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[whitespace] Laurie Smith Jail Brakes: An audit of the county Department of Corrections, requested by Sheriff Laurie Smith, is due out this week.

Public Eye

Jail Time

County officials will soon get another crack at fixing the messy situation with the jails, but before they do, supervisors are going to have to get their hands dirty again. The setup is far too complex to explain in any detail but basically boils down to this: Over the years, litigation and legislation have created an unusual setup where the county Department of Corrections has to contract with the sheriff's office to help run the jails--and oversee DOC guards. Sheriff LAURIE SMITH, however, has been a critic of the oddball setup since taking office. In April, Smith asked the county board for an outside audit, and supes approved the $275,000 review in August. The draft should go to top county staff, including Smith and corrections chief TIM RYAN, sometime this week. Once the final version comes back, it first goes to the Finance and Government Operations and the Public Safety and Justice committees, probably sometime in February, then on to the full board. But don't expect the same kind of fun-filled carnival atmosphere that usually surrounds county proceedings. This one will be especially arcane, and could lead to some big changes in county government--but not before some painfully complex hearings. "I have a feeling we'll all be experts on the corrections department when all this is through," grumbles one county staffer. ... Also, if that doesn't sound like a headache for Ryan, here's another one: wrecking the county-issued SUV. Ryan fell asleep at the wheel of his 2001 Ford Expedition after a long day of driving Nov. 30. After working a couple of days in Sacramento, a corrections spokesman says, Ryan drove back to San Jose and then to a funeral in Livermore. But the miles took their toll, and he dozed off, running off Highway 84 and slamming into a utility pole in the late afternoon. Not surprisingly, the nearly 5,000-pound SUV wasn't totaled, though it sustained some major damage, and Ryan walked away shaken but unhurt.

Don Gage
Don Gage

Oath of Office?

Splat. Hear that? First mud of the official election season. Morgan Hill Mayor DENNIS KENNEDY's campaign faxed a press release late Friday afternoon, Dec. 7, accusing Supervisor DON GAGE of going back on his word not to run for office because of a belief in term limits. OK, not really mud, but at least a dirt clod. It went out on the deadline to file for the race, which will be a two-person contest for the District 1 Supe seat. The release quoted Kennedy as saying, "Don has gone back on his word to the voters, and it raises real questions as to whether voters can really trust what Don has to say during the campaign," and said that Gage violated a "pledge" and a "promise." What's the solemn oath? A 1997 article in Asian Week about Gage's runoff victory that put him in MIKE HONDA's old seat. "A believer in term limits, Gage said he will seek re-election in 1998 and then retire from public office," the article said. But why's Kennedy steamed? Maybe because he pinned his hopes on an empty seat. "I'd heard at about that time that he wasn't going to seek re-election, and that was one of the reasons I planned to run at this time," Kennedy complains. But Gage, questioning the accuracy of the paper, points out he wasn't quoted directly. "They can't quote me because I didn't say it," the supe declares. "I never said I would retire. ... I didn't tell anyone that I wouldn't run again." Because he's still in his first full term, Gage can run a fourth time in 2006, if he wins in 2002. Gage followed up with a shot at Kennedy. "It's interesting that he'd go negative on the final day of the filing period," Gage said. "I'm certainly not going to worry about this, because I've got a campaign to run. My feathers aren't ruffled, believe me."

Next Stop: Snubbsville

Is JACK LUCAS hogging the mayorship in the land of the serene? One of his peers thinks so. Monte Sereno's top dog was recently elected mayor by his council colleagues for the fifth time in his 18 years as a councilman. But council newcomer ERIN GARNER said at the Dec. 4 council meeting that if Jack gets the gavel, it might make it harder for him to reach the throne before his four-year term is up. And Garner, who was elected last year after making a failed bid in 1998, simply must get his turn as mayor. "One of the reasons why I ran for council was because I wanted the opportunity to become mayor," Garner revealed at the meeting. He also floated the idea that Lucas share his year by serving just six months and letting someone else have the rest of the year. Lucas shot back: "No, I'm not for it." In the end, Garner came out on the losing end of a 4-1 vote to anoint Lucas. The council's other freshman, DAVID BAXTER, was elected vice mayor (the semiofficial on-deck circle for the glory job), further lessening Garner's chances of getting to the top by the end of his first term. ... Garner was once a favorite of ex-Councilman JOEL GAMBORD, who backed Garner in '98. And the cantankerous Gambord, as observers of the low-stakes petri dish that is Monte Sereno politics surely know, was kept out of the mayor's chair by his colleagues, who ignored the informal rotation and made Lucas mayor in 1999. But the upheaval passed, and that year's most pressing issue in the tiny city of 3,500 was that nobody showed up to chat at the monthly coffee-with-the-mayor. ... Garner, however, can take comfort in the fact that this will be the last time he'll have to answer to Mayor Lucas--the elder statesman ends his fifth and final term next year.

Off to School

Eye went to candidate school last week. And no, Eye is not--repeat, not--running for office, but the SJ Chamber-sponsored event sounded too good to pass up. The class was open to anyone who wanted to learn more about running for office, and two dozen political wannabes enrolled. Their $20 tuition got them a few hours' worth of tips from local political luminaries on how to put together a campaign. The Cliff's Notes: Ex-Supe SUSIE WILSON talked ethics, informing that "the trend has been toward fewer dirty campaigns. Dirty campaigning doesn't work as well as it did five years ago." SJ Councilman CHUCK REED recounted his experience starting from scratch: "Running a campaign is like running a business. The bad news is it's a dotcom, and you're in your garage, where you have no staff, and you don't know what you're doing." Political consultants RICH ROBINSON and ED McGOVERN told novices not to bug their political consultants about signs, and campaign finance expert BIANCA PIRAYOU preached that the web of money regulations is so complex that candidates are certain to commit some kind of violation. The class is part of new chamber exec JIM CUNNEEN's plan to get the Chamber of Commerce back on the political map. "It's part of a comprehensive revamp of our outreach and advocacy efforts overall," along with other things like the chamber's planned slate card, Cunneen tells Eye. "We think that will make us more relevant in the decision-making process at the city and county level." Most of the students were candidates for low-profile offices or campaign volunteers. One judicial candidate, AARON PERSKY, dragged his mother along. ... Before class started, JUDE BARRY, the Gonzo-chief-turned-PR-consultant who put the event together for the chamber, asked if any pupils had been inspired to seek public office by the terrorist attacks and wanted to talk about it on camera with a reporter from KRON (Channel 4). When nobody peeped, Drill Sgt. Barry admonished the shy students for not taking advantage of a shot at free TV coverage. Cunneen piped up from the back of the room, "You just flunked your first test as a candidate." Eye, however, must confess that Barry and Cunneen flunked their first test as caterers. Better sandwiches next time, guys.

Slow Drip

As if the loss of Fuel 44 wasn't enough for downtown San Jose, Rush Cybercafe, another homegrown product, and Mongo's Mongolian Barbecue, are now on the endangered list. Rush owner JOEL CRUZ, who opened his Internet cafe in July 2000, says the lack of conventioneers and dotcommies is killing the bottom line. Business is about half what it was last year, and it's getting hard to make the rent at 80 S. First St. With bills mounting, Cruz asked Fuel 44 co-owner CHRIS ESPARZA for some advice. Esparza, however, told him to give up. So what's Cruz to do for now? Sell, sell, sell $40 raffle tickets. The tickets come with a $10 Rush gift certificate and the chance to win raffle booty that includes Rush-branded clothing, the store's furniture, computers, printers and a $3,000 Italian scooter. ... Around the corner, Mongo's owner Malcolm Benjamin says he's closing his once-thriving dining hot spot Dec. 21, after months of failed attempts to get help--or even calls back--from the city and the Redevelopment Agency. "I used to bring in 5,000 people a month at night coming to my restaurant as a destination," Benjamin recalls of his business before the economic downturn. "That's the whole game that everyone's trying to accomplish, and that should be the whole purpose of redevelopment, to help when the chips are down." He's thinking of reopening a restaurant in Bend, Ore.

In and Out

Eye mentioned a few weeks back that DENELLE FEDOR, an aide to SJ Councilman KEN YEAGER, was jumping ship to run ROD DIRIDON JR.'s assembly campaign. It didn't last long. Fedor quit before Thanksgiving. "She took the job on and looked real closely at it and decided that it wasn't what she had pictured. It was a big jump," says Diridon, adding that the departure was a mutual decision. "It was a very amenable parting, and she's still a volunteer and a supporter." Rod's new campaign manager is JEFF JANSSEN, who has run campaigns for MIKE HONDA and SAM FARR and worked as a congressional staffer for NORM MINETA.

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From the December 13-19, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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