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Missed Connections: Councilmember loses endorsement to shrewd opponent.

Public Eye

Fair Trade?

Milpitas Councilmember Bob Livengood discovered last week that his re-election campaign had one less friend than he'd hoped. Something looked fishy about this. When our hero phoned up-and-coming bureaucrat/community activist Zeya Mihson, with whom he's traded support in the past and whose endorsement he solicited for his November 2004 re-election bid, she surprised him with an apologetic decline. She'd already given her nod to rival candidate Patricia Dixon, Livengood reports to Eye. That's all dandy. But why, wondered Livengood, would Mihson back Dixon? Dixon, who opposed Mihson's 2000 school board campaign while the Bobster was the only Milpitas councilmember who endorsed her in that race? While it's kind of a stumper, the reason might have something to do with Dixon voting her new buddy onto the city Planning Commission earlier this month following a related one-on-one chat in Dixon's City Hall office. That's certainly what it looks like. ... Here's the beef. On Dec. 9, councilmembers held 20-minute interviews with four candidates before appointing two of them to the high-profile commission, which pays $25 a meeting. The council chose Mihson, who has served on the Parks and Rec and Bicycle and Transportation Commissions, and Community Advisory Commission chair Alfred Garcia, passing up Jacob Krommenhock and Bob Leuong. (Mihson and Garcia must step down from their other commissions to assume their new posts, according to Milpitas anti-hoggery dictum.) Mihson denies having promised to back former foe Dixon in exchange for her vote. She concedes, however, that the two conversed about Planning Commission issues before the council appointed its picks. Council colleague Armando Gomez (who sides with the Dixon faction on issues concerning governing methods as often as ... never) happened to spot Dixon conducting a cozy meet-up with Mihson in her City Hall office on Nov. 21, a couple of weeks before the vote.

Vying Game

This just in. Former state Assemblymember Ted Lempert thinks he's going to win his bid for state Senate. But in a surprise twist, current state Assemblymember Joe Simitian takes the contrary position that he's the voters' hands-down fave. This exciting race to replace Santa Clara County's current state senator, Byron Sher, took off last week with the release of dueling polls. And in a shocking turn, Simitian's opinion researcher, Sacramento's J. Moore Methods Inc., found that he's "the clear front-runner in the race," with more than a 2-to-1 (27 percent to 12 percent) lead over Lempert. Lempert's people, the Evans/McDonough Company, which has an Oakland office, determined that Simitian takes the more manageable lead of 7 mere percentage points, or 19 percent over Lempert's 12 percent. This suggests, to Eye's pleasure, that creativity lives on in the fascinating world of political polling. And that preliminary discrepancy (or shall we say, individuality) ain't all. Both math-whiz teams take the pulse of the voters after reading some nice rhetoric about their politicians in action on controversial things like the environment (for or against?), spending limits (the root of evil?) and public education (should kids learn stuff?). Lempert slays Simitian 42 percent to 27 percent in the Lempert poll, while--what do you know?--the Smitty creams Lempy 53 percent to 24 percent in the Simitian poll. Ultimately, claims Evans/McDonough on behalf of Lempert, 69 percent of District 11 voters don't give a fig which nice white, smart, middle-aged fella fills Sher's seat in March. "Clearly, this race will be won by the candidate who can convince the undecided voters that he is the man for the job," concludes Lempert's light-shedding press release. Lempert's strategy, therefore, will be to tap into voters' "anxiety" about campaigning politicians' reckless spending, since his rival, who hasn't agreed to cap his campaign finances, leaves himself open by having no plan but to run "an aggressive and well-funded campaign."

Letter Men

The sparring between senator wannabes Ted Lempert and Joe Simitian is starting to draw blood. But the questions of who drew first blood and whose blood is being drawn is apparently still up for debate. Beyond arguing over who's got who by the jingle bells, the two are also exploring the dying art of letter writing, although John and Abigail Adams Simitian and Lempert certainly are not. First, just before Thanksgiving, came Simitian's letter to Lempert. In it, Simitian pointed out that he believed two statements on Lempert's website were false: (1) that Simitian "vowed to break" voter-approved campaign spending caps; and (2) that "every Democrat in the Santa Clara County legislative delegation who has taken a position in the race has endorsed Ted over his opponent--which is very unusual in a Democratic primary." Simitian protested that the spending caps are voluntary: "I didn't 'vow to break' any limit," he wrote. "I chose not to limit my spending ..." Also, Simitian named Assemblyman Simon Salinas as one of his endorsers, contrary to the second statement from Lempert's website. In December, Lempert wrote Simitian back to thank him for fact-checking his website and to counter with a scathing critique of Simitian's spending history. "I was a little confused [at Simitian's letter]," Lempert tells Eye. "You're either a yes or a no [on spending caps]. I'm saying yes, I'm accepting; he's saying no and is declining or breaking them. The key point is not semantics." The wording of the website, Lempert says, will not be changed despite Simitian's letter--though Lempert did concede Simitian's point about Salinas ("There's new endorsements we're made aware of all the time," he says).

Season's Bleedings

Calling all readers looking for an airtight way to judge the Board of Supes. Here at last, it's Eye's year-end county karma-meter. Eye's team of karma scientists powwowed over the complicated moral indicator generated by the county's annual United Way contributions, which are conveniently broken down by office, as if giving to the needy were a competition. ... Which it is. And now, from best to worst, the results are ... Of the supes, Liz Kniss has the nicest office! Her crew gave $3,328 this year. Blanca Alvarado and staff came in next, having coughed up $2,288. Pete McHugh's team chipped in a reasonable $1,326. But Don Gage and his staff could only scrounge up a mere $567. And for shame, Jim Beall! His office gave $416. Where's the liberal guilt? Also of comparative note, the public defender's office topped the district attorney's office in do-gooder funds, $38,277 to $23,266; the department of corrections just barely eclipsed probation, $17,094 to $14,251; and the social services department kicked everyone's ass with a $72,991 ante.

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From the December 25-31, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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