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Archive for March, 2008

America’s next Colma mayor

If you want to be the next member of the Colma City Council, there’s still more than an hour to rush over to City Hall and fill out an application!

The town is looking for someone to fill out the remainder of Larry Formalejo’s term, which expires in November. Formalejo resigned March 13 after an investigation found that he committed several ethical breaches while in office.

The forms must be filled out and returned by 5 p.m. The council will interview potential replacements at a meeting Thursday.

Here’s a brief quiz to see if you have the right stuff to serve.

Your son is arrested for driving on a suspended license and allegedly violating his probation for a drunk-driving conviction. Should you:

a) Bail him out of jail and give him a stern lecture.

b) Continue reading to your other children from their favorite bedtime story: the Colma General Plan.

c) Call the police sergeant who supervised the arrest and ask if he can make some of the charges “go away.”

d) Contact a magician to see if he can literally make the record of the incident disappear.

If you chose “a” or “b,” you may be a strong candidate. If you chose “c” — as Formalejo did, according to Linda Tripoli, an attorney hired by the town to investigate the former mayor’s alleged improprieties — then you should probably take yourself out of the running.

If you picked “d,” please call former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who would like to know if you have any referrals.

Here’s another one. True or false: Lucky Chances Casino, the local card room, is an appropriate place to use your town-issued credit card.

Give up? Well, Formalejo chose “true,” according to Assistant City Manager Laura Allen, who recounted the incident to Tripoli. (The city went with “false.”)

The point here is that it wouldn’t be hard to do a better job on the council than Formalejo, from a civics standpoint, if Tripoli’s report is to be believed.

It’s hard to decide what aspect of the Formalejo affair was strangest. How about the fact that even before he quit, Formalejo’s colleagues on the council didn’t see fit to censure or punish him? Or that he still doesn’t think he did anything wrong? (He said he resigned for health reasons.)

But the richest part of all this may be that Formalejo’s philosophy regarding his town credit card was so out of kilter that his former colleague on the council, Phil Lum, allegedly had to rein him in.

Lum, you may recall, is currently serving an 18-month prison term for failing to report gifts he received from the owner of Lucky Chances. But when Formalejo allegedly tried to bail his son out of jail after that 2006 arrest using the town credit card, Lum had to step in and be the voice of reason, according to Tripoli’s report.

Tripoli could not determine whether that allegation is true, because Formalejo refused to speak to her. Lum was unavailable, she said, as he is sitting in a federal prison roughly 30 miles southwest of Bakersfield.

Posted on Monday, March 24th, 2008
Under: Aaron Kinney, City Council, Colma, San Mateo County | No Comments »

Swanky Speier


Mr. and Mrs. Insider paid a visit to the Carolands Chateau on Friday, at the invitation of Burlingame attorney Joe Cotchett, to attend a campaign party he threw for former state Sen. Jackie Speier, who is running for the congressional seat occupied by Rep. Tom Lantos until he died in February.

Roughly 100 to 150 people circulated around the second-floor of the mansion — which is a succession of rooms off a central atrium — sipping white wine and cocktails (no red wine allowed, for fear of stains) and munching on hors d’oeuvres.

Among those the Insider spotted at the party: San Mateo County Supervisors Mark Church and Adrienne Tissier; San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer; former county sheriff, and current member of the Sequoia Healthcare District Board of Directors, Don Horsley; and Robert Foucrault, the county coroner.

Speier herself, wearing a red dress with a black sash, posed for photographs with supporters in the chateau’s ridiculous wood-paneled library. Sometime after 7 p.m., guests were ushered into the ballroom for the evening’s presentation.

Cotchett spoke first, thanking the chateau’s owners, Ann and Charles Johnson (who bought the estate in 1998 and spent millions refurbishing it). He said the Johnsons were “equal opportunity employers,” since they hosted a Republican fundraiser with President Bush in late January in the exact same room.

Cotchett then introduced the emcee for the night, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who interrupted a tour hawking his memoir, “Basic Brown: My Life and Our Times,” to be there for Speier, a friend and colleague from their years together in the state legislature.

Brown said he owed many votes on “family values” issues to Speier, who would cast his votes for him when he was absent from the state Assembly. The Insider isn’t sure whether he was being serious, or if the practice he described is legal, but there you have it.

Brown also joked about being mortified that he was selling his books at Wal-Mart, which has become a major book retailer that helps authors get on best-seller lists, and encouraged anyone in the audience not to attend a book signing held at one of the stores.

Standing as he was within one of the Peninsula’s symbolic seats of wealth and power, Brown may have forgotten that tens of millions of Democratic voters nationwide shop at Wal-Mart because it’s what they can afford. That Willie Brown is a real champion of the working class, isn’t he?

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, also took a turn at the microphone before Brown turned the stage over to the evening’s main attraction, celebrated actress and singer Carol Channing.

As a member of Generation X, the Insider is not overly familiar with Channing’s oeuvre, but the stories and impressions from early in her career were pretty funny; and the fact that she’s still performing at the age of 87 is impressive.

One thought that came to mind following the party was that Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig proved how smart a guy he is by deciding not to enter the race against Speier, despite the pleas of online supporters.

Because the roster of Jackie-ites Friday in Hillsborough was further evidence that whoever steps in front of the Speier juggernaut this spring will be squashed like a bug.

Posted on Thursday, March 6th, 2008
Under: 2008 Congressional Race, Aaron Kinney, Adrienne Tissier, Anna Eshoo, Assembly, Board of Supervisors, Coroner, Democratic Party, Hillsborough, Mark Church, San Mateo County, Tom Lantos | No Comments »