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Mi Aide Es Su Aide: Councilmember Dando says share and share alike.

Public Eye

People Movers, Shakers

San Jose's city leaders are apparently in a sharing kind of mood after the election. After considering what might be the best gift for incoming electee Judy Chirco, current Councilmember Linda LeZotte decided to offer up her chief of staff Tona Duncanson--an 11-1/2-year staff veteran who used to work for former Councilmember Trixie Johnson. Not to be outdone by the gesture, council colleague Pat Dando generously stood aside to let one of her aides, Jim Cogan (a 26-year-old from New Hampshire who's been with Dando for about 2 1/2 years), take a promotion to become chief of staff for LeZotte. Cogan has worked with LeZotte's husband Ken Kelly on the anti-outlaw San Jose Crime Stoppers team. "I'm excited," Cogan says about the musical staffers game. "I wouldn't say that it's common. But I would say that we have a situation on the sixth floor where we have a lot of mutual respect." That's a beautiful sentiment. However, Eye observes that this practice has its limits. Take outgoing Councilmember George Shirakawa Jr.'s right-hand man David Garretson Jr., who seemed a virtual shoo-in for keeping his job if his chosen candidate, Ed Voss, had won the race. Alack and alas, Voss lost to Terry Gregory in a staggering 20-point defeat, and no one on the sixth floor seems to be clamoring for the former man-about-the-six-floor's services. Asked about his plans, Garretson snarled, "What do you think? I have no idea. I'm thinking about becoming a newspaper reporter." During the campaign Voss promised Garretson a job--at least a temporary one--if elected. Following that offer, things in the Voss camp went downhill and Garretson was among those sullied by a city ethics investigation, which left Voss and his biggest supporters in the dust.

Make It Stop

Much to the dismay of all those in Milpitas who are very, very sick of it (OK, not the majority of residents, who simply ignored it, but everyone else), the municipal election seemed like it wouldn't end. From among a field of six City Council candidates, Armando Gomez just barely missed the second of the two open seats by a meager 17 votes in the final precinct count. Two days after the election, Gomez campaign mastermind Vic Ajlouny was still "anxiously awaiting" straggling absentee ballots. "Seventeen votes is such a minor number," he noted, adding that a Milpitas race decided by absentees "would not be unprecedented." Sue Tefft, Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters absentees coordinator, confirms Ajlouny's take. Two years ago, Tefft recalls, one race was tied and another changed outcomes with every vote count update. This time around, the registrar's last count on Nov. 6 just before 1 am shows Althea Polanski in first place with 21.4 percent and 3,402 votes, Paul Hay with 20.5 percent and 3,251 votes and Gomez nipping at Hay's heels with 20.4 percent and 3,234 votes. Milpitas, population 63,500 (registered voters: 22,042), means "little cornfields" en español. But the race included some big city ball-busting (or ovary busting); for instance, Gomez, who so badly wanted for a newspaper to give his campaign some ink that he and his staff published their own. The eight-page community-newspaper-style Milpitas Press campaign mailer, "published" on Oct. 30 by Armando Gomez for Milpitas City Council, included a gushing description of Gomez and his campaign activities. But it also offered a generous spread of negative press about his opponents Althea Polanski and Paul Hay (including a copy of a court document from Polanski's 1997 bankruptcy and a paranoid-sounding email by Polanski). Gomez' editorial department cut and pasted columns from local papers, including a 2-year-old blurb about election mailer antics penned by the ever lovable yours truly. A final vote count wasnąt done by presstime. But, in a tally of incoming absentee votes on Friday, Nov. 8, Hay's lead over Gomez had widened from 17 to 32 votes, thus making Eye question whether the power of the pen that wrote "Gomez top choice for city council" was really all that mighty.

Avo No-Email

This week City Hall's rude-email bandit Avo Makdessian returns from his month-long "administrative leave." Makdessian fessed up in October to impersonating Colombian coffee stereotype Juan Valdez in an email that badmouthed property owner Dennis Fong, a property owner whose butt is among those the city is kicking out of the Tropicana Shopping Center for the purposes of prettying up the place. Fong, or the "money grubbing slum lord that has let that center be the eyesore that it is," as delicately phrased by Makdessian, is busy suing the city for defamation of character and racism and so on. (He's Chinese and he claims the city acted unpleasantly toward him and other shop owners because of their ethnicity.) Meanwhile, speculation varies regarding Makdessian's future as a staffer in the mayor's office. One insider's convinced that he'll resign immediately upon return. Bollocks, according to the mayor's spokesperson David Vossbrink. He tells Eye the young aide will stick around, as far as he knows. Although, he adds, "we'll want to take a look at his responsibilities."

Pot Luck

In an impressive display of symmetrical brown-nosing, the Merc kissed up to both labor and business in the same Nov. 7 editorial. Noting the "painfully close" failure of Measure F, the hotel tax increase for a beefed up convention center, the weepy daily whined, "It should have been a no-brainer. ... The expansion is needed not only to kick-start downtown businesses but to better serve Silicon Valley industry." Then, the lamenting quickly shifted gears, to the District 7 City Council race between Terry Gregory and Ed Voss, where "labor and business interests faced off squarely." Prior to the election, the editorial board just couldn't decide to support either the "labor" or the "business" candidate. Now that it doesn'thave a choice, though, it supposes labor will do OK. "Gregory says he's independent ... not an automatic vote for every union initiative," the Merc explained. "If that proves to be the case, and if he builds on his good experience as a Franklin McKinley school trustee, District 7 may yet end up with good representation." Note to Gregory: run the other way if the kisses start getting wet.

The Eshoo Effect

Not satisfied with Stanford University Medical Center's alleged just-smile-nod-and-back-away method of responding to disgruntled employees, advocates for the workers are seeking help from Cali U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo. "Stanford Hospital has taken a very stiff stand and they're unwilling to negotiate," says John Cihi, who's going to bat for the workers. He's a member of the 6-year-old Interfaith Council on Race, Religion and Social and Economic Justice, which also includes labor guru Amy Dean. Cihi said he and other members of the Interfaith Council would meet with an aide in Eshoo's Palo Alto office on Tuesday, Nov. 12, to seek her help to "pressure Stanford to sit down with the union and negotiate." Father Bill Leinenger, a retired San Jose pastor, is one of the founders of the faith-based group, which, he explains, shifts back and forth between neutral mediation and full-blown picket-line advocacy roles. Leinenger says the workers are mostly unhappy with understaffing. Eshoo, co-chair of the House Democratic Task Force on Health Care and a former member of the San Mateo County Hospital board of directors, is all about getting people to talk about health care. "As I have in the past when negotiations have come up," Eshoo (while careful not to reveal any sympathy toward either player) tells Eye, "I always encourage the management and the unions, each side, to come together and work out their differences, because [if they don't] the patients are the ones who will be hurt." Interfaith members say that previous attempts to bring Stanford management to the negotiating table have failed, and so they're now asking Eshoo to go directly to Stanford's board of directors. Meanwhile, Maria La Ganga, a spokesperson for Stanford's hospitals, says that the ball is actually in the union's court. "The contract expired on Nov. 4," she says. "At that time, we made our last, best and final offer, which was a generous 21 percent raise on average over three years." Regardless of Stanford's so-called generosity, the employees are poised to make some noise. The Stanford Hospital workers represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 715, which includes about 1,300 food service employees, nurse assistants, housekeepers and lab techs at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, were set to strike on Wednesday, Nov. 13. That is, unless Eshoo dropped magic health care dust on the warring sides and made them agree after presstime.

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From the November 14-20, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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