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Revenge is Neat: Council candidate and school board trustee Nancy Pyle opposes colleague.

Public Eye

Public Schooling

Political aspirer Nancy Pyle scored her revenge on City Hall scenester Dawn Wright this month, Wright tells Eye. But rather than ire, the tooth-for-a-tooth trick was met with chuckles by its intended victim. Pyle, who's running for the San Jose City Council seat that termed-out token Republican Pat Dando is vacating, failed to capture Wright's nod ("Pyle On," Nov. 13). That's notable, since Wright supported Pyle during her past two runs for the council. More than that, though, the two serve together as members of the Evergreen Valley Community College Board of Trustees. Naturally, Pyle had to take revenge. As Wright and a political onlooker tell it, Pyle lobbied school board colleagues to pass over Wright as the new board vice president during their vote last week. ... Wright, however, chuckles about not scoring the veep position, because being a plain, old board member means fewer meetings. "She probably did me a favor," says Wright, who is also Councilmember Chuck Reed's staff chieftain. She also flips back a page on the wonky spat, explaining that she chose not to back her colleague only after Pyle announced at a meeting that she wasn't going to run. Pyle later reversed that decision. "Should I change my mind because she can't make up her mind about whether she wants to serve the public?" Wright quips, betraying, perhaps, a wee bit more bitterness than she cares to confess. Pyle tells Eye firmly that she performed absolutely no lobbying prior to the vote. She simply supported Ron Ling, an alternative to Wright, and shared her opinion with the board's president. Her campaign brain Greg Sellers says the chatter is simply more negative campaigning from opponent Rich De La Rosa's camp. "I urge Rich De La Rosa to focus on his own campaign." Ultimately, Wright's slipping through Pyle's fingers doesn't much lower the tide of support for this well-connected candidate. Pyle's long list of honorables who have endorsed her ranges from Congressman Mike Honda to four of the five other school board trustees. The roster even includes "District 5" Councilmember Terry Gregory, who normally represents District 7.

Watered Down

In the minds of many, government is a large, sprawling, out-of-touch beast. Eye is pleased to report that the powers that be sometimes do listen seriously to the concerns of locals and will make adjustments. (Or maybe they're just paranoid about taking public beatings.) Just ask Danny Garza, associate president of the Mexican-American Political Association. The man has issues. Near his home at the corner of King and McKee roads, residents have complained about the flooding from Silver Creek. The Santa Clara Valley Water District proposed a plan to do something about it, but it was a little too much in the eyes of Garza. Literally. He stands about 5-foot-6, and the planned 5-foot flood walls would block the view from McKee. ... So he wrote a letter to the board, whose reps then came out in force to hear his plea, on a Sunday no less: Joe Judge, Dick Santos and George Fowler among others (this being a week after Eye looked into it). And lo and behold, by the end of the meeting, an agreement had been reached and 1 foot came off the wall. ... Earlier this year, the water district's board scrapped an idea to build a new reservoir bordering Henry Coe State Park just days after Metro ran a story ("Cheating Pacheco Creek," May 15) about a spirited community campaign against the Henry Coe option. Before the Metro story appeared, community and environmental activists had contended that the water district had repeatedly sidestepped addressing their concerns. It seems the district has learned its lesson (to a point)--in Garza's case, the district apparently didn't wait for a newspaper story before finally playing good with the community; indeed, the board magically intervened after Eye started snooping around. Does this mean the water district cares or is it just afraid of bad press? Mike DiMarco, the water district's PR guy, puts forth the former theory: "We work for the community and not in a vacuum." Eye will stay on top of this.


Do the Waive

Labor angel Alberto Torrico, a member of the Newark City Council and private attorney who goes to bat for union causes, won over local delegates to the California Democratic Party convention (which takes place in mid-January in San Jose) during a preliminary endorsement vote last Saturday. Members of the 20th Assembly District partiers chose from the five candidates running to succeed sitting duck John Dutra. It takes a 70 percent majority to plant a candidate on the consent calendar and in position to claim final backing at the Democratic convention. Torrico scored a grand 90-some-odd percent slap on the tushy. As a party delegate himself, he thrust one of the 43 out of 46 thumbs upward for his own campaign. Torrico operatives assert that this vote of confidence from the party line makes it hard for Torrico's critics to write him off as a one-note labor guy. So, is he the front-runner yet?

Red Eye

Horrifyingly, Eye screwed up last week in reporting the amount that a group of Republicans owes San Jose firm Robert Mattoch Direct Marketing ("Money Balks," Dec. 11) for some political mailers. The Committee to Elect Responsible Republicans has actually paid down its $10,000 debt and now owes substantially less. A Feb. 19 invoice from Mattoch Marketing says $3,225.80 remains unpaid. Gordon Abbott, treasurer of the Republican Central Committee of Santa Clara County, to whom the bill is addressed, counters that the political action committee owes less than $2,000 of the 2-year-old bill at this point. Abbott says he's an innocent who's trying to clean up after some irresponsible members of the Committee to Elect Responsible Republicans. And in fact, he's already quit that committee because "people didn't honor their commitments."

Absolutely, according to Torrico campaign manager Mike Jacob: "This is the biggest endorsement you can get in the primary." No, says Barry Barnes, who works for Torrico opponent Henry Manayan. Barnes touts three recent Dem endorsements his candidate scored: from the California Democratic Council, Democratic Activists for Women Now and the Silicon Valley Democratic Forum. In other 20th District news, candidates Dennis Hayashi, who headed the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and Ash Bhatt, former San Francisco Public Utilities commissioner, both opted not to comply with the voluntary spending cap for the race, thus forgoing the March 2 ballot statements in favor of the ingenious throw-cash-at-the-voters ploy. The thing is, these are the two players in the game with the least name recognition, as they both moved into the district to run. By extension, one would imagine, they constitute the pair most in need of a formal introduction to the voters. (The wacky district includes Fremont, Union City, Newark and Milpitas and touches parts of unincorporated San Jose, Hayward, Pleasanton and Castro Valley.) Furthermore, Hayashi came in fourth place with about $78,000, and Bhatt slid into fifth with about $52,000 in fundraising by the October filing date. One fellow dubs their waiving of spending limits "political suicide," since it tells Democrats that "you're against campaign finance reform." Eye finds it at least intriguing that these cash-poor district newbies expect to max out the $425,000 limit.

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From the December 18-24, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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