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March 15-21, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Lobbyists Strike Back

When San Jose mayoral candidate Michael Mulcahy pledged last month to stay away from lobbyists—who, he alleged, have too much influence on City Hall decisions—he stirred up a hornet's nest among political insiders. "Mulcahy's one of the biggest lobbyists there is," scoffed one registered lobbyist, who asked not to be named, echoing the complaints of others who said mayoral candidates are making much ado about nothing. The commercial-land titan hails from the Di Napoli family, which has deep ties to San Jose agricultural industry and real estate. The Di Napoli empire spans three downtown office buildings on Almaden Boulevard, the San Jose Hilton and Crown Plaza hotels, a booming retail block on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen, and 18 plots of industrial land in south central San Jose along South Seventh and Tenth streets, Phelan Avenue, Senter Road and Monterey Road. Mulcahy may not have to register as a lobbyist, but critics say he sure acts like one when he defends his family's interests. In 2002, then-Councilmember George Shirakawa said Mulcahy paid him a personal visit to oppose an affordable housing development on Senter Road. The issue came up again in December last year, when a truck traffic-calming ordinance was proposed along Keyes Street. that might hinder the flow of shipments for nearby operations. Mulcahy showed up at the City Council meeting to protest it. "I knew if I took on the lobbyists, they'd be coming after me," he told Fly, explaining that the traffic measure and housing conversion threatened the city's industrial base, or manufacturing jobs and businesses, just like the ones his family runs. "It's no secret that my family owns real estate in the city of San Jose," Mulcahy said. He says he disclosed all of these properties on a form filed last week with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and that he will recuse himself from any votes connected with his personal interests.

District Dirty Laundry

A union-administrator squabble at the West Valley Mission Community College district has left educators fuming and the chancellor complaining that the faculty is waving his district's dirty laundry. The issue is of course money, about million dollars a year that the faculty is owed over the last five years, according to the faculty union. The state's education code specifies that 50 percent of expenses by community college districts go toward instructors. The district skimped on that standard by a couple of percentage points and was caught by keen-eyed faculty members, who looked at the accounting ledgers during union negotiations, forcing the district to admit its mistake. "In 2002, 2003, we started telling them that we found errors in [the accounting]," says the faculty union's Pat Andrews, who also teaches political science at West Valley. "They denied the errors existed, but when we forced the district to re-examine their reports, they conceded the errors existed." The faculty union concluded that instructors are owed about $5.8 million in lost wages, and, when the district refused to pay up, they not only took it to their attorneys, but have also taken out ads in several local newspapers, including Metro, reprimanding the district. "We are yelling about this because at the same time they are not spending money on instructional stuff, they are now asking us to take on the cost of our own benefits," explains Andrews. Stan Arterberry, the district's chancellor, meanwhile, says he's hurt that the teachers went to the press. "I don't want to say that we want to repay the instructors," he tells Fly, "but we would want to resolve the issue in a way that is satisfactory. If I could use a cliché from the streets, we want to make good. The sad part is that now I'm negotiating this in the press, when I would have hoped that all of this could have been kept in-house."

A Lott of Shake-ups

Cindy Chavez's mayoral campaign was thrown for a loop—or, better yet, sacked, intercepted, you pick your football metaphor—by none other than former 49er great Ronnie Lott last week. Lott, who showed up at Chavez's side to pump up the crowd when the city's No. 2 announced her mayoral candidacy last July, now seems to be pulling a version of his 49ers-to-Oakland Raiders switch in the local political scene. In an invitation to a campaign gathering for Chavez opponent Michael Mulcahy scheduled for March 15, Lott's name is matter-of-factly displayed on the bottom. A call to the Mulcahy campaign office confirms that Lott is indeed scheduled to appear at the gathering. What does Mulcahy think of the switcharoo? "I wasn't in the race at that time, when he [Lott] was involved with Cindy's announcement," Mulcahy tells an inquiring Fly. "Ronnie Lott has been a family friend, and I would say that he has the right to sort of do what he likes; he's been supportive of my campaign for a long time." The Chavez camp, meanwhile, circled the wagons. When Fly informed Chavez's media helper, Patrick Hannan, about the Lott double-dip, Hannan asked to think about it for "10 minutes." Almost two hours later—after an ordeal that involved faxing and emailing the invitation to Hannon and more time for Hannan to think—Hannan finally had a response for eager feelers. "We just don't want to comment on this," he told Fly.


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