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A Hard Bargain to Swallow: Redevelopment Agency czar Frank Taylor is offering to sell the land underneath the Jose Theater to developer Jim Fox for $1.

Fox, Henhouse

In the latest reel of the Jose Theater saga, Redevelopment Agency luminaries have crafted a clever deal with politically connected Jose developer Jim Fox and his partners. In the agency's latest fox-and-henhouse scheme, the public will buy the land (much of it owned by campaign contributor Chester Wang) on S. Second Street for $5.2 million so that Fox can build his housing project on it. And then, after 10 years, allow Fox to buy the land from the agency for $1. That's no misprint. One thin dollar, which is just business as usual at the redevelopment store. A witty city official waxes sarcastic: "Hey, we negotiated really hard. The developers didn't want to pay anything at first." ... The agency is also ponying up nearly $4.6 million more to help Fox build his 116-unit apartment building, raising the total public investment in the project to $14.3 million. One reason for the extra subsidy: land baron Wang jacked up his selling price because the whole deal took so long (the City Council first approved it in June 1996). Another reason: the token effort to preserve more of the Jose Theater--while still gutting the auditorium--will cost $2.1 million. Fox is itching to get the project going, which explains why the agency is trying to ink the deal now, even though the Preservation Action Council is suing the city over the plan. "We are a little surprised that they're continuing with business as usual, especially in light of our lawsuit," says PAC president Andre Luthard. But PAC's lawsuit doesn't ask the court for an injunction to halt the project, so technically there's nothing stopping Fox or the city from moving ahead. The council, sitting as the redevelopment board, is scheduled to vote on the agency's proposed deal this week. ... Ironically, with all the hubbub over the threats to landmarks like the Jose, "Preserving Our Past" is the theme of the new issue of the agency's multicolored propaganda rag, Focus on San Jose. Conspicuously omitted from its pages are the Jose and the Montgomery Hotel, another historic building facing the wrecking ball with the agency's blessing.


Staying Humble

Prominent Democrats wanted City Councilwoman Margie Fernandes to run for Assembly. Liz Figueroa, who's planning to run for Bill Lockyer's state Senate seat, talked to Fernandes about making a bid for Figueroa's Assembly spot. State schools chief Delaine Eastin, who used to represent the 20th Assembly District, also paid Fernandes a call. But the fallen mayoral candidate is opting to avoid another potentially bruising campaign. "She just didn't think it was appropriate for her right now," an adviser cryptically explains. Figueroa's Democratic heir apparent now is Fremont real estate whiz John Dutra.... Someone else who apparently won't be running for Figueroa's seat is Milpitas Mayor Henry Manayan. Though this may not be the reason for his decision to remain on the sidelines, county records indicate that the Mercedes-driving mayor might be having some financial troubles. A bank is foreclosing on one of his homes because he's missed $1,745.13 worth of loan payments since Oct. 1, 1997. Two years ago, the IRS filed a $5,975 lien against him for back taxes owed. Manayan tells Eye he has rectified both debts and that all is well. Manayan isn't the only member of the Milpitas City Council who has experienced financial adversity recently. Vice Mayor Bob Livengood's venture into the pizza biz last year was a financial disaster. On the bright side, the Bobster just paid off the $15,447 he and his estranged wife owed to the IRS.


Rising Polls

It defies logic. As stories of his trousers dropping proliferate, President Clinton's polling numbers keep going up. This week, even as Monica Lewinsky became a household name, Clinton saw his approval rating skyrocket above 70 percent, the best of his presidency. The contradiction has caused some members of the vast right-wing conspiracy to wonder if there's a vast left-wing conspiracy to bolster Clinton's popularity. Fringe conservative Glenn Spencer postulates that with the Paula Jones case shifting into high gear, Clinton desperately needs to regain the high ground and destroy the opposition. "[Clinton] is capable of using any means necessary to defeat his enemies," Spencer rants in an Internet posting, "including manufacturing the Monica Lewinsky affair.... If Bill Clinton wins this won [sic], he wins everything. The special prosecutor is finished, Rush Limbau [sic] is finished and the Republicans are finished." A not-so-conspiratorial Reep remarks that far out right-wingers like Spencer kill conservatives' credibility and influence. "Maybe Glenn Spencer is himself a Clinton agent. That I might believe."


Unz-believable

The president isn't the only one being accused by right-wingers of hatching logic-defying conspiracies. So is conservative Palo Alto businessman Ron Unz, the author of the controversial anti-bilingual education initiative. Apparently, some nutty anti-immigrant conservatives believe that the "English for the Children" initiative is a plot by bilingual teachers to save bilingual education in California, while funneling money to Latino activists. "Since groups of Latino activists are now periodically picketing my company's office," Unz sniffs, "carrying signs denouncing me as an anti-Latino racist Nazi who wants to outlaw the Spanish language, these Latino activists must be very good actors."


Marginal Defeat

Speaking of the anti-bilingual initiative, multilingual Assemblyman Mike Honda is debating whether to resurrect his anti-Unz bill in time for the November ballot. Honda's pondering tweaking the bill's language to make it more amenable to nervous Democrats. Capitol insiders, however, doubt that even a modified version of the bill will go anywhere. In an election year, Demos don't want to give Republican opponents any political ammunition, especially against so-called marginals, those potentially vulnerable legislators from districts with lots of Reeps. That's why Assembly Speaker Cruz Bustamante wasn't exactly thrilled with the possibility that the bill could end up in a floor vote. ... The Capitol Weekly names Elaine White Alquist one of the "marginal" Demos who could be vulnerable in November (Alquist opposed Honda's bill). Alquist's district includes Republican enclaves like Saratoga. So far, however, the only Reep to take out papers in that district is Sunnyvale Councilman Stan Kawczynski.


Jumping Ship

First it was beer magnate Mike Fox Sr. Then public relations man Peter Carter came aboard. Now, it looks as though yet another McEneryite is jumping on the Ron Gonzales bandwagon. Campaign records released this week show that Bellarmine boy developer Rich Cristina cut a check to Gonzales' mayoral campaign but not to Pat Dando, the ex-mayor's favorite candidate. And the Gonzales camp is hinting that there may be more defections in the near future. "The McEnery coattails are being shredded," gloats one Gonzales spinmeister.


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From the February 5-11, 1998 issue of Metro.

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