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Silicon Valley News Notes

Runaway Gonzo

Is there anyone better at getting out of a court date than former San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales? First he gave his own indictment the slip in the Norcal case, now he's managed to avoid a hearing for a lawsuit involving the Tropicana Shopping Center developers who are suing the city of San Jose and one of Gonzales' former staffers for defamation. Gonzales is a key witness in the trial, but—surprise!—a scheduling conflict made it just downright inconvenient. Far more convenient was the fact that he was departing for Europe on a business trip a few days before the September trial was set to begin. Oh, and he wasn't planning to be back until three weeks later—coincidentally, the expected length of the trial. Tropicana developer Dennis Fong, who is named in the lawsuit, was about at his wits end at this point. It was hard enough trying to serve Gonzales the papers ordering him to report to court, because he had removed his name from his mailbox, Fong said. "He's trying to play these games," Fong says. "We want him to testify and he skipped town on us." The Santa Clara County judge granted Gonzales' wish and rescheduled the trial for Jan. 28, but Fong has his doubts that Gonzales will give them their day in court: "Will he call the judge on the 25th and say, 'Judge, I have a trip to China planned?'"

Civic Minded

Whatever the complex issues of fixing the live-music scene here, there's little dispute that what's missing is a good midsize venue—something for the local bands to aspire to playing at, and also something big enough—but not too big—to host popular up-and-coming bands that do well at places like the Fillmore and the Warfield in San Francisco. In his redevelopment budget message, Mayor Chuck Reed proposed to invest $10 million to "upgrade the historic Civic Auditorium so that it can serve the region as a 3,000-seat, high quality, intimate concert venue." Call us antisocial, but we don't consider a concert with us and 2,999 of our closest friends especially "intimate." That's about twice the size of both the 1,250-capacity Fillmore and the 1,600-capacity Warfield. Blank Club co-owner Larry Trujillo, who recently handed over the reigns to his local rock rag Zero Magazine and moved to Oakland to open a new club called Uptown, welcomes the remodel, but doesn't think it'll help the scene. "I love that place," says Trujillo, who still co-owns and books shows at the Blank Club, "but the problem is getting people to actually come out in San Jose. I was [at the Civic] when the Pixies played and it was two-thirds full. When Interpol played, it was two-thirds full. Every event that I've been to there that sold out everywhere else, it wasn't full." The obvious solution, then, is to turn one-third of the Civic into a gigantic aquarium filled with mermaids swimming behind the stage, right? Oops, guess not. "People have to start realizing that San Jose is becoming a 24-hour city," says Trujillo. "People are gonna have to do their part—stop going to San Francisco, stop staying in their living room and come out and see a show at the Civic."

Get On With It!

It's not that Walk to School Day or Fire Prevention Week aren't worth noting at San Jose City Council meetings. But almost every week, the council agenda is stuffed with presentations, awards and acknowledgments that can take forever to get through. The effect on the democratic process is obvious: if you've come to speak to your elected officials about your issue, you've got to have buns of steel and plenty of time to wait out the pomp and circumstance. So lately, some city leaders have been suggesting the council cut down on the ceremonial side of the meetings, and now the council rules committee has agreed on a new set of guidelines that limit the ceremonies and presentations at council meetings. What they want the council to consider is no more than five presentations in the afternoon meetings, and three during evening meetings. "It's an attempt to set basic ground rules on how much time we should be allocating on a weekly basis on these things," said Vice Mayor David Cortese. "Some days it's as few as two or three, and other council meetings it's been more than an hour." The committee decided the council should review the policy in January to make sure the city isn't shortchanging the community. "I don't want to restrict it to the point that we lose public engagement," said Councilwoman Judy Chirco. "I want to be more lenient than strict."

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