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So Long, Susan: San Jose's elite turned out en masses Tuesday night to toast Mayor Susan Hammer farewell.

Hammer Time

Hundreds of Susan Hammer's closest friends gathered at the Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday night to genuflect and bid the mayor adios. Before the program started, VIPs hobnobbed in the Ridder Room, sucking down wine while security guards made sure to keep the riffraff out (Eye included). The glitterati had plenty of time to get good and liquored up because the show started 25 minutes behind schedule due to "parking and traffic problems," the bane of Silicon Valley existence. That, however, didn't deter the politicians from bragging about how great everything is in the valley, thanks to St. Susan. Vice Mayor Margie Fernandes kicked things off, introducing a 15-minute video that painted a portrait of the politician as loving wife and city savior, featuring cameos by Vice Prez Al Gore and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The awestruck atmosphere didn't stop one plebeian from wickedly whispering, "It's Pat," when a photo of a teenage Susan flashed on the screen, showing off the young girl's tomboyish good looks. ... Afterward, Hammer made her way onstage, greeted by a one-minute standing-O. Unfortunately, she said nothing about her career plans, though she cryptically noted, "other opportunities await me." After the speech, a huge procession made its way over to the party at the Tech (briefly snarling traffic on Almaden Avenue and further frustrating commuters) to enjoy finger foods, cured meats, sushi and, of course, more booze. Conspicuously missing were ex-Mayor Tom McEnery and Councilman David Pandori, though it's plausible they escaped Eye's gaze in the crowd. At 8pm Adobe chief Charles Geschke led a toast to the mayor, making even Eye feel a little choked up to see the exit of the equivalent of an endangered species: a decent human being in public office.

No Stone Unturned

Rarely, if ever, does the subject of a financial audit want to publicize the potentially embarrassing findings of such an inquiry. That is, unless the subject of said audit is Santa Clara County Tax Assessor Larry Stone. The tenacious tax-man and beancounter Roger Mialocq traded numerous memos arguing back and forth about making last week's so-called "exit conference"--a confidential final meeting between auditor and auditee before a report is made public--open to the press. "I say let the sunshine in," Stone proclaims. "It's important to watch the dynamic of a meeting." The dynamic, Stone argues, can shed light on hidden agendas. In this case, Stone has not-so-subtly suggested that Mialocq and Supervisor Jim Beall secretly want to raise property taxes. ... Instead of jumping at the chance to air the assessor's dirty laundry, Mialocq fought off Stone's attempt to let reporters watch the proceedings. Explains Mialocq, "The exit conference is confidential because we need to ensure that the audit report is factually correct." Furthermore, he notes, the county's police requires the meeting to be a closed-door affair. "Nobody can figure out why he wants the press there," Mialocq shrugs. ... One knowledgeable wag theorizes that Stone wants to control the spin on the story as much as possible. After all, the audit will inevitably become public no matter what. Maybe by letting the press in on the process they will come to see Mialocq the way Stone sees him--a budding Kenneth Starr without the former judge's sense of restraint and fair play. It was a risky strategy, but, hey, it worked for Bill Clinton. ... Stone didn't get to test his strategy because ultimately the press did not attend last week's conference. This much is known about what took place: Tempers flared, voices exceeded normal conversation decibels, and Stone accused one of Mialocq's associates of inflating his résumé. The audit will become public on Dec. 23, just in time for the holidays.

Euros Trashed

Why are the grumpy white guys in the European/American Issues Forum telling their British brothers coming to the Bay Area to stay in San Jose instead of San Francisco? It goes back to the group's politically incorrect effort to get SF Mayor Willie Brown and the Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution to create a "European American Heritage Month." Da Mayor and the board won't even consider the idea, even though the state Legislature unanimously resolved to make October "European American Heritage Month," according to Euro-club prez Louis Calabro. So Calabro is sending missives to the consulates of various European countries, warning them of SF's Europhobic ways. "It is abundantly clear that Europhobia, a very hostile pathology, is endemic in San Francisco," Calabro warned one consul general. "We are seriously troubled that this poisoned atmosphere supports a culture of hatred toward European tourists, as well as indigenous European Americans." Calabro reveals that he also plans to put up a few billboards and make a five-minute travel film telling Euro-tourists to stay away from SF. A San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau rep claims not to be worried by the pending ad campaign, but Calabro advises being on the lookout for guys named Nigel and Pierre roaming around downtown San Jose.

Joint Departure

It looks like the new wunderkind leader of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, Ruben Barrales, will be starting his job a bit shorthanded. At least two JV staffers are heading elsewhere, including press liaison Kathy Maag, who has taken a job at Deloitte & Touche. And it sounds like there could be more departures in the near future. Barrales emphasized that Maag and another employee are the only two who have "publicly" announced plans to leave, but Barrales and Maag would neither confirm nor deny that other defections are imminent. Asked if the hired help is running scared of their new boss, Barrales deadpans: "Who wouldn't be?" ... With Maag leaving, Barrales is looking for a new communications director. Coincidentally, mayoral flack-catcher Kevin Pursglove is looking for work, with his boss poised to step down from her City Hall throne. Pursglove, once the host of KQED's Forum talk show, tells Eye he hopes to have a chat with Barrales but stresses that no offer has been made.

Student of the Game

Palo Alto Supervisor Joe Simitian recently told reporters at the local daily newspaper that he opted against becoming chairman of the board next year partly so that he could devote more time to his district. He apparently neglected to explain how he would do that while studying for a master's degree in international policy studies at Stanford University. Stanford--which happens to be in the goodly supervisor's district--has accepted Simitian into the program. Simitian sought the advice of the Fair Political Practices Commission earlier this fall as to whether he could use campaign funds to pay for his tuition at the prestigious (and pricey) private school of higher learning. The state's Political Reform Act restricts using campaign money for personal benefit--expenses must have some reasonable political, legislative or governmental purpose. The trick for Simitian was explaining how courses like "Decision Making in U.S. Foreign Policy" would make him a better county supervisor. Simitian argued that such courses would help him understand the county's position in the global economy, develop programs for refugees and, one skeptic adds, "prepare Joe for a seat in the Congress of the United States." The FPPC didn't buy it, though. Simitian is now asking the commission to explain the legal ramifications of accepting a scholarship.

Sher Things

For all the gossips wondering if state Sen. Byron Sher is destined for a job in the Gray Davis administration as head of the state's Environmental Protection Agency, the answer is no. A little thing called the state constitution prohibits sitting elected officials from quitting their posts mid-term to accept such an appointment. However, the constitution wouldn't prohibit Sher's longtime staff chief, Kip Lipper, from moving into the ranks of the executive branch. Lipper is also being mentioned as administration material, possibly suited for a job in one of the state's environmental agencies. But a Lipper colleague tells Eye it's doubtful that Kipper will bid adieu to Sher, his boss for nearly two decades. ... In the meantime, Sher got right to work after new members were sworn in this week, introducing SB 1, an urgency bill to extend bottle-redemption processing fees for another year. That might sound like a yawner, but as a Sher staffer points out, SB 1 could be the first bill Gov. Gray signs into law.

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From the December 10-16, 1998 issue of Metro.

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