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[whitespace] Dick Riordan Liberal Label: Some GOP conventioneers say Dick Riordan is worse than Gray Davis.

Public Eye

Circus Elephants

What better place for California Republicans to contemplate their waning relevance than here in the South Bay, where local elephants are nearly extinct. As more than 1,300 Republicans took over the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose last weekend to battle one another over how best to bring their party back to life in the state, one local survivor said being a party member in Silicon Valley was "like the first 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan." But instead of attacking incumbent GRAY DAVIS, candidates and many delegates gave Dick Riordan their undivided scorn. BILL JONES did most of the bashing in the Saturday debate for the three candidates for governor, jabbing BILL SIMON for not voting in past elections. Simon and Jones both bashed Riordan for supporting Democrats. Given the time spent on the issue, it wouldn't be hard for the casual observer to think abortion is the only thing a California governor deals with. Riordan clarified that he doesn't like abortion, but he doesn't like denying choice either. In the hall outside the ballroom, the Riordan table displayed poster-size photos of their guy with President GEORGE W. BUSH, while across the way, Jones staffers displayed their own poster: a grainy enlargement of Riordan with Davis. But in spite of all the yelling, one party leader said the whole circus was a lot tamer than it could have been, because most of the conservatives know they need to bite their tongues about Riordan. "Embracing the moderate side is the key to saving the state," the moderate pachyderm predicts. "Those doing the fighting realized it would make them look bad--and lose. I was surprised how civil some of the right-wing wackos were, actually coming up and shaking my hand. This could have looked a lot worse if they'd opened their mouths, but they took one for the team." ... One unexpectedly cheerful part of the three-day convention was the opening-night dinner (on the menu: pork) featuring House Majority Leader DICK ARMEY. Instead of a stern lecture, as one might expect from a conservative economics professor from Texas who authored the immortal Contract With America, Armey eschewed any prepared remarks and instead joked at length about fishing, grandkids, congressional Democrats (boo!) and Rep. MARY BONO's good looks.

Yanks a Lot

With three weeks to go until Election Day, Mountain View Mayor SALLY LIEBER's list of endorsers for her bid for a state Assembly seat is getting shorter. MV Councilman RALPH FARAVELLI yanked his endorsement last week. Although Faravelli was friendly with Lieber and recently supported her for mayor, he says he's let down by some of the things she's pulled since taking the post a couple weeks ago. "In some cases, she's acting like she's already in the Assembly," Faravelli says. "She gets a little heavy-handed ... too headstrong." In a letter to Lieber, Faravelli said he was upset because she yanked fellow Councilman MATT PEAR off a city commission, upset other members of the council by shuffling another committee and criticized the city for not doing enough on the day-laborers issue. "For her to criticize what the city has not done is way off-base, because the city has been working on this for six years." ... Others are steamed that Lieber listed them as endorsers after they yanked their endorsements--or never gave one to begin with. One backer--State Board of Equalization member JOHAN KLEHS--on Sally's most recent list says he never endorsed in the 22nd Assembly contest. YWCA board member NANCY PYLE yanked her endorsement after Lieber handed out campaign pieces at an organization event. Lieber also lists politically active tech exec STEVE KIRSCH as an endorser, though Kirsch is now backing Lieber rival ROD DIRIDON JR. ... Lieber, however, can boast one new endorser: enviro-crusader ERIN BROCKOVICH.

Executive Privilege

How's this for a sweet deal? A $232,788.19 salary plus 16 weeks of vacation a year. Sound a little too sweet? That's what Santa Clara County Supervisor PETE MCHUGH is wondering about county executive RICHARD WITTENBERG's contract. All top dogs at the county get 39 days of leave a year, but under a contract provision left over from ex-exec SALLY REED, Wittenberg doesn't have to work when the supes aren't working. It came out to a handful of days a year until the board started taking off the month of July, plus two weeks of winter holidays, bringing the total to 42 days. And with all the extra vacation--81 days in all--Wittenberg last year took off when the board did, then sold his unused 39 days back to the county for about $32,000. It's a pretty good amount of walking-around money, even for the second-highest-paid county exec in the state. ... McHugh tells Eye he brought up the issue in closed session a few months ago and requested a special compensation study. "I feel it's overly generous," McHugh says. "As stewards of the public money, we have to take a look at this. Nobody was aware of it, because it was grandfathered in." After supervisors looked at the study, McHugh asked board chair DON GAGE and county counsel ANN RAVEL to look into the issue. It comes back for discussion Feb. 25.

Wait and CEO

Cupertino Councilwoman SANDY JAMES is on the short list for the CEO spot at Joint Venture: Silicon Valley. From what Eye hears, it's down to three or four finalists, one of whom should be announced as the winner in a couple weeks. De Anza College President MARTHA KANTER, Joint Venture's vice chair and a pal of Sandy's, is on the interview committee, but she wouldn't say much other than that they're getting close and still interviewing. James was also mum, but she's got a bunch of things on her résumé that might make her a good candidate. She was just re-elected to a second term on the Cupe Council, and she served two terms on the Cupertino Union School Board. James works as a self-employed HR consultant, so she has experience in the government, business and education sectors Joint Venture seeks to bring together. She's also a born networker and partnership builder. If she does get the job, those are some skills that would come in handy. Whoever gets the nod will have their work cut out for them. Joint Venture has been leaderless since RUBEN BARRALES took off a year ago to become an aide to President GEORGE W. BUSH. Before Barrales, the group's only other CEO was BECKY MORGAN. Joint Venture almost closed its doors last year, but board members decided instead to slim down the operation. Self-proclaimed recovering politician JIM CUNNEEN was thinking about succeeding Barrales last year but decided instead to take a job as president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. These days, he's doing his best to raise the political profile of that organization and recapture its lost relevance. ... Speaking of Jimbo, he and the Chamber are doing just fine, thank you, according to a recent poll. Cunneen got the numbers from a "citywide campaign," presumably Gonzales for Mayor, the only citywide campaign with cash for pollsters. Cunneen and the Chamber both showed high name ID (93 and 80, respectively) and high positives plus low negatives.

Oscar Links

Sure, by the time the Academy Awards ceremony arrives, everybody's seen the top picks, but how many people ever get to sample all the documentaries, animated shorts or live-action briefs? A few frames on the broadcast, and they're gone. This year, however, local film fans can catch three Oscar nominees in the more obscure categories just by dropping in on Cinequest, which starts next week. The animated short Strange Invaders screens Feb. 22 at Camera 3, with repeat showings Feb. 25 and 28. Live-action short nominee Copy Shop shows Feb. 22 and 27, plus March 2 at Camera 3; and fellow nominee Gregor's Greatest Invention is scheduled as part of the shorts program on Feb 25 and March 1 (both at the AMC in Saratoga).

Calling All Honkies

A small but proud racially hued uprising is brewing in San Jose. Ticked-off white woman ANNE MAUREEN O'HEARN leads the new group "Honky Gringo Pride." The group formed Feb. 3 after 12 San Jose families--inspired, for better or worse, by Eye's first account of O'Hearn's gripe ("White or Wrong," Jan. 24)--banded together to oppose "shameful slurs" in library titles like Spanish for Gringos, and the use of "honky" and "palefaces" in city publications. And HGP charges that the reverse-racist buck stops with Mayor RON GONZALES. The group has thus begun a quest for a lobbyist to lean on Gonzales regarding his verbal treatment of whites. "We have figured out that there are about four people in San Jose who would have the courage to go up against the Gonzales administration's use of terms of contempt," O'Hearn said. HGP is shooting for a ban on publicly funded "books that teach contempt," a mayoral apology and a new book-banning committee. But mayoral spokeshombre DAVID VOSSBRINK says Ron's job description doesn't include picking library books. Besides, Vossbrink noted, O'Hearn's mission sounds a bit "like censorship," which raises its own concerns. So far, HGP's only response from City Hall has been from District 2 Councilman FORREST WILLIAMS, who says that, as a black man who grew up in the South, he could empathize with O'Hearn. People "can choose to be offended or not to be offended" by words like gringo, Williams told Eye. But being offended "shows some insecurity."

Statue of Limitations

50 Plus magazine isn't known for its hard-hitting journalism. But the San Jose senior paper gives BLANCA ALVARADO a run for her money in this month's cover story. After politely establishing in the first three questions that Blancarado, 70, is the oldest county supervisor, didn't attend college, and is divorced, the reporter asks about citizen safety. "This question requires a much longer answer, and I'm running out of time," she stonewalls. When she's asked whether the Quetzalcoatl statue could use a paint job, Blanca curiously takes the fifth. "No comment," she replies. So was the septuagenarian supervisor in a hurry, annoyed at the line of statue questions or truly hiding something about the serpent? Hard to say--Alvarado didn't responded to Eye's inquiries either.

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From the February 14-20, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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