San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, who ascended to office on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)-to-San Jose platform, and pro-BART conspirator Carl Guardino, because they have been lobbying D.C. higher-ups for transit project funding; Bradley wants funding just for buses, and that keeps getting cut. Bradley says the G-Team is being dishonest in order to convince the federal government to fork over between $500 million and $900 million. But it's probably in vain that he dashed off a letter to the U.S. House of Reps' Appropriations Committee and the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee to snitch on Gonzo and Guardo for neglecting to mention cost overruns during their funding pleas. "That's hysterical," Guardino retorts in reaction to Bradley's attack. "What cost overruns? We haven't even begun building it yet." Guardino continues, arguing that the Valley Transit Authority, not BART, is in charge of the BART extension project and that the VTA has an upstanding fiscal management track record. "These gentleman, and I use the term loosely ... need to get a job."

Breaking Fluff

Eye did a double-take last Wednesday morning while reading through the Merc's coverage of United Way Silicon Valley lowering its revenue figures for 2000 and 2001. The hawk-eyed Eye noticed that the story of the charity's $10 million miscalculation failed to quote anybody not connected to United Way. For comparison, Eye read the San Francisco Chronicle's take on the same news. The exercise yielded some interesting results: The Merc quoted Mark Jensen, a former United Way Silicon Valley co-chairman; Mark Walker, chief executive of United Way Silicon Valley; Steve Heath, United Way Silicon Valley spokesman; and Greg Larson, a former chief executive for United Way Silicon Valley. The Chronicle, meanwhile, quoted both United Way sources and outside experts with no present or past interests in United Way, including a nonprofit adviser who was highly critical of the charity and a nonprofit financial consultant who appeared bewildered that United Way would amend its returns. Did the local daily's tiptoe-style reporting have anything to do with the fact that Merc president and publisher Joe Natoli also happens to be United Way's board chairman, a fact that appears in the last sentence of the story? The Merc reporter did not return Eye's phone call. The Chronicle report also included the small detail that United Way Silicon Valley was, because of financial mismanagement, on the brink of bankruptcy in 1999, a fact that didn't appear in the Merc report at all. ... But the Merc is an interesting case study not just for what it doesn't report. Last week, for instance, the paper all but admitted flouting the law in a story announcing the selection of new managing editor Dave Satterfield, who, the paper reported, was the favorite in a "Guess who will be managing editor?" pool circulating through the newsroom prior to the announcement. And when Satterfield got the post, he was quoted as saying, "Congratulations to everyone who won a little money today." Perhaps this was all in jest, but gambling, as confirmed by the DA's office, is a no-no in California--even via office pools. "They're illegal, period," says Deputy DA Al Weger, who cites as the only exception, obviously, when no money is used. But what kind of wuss gambles with no money?

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From the July 31-August 6, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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