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[whitespace] Apple and city agree company should step up community involvement

Cupertino--Less than a week after prodding local corporations to get more involved in the community, Mayor John Statton has made specific requests of the city's most visible company: Apple Computer.

Now that the computer maker has emerged from its lean years of the mid- and late 1990s and is enjoying record sales, both the company and the city agree it's time for Apple to get involved with the community again.

In a Feb. 1 letter to the Apple's government affairs department, Statton made a series of suggestions--at the company's request--as to how Apple could improve its involvement with the community. Apple says it requested the mayor's input after two December meetings with the city and a briefing with city officials regarding the company's future plans. On Jan. 19, Apple and the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce hosted an open-house style lunch for city officials and other local leaders. Kathy Hutchison, Apple's director of government affairs, says that meeting--initiated by the chamber--was devoted mostly to explaining the company's new product line and what's next for the company.

In his memo to the company, Statton made several suggestions as to how Apple could get more involved with the community. Among them: get employees involved in the community, have a visible presence at community events like fairs and festivals and make about $250,000 worth of donations to various community groups and organizations.

Statton also said the company should appoint a single person to be the company's contact with the city and community organizations--an ironic twist, given that Statton worked as Apple's community relations manager for the company from 1984 to 1993.

Hutchison said the company is "discussing various options and determining what would be beneficial to the city." She did not elaborate on what the company is considering.

The letter from Statton comes with Apple still dealing with an issue from 1998 that has yet to be resolved: the provision of public art.

As a stipulation of Apple's use permit for the DeAnza Boulevard site, approved in 1990, the company agreed to spend up to $100,000 to erect public art. As the construction project neared completion in 1993, Apple installed eight oversized statues of familiar icons from the early days of the Macintosh: a paintbrush, a pointed finger, and "Dogcow," also known as "Moof."

The unusual statues amused tourists and Mac cultists until mid-1998, when company brass ordered them removed.

But a 1998 report to the city council shows that Apple's top management apparently didn't realize removing the icon sculptures and not replacing them with new public art violated the terms of their use permit.

In June of 1998, City Manager Don Brown, along with councilmembers Michael Chang and Wally Dean, met with Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Bob Hecox, Apple's vice president of real estate and facilities. When the city officials reminded Apple it still was obligated to provide the art, the company asked for a two-year grace period, citing company survival as their first priority. Hecox in a letter requested a two-year grace period to replace the art.

"During the last several years, Apple's market share and profitablility have sharply declined, and we are in a phase of survival and trying to turn the company around," Hecox wrote. Councilmembers responded by ganting the company an 18-month grace period, which expires March 8.

Before the grace period expires, Brown says, Apple has four choices: reinstall new public art, ask for an alternative agreement, dedicate funds for public art elsewhere in the city or apply for another extension.

Hutchison said she couldn't comment on what Apple might do.

City councilmember Sandy James also met one-on-one with Hutchison on Feb. 2 to discuss possible community programs. James said she talked about community-related goals for the company and how it can re-involve itself with the community.

Specifically, James said she talked about Apple donating computers and other equipment to the new senior or teen centers when they open. Her other suggestions included the company underwriting part of the annual Oktoberfest festival, donating laptops to local high schools and establishing a line of communication with Apple employees who might want to get involved in community activities and organizations.

"My goal was to give them a palette of choices for short- and long-term involvement," James said. "There are just so many ways they can get re-involved. I'd say it was a really positive interchange."

Although James said Hutchison seemed "very interested" in the ideas, Hutchison said she couln't discuss her meeting with James.

Statton says it shouldn't be too hard for Apple to meet some of the city's suggested goals, especially given that Hanson Permanente--which he singled out as a good example in his Jan. 26 State of the City address--donates about $125,000 a year to local activities and groups. The company also has senior staffer dedicated to community relations, he says.

Currently, Apple is in its twelfth year of an ongoing partnership with Nimitz School. About 30 Apple employees volunteer their time as teacher aids, mentors and assistants. But while Nimitz is part of the Cupertino Union School District, it is located in the City of Sunnyvale.

Hutchison says Apple currently makes its campus facilities available for about three to five community events per year, which is more than the two or three required by the city's development permit for the main corporate campus.

Apple also played host to Cupertino Educational Endowment Foundation gala benefits in 1983 and 1997. Although Apple turned away CEEF organizers planning this year's benefit, the company did make a $10,000 donation to the foundation, according to CEEF director Eleanor Watanabe.

Apple didn't want to host the benefit event this year, Watanabe says, because the company could not accommodate the 600 expected attendees. The event will instead be held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose.

James said she would also bring up the public art issue at the Feb. 7 council meeting and ask the other councilmembers about their feelings on replacing the art or dedicating it elsewhere.
Jeff Kearns

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