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Photograph by Dave Lepori

City Beat: Legal eagle Bradley Matteoni fights City Hall and wins.

Public Eye

Power to The People

It's a big week for the ordinarily politically overrun King Road community, and it's sticking it to the city. On Monday, county Superior Court Judge Gregory Ward basically sided with daughter and father attorneys "Fighting Vehicle" Bradley and "Stormin'" Norm Matteoni, agreeing that the city violated the rights of their clients, the Tropicana merchants, when officials tried to regime-change a locally owned mall for poorly defined reasons. As Councilmember Chuck Reed says, "Bad law... made [the city's actions] not appear rational." ... Meanwhile, at an unrelated meeting Monday evening, no one from the neighborhood spoke up to support a couple of Las Vegas residents' proposal to rename King Road after Martin Luther King Jr., an idea the city is entertaining despite few signs of support. Finally, on Tuesday, it seemed the city started to get the message. Its attorneys dropped the suit against Tropicanasters John Kim and Dennis Fong et al. Why did the city attorneys finally come around? "I think we got pretty strong hints from the judge about where he was going to go with this thing," offered Councilmember Reed, a lawyer at his other job. Fong, as ecstatic as if he'd just won an Oscar, started thanking people in the community during a phone call with Eye. He said he now has to shift gears and figure out how to fix up the ragged mall in such a way that the whole community likes it. But has the city learned any lessons from its recent collection of fumbles? (For the memory jog: The cash- strapped and widely ineffective Redevelopment Agency starts to visibly dissolve, as do the VTA and BART; RDA head Susan Shick takes a hike; city residents rail against losing King Road's connection to significant local hero Cesar Chavez, who rallied people there; Tropicana business people stop the city in its eminent-domain tracks.) The verdict? "We're certainly less likely to want to use eminent domain to take entire shopping centers," says Reed. The court now gets to decide how many millions of dollars the city owes Fong and friends for their troubles. The fall-out for the rest of these sad symptoms of San Jose's state also remains to be seen.

Shape Shifts

Remember all that noise around Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamove accepting Indian gaming money and having to give it back? Well, Republicans should--after all, they made such a big stink about it. Candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger aired commercials during the recall circus accusing his challenger of pandering to tribal interests. Well, coincidentally, the new governor's own Abel Maldonado, who was the gub's second man in command during his campaign, apparently didn't notice that some of the very same donors who buttered Bustamante's failing bid, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, also coughed up $1,000 on Feb. 13 to curry favor with Assemblymember Maldonado, should he win his 2004 Senate campaign. So, Maldonado may resemble the enemy. Big deal. ... Meanwhile, rejected Gov. Gray Davis strikes out against former friends. Last week, in a show of what one insider dubbed "the politics of retribution," Davis kicked Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith off the prestigious Police Officers and Standards Training Commission after she had been given the impression that she was a shoo-in just a week earlier. Was it because Smith cheered so loudly for Schwarzenegger to win the recall election? "Absolutely," Smith says. Sure, she strongly supported the Terminator. But she opposed the recall, and, she points out, she "was a big supporter of Davis" when he ran for election. If that dis wasn't bad enough, the man she supported didn't even give her a symbolic perch on his transition team, instead opting for a sheriff down behind the orange curtain. Smith says that guy is perfect for the job. But, she concedes, "it would have been nice."

Eject Button

The 24-hour rumor mill jumped on Rebecca Cohn's behind following her announcement on Friday, Oct. 17, that she's bailing out on a Senate bid next year. Instead, she wants to retract that endorsement she gave county Supe Jim Beall, who was vying for her to-be-vacated Assembly seat, and try to keep her spot until term limits end her service in 2006. The inside story ("totally" and "patently" denied by Cohn's camp) is that the nearly termed-out Assembly member retreated after Sen. John Burton failed to fund her ascension to the other house. Cohn was up against Republican superstar Abel Maldonado, who co-chaired Governor-elect Schwarzenegger's campaign and has amassed a formidable war chest for his Senate run. But according to Cohn's people, she dropped out for personal reasons--her mom is very ill, she has upcoming back surgery--and also because she's boycotting the Schwarzenegger celebrity ripple effect that she believes is permeating this race, because Maldonado is the gub-elect's buddy. Cohn staffers say Burton has been nothing but supportive of her campaign. But they just can't remember whether he gave her the kind of support she could buy campaign fliers with. ... Beall, the guy who was counting on gliding into Cohn's abandoned seat, is calling supporters and political advisers and dining with his parents and nine siblings for consultation. He's doing all this before he'll say whether he'll drop out, as everyone expects him to do.

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From the October 23-29, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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