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Bill "Diva" Simon: Ain't no valley low enough? Think again.

Public Eye

A Star Is Born

Among the sea of primarily suited white people at this year's fancy $150-a-kisser COMPAC Barbecue, traipsed Cali guv. wannabe BILL SIMON, who arrived in a Diva Limousine. "We used to drive real divas," limo company spokeswoman ANDREA KRAUSS assured Eye. With his tour bus choice, the Republican fraudmeister joined the ranks of the 17-year-old Hollywood limo company's famous cargo, like early client ELIZABETH TAYLOR and Disco Momma/MICHAEL JACKSON-template DIANA ROSS. The wine-lubricated networking fest, put on by the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce's political action committee (COMPAC), celebrated its 20th anniversary on Thursday (Aug. 22). The event raised nearly $80K in candidate welfare--several bucks more than last year's $59.5K, even though people are supposedly poorer nowadays. The shindig drew more than 800 of the most shmoozalicious folks in Silicon Valley and included lots and lots of cheese ... on the buffet table. KLIV/KRTY radio guy JOHN McLEOD, a master of intonation, tirelessly boomed local bigwigs' and bigwig hopefuls' names over the PA as they arrived, just like at the Academy Awards. Eye waited for the ritual booing of the County Taxman after McLeod bellowed, "LARRY STONE" ... but nothing. Eye hoped for some action, anything, perhaps a drunken fist fight?--a possibility not totally out in left field since the candidates in the potentially ferocious San Jose District 7 City Council race were in attendance. Alas, everyone acted amiably: ED VOSS didn't make a scene, and former foes TERRY GREGORY and BOB DHILLON chatted each other up. Everyone left by the PG-13 hour of 8:30pm, about an hour earlier than last year. "I expected a bigger turnout with Bill Simon there," admitted a disappointed chamber spokesman KENNETH HEIMAN. Eye wonders whether Simon--who ate and ran as if the Silicon Valley barbecue were his own personal Taco Bell complete with flank steak--is a diva, even if only in his own mind? Last week, a Simon campster called Eye's question "legitimate" and promised to call back with a response.

Not as I Do

Eye can't help noticing that city halls are money pits and, perhaps not unrelatedly, the financial integrity of the politically minded is a hot topic these days. A few council votes here, a sleek rotunda there--and suddenly yer $24 million civic center is a $38 million ode to unexplored architectural possibility. Well, that's the sitchiation in Milpitas, whose familiar budgetary reeling over its City Hall in progress isn't lost on some council candidates on the town's November ballot. Take PAUL HAY, for example. The pro-family values Planning Commission Chair is "committed to responsible fiscal leadership" and "common-sense planning," he declares on his campaign website. That's not so unusual. Candidate ALTHEA POLANSKI, Eshinui Inc. software development company staff member and 18-year vet of the Milpitas Board of Ed, feels the same way about her own fiscal "talents." Polanski guarantees "financial responsibility" in her ballot statement. "My experience includes managing a $64,700,000 capital school-improvement project completed on schedule and underbudget," she explains, adding, "I am accountable for the $68,000,000 [Milpitas Unified School District] current budget." But Polanski clearly has an edge over her competitors, according to herself. She's learned the hard way how to rein in the budget, what with having filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 1997 and, she brags, finally having paid off her creditors last December. "Except for that one problem I had for a couple of years, I had excellent credit [and am] very, very responsible," says Polanski, who, incidentally, has also refinanced her home twice.

Stock Intrigue

Ah, expensing stock options, an ever-engaging topic so much fun to learn about it brings tears to Eye. Not really. Despite all the fear and loathing over earning-related issues lately--auditing lies and laundering--the three words, "expensing," "stock" and "options," make Eye sleepy. However, some valley locals engaged in a terse little email interchange this month that charged up the topic with some exciting threats and venom. It started with the typical boring financial investment article "The Real Value of Options," published Aug. 8 in The Wall Street Journal. Then, Palo Alto businessman and bilingual ed foe RON UNZ, chairman of financial services software company Wall Street Analytics Inc., zipped off a relatively less boring letter to the editor of the Journal, which disagreed with the aforementioned article and included a little joke about the article's author, HARVEY GOLUB. This rankled BILL GREGORAK, the controller for San Jose superconductor company Xilinx. So Gregorak shot an email over to Unz that warned, "Don't expect much business from the high-tech industry. Historically, it has not been helpful to bite the hand that feeds you." Well, in a second (unpublished) letter, Unz thanked Gregorak for his "enlightening and thoughtful corporate business threats [which he] so generously included," and then noted that (A) Unz's company derives no money from Gregorak's and (B) Xilinx's stock "has fallen by about 80 percent from its Bubble peak." Eye's curiosity about the newly fascinating stock-option-expensing topic now piqued, Eye got a Xilinx rep on the horn. TOM LAVELLE, Xilinx VP and general counsel, conceded that perhaps Gregorak's letter could be deemed inappropriate in some circles. "It's certainly not the position of Xilinx that we threaten anybody ever," explained Lavelle. "Would I have said that? Probably not. But I could understand it in a personal email." The programmable logic chip company spokesperson summed up, "In situations like this people get relatively heated." Eye relates.

The ID and the Ego

In Silicon Valley, Eye finds, the ID badge is the modern equivalent of the military medal, or perhaps the prison tattoo. An ID badge offers the wearer passage into a certain fellowship. Which fellowship matters not--the important thing is the sense of belonging, the feeling of oneness based on a tiny company logo, an unflattering photo and a little metal clip. Which is why, when DALE ZAMZOW was recently laid off from his high-tech job, he found that it was not the weekly paycheck he missed so much as his ID card. "It took a few months for me to realize it," Zamzow says, "but that plastic ID badge I was wearing all my life was 'me.'" In fact, Zamzow, a former data control administrator, says he felt "naked" without the badge, as he wandered through a landscape full of people clearly labeled. "Suddenly I was a displaced person," he says. "I no longer belonged." Drawing on his experience with office equipment and a home laminator, Zamzow swiftly created a new badge appropriate to his current station in life. The badge proudly declares its wearer to be a member of the fellowship of The Unemployed. When Zamzow wore his new ID to local job and career fairs, he was besieged with requests by his fellow unemployed, who also felt their loss of identification. Truly, Zamzow's is a success story, for the previously unemployed is now employed giving confidence to the unemployed. Only in Silicon Valley could hope come from badgelessness.

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From the August 29-September 4, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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