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[whitespace] Unchartered Territory

Maybe the general public has better stuff to do, like watch mold grow on frozen yogurt, but it might be interested to know what ideas the politicians, the bureaucrats and the special interests are floating at the county's sparsely attended two-month-old charter review committee. For instance, County Executive Dick Wittenberg and Supervisor Pete McHugh have talked about revisiting the term-limits law overwhelmingly passed by voters five years ago. Wittenberg told the committee that it takes supes two terms, or eight years, to really learn their job. Witt and McHugh suggested they discuss allowing another four-year term. (McHugh, however, beat a hasty retreat and told Eye that he didn't mean his statement as a "position of advocacy," but, rather, a suggested topic of discussion.) Snarls term-limit champion Murphy Sabatino, "They're in too goddamn long as it is. I've heard people say that we should have only given them one term." A quick historical note: Ex-supe Dianne McKenna unsuccessfully tried to get a three-term term-limit law on the ballot as an alternative to Sabatino's less career-friendly initiative. ... The 15-member committee itself, appointed by the five supes, consists of many familiar names, like ESO exec Tommy Fulcher, environmental attorney Chuck Reed and oft-quoted poli-sci pros Terry Christensen and Stephen Van Beek. Organized labor somehow managed to stack the committee with five union pros, including Kristy Sermersheim, an executive for Local 715, the county's largest union. Their presence might come in handy when administrators try to persuade the committee to tweak the "prevailing wage" language in the charter.... No charter review would be complete without a couple of proposed power-grabs. One exotic proposal being bandied about involves creating an elected post for what would amount to a countywide mayor who would preside over the board. Readers may take comfort in the fact that any changes suggested by the committee must be approved by voters.

All Is Fair

Eye-watchers might assume that mayoral candidate Ron Gonzales would back union point person Cindy Chavez for the downtown seat on the San Jose City Council. After all, Chavez worked three years for Gonzales while he was a supervisor and he later attended her wedding to Byron Sher staffer Mike Potter. But there are some persuasive reasons to think Gonzales won't endorse Chavez. First, Gonzales has crossed former aides who have run for elected office before. In 1992, he endorsed Margie Fernandes over ex-employee Ben Menor. More importantly, supporting labor's darling won't do much to ingratiate him with Chamber of Commerce dandies he's wooed into his camp with a carefully crafted business-friendly image. Chavez and labor lady Amy Dean have been pushing a so-called living-wage ordinance, which free marketeers deride as pinko-inspired hooey. ... Also, word on the street is that Gonzales ally and onetime District 3 candidate Pete Carrillo is encouraging school board chief Rich Garcia to run for the seat. (Garcia refused to comment.) If Garcia runs, he would offer Gonzales the opportunity to endorse a Latino candidate not so blatantly tied to labor. And the Gonzales camp is said to be highly impressed by another well-credentialed candidate, federal prosecutor Tony West. At this point, however, Gonzales hasn't endorsed anyone. ... On another note: Gonzales and Chavez both showed up last weekend to work the crowd at the annual Naglee Park holiday bash thrown by well-connected Realtor Georgie Huff. In fact, several notable politicos turned up, including West, Councilman David Pandori, U.S. Rep. and neighbor Zoe Lofgren and re-coiffed mayoral aspirant Pat Dando. West outlasted all the other glad-handers, yakking it up until after midnight.

Head Start

For insiders who thought robo-campaigner Gonzales would get off to a fast start in next year's mayoral race, they should consider District 1 council candidate Linda LeZotte's anxious start. Fearing criticism and misunderstanding, Gonzales waited for the campaign season's official start date of Dec. 4 to do anything. Not LeZotte. She had already ordered preprinted two-color envelopes and a "Linda LeZotte for City Council" letterhead, a campaign post office box and a "LeZotte98" email account. On Dec. 5 she sent out money-groveling letters to potential donors on her official campaign stationery. (The letter was actually dated Dec. 3, but the envelope wasn't postmarked until two days later.) A booster of her opponent, retiring Sheriff Chuck Gillingham, grumbled about LeZotte's questionably legal head start. LeZotte, a lawyer, insists that the prearranged material is all legit because she bought it with her own money, a nifty loophole confirmed by a spokesman for the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.

No Way, Jose

As Eye forecasted, the Preservation Action Council will file a lawsuit to stop the demolition of the landmark Jose Theater this week. "The gist of what we'll be alleging," reveals PAC president Andre Luthard, "is that the pre-development agreement with the developer tainted the whole process and that no other alternatives (to demolition) were seriously considered." The group plans to ask the city to start the process all over again, which began 18 months ago when the City Council rubberstamped a privately negotiated Redevelopment Agency deal to knock down the theater and replace it with an apartment building. Since then, the City Council fashioned a "compromise" agreement that will reserve part of the space for public use but still guts the theater's auditorium and offers developers Jim Fox and Barry Swenson an extra $2 million subsidy for their trouble.

Photo Finish

Folks out at the Coalition to Save Agnews are celebrating their just-made-it victory in forcing Sun Microsystems' proposed $229 million project on the ballot next year. As it turns out, the coalition collected just 33 more certified signatures than required to force a referendum.... Now that the Sun project will go to the voters next year, expect to hear a lot more from former Santa Clara Mayor Eddie Souza, who was quoted in the Mercury News this week as a "spokesman" for the coalition. But a source close to the coalition says that Souza's participation has been a mixed blessing. During signature-gathering, as the source put it: "A lot of people expressed some pretty bad feelings for Eddie," left over from his shenanigans on the council. Eye also hears that while the irascible Souza has "helped out" with the cause to save the historic landmark currently sought by Sun, he's in no way the kingpin of the effort, which has been driven largely by the grassroots efforts of residents. Souza has reportedly had tantrums and has been rumored to have "quit" several times when his wishes were not met. "It's great to have help," the source concluded, "but there are a lot of other people involved here, too."

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From the December 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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