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[whitespace] Joe Simitian Sit or Kniss? Spectators wonder if outgoing Palo Alto Supe Joe Simitian will back old colleague Liz Kniss to succeed him or remain safely seated on the fence.

Political Underside

Add yet another name to the long list of would-be candidates for the north county seat on the Board of Supervisors: Palo Alto City Councilwoman Liz Kniss. Insiders predict Kniss will be appealing to the university town's voters. Palo Alto Mayor Gary Fazzino, who briefly toyed with the idea of running for supervisor, has already declared his support for Kniss. The question now is whether departing Supe Joe Simitian, who is running for Assembly, will join his Palo Alto brethren in backing Kniss. A Peninsula pundit describes Simitian and Kniss as "very close allies." Kniss, in fact, walked precincts for her Palo Alto neighbor in 1996. Their closeness--politically and geographically--has sparked speculation that Simitian encouraged his old City Council colleague to run, or is at least paying off an old debt. The problem for Simitian is that with so many allies in the race, he risks offending someone by endorsing, which is why state Sen. Byron Sher has decided to remain an innocent bystander. Neither Kniss nor Simitian--who was on his way to visit Kosovar refugees in Albania--could be buttonholed for comment. However, Simitian did tell someone within the past week that he is neutral.... Kniss may not even be an official candidate yet, but she already has managed to register a blip on the gaffe meter. She told the Democratic Forum last week that she would like to help Palo Alto's "underside," according to a couple of witnesses. ... For those keeping score at home, there are now seven credible humans actively considering joining the mosh pit for Simitian's District 5 seat: Kniss, Foothill-De Anza College trustee Dolly Sandoval, former Saratoga Mayor Don Wolfe, ex-Mountain View Councilwoman Pat Figueroa, county Planning Commissioner Terry Trumbull and Cupertino councilors Michael Chang and Sandy James. ... At least we can finally remove one person from the contender list: Tax Assessor Larry Stone. "It's safe to say at this point he's not running," reveals David Ginsborg, Stone's gatekeeper. Stone is now in the process of deciding whom to throw his weight behind. Ginsborg acknowledges that Stone has met several times with Sandoval and likes what he sees, but the assessor is also impressed with Kniss and her concerns for the underside.

It's All Here

Those nutty funsters at The Tech Museum of Innovation--Silicon Valley's cultural mecca--were determined to show that even techno-geeks know how to have a good time at Friday night's Gizmo WYSIWYG benefit. Tech staff and volunteers paraded around in beanies with propellers, while guests were implored to come dressed as mad scientists or in eye-catching nerd wear. The evening's main event was a sassy live auction, which the Tech's webpage promised would feature 20 "only in Silicon Valley" things to bid on. Among the "only in Silicon Valley" items auctioned: A Utah getaway, a one-week stay in Hawaii, a backstage tour at Disneyland, two separate diving trips to Palau, a visit to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream plant in Vermont, and, finally, an excursion to the high-tech paradise of Puerto Rico. Oh, of course, there was a chance to spend a day on the links with Knight Ridder strongman Tony Ridder at the exclusive Cypress Point Country Club in Pebble Beach, an honor which cost some lucky guy $2,600. ... But there were actually some real "only in Silicon Valley" things, too. Take, for instance, the hungry big-spender who coughed up $3,000 to have former Hewlett-Packard chief Lew Platt and his wife, Joan, come over and cook dinner. Then there was the autographed "Silicon Valley legends" portrait featuring Apple man Steve Jobs, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, vulture capitalist John Doerr and Sun luminary Scott McNealy, among others. That went for $2,600, even though everyone was fully clothed in the photograph.

Career Climbing

For nearly 15 years, Mavis Toscano has served as Supervisor and now Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren's most trusted and loyal aide. But this week one of the valley's longest-lasting political partnerships will come to an end. Toscano is giving up her job as Lofgren's chief of staff to go punch the clock for Sun Microsystems as its manager of public policy for state and local government. Note the absence of "federal" in her new job title. According to Lofgren, capital staffers have to wait one year before they can lobby the feds. Zoe tells Eye she will miss her old accomplice. "It's a great opportunity for her," Lofgren says. Meanwhile, Eye hears that roller-skating enthusiast Bill Chew took out an application to become Mayor Ron Gonzales' new press secretary. It wouldn't be the first time the perennial mayoral candidate has applied for a high-profile political job. Eye-watchers will recall that he interviewed for Supe Pete McHugh's top staff position a few years back, submitting a photo of his buff self to show he was indeed physically "fit for public office."

Cisco Aesthetics

Santa Teresa residents aren't the only ones worried about Calpine Corp.'s proposed power plant in Coyote Valley. So are key players involved in Cisco Systems' planned billion-dollar research campus down the road. Though Cisco itself has yet to take a position on the power plant, company real-estate director Ellen Jamason acknowledges that the high-tech firm has concerns about the plant's potential aesthetic impacts. But for now, she says, Cisco is reserving final judgment. ... Meanwhile, a spokesman for the partnership planning to develop the Cisco campus expressed serious reservations about the Calpine project. "A power plant may be incompatible" with surrounding research campuses planned for the area, says Eric Morley, a consultant for Coyote Valley Research Park LLC, a development group that includes property owners Gibson Speno Co. and DivcoWest. But Jerry Strangis, Calpine's lobbyist, says that steps are already being taken to allay Cisco's fears. Still, Morley isn't convinced that the two projects are compatible. Asked if the Cisco and Calpine projects can co-exist, Morley replies, "Don't know at this point. It's too early to tell."

Jumbo Whopper

Hollister hellraiser J.J. Vogel returned from the Reform Party's national convention this week and gave Eye his blue-collar take on the ouster of populist billionaire Ross Perot: "It's like going to Burger King and you don't like this hamburger, so you eat another one instead. You're not rejecting Burger King." Vogel, who says he didn't even vote until three years ago, is running for Pete Frusetta's seat in the 28th Assembly District on the Reform Party ticket and was a party delgate at the convention, where he felt right at home. "The convention was full of people with dirt under their nails. The majority of people are regular working stiffs like me," says the humble mechanic. That fits with his populist reformer vision as well as his wardrobe. Though Vogel had to go out and buy a few new shirts and ties for the convention, perhaps the best thing about being a member of the Reform Party is that he'll never have to worry about owning a suit.

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From the July 29-August 4, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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