Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 1, 2003

Razzle-dazzle politics

Nothing says ‘South Valley summer’ more deliciously or emphatically than our family’s Wednesday evening meal: fresh-picked, homegrown cherry tomatoes sautéed in olive oil and garlic and sprinkled with basil from our herb garden, sweet corn harvested from one of our two raised beds, and chicken cooked by my husband in one of his spur-of-the-moment, whatever-we-have-in-the-kitchen sauces. Wednesday’s chicken was topped with a sauce of white wine, shallots, Dijon mustard, garlic, horseradish, raspberry puree, soy sauce, fresh thyme, and cayenne and black pepper.

My son has dubbed John’s new dish razzle chicken. It certainly dazzled our palates.

I needed a hearty meal like Wednesday’s to have the strength to contemplate the ever-changing Gilroy political scene, which is ripening in the summer heat right along with my tomatoes and sweet corn. (You thought I’d forgotten I’m an opinion columnist, not a food or garden columnist, now didn’t you?) Who’d have thought Gilroy Mayor Tom Springer, who two years ago seemed like a lock for re-election, would announce he’s not going to seek a second term?

I could understand if Springer said he was tired of all the hours the nearly volunteer position requires. No one can fault Springer for not giving enough attention to his mayoral duties. He showed up at almost everything – sobriety checkpoints, sex club stakeouts, you name it. A Dispatch editorial once called him “the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral.”

So, although he seems to seek the spotlight, I wouldn’t doubt that the toll the job might take on Springer’s free time might lead him to step aside this November. Who could blame him for wanting to, say, putter in a raspberry patch and tomato, herb and sweet corn garden of his own?

I could also understand his decision if it was prompted by the intense political heat accompanying the mayor’s post. The mayor – any mayor – is a lightning rod for protests of almost any decision the city makes. Springer, due to his sometimes less-than-statesman-like style, probably attracted more criticism than others who have held the title of Mayor of Gilroy.

After all, the media can’t ignore a politician who coins terms like bull-dickey.

But I don’t understand the reason Springer has cited – alleged ethical lapses of others – as the impetus for his decision. Springer’s claim that two recent incidents are ethical lapses is dubious at best. Besides, it seems to me that a concerned citizen in a position of power would be motivated by perceived ethical misdeeds to stay in office to fight such problems. Instead, Springer’s doing the opposite: citing these alleged problems as reasons to quit the political scene.

Please forgive me if I’m not quite ready to buy Springer’s stated motive – or even that he’s not going to run for re-election.

After all, this is the man who threw a wrench into the nearly completed high school site selection process with his “joke” incident: He suggested the Gilroy Unified School District build a second high school near the outlets. After raising false hopes among opponents of the Day Road site and angering school board trustees, Springer said his suggestion was, er, a joke.

So when I saw ‘Mayor bows out’ across the top of Monday’s Dispatch, I began to wonder what Springer might have up his sleeve. Might he want to tempt a likely council candidate to run for mayor (arguably a tougher race to win) instead, and when that person files mayoral candidacy papers, Springer could repeat the ‘joke’ scenario and change his mind about running for mayor with hopes of trouncing the manipulated candidate?

That’s a possible scenario my brain, fortified with a home-cooked and partly homegrown gourmet meal, conjured up. I’m sure that others with craftier political minds and more abundant gardens than I possess can cook up other potential schemes.

But I’m not alone in my reluctance to take Springer’s announcement at face value.

“I’m waiting for the filing date deadline to pass before I believe it,” former City Councilwoman Connie Rogers said. “He could just be testing the waters to see how much political support he has.”

What might Springer be planning? If it’s anything other than retirement from politics, I’m sure it will razzle and dazzle us.

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