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September 13-19, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Cars vs. Art

As the handout line grows at San Jose City Hall with floundering arts groups like the San Jose Repertory Theater, the American Musical Theater and the Mexican Heritage Plaza, Fly can't help but remember the last time city leaders considered dishing out for our "national image." Flashback to January when the Grand Prix operators came begging for a $4 million subsidy, claiming they had lost money on last year's event (although they never revealed how much). In one meeting, a majority of the council approved the subsidy, with only Chuck Reed, Ken Yeager and Dave Cortese dissenting. councilmembers didn't ask for financial reports from the company to see how effectively $4 million of taxpayer money would be used. They didn't form a committee to "further study" the issue. But that's exactly what they're doing to the San Jose Rep, which asked for a $1 million bailout last month. The AMT recently followed, hoping for $1.5 million to fill their own empty bucket, and Mexican Heritage Plaza executives reminded city officials that they were at the head of line, having requested at least $1 million in June. Now our local leaders are stalling. AMT's executive producer Michael Miller says his group's national reputation is essential exposure for the city. He understands the importance of supporting the Grand Prix, he says, "but if it's in lieu of other things, then I think everybody would certainly take issue." San Jose arts commissioner Stephen McCray takes a different point of view. "The Grand Prix is a whole separate thing," he says. "We're not comparing apples and apples, here." Theater fans, however, could still be left with empty downtown stages. "If major arts groups were to go away," Miller points out, "then I don't know what San Jose will become." How about a giant racetrack?

The Post With The Most

The critics behind are at it again—even though their favorite dart board, former Superintendent Ezperanza Zendejas, has fled the East Side Union High School District. To keep the game going, they've dusted off an old target:, ESUHSD trustee Craig Mann, who ran unopposed for the Santa Clara County Board of Education last month. You may remember Mann as the ex-chief of staff for the censured Councilmember Terry Gregory, who threatened to sue the city for wrongful termination in 2004. A year before that, Mann made waves as a school board trustee by racking up over $20k of highly questionable bills on his taxpayer-funded credit card. The folks at unruly certainly haven't forgotten. They've launched a satire campaign against Mann's slam-dunk candidacy for the county board. "Why settle for a candidate that's dumb as a post," they're newest blog entry begins, "when you can vote for a post?" They mean that literally: unruly is promoting two trusty pieces of lumber, "wooden post" and "fence post," as "write-in candidates" to oppose Mann. The tongue-in-cheek campaign is complete with bios and endorsements, including a supportive quote (with mugshot) from San Jose Councilmember Dave Cortese. "Wooden Post clearly shows a passion for public education and community at large," he says. "Wooden Post is an individual who possesses the qualities of integrity, sincerity, and honesty making him an advocate with strong credibility as a spokesperson." Wow! Is it for real? Fly called Cortese to see if he was in on the joke, but he swore he didn't know anything about it. He says he hasn't even seen the website. Neither did Mann, who laughed when we mentioned it but said he hasn't looked at it in two years because the content was "strange." If both politicos had been up on their Internet surfing, they'd have noticed a subtle jab behind the not-so-subtle satire: Cortese's comment in favor of "wooden post" is ripped verbatim from a comment he made about Mann in 2004. But there's a twist: although Cortese says he endorsed Mann for re-election on the board of trustees two years ago, he never gave the candidate permission to publish this flattering quote for political purposes (it was originally solicited as an employment-related letter of recommendation and then advertised on Mann's campaign website). "I consider that to be flat-out wrong," Cortese says, adding that he wouldn't endorse Mann again. We tried to run this by Mann, but he did not return our phone calls by presstime.

Spreading Democracy, San Jose Style

San Jose's ex-top-cop Lou Cobarruviaz, who left the SJPD in 1998, is now in Iraq, Fly has learned. "Has he gone crazy?" asked a former acquaintance when Fly broke the news. Whether or not Cobarruviaz has gone crazy cannot be determined, as he is currently not in cell phone range. However, what Fly does know is that Cobarruviaz, a Fremont native and San Jose State grad who vied for police chief gigs in Dallas and Phoenix after he left San Jose, is now the senior member of the U.S. contingent in Iraq responsible for training Iraq's 135,000 member police service. His official title is weighty and full of acronyms: contingent commander of the Civilian Police Advisory Training Team (CPATT), which in turn is part of the military's Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I). Definitely a mouthful. In English, this means that Cobarruviaz has been hired by Dyncorp International, a contractor with the U.S. State Department, to teach Iraqis how to battle crime. Cobarruviaz has at least six years of overseas experience, from what Fly could gather—from 1998 to 2004 he helped train and equip El Salvador's 18,000-member National Police. No word yet if Cobarruviaz's sleuthing techniques were instrumental in locating and assassinating Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Meanwhile, the question remains if, through Cobarruviaz's San Jose-influenced policing, Iraq will soon be known as the "Safest Big Country in the Middle East."

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