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Public Eye


When the Santa Clara County Young Democrats got together at the ultra-hip and happening South First Street Billiards last week for a fundraiser, the party didn't attract as many local-office hopefuls as expected. One observer chalked it up to propriety. "No one has come out behind any of the candidates," the observer commented. "Maybe they aren't here so they can keep their alliances secret." In any event, Young Democrat officers said they were able to get quite a few donations from the same officials who didn't show up at the bash. ... Now the young donkeys have a tidy sum--they raised $2,500--to spend on raising election-year hell. "We're in the process of organizing stuff," assures Young Democrat president Chris Hemingway. "We are going to do our part in this election." ... The event, officially to honor state Sen. Al Alquist, did draw county Supervisor Jim Beall, Santa Clara City Council contender Roger Dunne Jr., county supervisor candidate Pat Sausedo, Senate shoo-in and current Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, and Assembly candidate (and Al's wife) Elaine Alquist White. Among the current office-squatters present was San Jose City Councilman John Diquisto. While the youngsters tore into chicken nuggets and bagel pizzas, Diquisto watched the pool tables and talked about growing tomatoes on the roof of City Hall, a subject he finds much more compelling than the growing headcount at the Redevelopment Agency.

Gut Instinct

Speaking of campaigns, the rumor mill regarding the 1998 mayoral race continues to crank out wannabes. Ever the coy codger, City Councilman Frank Fiscalini--touted as a possible contender for months--still isn't ready to take the paper plunge--yet. Handlers say Fiscalini won't make his decision until the end of the year. That doesn't mean the council's oldest member isn't being recruited to run. "There have been numerous people talking to him about running," confirms Fiscalini aide Joe Guerra, adding that his boss is not going out and shaking the trees for support. Meanwhile, Fiscalini already has one of his council cohorts picking him to win. Councilman Diquisto confides to Eye he has a "gut-level feeling" that Fiscalini will win the 1998 mayoral race, even in a contest with ambitious newbie Pat Dando. Despite his feeling, Diquisto says he won't endorse anyone until he sees who officially enters the race.

Lotsa Calls

The way that City Attorney Joan Gallo sounded last Thursday, you'd think the June 4 Metallica show at the South San Jose Tower Records resulted in a bottle-throwing melee. Criminal charges have been levied on Bill Graham Presents, Elektra Entertainment (Metallica's label), Tower Records manager Barbara Williamson and a Tower Records vice president, Bob Delanoy, for the surprise parking-lot performance that drew 9,000 heavy metal fans and tied up traffic near Santa Teresa Boulevard and Blossom Hill Road for a few hours. In the aftermath of the noisefest, four separate charges were filed, including disturbing the peace, obstructing traffic, and failure to obtain permits to close streets and play amplified sound. Furthermore, the city finance director is sending a $7,000 bill to Tower Records to cover costs for police and fire department services. "I think the destruction that was caused deliberately and purposefully to get publicity and take advantage of this community needs to be dealt with in a criminal form," the city attorney seethed. ... When asked about the appropriateness of the punishment, one exasperated defendant involved in the impromptu concert told Eye: "You would have thought that we were kidnapping babies for Richard Allen Davis or something." ... Lauren Wood, a former promoter at One Step Beyond and California Concerts, points out that the cumulative total of traffic around the Arena during Sharks games has caused more delays than one concert, but they're not considered criminally negligent. "San Jose has been gaining a nice reputation," Wood puffed. "We get good bands at the Cactus Club; KOME has done a phenomenal job. The city, meanwhile, can't pick a good slogan ["small-town-heart, big-city-soul"] and are acting like some backwoods sheriffs who want to teach Metallica a lesson. They do not see Metallica picking San Jose for a free concert as a good thing, or the positive coverage on MTV and CNN. They see they didn't get money out of the show in tax revenues and parking fees. And they're more than happy for them to come back in August." ... Meanwhile, Eye wonders whether 9,000 happy citizens at the show outnumbered complainers. Apparently no official numbers were kept on the number of complaints logged. "We received telephone calls and the City Council received calls," summarized Gallo, without venturing a guess. "We got a lot of calls."

Gun Smoke

Gallo's PR stunt comes on the heels of mayoral posturer Margie Fernandes' Saturday Night Special headline grab. The councilwoman heightened her visibility last week by advocating a ban on the sale of the junk guns, and the council voted to move ahead with the ordinance on June 18, to the consternation of the National Rifle Association members from around the county who teemed from out of the woodwork to protest the proposal. Anti-gang and church activists were delighted by the 6-5 vote. ... But the ordinance may be as substantive as the hot air expended in council chambers that long-winded evening. Turns out the California Rifle and Pistol Association and the NRA have filed suit against the city of West Hollywood for their junk gun ban, and San Jose's ordinance (like those adopted by Oakland and San Francisco) is modeled after what may turn out to be a legal clunker. The two gun-toters' organizations argue that municipally generated gun bans are invalid because only the state can regulate gun sales and their owners. ... And they may have a point. City Attorney Joan Gallo cautioned the council prior to its 6-5 vote of "a high probability" that the courts will agree with the NRA and CRPA. Legal opinion isn't unanimous on this point, but Gerald Uelmen, former dean of Santa Clara University's law school, weighed in on Gallo's side. "I tend to agree with the city attorney," he intoned. "I think it's a lost cause." ... More than that, Uelmen continued, the city's decision to adopt legislation likely to be shot down by the courts is dangerous. "It's really just setting up the public," he reasoned. "It doesn't achieve anything." Except making the city vulnerable to a lawsuit, he noted.

Grand Gesture

And in yet another recent move that smacked of political grandstanding and dubious legality, the council also voted to ban cardroom owners, operators and their spouses from contributing to council campaigns. Between 1990 and 1996, the local gaming industry provided some $27,000 to winning councilmembers. Campaign contributions are considered an act of free speech, but city lawyer Gallo purports that since the gambling industry is highly regulated, the city could prohibit cardroom owners and operators from contributing to council candidates, as long as employees are excluded. ... Yes, the gambling industry is heavily regulated, but so are taxi drivers, offered a baffled George Alexander, professor of constitutional law at Santa Clara University. "I can't imagine anyone saying taxicab drivers can't contribute to city government." ... In Alexander's view, not only is the underlying logic behind the policy unclear, but it raises serious constitutional questions. "It's at least under a constitutional cloud," Alexander tells Eye. That's particularly disconcerting, he notes, when the council could have assuaged public concerns about the influence of cardroom money by voluntarily refusing to accept it.

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From the June 27-July 3, 1996 issue of Metro

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