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No Mea Culpa

Your Voices Count, a local volunteer political watchdog group, is accusing Democratic ladder-climber Elaine White Alquist of breaking her signed pledge to run an honest campaign. YVC came to this conclusion after investigating a litany of post-election complaints filed with the group by Alquist's opponent, Karin Dowdy. The defeated Dowdy objected to campaign literature she claimed distorted her record and made her look like a conservative cretin, which Dowdy does perfectly well on her own. The armchair reformers at YVC agreed that campaign literature paid for by the Democratic Party and Alquist's Assembly campaign distorted Dowdy's moderate positions on tax cuts and abortion. Alquist, however, refused to apologize for or condemn the mailing done on her behalf by the Demos, as she agreed to do in her signed pledge of accountability one year ago. Alquist told YVC that her mailings were all accurate and verifiable, though she offered no back-up material. Regarding a somewhat misleading piece funded by the Demos, "Sorry, Karin, three lies, you're out," Alquist ducked and dodged by saying, "I am not responsible for, nor legally can have any connections with, mailings done by the Democratic Party or any other entity." Eye assumes those "other entities" don't include her bedmate husband, retired state senator Al Alquist, who signed a fundraising letter that falsely implied Dowdy was a tool of anti-abortion political forces. When Eye pressed her office for clarification, Alquist belatedly faxed a nondenial: "I firmly believe that the people of Santa Clara County demand and deserve clean campaigns from their political candidates, and I intend to continue to hold our campaigns to a very high standard."

April Fools

The feud between the San Francisco Examiner and the San Jose Mercury News took a satiric turn on April Fools' Day, when Examiner columnist Rob Morse facetiously reported that the Merc was possibly being bought out by the provincial Palo Alto Daily News. Tempers flared last year when the Merc ran stories citing unnamed sources predicting the troubled afternoon paper's imminent demise. The stories so irked Phil Bronstein, the Examiner's swashbuckling executive editor, that he dedicated three minutes of an acceptance speech at an awards ceremony last summer to sneering at the Merc. In his column, Morse cheekily noted that reps from both papers were seen chatting at Henry's Hi-Life. Morse also took a parting shot at reporter Miranda Ewell, quoting his anonymous source as saying the Daily News would probably keep her in Milpitas. "We got a real good laugh out of it," Daily News writer Brian Bothun tells Eye. In fact, they liked it so much, the Daily News reprinted the column the next day. Bothun says his colleagues tried to lure the Merc into responding, without any success. "They wouldn't play," Bothun laments.

Make My Payday

That yawn you hear is from San Jose's taxpayers, who have uttered not a peep during this year's round of salary talks concerning the mayor and City Council members. Public apathy was aptly demonstrated when no one showed up at the Council Salary Setting Commission's public hearing last month. (Even Eye had better things to do that evening.) Vice Chair Leon Louie says that in the past when the city was talking about job cuts and tax hikes, the commission would hear plenty of opposition to council salary hikes. But with the local economy booming now, Louie says, people don't care as much. "When the times are good, people have other things to worry about, like figuring what kind of refrigerator or car they want to buy," he observes. When the commission makes its recommendation later this month, look for them to suggest boosting council members' salaries from $56,000 to about $60,000 and upping the mayor's annual pay from $85,000 to about $90,000. The City Council ultimately decides whether to give itself a raise. ... Councilmembers Manny Diaz and George Shirakawa Jr. have already expressed their unequivocal support for a pay hike. Ex-firefighter John Diquisto told the commission that council members should have a $75,000 starting salary--a good middle-management wage, considering the qrueling hours and job pressure. Pat Dando, Frank Fiscalini, and David Pandori were more cautious, possibly because they are thinking about running for mayor. Dando pledged to vote against a pay raise. Neither Pandori nor Fiscalini would commit either way.

Iron Byron

Although he won the election, low-key state Sen. Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) is still a little ticked off. One year ago, Sher got blasted by a last-minute campaign smear, mailed by an obscure independent expenditure committee called Citizens for Responsible Representation. The wildly inaccurate piece wrongly accused Sher--usually thought of as a sentimental tree-hugger--of breaking environmental laws by allowing untrained workers to handle unlabeled toxic chemicals on his ranch. It later turned out that Gov. Pete Wilson kicked in most of the money for the smear, but because of a loophole in state campaign law, voters didn't find out that Pete and other GOP financed the piece until five months after the primary, when disclosure reports came due. If voters had known Reep money backed the smear, a Sher aide says, then they might have been more skeptical. Iron Byron's solution: force an independent committee to disclose exactly who's paying for 11th hour campaign mailers--before the election. The state's new voter-approved campaign finance law already severely hamstrings independent expenditures, though Sher's office insists there's still plenty of loopholes for fat cats to exploit. So far, the bill has met no opposition in the Senate, perhaps because members of both parties are too busy trying to get the courts to throw out Prop. 208, the latest campaign finance initiative.

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From the April 10-16, 1997 issue of Metro

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