Skimpin' Steve 

And in the Democratic corner ... a geek, and ... wait! Another geek! Spammers step up for De La Fuente; and what's with the Trib and Star Wars?

Dot-commie millionaire Steve Westly made a big splash last week announcing that he was going to make himself an insta-contender for governor in 2006 by loaning his campaign $10 million of his own money. Feeder can only imagine that such generosity -- even if it is to his own cause -- must irritate the Democratic state controller's Inner Cheapskate, who loves a good coupon deal.

Last week Westly's campaign Svengali, Jude Barry, told a group of supporters the adorable story of how the two men first met in the early '90s before Westly went on to make his fortune at eBay. At the time, young Stevie was an ambitious Democratic activist with a Stanford business degree and nice teeth; Barry, meanwhile, was then earning a rep as the political brains behind future San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales. Westly cold-called Barry and invited him out for a get-to-know-you lunch, meaning they had to decide where to eat. Westly quickly recommended a burrito joint where he had a discount coupon. Thus the precedent was set. As Barry joked to his audience last week, "We'd pick our lunch spots based on who had the better coupon."

While being a tightwad is a laudable characteristic for a controller, it's not a great trait for a gubernatorial candidate who needs to raise and spend millions. Barry has been quick to promise reporters that Westly will give more money to his campaign if he has to remain competitive. The $10 mil alone, Barry says, tells insiders that Westly is serious and, more important, that bespectacled rival Phil Angelides, whose campaign had $12.3 million on hand at the end of last year, won't get the party nomination without a fight. Now, Barry says, Democrats are guaranteed a choice. That's right, kids -- if this matchup survives, in 2006 Dems can choose between Dork and Dorkier.

Do As I Say

Not all that long ago, Tom Bates was more than just an ass -- he was an assemblyman. Bates personally led the legal battle a decade ago to overturn legislative term limits. Now he is mayor of Berkeley, and all of a sudden, term limits sound like a good thing. Not for the mayor himself, of course, but for others -- namely, appointees to the process-crazy city's bazillion commissions, particularly those who have established some deep ass-grooves on their comfy commission seats.

Actually, Berkeley already has term limits for its commissioners, but there's a huge loophole. Right now, the city's rules force anyone who serves on a commission for eight consecutive years to step down for at least two years before returning. To get around the rule, crafty commissioners resign shortly before their eight years are up, take a couple of months of R&R, and then get reappointed for another eight-year term. Eight or so current appointees have exploited the loophole -- three of them on the planning commission (the Triple-A ball of the council farm leagues). Bates and his staff have been shopping around the idea of closing the loophole in order to get some new blood.

Among those who would be affected by a rule change was Gene Poschman, now in his ninth year on the Planning Commission. Poschman served seven years and eleven months and then resigned. Councilwoman Dona Spring reappointed the like-minded Poschman last month after he took a five-month hiatus. He sees nothing wrong with that. The retired poli-sci prof says he provides much-needed institutional memory that newcomers, and sometimes even paid city staffers, don't have. Poschman, a nonstop wiseass, couldn't help but point out that Bates fought term limits in the courts all those years ago. "I really admire his position," he chortled.

It looks like Poschman need not worry. Sources say the mayor's office has given up on the term limits thing. The mayor and city manager, however, are still trying to rein in the city's sprawling commission system. (Berkeley has twice as many commissions as San Jose, a city eight times its size.) Bates and another council member have recommended consolidating some commissions and reducing the number of meetings for others to save money. Good luck with that, folks. Other councilors have tried to tame the commission beast in the past with mixed success. Fifteen years ago, then-Councilman Don Jelinek pushed through a measure reducing the number of commissions, only to see some of them return after he left the council. He recalls that there were about forty commissions before the reduction way back when. And how many commissions were there going into 2005? Oh, about forty.

Who's Spamming Ignacio's Blogger?

How do you fight a blogger? Why, with spam, of course.

Witness the recent spamming of the Stop De La Fuente for Mayor blog ( As its name more than implies, the anonymously written blog is dedicated to dissing Oakland City Council Generalissimo and mayoral wannabe Ignacio De La Fuente. The mystery blogger describes himself on the site as "someone who pays quite a bit of property, business, and other city tax for a failed government." The seven-month-old blog has contemplated such issues as whether Nacho really lives in his district, the DUI checkpoint controversy, and his four-letter vocabulary. "He is a political machine driven by ego and politics," the blogger writes.

Last month, the blog site began to be bombarded with dozens of pro-Ignacio postings -- many repeating the same thing over and over -- and links to De La Fuente's official campaign Web site. A typical spam posting lists his accomplishments and a quote from Nacho himself: "I am proud of what we have accomplished in Oakland. Working together with neighbors, nonprofit organizations, and businesses, we will continue to accomplish great things for our city." The mystery spammer also tried to "out" the mystery blogger, but the blogger says the spammer got it wrong. Reached by e-mail, the blogger said he thinks an "associate" of De La Fuente's is the spammer, but didn't identify the associate. "It is rather desperate ... if you asked [sic] me," the blogger wrote Feeder.

So who is the spammer? Well, apparently it's not Nacho himself, considering his woeful lack of Internet expertise. When Feeder called him about the spamming of the blog, De La Fuente asked for an explanation of what spam is. After Feeder explained, he denied being the culprit for the mass postings, but wondered, "What's wrong with that?"

The Dark Side of the Council

The polls are closed, and the elections results are in: Darth Vader is Oakland's newest city councilperson. Lord Vader narrowly defeated his former mentor, Jedi robe warrior Obi-Wan Kenobi, ending a largely ignored campaign in which the two blamed negative campaigning for disappointing box-office turnout. Kenobi's one-name campaign manager, Yoda, said that in the end the Jedis couldn't compete with the Dark Side's campaign warchest. "Loaded, they are," he said, sounding oddly like Miss Piggy. Vader, meanwhile, vowed to immediately find a site for a new baseball park. To carry out his plans, though, Vader will need the help of Councilmaster De La Fuente and his mentor, Emperor Perata.

If you don't know what the hell Feeder is talking about, take a peek at the front-page of the Oakland Tribune from last Wednesday. The above-the-fold headline reads "Kernighan wins seat on council." Right next to the headline, in an unfortunate juxtaposition, is a ginormous illustration of Darth Vader that accompanies a story about the premiere of the latest Star Wars flick. But the headline for the Star Wars story is buried below the fold, so if you saw the paper in the newsrack it looked as if Darth Vader aka Pat Kernighan had won the special election the day before. (Insiders, of course, knew it wasn't her because she wears glasses.) Kernighan says that when she saw the morning Trib, "I nearly died laughing." It was a fitting end, she said, to the paper's "biased coverage" of the election suggesting that the Dark Side had prevailed. In general, she felt that the Trib had unfairly cast her as the machine (read: Sith) candidate. In any event, in the past that is. Kernighan is looking forward to getting down to the unglamorous but necessary municipal work of filling the potholes that pockmark the Death Star.


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