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Coup Cats

You could have cut the tension with a pâté knife at a black-tie fundraiser for the Los Gatos Community Foundation, held two weeks ago on an estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. As other dignitaries, including four council contenders, nibbled on snacks and chatted, Los Gatos Councilmember Steve Blanton pulled council wannabe Jan Hutchins aside and chastised him for letting the cat out of the bag that Blanton "recruited" candidates Egon Jensen and Frank Jones to unseat incumbent and longtime foe Linda Lubeck. Blanton had apparently blurted out his strategy at a coffee-shop meeting with Hutchins in September, and the news spread faster than a mocha stain on a linen suit. ... Blanton now says Hutchins misunderstood: True, he's backing Jensen and Jones--whom he helped to defeat Measure C (the general utility tax) last spring--but he didn't recruit them. Blanton told Eye he gave both Jensen and Jones strategic advice and pledged to endorse them, but that was all. ... Jensen, meanwhile, denied receiving any advice or promise of endorsement from Blanton. Jones refused to answer the question. ... Blanton's opposition didn't faze Lubeck, who said Blanton hasn't spoken to her publicly in three years--since she refused to help him become mayor. "I've told him I don't respect him, and I would never support him for mayor," Lubeck said. ... Town Hall insiders speculate that Blanton's coup is designed not only to banish Lubeck, but to drum up enough notoriety so he can seek higher office after his second term ends in two years.

Hung Up

Speaking of higher aspirations, Los Gatos painter Susan Grant's recent artistic statement about penile enlargements at the Tait Museum seems to have rubbed at least one customer the wrong way. Inspired in part by Metro's exposé on shaky medical practices surrounding the penile enlargement industry ("Unhung Hero"), Grant's painting depicts a naked man with an elephant's head and a long trunk that hangs down between his legs, forming a sort of pachydermian appendage. "The trunk falls right down in front of his testicles," Grant helpfully explains. ... The sight, however, proved overwhelming to at least one visitor to the museum, where the painting was, uh, hung last week, and the gallery took it down. The good news is that Grant's work is back up, but a banner stenciled with the word "censored" now covers the offending zone. "It was a test, I have to admit," Grant says. "But it was just a takeoff on all that 'Dr. Dick' stuff that was going around."

Smoke Screen

It's doubtful that Karin Dowdy made many media friends Monday with her bait-and-switch event at downtown San Jose's Bella Mia restaurant, which promised to deliver Attorney General Dan Lungren on Proposition 215 (medicinal use of marijuana) and juvenile drug use, but amounted to a snoozy stump stop for Dowdy, she of the owlish specs. ... Dowdy, striving for the 22nd State Assembly seat over Demo opponent Elaine White Alquist, suckered the attendees with promises of intoxicating discussions with Lungren on marijuana, which, in this case, lasted approximately five minutes, with four questions from reporters, before the "press conference" was firmly shut down. ... As Eye chatted with Reep Assemblymember Jim Cunneen and Lungren in the foyer about the ostensible topic at hand, Monte Sereno Councilwoman Suzanne Jackson kept coming outside to interrupt. "You better get in here. She's challenged her opponent to a debate!" ... Cunneen, also stumping for Dowdy, denounced Prop. 215, citing an unnamed "cumulative brain disorder" caused by the wacky weed. Lungren cited studies about marijuana use, which he claims "is as harmful or more harmful than alcohol abuse." ... Meanwhile, inside the Republican fundraiser-cum-press conference, business at the fully hosted bar was booming.

Fact Check

Speaking of drugs, as black leaders mobilize around a San Jose Mercury News exposé connecting the CIA and Nicaraguan contra crack dealers, commentators from the mainstream and right-wing press have started trying to blow holes in reporter Gary Webb's story. ... On Friday, the Washington Post published a front-page story rehashing its investigation from the 1980s on the exact same drug dealers Webb featured in his story. The Post said "available information does not support the conclusion that the CIA-backed contras--or Nicaraguans in general--played a major role in the emergence of crack (in the U.S.)." The Post found contradictions in the dealer's testimony that undermine Webb's account. (For the full story, do a search at Web site http://www.washington post.com.) ... More criticism comes from Tucker Carlson in the recent issue of D.C's conservative Weekly Standard. The Merc story, he says, doesn't claim the CIA "sold" anything. It only alleges the CIA looked the other way as contra leader Emilio Blandon sold the crack to raise money for the contras. ... Moreover, Carlson contends, "Webb offers no quotes from CIA employees, on or off the record, no government cables or memos or written instructions that show the agency had any knowledge of what Blandon and [fellow trafficker Norwin] Menenses were doing." ... Last Sunday, in a front-page follow-up story, Webb wrote that documents containing the names of CIA operatives were found in the home of a member of Blandon's drug trafficking ring. But those documents are still under court-ordered seal. Is this the smoking gun, or is Webb blowing smoke? Or is the CIA too slippery to be pinned? Stay tuned.

Secret Agency

As Eye watchers know, control is paramount over at the Redevelopment Agency. So Eye can only imagine the cacophony of alarms that blared Tuesday when officials discovered that Merc reporter Barry Witt had snagged a copy of a top-secret popularity survey commissioned by the Redevelopment Agency. In fact, the agency was already gnashing its teeth over the fact that Metro, acting on a tip from the sixth floor of City Hall, formally requested a copy of the coveted document two weeks ago. Never mind that the agency had been staging its own dog-and-pony show of the results for the councilmembers for well over a month. The RDA told Metro it would release the document after it was formally presented to the council, which spokesperson Carol Beddo estimated would be in another month. ... So why all the hush-hush? Beddo says the $36,000 survey conducted by the Berkeley-based Evans/McDonough was the agency's sincere way of finding out what people think about the agency and its spending of millions. In Evans/McDonough's interpretation, which happens to be shared by the agency itself, the agency is on the right track, only people don't know what a swell job they're doing. Here's another way to read the survey, based upon their own figures. What do residents think are the three most important projects and activities supported by tax dollars? Education, public safety, and freeways and streets. Least important? Public art, downtown revitalization, and downtown residential neighborhoods. Ssshhh.

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From the October 10-16, 1996 issue of Metro

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