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[whitespace] xxx All the Sheriff's Men: The county's first-ever female sheriff, Laurie Smith, has rankled critics with a testosterone troika of appointments.

Public Eye

Good Ol' Gal

Scrutinizers of the county's first-ever female sheriff, Laurie Smith--still smarting from the sheriff's exile of the carefully selected United Nations command structure of her predecessor--are miffed again. The criticism: Smith's new top brass has a decidedly good-old-boy look to it. The scuttlebutt started within hours of her recent selection of Capt. Robert Wilson for the department's second-highest-ranking slot (undersheriff), and her choice to promote captains Steve Cushing and Michael Bernal to commander. The rub is that all three, by appearances, are middle-aged white guys with minimum 30-year track records in the department. In the same wave of a wand Smith also promoted three white males from lieutenant to captain and four more from sergeant to lieutenant. ... Her selections come three months after a controversial reorganization plan that raised the hackles of the local NAACP and Asian activists, who protested that it forced out minority assistant sheriffs Ruben Diaz and Tom Sing, Smith's opponents during the 1998 campaign. Along with Smith, the pair had been appointed by previous Sheriff Chuck Gillingham under heavy political pressure to make his top dogs more diverse. Police watchdog Darryl Williams lamented the loss of diversity among the new sheriff's inner circle. "She's clearly not reflecting the community in her brain trust," Williams observed. "[The sheriff] isn't setting up good role models for people of color coming up through the ranks." (For the record, a sheriff's shill notes that Cushing has 1/32 of Native American blood, while Bernal's family is of Spanish descent.) ... Then there's the fact that Wilson and Cushing were among Smith's most visible campaign supporters during her election.... On the other hand, Sgt. John Hirokawa, a spokesman for the sheriff, attributes the lack of women and minorities in the latest round of promotions to the department's 10-year hiring freeze. "I don't know of another law enforcement agency in this county," Hirokawa says, "that couldn't hire or promote anyone for 10 years. During that time a lot of good people left who would have eventually been promoted. We're still recuperating from that."

Bird on a Wire

Portola Valley investor and Democratic congressional hopeful Bill Peacock wants to dispel any rumors that House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt doesn't view his congressional candidacy favorably. Peacock would like to establish himself as the party's top contender to take on incumbent Tom Campbell (R-Campbell), but he's been dogged by whispers that the D.C. Dems don't give him much of a chance. "Gephardt called me [recently]," Peacock crows, "and told me, 'I think you're doing great and you have a great shot [at winning]. Let me know how I can help.' " Gephardt's office confirms that a conversation between the two men did indeed take place. "I welcome Bill Peacock's participation in the race," Gephardt said through a spokesperson, "and I know there are other Democrats interested as well."

Peeping Tom

Exactly where does Tom Campbell stand on gay rights? Three years ago, he angered gay constituents when he backed a federal bill that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. At the time, Campbell said that the issue of same-sex marriages should be decided by the states, not the feds. This year, Campbell has redeemed himself with gay supporters by opposing the so-called Defense of Marriage state ballot initiative that would do essentially what the 1996 federal bill did. And in a further nod to the gay community two weeks ago, according to the Bay Area Reporter, Campbell teamed up with Massachussetts Democrat Barney Frank--the openly gay representative once called "Barney Fag" by a House reptile--asking President Clinton to halt an investigation into whether a gay Army reserve soldier violated the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The reserve in question, Steve May, also happens to be a Republican state lawmaker in Arizona. May ticked off conservatives when he got on the floor of the legislature to denounce pending anti-gay legislation, making his sexual orientation clear to everyone listening. The Campbell-Frank letter to Clinton says May's comments are constitutionally protected "from any sanction [when legitimitally made] in the course of legislative debate." Then, in typically enigmatic fashion, the part-time Stanford law prof goes on to say that the letter is not meant as a commentary on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy itself.

Power Struggle

As Eye-watchers are well aware, Calpine's proposed power plant in Coyote Valley has ignited a heated debate among neighbors, city officials and company reps. Things actually got so combative after a nighttime community meeting at Kelley Park last week that someone called 911. It all started, sources say, when public comment got cut short because the building where the meeting was being held had to be locked up. City planner Laurel Prevetti then kindly offered to answer any questions outside. The diminutive Prevetti was talking to animated Calpine opponent Issa Ajlouny--brother of political operative Vic Ajlouny--in the parking lot when Dave Garretson, top aide to Councilman George Shirakawa Jr., got involved in the discussion. Witnesses recall tempers flaring, with Garretson, a former Marine who perceived that Prevetti was being treated with disrespect, stepping close to Ajlouny and saying, "You're pissing me off." Ajlouny stood tall, prounouncing, "I don't care if I'm pissing you off!" and promptly beckoned someone to call 911. Police cars arrived but no one was arrested. Ajlouny tells Eye he was only suggesting to Prevetti better methods of neighborhood notification for future meetings. Garretson refused to comment.

One For the Books

Once a year, cities can recommend changes to the courts' bail schedule for various crimes, misdemeanors and violations of their municipal codes. Last month San Jose City Attorney Joan Gallo and her senior deputy, Carl Mitchell, suggested that the City Council reduce bail amounts associated with municipal code section 11.68.070, "taking of property or personal effects of persons to whom ambulance or emergency service is being rendered." In fact, they recommended decreasing the bail amount for first-time ambulance-patient thieves to $100, $200 for the second offense, and $300 for the third offense. City Councilwoman Pat Dando thought the whole thing sounded a bit daft and asked why the city attorney wanted to lower the bail amounts. Gallo agreed to get back to her. After further study, Gallo returned with a new recommendation last week regarding the 1950 ambulance ordinance. "Given the unworkable, antique nature of the ordinance, the absence of enforcement by the city and the fact that the city is pre-empted under state law from regulating emergency ambulance service," Gallo belatedly opined, "we recommend that the entire chapter be repealed."

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From the September 16-22, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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