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[whitespace] Manny Diaz Double Team: City Councilman Manny Diaz was expected to be one of San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales' top allies. Instead, he's turned out to be one of the council's more regular dissenters.


Public Eye

Diaz in the Doghouse

At the beginning of 1999, insiders presumed that East San Jose City Councilman Manny Diaz would be one of newly elected Mayor Ron Gonzales' closest allies on the council. Instead, Diaz has turned out to be a persistent thorn in the mayor's side. An adviser to the mayor likened Diaz to flamboyant basketball star Dennis Rodman, saying, "He [Diaz] is unpredictable. You never know what he's going to do." Disagreements between the two surfaced early during the budget process in March, when Diaz and Councilman John Diquisto issued a memo lobbying to protect their pet programs and projects, which annoyed the Mayor. Exacerbating the discord was Diaz's recruitment of Ruben Pulido, formerly the press aide to Assemblyman Mike Honda (D-San Jose). At the time, Pulido's hiring was viewed as an attempt by Diaz to court favor with Honda, whom Diaz reportedly would like to succeed in the Assembly in 2002. Honda was also an old Gonzales rival--a rift dating back to their days together on the Board of Supervisors--and thus Gonzo loyalists never trusted Pulido. This summer Diaz and his brash young adviser parted ways, to the delight and relief of the mayor's staff (wags say that the mayor's office had an active role in engineering Pulido's departure). Still, the disagreements kept coming. In August, Diaz backed a housing project in his district that the mayor argued should be higher density. More recently, Diaz opposed extending weekend hours for a restaurant in Willow Glen, something Gonzales supported. But perhaps their biggest split came last week when Diaz switched his previous position and voted against Gonzales' ordinance restricting card club operations (which still passed), the mayor's most important policy proposal to date. Diaz explains that he doesn't think the appeals process devised by city staff was fair. Council-watchers say that Diaz succumbed to pressure from organized labor--whose support he'll need if he runs for Assembly or supervisor--which feared the loss of union jobs at Bay 101. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that Diaz is in the mayor's doghouse these days, sources say. One City Hall prognosticator opines that Diaz's chances of being appointed vice mayor in 2001--once viewed as so promising--"are getting slimmer by the day."


Taxing Unity

Historically, Democrats are the party animals that have lacked discipline and have resorted to eating their own kind. But in the late '90s, Republicans are arguably just as likely, if not more likely, to engage in intraparty cannibalism. Take the South Bay's very own 24th Assembly district (West Valley) where the departure of incumbent Reep Jim Cunneen, who is running for Congress, has caused quite a commotion. While Democrats are lining up behind a relative unknown, Saratoga businesswoman Rebecca Cohn, three Republicans will battle it out in March for the GOP nomination. ... Two moderate Reeps declared their candidacies fairly early on, Monte Sereno Vice Mayor Sue Jackson and Los Gatos Mayor Steve Blanton. Party leaders asked both Blanton and Jackson to consider running for state Senate instead, which would have reduced any bloodshed in the primary to a minimum. Both declined the offer. ... Adding to the intrigue in the 24th District is the recent entry of conservative soccer mom Donna Courtright, president of the tax-hating Silicon Valley Taxpayers' Association (formerly the Santa Clara County Taxpayers Association). That's the group that rallied with evangelical Christians three years ago to undo the county's domestic partners registry. Unlike her opponents, Courtright--a Second Amendment-fearing, gun-rights apologist--doesn't portray herself as the next coming of Cunneen, whom she ran against two years ago. For instance, she accuses Jackson of being a Cunneen clone who "doesn't seem to have an independent thought of her own." Some Democratic strategists are privately rejoicing at Courtright's candidacy. Though Courtright is a long shot, Blanton and Jackson could split the moderate vote, helping the conservative Courtright--whom Dems view as the weakest candidate--to sneak into the general election against Cohn.


Where's Wally?

Eight years of civic service (including two as mayor) in a fast-growing city like Cupertino would give a lot of people a headache to last the rest of their lives. But a brain tumor? That's a bit excessive. Wally Dean, a man who's earned the adjective "beloved" for his easygoing nature and sure leadership of Cupertino, was diagnosed with a large and potentially life-threatening one on Nov. 3, just weeks before stepping down as mayor to make way for fellow council member and former Apple employee John Stanton. Though Dean had already sworn off flying his private plane thanks to problems with his depth perception, the diagnosis came as a shock. Two and a half weeks later, on Nov. 19, Dean underwent a very intense 18-hour surgical procedure conducted by three surgeons at Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City to remove the offending tumor. Friends report the docs are optimistic about Dean's recovery. Let's hope Cupertino's a little easier on the next guy.


Don't Ask, Can't Tell

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, termed-out Sunnyvale City Councilman Stan Kawczynski attended his final council meeting as an elected city official. But don't bother to ask the Stan Man what happened at the meeting, because he doesn't know. "I wasn't paying attention," Kawczynski admitted. "I was just sitting up there and thinking, 'I'm outta here; the sooner, the better.' " If he sounds a little bitter, that's because he is. Eye-watchers will recall that Kawczysnki's pointed public criticism of City Manager Bob LaSala annoyed other council members so much that they launched an investigation into whether he violated the city's code of ethical conduct earlier this year. Ultimately, he didn't find any wrongdoing by Kawczynski, but the episode sent a clear message to their colleague that he should keep his trap shut. When asked if he might have inadvertently voted to give LaSala a raise--an issue that came up the previous night in a closed session meeting Kawczynski didn't attend--while zoning out at his final meeting, Kawczynski replied, "I don't know if I voted for a pay increase or what I voted for." Kawczynski, a Republican, now plans to use his formidable powers of concentration to unseat Assemblywoman Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) next year.


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From the December 2-8, 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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