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September 6-12, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Bar Fight

When we last left Frank Palladini (MetroNews, "Milpitas: Behind the Scene," May 25, 2005), the Milpitas bar owner was a wreck. His business, Little Frank's Bar and Grill, had once raked in $1,500 a day, but had screeched to a virtual halt. He was getting three hours of sleep a night and often threw a mattress on his bar's pool table to get some sleep once he was finished working. He was talking marital problems and punching holes through walls. His bar, said his wife, was a "sore subject." Why? Because, according to Palladini, the Milpitas Police Department had singled his bar out with frequent drive-bys, minor traffic violation stops of his patrons and unannounced visits. Palladini complained to city officials to no avail; in his words, Milpitas City Manager Tom Wilson was "a prick." Today, however, things are looking a wee bit better for the discomfited bar owner. He filed a lawsuit against the city last December, and it's cleared its first hurdles, a rare victory for bars that complain of police harassment. The judge has granted both sides the right to depose and interview individual witnesses, including Milpitas police officers. If the case is not settled by then—a strategy that the judge recommended, but city officials refused to comment on—then things could get interesting. The 2000 federal judgment against the Santa Cruz bar Blue Lagoon comes to mind, in which the police were found culpable for a number of shady tactics, such as running dogs through the bar, shining flashlights into the bar and hanging out in the bar for hours on end. In all, the owners of the gay-friendly Blue Lagoon were awarded upward of $100,000, while the city spent more than a half-million dollars trying to defend itself.

How to Win An Election

So it turns out that San Joseans are not rushing to get their feet in the door at City Hall. What's going on here, folks? Last week on, we announced some exciting openings on city commissions, namely the Mobile Home Advisory Commission, the Historic Landmark Commission and the Senior Citizens Commission. But the deadline passed last Thursday with startlingly few applications: only 15 people have stepped forward to fill 22 vacancies on nine adult commissions. We say "adult" because the Youth Commission drew more interest that all the others combined: a whopping 41 applications! Those 14-to-20-year-olds seem to be ahead of the game. Luckily, the lull means that deadlines to apply for some groups may be extended. Check in with the city clerk, because this could be the career opportunity you've been waiting for. We're not kidding. "Very rarely does one win election for city council without serving on a commission of some sort," says local political consultant Vic Ajlouny. At least three members of the San Jose City Council paid their dues on the Planning Commission back in the 1990s (Chuck Reed, Linda LeZotte and Forrest Williams). And here's a success story to remember: Jim Beall started in the early 1970s as the youth representative for the planning commission under then-Mayor Norman Mineta. He did so well that the council made him a full-fledged member of the Planning Commission in 1976—when he was only 24. Beall says he was the youngest ever to fill that seat. He went on to the San Jose City Council in 1981 and then to the county Board of Supervisors in 1994, where he's currently riding out his term until he hops over to his recently elected spot on the California state Assembly. And don't let us forget about the other commissions that have propelled politicians into the limelight. Milpitas Vice Vayor Armando Gomez served on his city's Library Commission in 2000. Santa Clara Vice Mayor Kevin Moore hung around on his city's Parks and Recreation Commission from 1989 to 1996 (he must have become addicted because he's still on the Bicycle Advisory Commission). San Jose City Council member Nancy Pyle graced the Small Business Advisory Commission in 1996, and former San Jose Councilmember Judy Stabile belonged to the Historic Landmark Commission in the early 1980s. Says Beall about the virtues of the city commission: "It's a good way to see how a person actually behaves. You don't want to have someone that yells and screams."

How to Win An Erection

"If I have one last erection, I want it to be a ballpark," said Oakland A's kingpin Lew Wolff at last week's sold-out powwow sponsored by the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. The 69-year-old Wolff was referring to his search for an A's stadium in Fremont. After an initial deer-in-the-headlights gaze, Chamber honcho Pat Dando actually rolled with it quite well (to Fly's surprise). She waited for the laughter to subside and said, "OK, I'm not sure I want to go there." They moved on to Wolff's other ambitious plan: to bring Major League Soccer back to this neck of the woods. His timing couldn't be better. With Santa Clara County finally deciding to scrap its ill-conceived concert hall adventure at the fairgrounds, the use of that land has again become a possibility. Wolff says he'll secure private funding for the construction of a soccer facility if a public entity offers the land dirt-cheap. But maybe Wolff was preaching to the choir at this pro-business event, packed with over 150 suits amid tight security at the Adobe Building in downtown San Jose. He emphasized that now is the time to invest in soccer. The A's have said they want youth soccer and training fields as part of their vision to bring the Earthquakes back, which is precisely the model the rest of the league is promoting. If there's anything that can bring the city and county back together again after all these idiotic lawsuits, it's the world's biggest sport. And the county fairgrounds could be the missing link.

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