[Metroactive News&Issues]

[ Metro | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

Politics Unusual

[whitespace] Ron Gonzales Man for All Reasons: San Jose mayoral candidate Ron Gonzales wins Metro's endorsement for the city's top post.

Christopher Gardner

Despite the disturbing tone of national politics, this is no time for responsible voters to stay home on Election Day

THE NATIONAL PEEP show might be to blame for the bored disgust plaguing the electorate this autumn. Nonetheless, we should fight the impulse to stick our heads in the sand and ignore this election.

The big news here in the Santa Clara Valley is that our pols are a relatively dedicated, capable and smart group of lawmakers that we can put to work for us in Washington, Sacramento, the County Building and City Hall.

And there's work to be done. Our population, already straining the capacity of our highways, housing and natural resources, will continue to grow. Traffic, pollution, crime, lousy schools and a skyrocketing cost of living already deprive all of us of the lives we deserve.

This is what politics is really about--not sordid romances or personal attacks. And it's our job to get out and make some choices, even when it makes perfect sense to cringe in revulsion. Below is a list of folks who we figure are up to the task, along with our reasons why. In cases where we felt the candidates were closely matched or equally flawed, we've exercised our constitutional right not to express our choice.

We hope you find this an informative and useful guide to the last big election to occur in a year beginning with the number 19.

City of San Jose


Metro endorses Ron Gonzales

SAN JOSE LEADERS have been a fairly ingrown bunch over the past two decades, and the amount of money sacrificed to poor budget management, inadequate financial controls, back-scratching, politically motivated spending decisions, ineptly negotiated subsidies, construction cost overruns and general bureaucratic inefficiency is in the hundreds of millions. If the city can ever get a handle on this, the money's there to build better schools, streets, libraries and recreational amenities for the city's residents to enjoy.

Ron Gonzales is the best hope for reforming San Jose's management culture. Having worked at one of the valley's best-run technology companies and served as the top elected official in the area's two other significant local governments, Gonzales is uniquely qualified to bring fresh ideas to San Jose's problems. He is a capable, experienced leader with intelligence, vision and a record of accomplishments.

Pat Dando has also impressed us with her personal and political skill, but she's worked for the same company too long and would be better off pursuing a different elective office. A key foot soldier in the free-spending Redevelopment effort as an aide to Tom McEnery during his mayoralty, and later as assistant to Redevelopment Agency executive director Frank Taylor, Dando is a recipe for more of the same. The rebirth of San Jose's urban center, while impressive, has been handicapped by governmental secrecy and the failure to enlist San Jose's citizens in the community rebuilding effort. The city's leaders cannot take us into the next century behaving as if we are in the '80s.

While Dando professes a commitment to governmental openness, there is insufficient evidence that she has changed since her days as Redevelopment's gatekeeper, when one of her responsibilities was frustrating access to public information. More recently, she misled reporters about the source of funds allocated to a committee to stop a development west of downtown. We believe that the public has a right to know both how their tax dollars are being spent and what special interests are bankrolling local candidates.

Gonzales has made a good-faith effort during the campaign to be forthcoming and open. For example, he has invited the media to preview his campaign literature and ads 24 hours before they hit mailboxes or the airwaves.

The performance-based evaluation model he pushed as a county supervisor shows he's not afraid to take on entrenched power centers when necessary. Voters shouldn't be afraid to give Gonzales a chance to shake things up in San Jose as well.

City Council, District 1

Metro endorses Linda LeZotte

LINDA LEZOTTE surprised even her supporters by getting almost 100 more votes than retiring Sheriff Chuck Gillingham in the primary. The West San Jose district is relatively conservative, and Gillingham, a Republican lawman, seemed all but a shoo-in.

But LeZotte had a couple of things going for her--like Mayor Susan Hammer and departing Councilmember Trixie Johnson. Their backing gave LeZotte, an attorney and longtime planning commissioner, solid credibility.

With Johnson leaving, the council needs another strong environmental advocate; LeZotte is endorsed by the Sierra Club for a reason. As in the primary, we still think LeZotte is the superior candidate.

City Council District 3

Metro endorses Tony West

DOWNTOWN NEEDS a savvy and independent advocate to champion quality neighborhoods, go to bat for its small businesses and nurture its character, history and community life. Tony West, we believe, is better suited than his opponent for this challenge. Like downtown's current representative, West is an attorney--only well rounded and better behaved.

Labor organizer Cindy Chavez squeaked past federal prosecutor West in the primary by 400 votes in an election in which union members marched to the polls to defeat Prop. 226. Chavez champions a labor-colored agenda, which includes a mostly symbolic but potentially inflationary living wage ordinance for employees of city contractors, as well as boycotts of businesses that don't unionize or pay wages that labor leaders deem adequate. While raising the living standards of Silicon Valley's retail and service workers is an admirable objective, we believe the best way to accomplish this is to create a prosperous economy in the city's core, not to legislate economic experiments in a city with infrastructure needs and a fragile downtown economy.

Casting the District 3 race as a contest between capital and labor, however, is an oversimplification, as West has the backing of the police and firefighters' associations, the city's two most powerful unions. His experience as a planning commissioner and prosecutor recommends him well for a district in which land use and law enforcement are defining issues.

Hopefully a new city administration will usher in a Prague Spring for downtown, not another centrally managed dark age. It's time to let marketplace economics create a downtown, rather than one subsidized by taxpayers and micromanaged by bureaucrats. Government wage-setting sends the wrong message. In terms of experience and the issues, West is the superior candidate.

Amy Dean, Mike Honda & Susan Hammer
Christopher Gardner

Smacks of Cronyism: Organized labor, personified by South Bay Labor Council leader Amy Dean (center), holds the cards for area Democrats like Assemblyman Mike Honda (left) and others. The labor contingent also hopes to keep relations with the next mayor of San Jose as cozy as they have been with current Mayor Susan Hammer (right).

U.S. House of Representatives

District 13

Metro endorses Pete Stark

Pete Stark has represented this heavily Democratic district, which stretches from San Leandro to Alviso, since 1973, and there is no reason to think that he'll be looking for work soon. In a June primary which was uncontested on both sides of the ticket, Republican challenger James Goetz managed to capture only 28 percent of the vote.

Recently Stark has focused on health care. As the senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, Stark has authored numerous bills that attempt to expand patients rights, rein in HMOs and clean up costly Medicare loopholes.

One of the few liberal voices in Congress--he wins kudos from Planned Parenthood, the ACLUand the League of Conservation Voters--Stark has nevertheless been effective: he was among those responsible for the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge as well as funding for the expansion of 880 and BART.

Goetz, a former aerospace software engineer who is as typically conservative as Stark is liberal, pushes small government and school vouchers, as well as the space-based laser missile defense system known as Star Wars. Luckily, he hasn't got a chance.

District 14

Metro Endorses Anna G. Eshoo

IN A RACE like this, the challenger should at least try to make a specific case for throwing out the incumbent. Republican John Haugen doesn't make a strong case at all against Anna G. Eshoo. Instead, he reels off rhetoric taken straight from the Republican National Committee's textbook: he charges her with supporting federal funding for abortions and "quotas," failing to support school vouchers and increasing the tax burden on American families.

Haugen is an engineer and private school vice principal who has never served in public office. Eshoo, who served 10 years on the San Mateo Board of Supervisors and six years in Congress, is strong on high-tech issues, protecting the environment and support for increased health care--particularly for women. In a district that includes both fragile coastline and a major portion of Silicon Valley, Eshoo's strengths count for a lot.

The Libertarians and the Natural Law Party are also running candidates for this office. The political climate of the Valley would be a lot healthier with some strong third parties, but Congress is not the place to start.

District 15

No endorsement

THE RACE BETWEEN U.S. Congressman Tom Campbell and his Democratic opponent, Dick Lane, boils down to a certain beret-wearing young woman. Campbell supports impeachment investigations of President Clinton, and Lane wants the whole mess put to bed, as clearly noted on his Web site, which bears the legend: "Boot Newt, Stop Starr." Voters who feel very strongly on this one issue could pick their candidate based on that alone. Beyond Sexgate, this vote is a toss-up.

Campbell, a strong technology industry advocate in Congress, has cast some commendable votes: one recognizing the civil liability of employers who discriminate, and another for an immigration bill which would allow high-tech employers to seek out-of-country workers when they can prove that an American citizen cannot be found.

But Campbell, considered among the most moderate of Republicans, has sided with his party-mates on issues that matter more than just the Starr investigation. For example, the Congressman voted against raising the minimum wage and crusaded against affirmative action in California last year.

San Jose State University lecturer Dick Lane supports the classic Democratic package: more money for the homeless, more tax on alcohol and cigarettes, and health services for undocumented immigrants and their children. He opposes school vouchers and supports increasing the child tax credit. But he has no political experience, and it's unclear that he would manage to be effective in Congress.

Zoe Lofgren
Christopher Gardner

Cool Head: Incumbent District 16 Rep. Zoe Lofgren showed off her smarts on the House Judiciary Committee

District 16

Metro endorses Zoe Lofgren

THE WISEST talking-head to pop up out of the Judiciary Committee following the Starr Report was San Jose's own Zoe Lofgren. Her cool-headed proposal--that the committee discuss the legal grounds of impeachment--was defeated for purely partisan reasons, lending credence to the witch-hunt theory better than hot rhetoric could ever do.

Before defeating Tom McEnery to succeed her former boss, Don Edwards, the Stanford grad and Santa Clara law school alum served as county supervisor for 14 years. Before that she ran an affordable-housing agency.

Entering Congress along with the renegade Republican freshman class of '94, Lofgren set to work building coalitions. Congressional Quarterly called her one of "the most effective Members of her class."

Lofgren's opponent, Horace Thayn, is an aerospace engineer whose highest offices to date were with the Boy Scouts and Little League. Although he is a standard-issue Republican on most issues--calling for "huge tax incentives to stimulate private industry," local control and funding of education, downsizing the EPA and overhauling the tax code--he puts an interesting twist on campaign finance reform. He predictably wants to throttle union influence by requiring members to authorize political expenditures, but he would do the same to corporations. It's an interesting position in an otherwise token candidacy.

State Senate

District 10

Metro endorses Liz Figueroa

POPULAR WISDOM has it that the race to fill state Sen. Bill Lockyer's shoes ended when Liz Figueroa defeated fellow Assemblymember Mike Sweeney in the June primary. And in fact, now that Figueroa's carrying the Democratic standard for District 10, she's easily garnering support from all quarters.

This is somewhat due to opponent Bob Gough's strict conservative platform and low profile. But Liz is easy to love on her own merits. As assemblywoman for the 20th District, Figueroa made her mark on Sacramento with an ambitious frosh performance--sending nine bills to the governor's desk, all of which were signed into law. She has continued to work hard for health care reform, traffic improvements and issues of domestic violence.

As chair of the Insurance Committee, Figueroa's seen the heat of battle over HMOs. She also secured money to build an extra lane on the traffic-choked Sunol grade of 680. Legislation on behalf of worker's compensation, child care and computers for schools rounds out her successfully progressive record.

Milpitas Republican Bob Gough, a planner for Siemens Business Communications, ran as a Libertarian against Rep. Pete Stark in 1994. Two years later he took a shot at a seat on the Milpitas City Council and lost. (His wife, Helen, is running her own long-shot campaign for mayor this year.) Gough calls for an end to bilingual education, supports competency testing for teachers, opposes gun control and claims that Prop. 209 "is not dead."

An easy pick.

State Assembly

District 20

Metro endorses John Dutra

JOHN DUTRA can afford to live in the tony Fremont hills and write a $200,000 check to finance his own Assembly campaign. After all, his Fremont-based real estate business, Dutra Realty Enterprises, boasts $750 million in annual sales.

But Dutra isn't your typical businessman-cum-politician who categorically renounces government help and promises trickle-down help for the poor. He says he remembers how the monthly welfare checks allowed his mother to put food on the table for him and his four siblings, and how the GI Bill paid for his tuition at San Jose State University.

Dutra also maintains a poor man's thriftiness when it comes to spending taxpayer money. During his 10 years on the Fremont City Council, he developed a reputation as a penny pincher. He even donated his council salary to charity and rarely asked the city to reimburse his official expenses.

Though he's using his own money to get elected, don't mistake Dutra for the likes of Al Checchi or Michael Huffington. At 64, Dutra's not looking for a stepladder to stardom. Being one Assembly freshman among 80 legislators hardly lends itself to prime-time exposure. Dutra isn't even sure he wants to serve the maximum three terms.

Every once in a while, voters come across a person who sincerely just wants to give something back to the community rather than advance his career. Dutra is one of those rare politicians. "I'm not in this for the money," he chuckles.

State Assembly

District 21

Metro endorses Ted Lempert

LEMPERT, A FORMER county supervisor, faces no serious competition. He's been decent on education, pushing through a charter schools bill that headed off a more extreme initiative campaign. He's also a major suckup to high-tech (e.g. the Internet Tax Freedom Act), but then those are his constituents. A no-brainer.

District 22

Metro endorses Elaine Alquist

INCUMBENT ELAINE Alquist returns to the campaign trail looking to step out of the role of freshman legislator and into a second term. Two years ago we were skeptical. Alquist was a converted Democrat whose campaign rested heavily on the name recognition of her octogenarian husband, Sen. Al Alquist. But the new kid on the hill did well, writing and pushing through bills consistent with her campaign promises.

In her first term she passed legislation requiring Section 8 landlords to give three months' notice when terminating a renter, instead of the previous one month. She ushered through bills to protect consumers from cemetery fraud and strengthen parental involvement in school site councils. Her most dramatic proposals--raising the minimum wage from $5.75 to $6.50, requiring minorities and women to be included in publicly funded medical research projects and upping money to prevent osteoporosis research--died in Assembly or were vetoed by the governor. Alquist's Republican opponent, Sunnyvale Councilmember and former Mayor Stan Kawczynski, is running a low-key campaign. "The only particular reason would be to give voters a choice," he says. Kawczynski, however, does not make a compelling case why Alquist should not continue as an assemblywoman. Neither can we.

District 23

Metro endorses Mike Honda

SINCE HIS ascension to the Assembly from the Board of Supervisors two years ago, Honda has proven himself an able legislator, displaying the same dedication to human services that he did to the county. Focusing on issues like domestic violence, foster care, immigrants' rights and teacher credentials, he's managed to shepherd a score of bills to the governor's desk. The fact that Gov. Pete Wilson does not share Honda's commitment to social equality accounts for Honda's spotty success; only half the bills were signed into law.

Honda's Republican opponent, Patrick Du Long, has been unfairly marginalized in this race. A former diplomat, an author and America's foremost expert on Vietnamese gangs, Du Long counsels troubled kids for the county. He supports higher salaries for teachers and cops, wants to rid the streets of illegal weapons and advocates building more homeless shelters. Not exactly a classic Republican platform.

But Du Long's often vague explanations of how he would implement his ideas are somewhat worrisome. We endorse Honda because of his experience and his respectable record.

District 24

Metro endorses Jim Cunneen

ON CERTAIN crucial matters, Jim Cunneen has abandoned his progressive-Republican agenda to hang tight with the right wing of his party, or quietly step back and climb a fence. When the Children's Environmental Health Protection Act was in committee, Cunneen supported it. But as soon as it arrived on the Assembly floor, he abstained from the final vote. He pulled the switcheroo again with a gay rights bill that adds sexual orientation to the list of qualities which public schools cannot discriminate against. (He has, however, supported other gay rights legislation.)

On most issues, Cunneen has charted his own course. He voted to ban Saturday Night Special handguns, was nominated Pro-Choice Legislator of the Year in 1996, and has had the best pro-environment voting record among Republican state legislators for the past four years. He also took the lead in his party to list campaign contributions to politicians on the Internet. The list goes on.

Using the Democratic Party platform as a booster seat, Cunneen's opponent, college professor Phil Stokes, insists that he would represent the 24th Assembly District better than any Republican. Other than that, he offers only a skimpy agenda of improving schools and "true" HMO reform.

Saratoga residents passed him up for city council in '86, and he came in a distant second when he ran against Tom Campbell for state Senate in '92.

Stokes has served 15 years on the West Valley-Mission College board and boasts a smattering of endorsements from up and down the state. But a skilled politician like Cunneen, with a slew of good votes and a few really bad ones, will be better for the valley than a token Democrat with little else to offer.

District 28

Metro endorses Alan Styles

FOR THE ENTIRE fall campaign season, Assemblyman Pete Frusetta has refused to debate his Democratic opponent, Alan Styles. And considering Frusetta's proclivity for bizarre utterances, his campaign handlers have good reason to keep the crusty cowboy muzzled.

During a debate over a gay rights bill in the legislature Frusetta compared homosexuals to hormonally imbalanced heifers. At a junior high assembly in Salinas, Frusetta cited Hitler's autobiography as an example of "overcoming obstacles in life," the school principal says.

Frusetta attributes his debate-o-phobia to Styles' "negative" campaigning. It is a lame and cynical excuse, trying to play upon the public's distaste for impolite politics.

The Styles campaign piece that drew Frusetta's ire had attacked him on a legitimate subject: his job attendance. The piece includes two newspaper editorials chastising Frusetta for missing key votes on gun- and flood-control. Both Democrats and Republicans are pouring money into this race. The registration numbers favor the Dems on paper, but the folksy Frusetta is a well-liked figure in the district.

However, we are disturbed by Frusetta's refusal to debate and, well, his weird behavior in general. Voters have a viable alternative in Styles, who has the experience to do the job: Before he was elected mayor of Salinas, he served on the school board. We trust Styles won't be making glib references to Hitler or gay farm animals.

Santa Clara County

Water District, District 4

Metro endorses Joe Pandit

EACH YEAR, the job of the Santa Clara County Water District gets more and more complex. Silicon Valley growth brings with it new communities, more cars and more flushing, bathing and water-drinking people. The demands on the water district, which provides the valley's tapwater supply and flood control, have never been greater. Add to that new environmental regulations which each year force the district to re-evaluate its procedures and update its water plants.

The water district board makes policy for the $330 million district and levies "benefit assessment" taxes to pay for flood control. Board director is essentially a volunteer job (directors earn $160 per meeting) that can easily take 40 to 50 hours a week.

Both candidates, Larry Wilson and Joe Pandit, know the district through and through. They've both been employees of the district and they've both served on the board. If re-elected, Wilson would serve as rotating board chair next year. Pandit wants voters to return him to the board after a hiatus of several years. In this race, we believe both candidates are qualified, but one may be bringing fresher legs to the mix.


Metro endorses Laurie Smith

IT'S HARD TO get excited about this race; both candidates have status quo positions on the issues that count and throughout the campaign have behaved at times like slimy rumormongers who will not hesitate to exact retribution on the loser.

On the sunny side, whoever voters elect for sheriff--Laurie Smith or Ruben Diaz--will make history: Smith would become the county's first female sheriff; Diaz would become the first Latino to hold the post since the raising of the Bear Republic flag. That said, it's ironic that neither candidate brings what some of their primary election opponents brought to the table--a desire to reform the department and improve law enforcement accountability.

We can't find anything exceptional about either Smith or Diaz. That's not to say they aren't qualified. Each is--with more than 25 years of law enforcement experience and at least eight years in management.

But each candidate has negatives. Two of Diaz's old bosses support Smith. That's not a good job reference. Further, Diaz's acceptance of contributions from the casino-owning Bumb family reflects bad judgment at minimum. He says he didn't know the Bumbs owned Bay 101. If he wants to be sheriff, he should.

Smith, meanwhile, hasn't adequately explained her second residence in Lake Tahoe, where her husband lives and runs a business. What if there's a serious situation in Santa Clara County when Smith is snowed in at Tahoe?

Electing either of these candidates won't be a catastrophe for the county, but it won't be a cultural revolution either. When all is said and done, we prefer Laurie Smith. She has gained the support of groups that usually don't talk to each other, including the jail guards' union and the Deputy Sheriffs' Association, in addition to the San Jose Police Officers' Association. If elected, we hope she'll work with them to improve a department that has been consumed by politics and grown soft under lazy management.

Superior Court

Metro endorses Joyce Allegro

SOMETIMES IT seems like Deputy District Attorney Joyce Allegro can't catch a break. Before the primary, Judge Ladoris Cordell cited Allegro with contempt for an incident during the murder trial of firefighter Robert Gremminger (the charge was overturned on appeal this month). Still, Allegro managed to get the most votes out of three candidates running to make it to the runoff.

Then things got strange.

Because of the passage of Prop. 220, the local municipal and superior courts merged. This practically made a runoff between Allegro and Jamie Jacobs-May a moot point, since the latter was now a superior court judge, thanks to court unification.

After the hard-nosed prosecutor griped, County Counsel Ann Ravel allowed Jacobs-May to take her name off the ballot. The rub is that the next highest vote-getter in the primary will appear on the ballot: Judge David Cena. If Cena is elected to a brand-new six-year term, he will leave his old seat behind. That means the next governor will have to appoint a new judge to fill that seat. We think local voters should decide. Cena is considered an able jurist, but let's face it: The guy already gets to wear a long black robe.

We say voters should give Allegro her own robe. And a break. She deserves it.

[ San Jose | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the October 22-28, 1998 issue of Metro.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate