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December 14-20, 2005

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Stone Cold Politics

Some have compared county Supervisor Pete 'Primo' McHugh to Santa Claus, what with his white hair, round figure and hearty laugh. "All he needs is a beard," one friend said. Maybe that's why McHugh's supporters didn't think it was weird when he organized a campaign kickoff under the guise of a charity barbecue to support Toys for Tots last Sunday. Invitations for the event only mentioned that a "special announcement" would be made. Most insiders knew it had something to do with the upcoming election for county assessor. But in case they didn't, incumbent Larry Stone jumped the gun by two days with a press release nitpicking Primo's political record and "welcoming" him into the race. The anxious Stone seemed to be having re-election jitters as his third term comes to a close, and he hasn't had a serious opponent since 1994. Since the two vying for this $155,000 position have fed from the public trough for nearly 30 years, the mudslinging has (so far) been nothing more than petty digs at each other's ethics. Stone's deputy assessor and campaign assistant David Ginsborg said McHugh "hijacked" a public function to make a political move. "It just stinks," he says. Ginsborg himself irked some people when he showed up at the charity barbecue with a video camera. One consultant close to McHugh called Ginsborg "tacky" and questioned how much work time the public employee was spending on Stone's campaign. In a half-hour phone conversation with Fly, Ginsborg said he doesn't count "routine distractions" that take less than a couple of hours. That certainly seems a bit loosey-goosey compared to the strict observance of McHugh's people: when Fly called his office to request an interview, his county staff refused to do anything more than pass on the message to their boss, who answered it after business hours.

Gone With The Whine

Palo Altans called the Spangenberg Theater a hidden gem, discovered mostly by word of mouth. But the discount art-film house, which doubled as an auditorium on the Gunn High School campus, said farewell to its budding local following on Nov. 26 with a free screening of Gone With the Wind. How can that be, you ask, when this area needs all the film culture it can get? Well, one source close to the theater, who asked that his name not be used, said the program manager got fed up after Gunn High School's principal Noreen Likins complained about the smell of popcorn, movie posters, alleged trash in the lobby (which he says was "totally untrue"), and demanded they move the concessions counter out of sight. However, she didn't seem to mind the digital surround sound they installed with money from ticket sales. Likins says she just didn't want the place to look like a movie theater. She got her way—it didn't look like one, and now it isn't one. Volunteers started the film program four years ago as an alternative to corporate-dominated cinema and churned all profits back into the school. The theater showed independent and second-run movies for $5, a deal that's harder to find in the area since the Milpitas Cinelux Cinema Saver closed in August (plans to relocate have been delayed indefinitely). Losing the Spangenberg was a second blow to moviegoers like Lorna Shapiro, who frequented the small theater at least once a week. "It was a tremendous benefit to the community," she says. On closing day, she collected 230 petition signatures from audience members and that number has since risen to 1500. For more information, visit

Pack Back

Nearly 200 San Jose Earthquakes supporters turned the San Jose City Council chambers into a sea of blue last week. Decked out in team regalia, the fans had gathered en masse on Santa Clara Street before the meeting—one playing drums and nearly 100 others belting out soccer chants on the sidewalk. Cars drove by and honked in support of saving the San Jose Earthquakes. Nothing relating to the Quakes was on the council's agenda that night, but a local cabal of hard-core fans calling themselves Soccer Silicon Valley organized the rally to show their support. The entire crowd literally took over the chamber in the most polite way they could. About 20 of them took two minutes each to speak out in front of the council on behalf of the Quakes. In order not to disrupt the meeting by repeatedly applauding after each public speaker, the entire crowd waved their hands in the air silently instead. The crowd of fans celebrated at Britannia Arms afterward, and as folks drifted in from the Sharks game down the street, one person was surprised to see so many Earthquakes jerseys in the place. "Was there a Quakes game tonight?" The person said with a confused look on her face. "No," a Quakes fan replied. "A City Council meeting."

Fly Wants to See The Bright Lights

Fly came across a strange sight at San Jose State University the other day: a guy doing yoga outside the campus bookstore—in the rain. "I'm not made of sugar," he joked. The flexible promoter, Tom Pack, was stretching next to a sign for Beat the Bookstore, a used textbook exchange that promises to buy for more and sell for less. Pack returned even after he was told to leave the previous day by Spartan Shops Inc., the current textbook provider that has a contract to forbid campus competition. Does that sound like a monopoly to anyone? It does to Pack and a growing number of disgruntled students who are sick of paying top dollar for their required reading material. Beat the Bookstore, which opened a downtown location earlier this month, has run into the same roadblocks as a cohort of students trying to organize a campus book swap. Members of the student government, a handful of clubs and associations and a few individuals have joined to create a way for students to buy and sell from each other directly—without the hassle of online services or corporate interference. They've been denied space in the student union and other university locations under the Spartan Shops contract. But even if they have to set up an outside tent, book swap advocates say they intend to make waves when the semester begins in January. "I think students need more options," says coordinator Che Angkham. "There has to be a way to make school more affordable."

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