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Let Me Be Frank: A spokesperson for Frank Taylor says that the redevelopment chief has no plans to leave San Jose anytime soon.

Trust No One

Throughout the campaign, Mayor-elect Ron Gonzales cautiously handled questions about whether he would shake things up in the city bureaucracy. He would diplomatically tell the press that he refused to "pre-judge" people he has never worked with. Behind the scenes, however, factions in the Gonzo camp were eager for the mayor-apparent to replace remnants from administrations past.

One faction wouldn't have minded seeing City Manager Regina Williams go. Another preferred the thought of overthrowing redevelopment czar Frank Taylor, whom some in the Goz Squad view as a McEnery-era leftover and a closet Pat Dando partisan. ... Williams is heeding the proverbial wall-handwriting and heading for a lower paying job inVirginia (a move that City Hall savants attribute more to the exit of Williams apologist Susan Hammer than to the arrival of Gonzales). But Taylor isn't going to pull the ripcord of his golden parachute just yet, according to Redevelopment spokesgal Carol Beddo. In fact, Beddo tells Eye, Taylor is looking forward to working with the new mayor. ... Beddo also used the occasion of Eye's phone call to put to rest nagging rumors that she assisted redevelopment alumna Dando in her bid for mayor. "I don't know why those rumors would have surfaced," the former political consultant and city hall aide sighs. "I've been a straight arrow." She also insists that Boss Frank remained in the neutral corner during the campaign. Beddo then bravely pointed the finger elsewhere, suggesting that perhaps the agency was being confused with the redevelopment-assisted Downtown Association, which had several prominent members backing Dando (and many backing Gonzales, although this didn't merit a mention in Beddo's tirade). ... True or not, rumors of surreptitious agency politicking indicate why the Gonzales team might consider Taylor untrustworthy. But Williams' departure makes the issue of dealing with Taylor more complicated than just handing him his pink slip and a gold watch. One government-guru observes that a first-year mayor may be loath to send too many heads rolling off of the red carpet. Then again, some Gonzales advisers are toying with the idea of returning redevelopment to its former place within the bureaucracy, meaning Taylor would have to report to the city manager again, ending Taylor's reign as downtown's unsupervised benevelent despot.


Goodbye Guy

Every so often in his decades-long career, esteemed state Sen. John Vasconcellos openly considers returning to a rosy-hued civilian life free from political backstabbing. This appears to be another one of those reflective, melancholy times for Vasco. While other Dems are gloating about finally having one of their kin inside the gubernatorial castle, Vasconcellos is telling folks he is thinking about calling it quits in two years when his term expires. ... The last couple of years have left the sensitive senator feeling unwanted and unwuved, Vasco-watchers say. First, he suffered the betrayal of several traitorous Dems who backed his opponent, Tom Hayes, in the primary in 1996. More recently, he watched his so-called friends offer tepid encouragement to run for governor. ... Vasco's trusty sidekick Rand Martin doesn't deny that his boss has doubts about seeking re-election. But the Randmeister cautions against writing Vasco's political obituary just yet. "He's been saying that [he wants to retire from politics] for 33 years now," Martin reasons. "Anything he says now isn't reflective of what he'll do in two years. ... He tends to make that decision right before the filing deadline."


Old School

The jury is still out on whether the new mayor will wield a stick or wave a carrot in his inaugural year. And the same speculation is apparently being applied to his staff, including his soon-to-be budget guru, Joe Guerra, currently finishing up his duties as chief of staff for Councilman Frank Fiscalini. A love note written by Guerra to assistant city manager Debra Figone is making the rounds at City Hall these days. ... In his email, Guerra spanks Figone--who will serve as interim city manager after Regina Williams heads out of Dodge--and a redevelopment staffer for not alerting him or Fiscalini about an upcoming task force meeting. This, Guerra suggests, is part of a pattern by Figone and agency staff to circumvent the City Council's wishes by cutting Fiscalini out of the loop. "Two things I can assure you both," Guerra promises. "First is I am Old World Italian. ... and I don't forget anything. Second, next year [emphasis added] there will be zero tolerance for staff in either the administration or the Agency who do not following [sic] council direction. To be honest, I am not angry about all this," he concludes, "just keeping my list and checking it twice." By the by, Santa Joe wrote the email before the election.


Lee Tested

It's official: San Jose political swami Roger Lee and Greg Sellers are going their separate ways now that the election season is over. Eye-watchers will recall that Sellers was cagey about the fate of the partnership when asked about its status in October. But industry insiders wondered if something was awry at Strategy Source when Lee announced that he was moving to Washington, D.C., to live there full time while Sellers remained on the West Coast. Henrietta Epstein, another business partner at Strategy Source, tried to put a happy face on the split, saying, "Everything is very positive." But during the campaign season, Sellers occasionally grumbled in mixed company about Lee hogging the spotlight. Lee's former boss Rich Robinson suspects that Sellers got tired of Lee getting all the glory. "It's just another in a long list of people Roger has sponged off of," Robinson snorts. "He will continue to sponge off them until the liquid runs dry." (If it isn't obvious, Robinson and Lee parted on bad terms.) At least Sellers will have plenty of time now to focus on his new job as city councilman in Morgan Hill, one of the reasons he says he's leaving the firm.


Who Goes Where

With the changing of the guard in City Hall drawing nearer, the job machine is in fifth-gear as unemployed campaign cronies and politicos look to the patronage gods for work. Mayor-elect Ron Gonzales is expected to bring aboard a number of campaign hands: Leslee Hamliton has been tapped to be the new press secretary and Guisselle Nunez will probably handle the neighborhood beat. Tony Arreola, now chief of staff to Councilman Manny Diaz and a former Gonzo aide at the county, is in line for a senior staff post in the mayor's office. Meanwhile, Susan Hammer's top aide, Sean Morley, will be joining a prominent Palo Alto law firm. Eva Terrazas, another Hammer aide, is close to inking a deal with the Redevelopment Agency. Tona Duncanson, chief of staff to lame duck Trixie Johnson, will remain on the sixth floor as top aide to new District 1 boss Linda LeZotte. Finally, Eye hears that David Pandori plans to announce that he will return to practicing law instead of creating it.


Public Eye welcomes tips. Leave messages 24 hours a day by calling 408/298-7818 and then pressing 2, followed by 412, to reach Eye's voice mailbox. Send email messages to eye@sjmetro.com.


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From the December 3-9, 1998 issue of Metro.

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