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[whitespace] Liz Kniss Good-bye, Dolly: Did supe candidate Liz Kniss try to get her opponent, Dolly Sandoval, evicted from a building owned by a Kniss backer?

Public Eye

Palo Altan Pique

PALO ALTO is Liz Kniss territory. After all, the county supe candidate is the town's mayor. But would Ms. Liz go so far as try to get her opponent kicked out of a P.A. building owned by one of her supporters? That's what Darren Seaton, resident propagandist for Kniss opponent Dolly Sandoval, is telling anyone within faxing distance. Kniss, of course, denies it, and Seaton doesn't have a smoking gun--just a fishy set of circumstances. ... It started a couple of weeks ago, when Jim Thurber, the treasurer for the United Democratic Campaign, an arm of the local Democratic Party, signed a lease to rent office space at 2233 El Camino Real. The owner of the building happens to be a Palo Alto developer Jim Baer, a Kniss supporter, who kindly agreed to lease the space for free as an in-kind donation to the party. Thurber says he and Baer discussed the UDC's plans to help Democratic candidates like Rep. Anna Eshoo, Assembly wannabe Joe Simitian and state Sen. Byron Sher. He apparently neglected to mention Sandoval's name. (Although Kniss is also a Dem and this is technically a nonpartisan race, local party officials endorsed Sandoval.) Soon after, Sandoval claimed a desk in the office and hung up a sign. Around the same time, Kniss asked Baer if she, too, could hang up a sign at the UDC office, although she insists she never complained about Sandoval's presence there. She says Baer seemed surprised that Sandoval was in the office and recalls him mentioning something about not renting space to candidates running for nonpartisan offices like supervisor. Seaton grouses that Baer or his representative then called Thurber and threatened to evict the UDC if Dolly didn't go bye-bye. "It appears [Kniss] is asking one of her major campaign contributors to extort the Democratic Party," Seaton sneers. Thurber, meanwhile, says Baer's messenger made it "explicitly clear" that Sandoval had to get out. ... This week, Baer's company sent the UDC a revised lease stating the space is to be used on behalf of Al Gore, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Eshoo, Simitian and Sher and no one else. Steve Preminger, local party chairman, says the situation seems to be a "legitimate misunderstanding" between Thurber and Baer, who told a party operative he never lets city or county candidates use his property because of his business (though, he seems to have no problem donating money to their campaigns). Preminger says he's not sure he'll sign the revised lease. "We'll certainly have to discuss it," he says. "It would be an about-face of our past practice of making the UDC office available to all Democrats we've endorsed." Baer was out of town and couldn't be reached for comment by Eye's deadline.

Spousal Reversal

Ex-Texas Gov. Ann Richards may have been the featured guest at last Friday's fundraiser for Democratic Congressional hopeful Mike Honda, but the presence of San Jose's first lady was the day's biggest surprise. In fact, Alvina Gonzales, Mayor Ron Gonzales' spunky hairstylin' wife, was listed as one of the party's co-hosts. Eye-watchers are well aware that Ronzo and Honda haven't exactly been amigos since their days together on the Board of Supervisors. And thus far, Ron Gonzales has yet to endorse in the much-watched race between Honda and Republican Jim Cunneen. According to witnesses, Alvina gave Honda a big hug and planted a kiss on his cheek. Honda's campaign manager Jennifer Van der Heide says her boss simply called Mrs. Gonzales and asked her to co-host the get-together. "This was an event co-hosted by all the women in Santa Clara County supporting Mike," Van der Heide explains, "so Alvina was a natural to invite." Mayoral spokesman David Vossbrink would only say, "She's always been an independent figure." [Memo to Alvina: Let's just see if Ron keeps folding the laundry this weekend!] ... Of course, it's not unprecedented for San Jose power couples to do take different sides in local races. During the primary, former Mayor Susan Hammer backed Honda while her husband, Phil, endorsed millionaire Democrat Bill Peacock. By the by, Friday's fundraiser was held at Hammer's Hedding mansion. Eye is told that Phil was in attendance, but is still not on Honda's official endorsement list.

The Rail World

Yes, BART fans, it's time for Plan B. With the Board of Supervisors unlikely to undergo a white-light conversion in time to put a BART tax on the November ballot, Mayor Ron Gonzales and Valley Transportation Authority officials are getting their backup plan ready: To have the VTA board, of which Gonzales is a member, put the BART tax on the ballot itself. The VTA board meets Aug. 3, a day after the much anticipated transportation summit where, as one pessimistic San Jose city public works official put it, "I expect a very long conversation that will get us nowhere." Should that prediction come true, sources say the VTA board will almost definitely schedule an emergency meeting following the Board of Supes' Aug. 8 vote on the BART issue. In June, the VTA board voted overwhelmingly to endorse a list of possible transportation projects for a future ballot measure. The only hitch is that the VTA ballot measure would require a two-thirds majority. By contrast, a measure placed on the ballot by the Board of Supes would only require a simple majority. ... Even the eternally optimistic head of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, Carl Guardino, is shedding a few layers of denial about the prospect of the supes endorsing the BART tax now. "I think we have a fighting chance," he sniffs. "It's a mountain, but it's a mountain worth climbing."

Sans Jose

The Mercury News launched its new San Francisco edition last week with a glaring omission from its masthead: The word "San Jose." Of course, snobs at the Chronicle couldn't help but sneer at the apparent big-city inferiority complex, smirking in a follow-up story, "Deciding it wasn't from San Jose anymore, the San Jose Mercury News launched a new edition in San Francisco yesterday." Chron news staffers welcomed their San Jose counterparts to The City by giving them two cable car toys and a potholder to "handle hot stories." Merc execs, for their part, insisted the omission didn't mean they were embarrassed to be from San Jose, but rather wanted to be "more inclusive" to SF readers. Eye's sure the hip urbanites up north appreciate the Merc's noble gesture.

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From the August 3-9, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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