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Controller Freaked

The Los Gatos­Saratoga High School District was thrown for a loop last Tuesday when Superintendent Tod Likins was pulled out of a board meeting to see dollar signs melt off the district's forecasted budget. According to information from the Santa Clara County Controller's Office, the district's bean count was off by $1.2 million. Likins, none too pleased with the news, returned to the meeting to report the damage and to strike five financial matters from the evening's agenda. Once the catastrophe began to settle in, Likins was interrupted a second time to be told the two-hour-old news was erroneous, and official figures placed the district's budget back close to where it had been. "We get inaccurate and untimely information on a regular basis from that office," snapped Likins. "In my opinion this is really gross negligence on the part of the county finance department." ... County Controller Scott Johnson rebutted that he hadn't given his stamp of approval when the first figure was released. But school administrators are wondering why Johnson's staff is reporting figures with seven figure discrepancies. "There are many different methodologies that can be used to come up with a figure," Johnson offered, elaborating that in this case an employee had used a methodology that he didn't agree with. ... Likins, who didn't know what to believe, has since been assured that Johnson's number is an official figure. But Likins still thinks the controller's office has fallen into a bureaucratic black hole. ... "We are completely at the mercy of people who do not seem to know what they're doing," said Likins, who stipulated that Johnson seems to be trying to get things in order.

TV Power

Say what you will about daytime TV, but it does have its rewards. Just ask Los Gatos Town Councilmember Steve Blanton. The Blanster picked up a cool $8,776 Monday when he correctly answered the winning number of the day in KICU's Dialing for Dollars contest. Seems Steve was watching Channel 36's afternoon movie (Blind Man's Bluff with Robert Urich) when Dialing for Dollars pulled his name from the phone book and called him at home. He had noted the winning number, 8776, when it was announced at the beginning of the flick. KICU's Brian Adams tells us it was the second-highest amount ever won on the show. "It was weird," Blanton says. ... What's even weirder is the image of an elected official and candidate for the county Board of Supes sitting at home in the middle of the day watching a bad movie. But Blanton assures Eye he was actually pretty busy Monday--he spent the afternoon on the phone trying to raise money for his campaign.

Board Stiffs

It looks like the prospect pool for the special election race to park a tush in Mike Honda's county supervisor's seat is shrinking. Honda takes his final paycheck in January when he splits for a better-paying job in the state Assembly. Eye's impeccable sources swear that oft-rumored contender Charlotte Powers has decided against running. (The SJ councilwoman ducked our calls.) And saying there's just not enough time to collect checks and get the message out, another job applicant, Meri Maben, tells Eye that she's no longer interested in the county job, either. A special election is scheduled for Feb. 4, with a runoff on March 18, if necessary. ... Maben, who Pat Dando took down in a bitter council race last year, says it's just too short of a period to wage an effective campaign. At one point Maben was considered a shoo-in as Honda's replacement--but that changed after Keith Honda expressed an interest in his cousin's job and the supes voted to hold an election rather than make an appointment. ... Now, the race looks like a free-for-all between G.E. exec John Redding, Los Gatos bad boy Steve Blanton, Santa Clara Valley agua district member Rosemary Kamei and cousin Keith. ... Not wasting any time, most of the candidates have already signed up political consultants. Redding is going with Ron Smith, who most recently distinguished himself on Barbara Koppel's campaign by sending out a last-minute mailer that arrived the day after the election. Keith shook hands with Sacramento politico Richie Ross, and Kamei cast her lot with Roger Lee. ... Endorsement-wise, Redding has talk show host Tom McEnery and council Madame No Pat Dando, while Kamei has ESO Inc. boss Tommy Fulcher and beer man Mike Fox. Keith Honda has--well, figure it out. No word on who's backing Blanton. ... Curiously, Redding attempted to distance himself from what he called the "McEnery-Dando camp," pointing out that his co-chairs are SJ Councilmember Frank Fiscalini and former SJ Councilmember Bob Putnam. Memo to John: Don't stray too far from camp!

News Beef

Our colleagues at Ridder Park Drive are still assessing the journalistic fallout of the revelation that Merc parent Knight-Ridder took the corporate liberty of donating $50,000 to the No on 211 campaign prior to last month's election victory--a campaign that its local daily endorsed. Chin up to Merc muckraker Michelle Quinn, whose story reporting on the "ethical" questions raised by the donation was slapped onto the front of the business section. ... Of course, 211 brought out the best in contribution camouflage in the high-tech world, most interestingly exemplified by Netscape and others' failure to report free political ads in the form of "Say No to Prop. 211" buttons on sites across the Web. As first reported by young reporter Eric Umansky in The MoJo Wire, "Netscape's use of its Internet presence to lobby against the proposition raises new questions about how campaign finance law will be applied to the online world." ... Next week: Merc Family Values.

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From the November 27-December 4, 1996 issue of Metro

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