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Silicon Valley News Notes

BART Point ...

At its recent September meeting, a healthy majority the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce board voted to support Measure B, despite the fact that some members had reservations about the BART tax. A fair question would be: Could they possibly come out against it, when one of their power players has so much at stake? Not only would the employees of Applied Materials benefit greatly from BART, but the company's CEO, Mike Splinter, even signed on to the measure. The buzz was that Applied Materials had even threatened to pull out of the Chamber unless the organization supported the BART tax. Members dispute that, saying the company never went for the nuclear option (Applied Materials reps didn't return Fly's call by presstime). Of course, no one's disputing that the board was fully cognizant of the AMF (Applied Materials Factor—yeah, we just made it up). "There wasn't pressure from Applied Materials," said Nanci Williams, immediate past chairwoman of the chamber board. "There was discussion [about how] they are a major supporter of the Chamber ... and so would it be upsetting if we did not support this?" Um ... yes?

... and BART Counterpoint

It was no shocker that San Jose Councilman Pete Constant was against Measure B. But he did surprise the mayor's office when he signed the opposition to the BART measure, a signal that he's actively campaigning against it. It was surprising because Constant previously had a conversation with Mayor Chuck ReeD in which he explained that although he's against the BART tax measure, he wasn't planning to campaign against BART. Moreover, he told the mayor that if he planned to join the opposition efforts, he would certainly let him know. "The mayor relayed to me that Pete was gong to stay out of the BART campaign," said Jeff Janssen, senior policy adviser for the mayor. "When we saw that Pete had signed the ballot in opposition of BART, I personally was surprised. I assume it took everyone by surprise." Constant claims he wasn't pulling a fast one on the mayor, who is co-chairing the Measure B campaign. He does regret not having given Reed a heads-up over his change of heart. "It slipped my mind," Constant said. "I screwed up." True to form, Constant's slap-in-the-face move hardly stirred reaction from Tickle Me Reed, one of his closest allies on the council. Staffers said that Reed just doesn't get upset when people disagree over policy matters. "He's not happy that I'm opposing it, but he's not mad at me personally," Constant said.

Auto Lotto

The auto row of Los Gatos Boulevard is turning into a ghost town, with dealerships abandoning shop left and right. Los Gatos Chevrolet closed abruptly last week, and South Bay Honda announced that it will shutter its operation just down the street in January. Last Sunday, the recently abandoned Swanson Ford showroom was destroyed in a fire. The problem is not unique to Los Gatos. The Merc reported on Friday that "perhaps a dozen San Jose–area dealerships have closed in the past few years." And on the same day, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. auto sales hit a 15-year low in September. The culprits, according to most analysts, are the tightened credit market and the overall economic downturn—no surprises there. But there is a silver lining on this dark cloud: luxury car sales remain strong. Witness Los Gatos, where the Silicon Valley Auto Group operates four (count 'em) showrooms selling Bentleys and Aston Martins (66 E. Main St.), Rolls-Royces (49 E. Main) Lamborghinis (301 N. Santa Cruz Ave.) and a mix of supercars including Bugattis (620 Blossom Hill Road). Clearly, the recession is hurting Chevy drivers more than Ferrari drivers. Moral: in tough times like these, it's good to have lots and lots of money.

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