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[whitespace] Ron Gonzales Mendo See No : Mayor Ron Gonzales showed up at church on Sunday, casting doubt on reports that he planned to tryst with an aide in a Redwood Coast cabin.

Public Eye

Office Romance? No Comment.

(See updated story.) IS THE OTHER PANTS LEG about to drop in the story of San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales' divorce from wife Alvina? The mayor's private life may soon become a public matter if loose talk that he's romancing a young female member of his staff turns out to be more than just loose talk. ...If true, his personal behavior will have political implications in the Capital of Silicon Valley. First, because Democrats these days avoid anyone with Clintonesque bed habits, making it less likely that Gonzo will forge history as the first Latino governor since California's admission to the union. And secondly, contemporary employment practice forbids big quesos from mixing it up with their subordinates. ...Sources close to the action say the mayor made plans to spend Labor Day weekend snuggling with an aide almost half his age in an Anchor Bay (Mendocino) cabin. Reached at her home, his ostensible love interest, Guisselle Nunez, confirmed she did indeed book a cabin there, and bring two "friends" along. ...The 25-year-old Santa Clara University grad worked for Gonzales throughout his 1998 campaign and is now his community outreach specialist. When Eye inquired, Nunez at first denied ever having any romantic involvement with the mayor. She later modified her response to "just leave it at 'no comment.' " Asked if Hizronner joined her in Mendo, she again offered a "no comment." ... Joe Guerra, the mayor's budget and policy wizard, finds the allegations of an office tryst shocking, and provides a personal alibi. "I can positively confirm that he was not out of town this weekend. He was at church with me on Sunday." Guerra adds that others saw the city's top dog at St. Leo's church as well. ...Nunez, meanwhile, has been keeping a low profile in the days following Gonzales' separation announcement, and she may be preparing to switch employers soon. Our spies say she's interviewing at high tech companies, something Nunez doesn't deny.

Jim Cunneen Seen and Heard: Jim Cunneen is one of the three top spenders in the Assembly when it comes to sending junk mail to constituents.

Postal Persuasion

NEARLY EVERYONE IN THE STATE Legislature does it. Some just do it more than others. And according to a recent report in the Sacramento Bee, Assemblyman Jim Cunneen (R-Campbell) does it more than almost any of his colleagues. Before readers get any wild ideas about what "it" is, we are talking about promotional brochures mailed at taxpayer expense. The Bee reported that over an 18-month period beginning in January 1999, Cunneen spent $151,330 of his office budget on mass mailings to district constituents. Out of the 80 lawmakers in the Assembly, Cunneen was outpsent only by Dean Florez (D-Shafter) and Anthony Pescetti (R-Rancho Cordova), who billed taxpayers $151,565 and $212,296, respectively. ... Jimbo's spending spree comes at a time when he is running for Congress and a little extra personal promotion wouldn't hurt his cause. Cunneen's Democratic opponent, Assemblyman Mike Honda, spent only $28,529 on legislative mailings during the same period. Vince Duffy, Honda's campaign flack, says "it's curious" that Cunneen would spend so much money on "informational" mailers as he is running for Congress. But Bob Hines, Cunneen's chief of staff, opines that the practice is legitimate. Hines says his boss uses the mailers to advertise upcoming town halls where constituents can talk to their Assembly rep in person. "Instead of hiring more staff or paying higher staff salaries," Hines argues, "Jim made the decision to invest in constituent contact." ... So why doesn't Honda spend as much on "constituent contact"? Here's one popular theory: Only a fraction of Honda's Assembly district overlaps with the 15th Congressional District he hopes to represent. Because the law only allows state lawmakers to mail stuff to residents in their districts, Honda couldn't send propaganda to very many prospective voters. On the other hand, about 60 percent of Cunneen's West Valley Assembly district overlaps with the 15th Congressional District. Thus, Jimbo can reach out to people who will actually have a direct impact on the outcome of the November election.

Kooky Fortune

Diminutive political operative Erik Schoennauer is pondering a big move--from his downtown home to a house his mother's selling in the Cambrian area. Not so coincidentally, that would potentially allow Schoennauer to run for the District 9 City Council seat in 2002, when incumbent John Diquisto will be termed-out. Schoennauer, who recently quit his job as staff chieftain to Councilwoman Pat Dando to start a consulting business, says a number of interested parties have suggested he give it a go. He says there's a 50-50 chance he'll actually do it. "It's something I'm giving serious thought," he reveals. After all, there's the foreboding fortune cookie he says he stumbled across last week while dining at a Chinese restaurant in Minneapolis (Schoennauer faxed over a copy to Eye to show he wasn't making this up). The message inside read: "It would be a huge mistake for you to run for public office." ... Meanwhile, Schoennauer's old boss, Pat Dando, will have a familiar face working with her on the sixth floor of City Hall soon. Mayor Ron Gonzales has hired Meri Maben, Dando's opponent in the 1995 council race, to handle labor and environmental issues. During the 1995 campaign, Maben accused Dando of all kinds of nasty things like being a stooge for retired Redevelopment Director Frank Taylor. But maybe losing wasn't such a bad thing. As a senior aide to the mayor, Maben will make $70,000 a year. As a council member Dando only collects $65,000.

Got Fired?

Muckraking journalists everywhere can snoop around with a greater sense of inner peace this fall, following a landmark jury decision favoring freedom of press over big biotech bucks. A Florida jury ruled last month that Fox TV's Tampa station illegally fired reporter Jane Akre for refusing to run a false report about genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (BGH). Testimony during the trial revealed how Monsanto, a multinational biotech corporation that was the subject of a May 11 Metro cover story, dissauded Fox from running the original version of Akre's report, which detailed risks of BGH such as potential links to breast cancer. Monsanto, whose long list of products included silicon, Agent Orange and IUDs before delving into BGH and other genetically engineered foods, reportedly warned of "dire consequences" if the station aired Akre's report, according to court records. ... "After the Fox-owned station in Tampa was threatened by Monsanto, the direction of my story about BGH hormone changed dramatically," Akre says. Metro had its own troubles working with Monsanto public relations flacks, who had a pesky habit of answering questions with questions. ... "These questions will take a long, long time to track down--can you give me a feel for the story itself? ... And, frankly, most of these questions have a bit of a negative slant to them--are there positives involved?" Monsanto's Bryan Hurley responded via email following one round of reporter's questions. ... Akre walked away from the courtroom with $425,000, for lost wages and other damages. We can only hope that more whistle-blower laws will usher in an age of less corporate kowtowing.

Coffee Irregular

With all the so-called soft money that corporations pour into politics in this country, sooner or later one would figure out how to recoup some hard cash by using an election as a promotional tool. Leave it to Dallas-based 7-Eleven to come up with this one. ... The convenience store chain starts a promotion Sept. 1 designed to use its product as polling devices in the presidential race. When customers buy a 20 oz. beverage, they'll have a choice between cups that reveal who they are voting for for president. The company will tabulate the results and update them daily on its website. ... Moser says the company serves 180 million customers a month, but given that the company only operates in 31 states (and not such battlegrounds as Indiana and Michigan), the results will hardly be scientific. ... But if you're a supporter of Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, John Hagelin or another minor party candidate, you're SOL. "Bush and Gore represent the major primary parties and the No Opinion or Other cup represents other candidates," explains corporate mouthpiece Cathy Moser, who seems unconcerned about a consumer backlash from third and fourth party voters. ... The decision is not likely to sit well in particular with Nader's army of enthusiasts, who are already peeved at corporate-sponsored debates that have shut their man out. Not only that, Al Shugart will likely be miffed at not having a "none of the above" cup option.

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From the September 7-13, 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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