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[whitespace] Working for a Living

During the imbroglio over the Super Kmart boycott, Mayor Susan Hammer's office assured others on the sixth floor that labor's other pet issue, the so-called "living wage," wouldn't come up this year. So, then, why is living wage now expected to come up for a vote within the next month? ... First of all, the mayor's heir apparent, Ron Gonzales, opposes the idea. Gonzales is tight with business leaders in the San Jose Chamber of Commerce, who consider living wage a thinly disguised municipal minimum wage. (Labor wants city contractors to pay workers $12.50 an hour.) Hammer, on the other hand, is open to the proposal. This week the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council released its official report on living wage with a two-page cover letter from Hammer saying she supports the idea "in concept." City Hall dwellers argue that labor wants to push living wage through while it still has a friend in the mayor's office. (Actually, two pals including the mayor's union-friendly budget boiler, Bob Brownstein). ... As it looks now, even with Hammer's blessing, the upcoming vote promises to be a squeaker in the 6-5 variety. On the nay side: Pat Dando, David Pandori, Frank Fiscalini and John Diquisto, who says he told his fishing pal Brownstein recently that he can't support the measure. On the yes side: The five Hammer girls. The swing votes: George Shirakawa Jr. and Manny Diaz. ... Another compounding reason for labor's twitchiness, pundits speculate, could be the promising but uncertain future of council candidate Cindy Chavez. Labor's darling edged out federal prosecutor Tony West in a primary (West opposes living wage) with unusually high union turnout because of Proposition 226. Should West prevail in the runoff, then that would spell doom for living wage. ... The final tantalizing question: Would Gonzales, if elected, be willing to repeal a living-wage ordinance rammed through by his predecessor (and one of his chief backers)? To paraphrase Gonzo's reply: "Maybe I will, maybe I won't."

Fact Wreck

You think, maybe, that this recent long string of forced retractions in the national media (starting with the Merc's infamous "Dark Alliance" CIA piece) has made the good people at the Mercury News a wee bit overcautious? Last Friday, the Merc's Business Page announced upcoming Sunday publication of an exposé of competition on the Nasdaq stock market, promising that "a Mercury News examination shows competition between [Nasdaq] dealers is often weak, and when that happens, investor costs are much higher." The next day, the Merc announced that the special Nasdaq report "has been delayed," with no explanation as to why. What happened was that after writing the article, the author, Chris Schmidt, reportedly got a case of the "gee-maybe-I-went-too-far" nerves (either on his own or at the insistence of management; our sources aren't sure which) and decided to ship the whole article in advance to Nasdaq to make sure he'd gotten everything right. (Readers not familiar with the newspaper business should know that reporters never, NEVER send out stories in advance to the subjects of those stories.) Predictably Nasdaq wasn't amused. The stock exchange leaders sent a note over to Ridder Park Drive saying they'd checked with Schmidt's sources and, guess what, none of them had said any of those nasty things about Nasdaq that Schmidt said they did (another case of "gee-maybe-I-went-too-far" nerves?). So Merc editors pulled the story and are reportedly checking back with each source, one by one. If they want denials, they should just call the CIA.

What a Racket

Superior Court Judge Marilyn Zecher found Human Relations Commissioner Rick Callender guilty of assault with a deadly weapon last week. The "deadly" weapon in this case was a racquetball racquet he used to practice his forehand on some guy's head a year ago. According to court records, Callender was visiting a friend in an apartment complex on National Avenue and parked in another tenant's marked space. When the other tenant and her boyfriend got home around 2am, they parked behind Callender's car and blocked him in. This didn't please Callender, who says he also found a glob of spit on his car, which meant whoever the parking space belonged to was pretty ticked off. Callender insists he brought the racquet with him because he feared for his personal safety. The victim, who had to get 22 stitches above his right eye, told police that Callender pounded on the door, screaming, "I'm going to kill you if you don't move your fucking car" (which Callender denies saying). Callender recalls the guy being drunk (which the victim denies, though the cops say his speech was slurred and he reeked of booze) and that he threw the first punch. "It was self defense," Callender argues. Predictably, the other guy accused Callender of taking the first swing. The court evidently found the guy who needed 22 stitches more credible, though the victim himself had been busted within the past nine months after getting into another altercation at a San Luis Obsisbo watering hole. ... Saddled with a criminal conviction, Callender is now ditching his bid for school board in the East Side Union School District (a Latino-heavy area where he ran under his birth name, "Enrico"). "I'm withdrawing from the race until I handle this situation," he explains. Tommy Fulcher, ex-Chamber of Commerce prez and Callender's former boss, thinks his old employee gut a bum rap. "Ricky's definitely not a psycho. He's never struck me as being a violent guy." Then again, he never struck Fulcher with a racquetball racquet.

Con Heir

Apparently, one-term congressman Ernie Konnyu didn't like our item on him last week. Eye thought, however, it was uncharacteristically gentle. First, we gave his new tax business a free plug. Then we politely neglected to mention the irony of an accused sexual harasser like Konnyu backing a female sheriff candidate, Laurie Smith. From what Eye can tell, Earnest Ernie objects to Eye's failure to regurgitate his letter verbatim (see Letters, page 6). One of Eye's alleged "massive untruths," Konnyu claims, is that it charged him with tying Teamster campaign contributions to the Deputy Sheriffs' Union. Huh? Ernie, you missed the point. Konnyu's fundraising letter bizarrely warns, "Ruben Diaz (Smith's opponent) may turn the sherrif's office into a product of Democratic influence operations guided, in part, by the Teamsters union". Eye was merely pointing out that the Teamsters have nothing to do with the sheriff's office. The most powerful union in county law enforcement is the DSA, which endorsed Smith.

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From the September 3-9, 1998 issue of Metro.

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