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[whitespace] Sandy Humphries Absentee Minded: Los Altos Hills council candidate Sandy Humphries, who lost by 75 votes, might ask for a hand recount.

Public Eye

In Absentia

NEVERMIND THE FLORIDA COUNTS. In a town as small as Los Altos Hills--population 8,200--a dozen votes or so really can make the difference as to who gets elected. In March, town council candidate Emily Cheng defeated Jim Steiner by a mere 41 votes, tipping the balance of power on the council to the property-rights crowd that favors letting the rich folks build their massive mansions without so much hassle. This past week, Registrar Kathryn Ferguson announced another razor-thin margin of victory for Cheng, who this time edged preservationist Sandy Humphries by a mere 75 votes. But Humphries has her doubts about the results of the election. After the ballots closed, she says she held a 96-vote lead. But absentee ballots counted after the polls closed changed the outcome. ... Just a few weeks before the election, Humphries backers--specifically Kim Cranston, the son of retired Sen. Alan Cranston--had raised serious questions about out-of-towners being registered to vote in Los Altos Hills. Among them were San Jose-dwellers Bill and Betty Kerns who recently received approval to build a ridge-top home in the town. And Humphries tells Eye several other voters used addresses in a yet-to-be built subdivision by developer John Vidovich. Shortly before the election, Special Assistant District Attorney Bill Larsen--acting on information given to him by Cranston--disqualified 13 people from voting in Los Altos Hills because they were registered at the wrong address. But people like Bill and Betty Kerns (and others in similar circumstances) conceivably could have voted by absentee ballot, at least that is what Ferguson has indicated to reporters. Humphries now is seriously considering asking for a hand recount to see if those voters of dubious residency swayed the election. "I'm not sure if it's really necessary," she concedes, "it's just something we decided we wish to do. If nothing else, we want to rebuild confidence in the system." The only thing that could deter Humphries: Money. She would have to pay for a recount and preliminary estimates from the registrar's office say it would cost $7,500. "It's not looking too good right now," she admits. "At those kinds of prices, I don't know if we could afford [a recount]."

Headin' for the Hills

It was an "only in Silicon Valley" story angle the media couldn't resist: "Mayor of San Carlos resigns because he can't afford to buy a home in his own city." But are economics the only reason David Buckmaster is ditching tony San Carlos for the trailer haven of El Dorado Hills near Sacramento? Certainly, the fact that his daytime employer, InsWeb, is relocating outside the state capital had a role in Buckmaster's decision, announced earlier this month. But local Dems suspect that the Buckmeister, a Republican, might have also wanted to relocate to a more GOP-friendly area. As the results of the Nov. 7 election showed, the Bay Area--including the South Bay and the peninsula--is a veritable graveyard for the political careers of once promising young Reeps (witness the convincing defeats of Jim Cunneen and Sue Jackson in this last go-around). In January, Buckmaster, 28, is moving into an Assembly district ruled by Republican Rico Oller in recent years. "[Buckmaster] saw the writing on the wall," sneers a Democratic legislative aide. "He couldn't get elected here." But Buckmaster, a moderate Reep in the mold of Tom Campbell, insists that politics didn't motivate his decision. "That didn't come into my considerations at all, but that's a good point," he acknowledged, but then added, "I might be too liberal for them up there." By the by, Buckmaster says his housing plight will be featured in an upcoming spread in People magazine. Amazing what "quitting" politics can do to increase someone's profile.

Cisco Crisco

As environmentalists scramble to collect signatures to force a ballot referendum on Cisco's planned $1.3 billion campus in Coyote Valley, Eye has learned that the high-tech giant and its development partners have hired San Francisco-based political consulting firm Terris Jaye Barnes to advise them. Eye-watchers will recall that the same firm served as the lead consultant for the Town & Country developers in 1998 when their massive mixed-use project was threatened by a similar petition drive. Back then, they were accused of using "thug" tactics like posting argumentative shills next to signature-gatherers so voters would not sign the referendum petition. One of the paid shills was even busted for allegedly threatening to use a baseball bat to settle a dispute (charges were later dropped, sources say). ... But Cisco flack-catcher Steve Langdon assures Eye that the company and its partners are conducting a kinder, gentler campaign. True, Cisco is paying people to collect signatures for its own petition, which expresses support for the company's project. But Langdon insists Cisco's petitioners don't mess with the referendistas or even carry around Nerf baseball bats. "The volunteers and individuals who have been hired to collect signatures," he explains, "have been given explicit instructions not to interfere with the other effort or discourage anyone from signing the other petition." Langdon adds that Cisco simply wants to be able show the widespread support for their planned campus (though critics believe Cisco's real motivation is to hire all the signature-gatherers in town so project opponents can't use them).

Forging Ahead

Invesigators from the SJPD have cleared a supporter of District 6 council candidate Kris Cunningham of writing the homophobic letter sent to the Willow Glen Business and Professional Association before the election. Police say an unknown perpetrator forged Phillip Rossignol's signature by using a real letter Rossignol had previously written to the City Council. The letter suggested Councilman-elect Ken Yeager, who is gay, cannot "have any real family values." "Besides," the fake missive concluded, "do we really want someone like Ken on the City Council? Think of the values this would teach your children." Rossignol adamantly denied writing the letter before the election and police are now classifying him as the victim of the incident, which they say doesn't qualify as a hate crime but would violate laws concerning the mailing of election material. Cunningham told Eye before the election that she believed a Yeager supporter masterminded the fraudulent mailer in order to create a backlash against her. Meanwhile, Rossginol has given police a list of possible suspects. But in an interview with the Willow Glen Resident, Detective John Muller sounded skeptical as to whether the cops will catch the perpetrator. "We can clear Mr. Rossignol," he said. "Perhaps that is the best outcome of this situation."

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From the November 30-December 6, 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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