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[whitespace] Joe Simitian
Boiling Point: Supervisor Joe Simitian argues that he should get to make the next appointment to the water board. Insiders say Simitian would like to replace longtime board member Sig Sanchez.

Public Eye

Water Torture

While transferring information onto the county website, Phyllis Perez, clerk to the Board of Supervisors, says she made a disturbing discovery: The board has no clear written policy outlining the order in which each supervisor gets to make at-large appointments to particular boards and commissions. In the past, the county has used two different methods for deciding whose turn it is. Perez is now asking the supes which method they prefer and to commit their answer to writing. And here's where things get interesting. Depending on which method the board chooses, either Palo Alto Supervisor Joe Simitian or Milpitas Supervisor Pete McHugh will get to appoint the next at-large board director of the almighty Santa Clara Valley Water District. ... Simitian argues that he should get to make the next water board appointment no matter what. For one thing, Simitian points out, he was told by county officials last year that he would get to make the next selection (that was before all the confusion arose over whose turn it is). Moreover, as a matter of fairness, Simitian says the District 5 (North County) supervisor should get the appointing power this time because the previous four appointments to the water board have been made by supervisors in the other four districts. "It looks like it's District 5's turn to me," he reasons. ... Some county-watchers suggest Simitian has another motive for wanting to make the appointment: so he can get rid of rancher and former Supervisor Sig Sanchez, who has served 20 years on the board. Sanchez's latest four-year term expires at the end of next month, and he has told colleagues that he'd like to be reappointed. But Simitian, insiders say, doesn't care much for the venerable water-warrior. Last year Sanchez opposed funding one of Simitian's pet projects, drinking-water fluoridation. When asked if he would give Sir Sig the boot, Simitian told Eye that he plans to ask for applications and would consider Sanchez's application along with the others he receives. Whether Simitian even gets a chance to review any applications remains to be seen. The board considers the issue next month.

Perfectly Frank

San Jose Vice Mayor Frank Fiscalini and his staff campaigned for Tony West against Cindy Chavez in their duel for the downtown City Council seat a year ago. But since Chavez won the race, she and Fiscalini, the council's septuagenarian decline-to-statesman, supposedly put aside any hard feelings. But have they really? Sixth-floor snoops started wondering after a controversy erupted over what some perceived as an insult to Chavez by Fiscalini's office. ... It all started when Fiscalini aide Olivia Nunez recently edited a draft copy of the Alameda Business Association's annual report. (Quick background: The business association's territory has historically rested in Fiscalini's council district, but this year the association expanded its boundaries and a portion now falls within Chavez's council district.) The report featured a couple of generally complimentary paragraphs about the support provided by both Fiscalini's and Chavez's offices. Among the "corrections" Nunez suggested: "The paragraph on Cindy Chavez is not necessary." Conveniently, Nunez didn't suggest deleting the paragraph on her own boss. This irked ABA president Nancy Trujillo, who wrote back, "[S]ince this part of the report does not pertain to Frank's district at all, why are you advising me to omit it?" Good question. Michelle McGurk, Fiscalini's chief of staff, says she told Nunez to suggest the edit because she feared people would misread the report. She worried that readers might mistakenly think that the Alameda redevelopment area--and not just the business association--had expanded into Chavez's district, which could make other neighborhoods resentful. "It's my fault," McGurk insists with a swallow. "We could have communicated that better."

Career Courting

When San Jose City Attorney Joan Gallo announced her retirement earlier this year, the name of Deputy District Attorney Paul Bernal immediately surfaced as a possible successor. Few prospective applicants could boast having carpooled to Bellarmine Preparatory School with the mayor's chief of staff, Jude Barry, and budget director, Joe Guerra, when they were teenagers. But it looks as if Bernal, a prosecutor in the DA's sexual assault unit, is taking his career in another direction: Superior Court judge. Pablo, a descendant of the venerable valley clan, has filed to run for the seat being vacated by judge and golfer extraordinaire Thomas Hastings, the man who presided over the trial of Polly Klaas
killer Richard Allen Davis. "Among the opportunities presented to me this year," Bernal says slyly, "I am seeking a judicial seat. It's where my heart is." But, relatively speaking, it's not where the money is. The city attorney now makes $165,000; Superior Court judges draw a paltry $117,600 salary. ... Bernal will go up against Deputy Public Defender Thomas Spielbauer, who ran for judge in 1996 but lost to Mary Ann Grilli. Readers may also recognize Spielbauer's name from his efforts to make the public defender an elected position, a campaign which produced the novel bumper sticker "I do not consent to a search of my person, my vehicle or my residence. So, don't ask." And let's not forget the classic "Is it a police state yet? Education not incarceration. Decriminalize drugs."

Dream Team

Out-of-work influence peddlers might consider sending a résumé over to Calpine and Bechtel, because they're hiring. It seems that with each passing week the two energy companies, who want to build a power plant in San Jose's Coyote Valley, bring on yet another local hired gun. Their most recent hires include public relations whiz Peter Carter, a close ally of Mayor Ron Gonzales, who will be handling promotional materials; attorney Ash Pirayou, the mayor's campaign treasurer, who was tapped, in part, because of his experience in quashing the Town & Country referendum a year ago; Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, the mayor's polling firm, which did a survey last month for Calpine and Bechtel; and political strategist Rich Robinson. There are also the kids who have been around for a while now: lobbyist Jerry Strangis, a pal of the mayor's budget director; and community relations specialist Lisa Poelle, a former aide to Councilwoman Charlotte Powers. (The site of the proposed power plant just so happens to be located in Powers' south San Jose district.) One South Bay operative who hasn't been hired yet, but who says he wouldn't mind if he were, observes, "It's the classic Astroturf campaign. It looks green on the top but underneath there's no grassroots."

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From the November 24-December 1, 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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