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Bonus Rounds

Union officials in San Jose are grumbling about city management receiving bonuses as high as $4,000 while the City Council publicly calls for fiscal belt-tightening. Although the council budgeted $500,000 for management bonuses in June, unions heavies only recently caught wind of it. According to city spokesman Tom Manheim, about 550 managers in City Hall are eligible for the bonuses, which are above and beyond their regular 3 percent cost-of-living hikes. Manheim says the bonuses are based on performance and can't exceed 5 percent of the recipient's salary. ... Why are the unions seeing red? Last year the New Realities Task Force, led by Mayor Susan Hammer, pushed the idea that the city had to conduct its business more efficiently and asked the unions to cooperate. Aside from recommending tax hikes, the task force proposed that city departments compete with private companies for contracts for city services‹a bitter pill swallowed by the unions. "It's like a stab in the back," one ticked-off city worker says about the bonuses. ... But Manheim says the task force's recommendations affect the city from top to bottom. Possible changes in health and retirement benefits affect both union members and managers, he says. "Everybody in the city's being asked, not just the unions, to provide services in a more efficient manner."

Bought and Paid For

How keen are the state and its hired hands to sell 80 acres of the historic Agnews property in Santa Clara to Sun Microsystems? So eager that a real estate consultant for the state allegedly paid kids $40 a day to gather more than 1,000 signatures for a petition pushing the Sun deal. Lorne Smyth, a local business booster, submitted one such petition to the Santa Clara City Council last month, presenting it as a genuine outpouring of community sentiment sponsored by the Northside Residents Association. But when a councilmember (tipped off by the wife of former mayor Eddie Souza) asked Smyth if the signature-gatherers were paid, Smyth admitted they were. Oakland consultant Dan Potash coughed up the money to deliver the ostensible popular uprising. ... The petition questionably suggests that Sun's development plan presents the area's best chance of getting a grocery store. Since residents north of Bayshore have to drive miles away to do their grocery shopping, most were inclined to sign a petition tempting them with a nearby supermarket. That's misleading at best, Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor says, adding that the Sun deal offers no guarantee of a new grocery store. Local residents may just have to snack on computer chips instead.

Holistic Man

Jan Hutchins wears many hats: newscaster, TV producer, Los Gatos Town Council member, ethicist and ... massage therapist? That's right, the Jan-man graduated from the National Holistic Institute about 15 years ago and for a while even set up shop in his office at Channel 36. These days Hutchins only dabbles in the trade by kneading his wife's weary feet, occasionally teaching a massage class for local charities and giving shoulder rubs at dinner parties. His shoulder rubs are so common that one friend assured Hutchins during his council campaign, "If everybody you've given a shoulder massage to votes for you, then you'll win." Still puzzled by his victory, Hutchins muses, "Maybe that's what happened." ... The political neophyte was surprised to hear that his hometown won't license massage therapists who don't work under a physician, physical therapist or registered nurse, thereby preventing most bodyworkers from having home offices. Ponders Hutchins: "Wow, does this mean when I give my wife foot massages, it's illegal? I'll have to look into that."

Loopholes Wanted

Strategists for supe candidate Rosemary Kamei are grumbling about Proposition 208, the state's new campaign finance law. Why? Among other things, the new law diminishes the influence of the local Democratic Party, which endorsed Kamei in December. Recently filed campaign reports show that the Demos spent more than $41,000 in the final weeks of the general election to help elect Joe Simitian to the county Board of Supervisors. But Proposition 208 apparently won't allow Kamei any such windfall. The law closes the "soft money" loophole somewhat by saying political parties don't act independently of party-supported candidates. The skinny is that the Demos likely can't spend more than $250 on Kamei's behalf. Yet, the Kamei campaign complains, conservative opponent Don Gage can still receive unfettered support from the likes of the National Rifle Association. Steve Preminger, chair of the local Democratic Party, says he's been consulting with attorneys looking for wiggle room in the law. "We're still investigating what role and contributions we can legally make," Preminger tells Eye. "We're clearly in unchartered territory."

Sunday Surprise

The Sunday before the Feb. 4 special election, a Kamei supporter coming out of church found a flier on her windshield from Concerned Women for America, a national "pro-family" group reminiscent of the Christian Coalition, boasting 2,000 members in the county. The flier features three supe candidates' answers (including those given by the very conservative Gage) to a right-wing litmus test with loaded questions about same-sex marriages, domestic partners benefits and public funding for abortion. A couple of curious "environmental" questions had little or nothing to do with families or being a county supervisor: "Do you support Smog Check II?" and "Are you aware of the new formulated gasoline and its effects on the drinking water?" Eye was disappointed that candidates weren't asked if they oppose the United Nations' secret plan to overthrow America, believe dead White House counsel Vince Foster was murdered by Hillary Clinton and agree that the Illuminati have a pernicious influence over the course of world events.

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From the February 13-19, 1997 issue of Metro

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