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[whitespace] Jen Sliter
... Too late: Jen Sliter says she didn't get attention when she needed it.

Public Eye

Too Little ...

A few weeks ago, Eye reported that Donovan's Hair Salon owner JEN SLITER was closing her business after getting the cold shoulder from the city. The mention brought an outpouring of attention for the downtown San Jose stylist, but Sliter says the city's latest offers of help are too little too late. Sliter tried for years to get the Redevelopment Agency and other city departments to help fix her store's broken gas line, which she says cost her $56,000 in electric bills and lost business over the last five years. ... After sending redevelopment boss SUSAN SHICK a letter blasting her for ignoring her pleas, Shick wrote back to offer a loan. "Unfortunately, trying to untangle the history of your gas line after all these years seems futile to me," Shick wrote. Sliter scoffs at the response. "That's why I didn't want to open another business in this town." Sliter tells Eye she also received a phone call from Councilwoman CINDY CHAVEZ offering help after the article ran, but it came too late. After getting the runaround from redevelopment, Sliter says she's had enough: "I'm still closing. Bottom line is I don't feel comfortable opening another business in this town." Noting that she's not the only small-business owner who thinks that the Redevelopment Agency ignores the little players in favor of corporate fat cats, Sliter says she'll close her shop on South First Street this Saturday. After that, she says, she'll work in a friend's salon. ... Another downtown business biting the dust is the 1-1/2-year-old Rush Cybercafe, also on South First Street. Eye reported in December that owner JOEL CRUZ was trying to figure out if he could stay in business, but even working 16-hour days couldn't save the hangout, which closed its doors last week. Without sounding bitter, Cruz says he's also frustrated that the city won't support local businesses willing to take a risk downtown. "Redevelopment should focus more on us. The little businesses are not being supported." Now, Cruz, who used to work as a graphic designer at Metro several years ago, says he's planning to start publishing a magazine focusing on downtown. Ironically, it was a project he originally started to help save Rush.

Blanca Alvarado
Blanca Alvarado

Close Call

Supervisor BLANCA ALVARADO learned the importance of having a good smoke detector this weekend. Alvarado was home alone Saturday evening, combing her hair and putting on makeup before the annual Latino Peace Officers Association banquet, when she heard her smoke alarm wailing. She came out to find a chair in her bedroom engulfed in flames. "It scared the hell out of me," Alvarado says. "When you hear the smoke alarm, and you walk out of the bathroom into the bedroom and see the smoke, it's scary, not fun." Alvarado wasn't hurt. "I had this very brave quick- thinking 12-year-old kid [EDGAR SALTILLO] from across the street who heard me screaming my head off and rushed into my house with the garden hose to put the fire out," Alvarado recounts. "So the fire was out before the firefighters even got there." Alvarado was chastened by the incident, which was caused by a cigarette left burning. "It was a stupid and careless thing to do, smoking in my bedroom." Alvarado has moved out while her house is repaired and has a new attitude about her longtime tobacco habit: "I'm not smoking anymore."

Fat Tuesday Fiasco

Rowdiness at San Jose's Mardi Gras party is a given. But after a few downtown Los Gatos bars and restaurants pulled off their own Fat Tuesday festivities last week, town officials were fuming. It seems that 10 Kitty City establishments, led by Mountain Charley's Saloon owner MARK ACHILLI, got together to promote the event, called the First Annual Fat Cat Walk Feb. 12 (can something be first annual?) and forgot to alert the local cops. After an ad in Metro promised free beads, music, dancing, food and, of course, souvenir hurricane cups, the word was out, and the turnout quickly grew beyond anyone's wildest expectations. By 9pm, according to police accounts, some 500 party-goers crammed one block alone. With bars serving $5 hurricanes (four shots a pop), there were a few fistfights and reported breast flashings in the juiced-up crowd. "I've been bartending for 25 years, and I've never had a busier night," says Carrie Nations bartender MIKE DOWNING. "It was just balls to the wall, drink after drink, all night." But while merchants say it wasn't really a special event that needed permits and the blessing of the town, police concluded otherwise and slapped participating bars with $100 fines. Double D's Sports Grille owner DARIN DEVINCENZI says the headache wasn't worth the extra business. "I'm not really down with events like this that encourage heavy drinking," Devincenzi says. "It brought in a wild crowd, and there were fights at every bar." The Los Gatos Town Council plans to haul bar owners in for a group chat, 12 steps optional.

Olympic Gains

The good news about KNTV's take-no-prisoners promotional campaign for its new identity is that it's almost over. The station is spending about $5 million, Eye hears, to plaster that message on whatever flat surface they can buy, especially billboards. A station PR agent says the campaign, which began in December, should wrap up at the end of this month. By now, everyone in town knows that KNTV is zapping out Brokaw, Leno, President Sheen and all the other NBC goodies. The Winter Olympics also made a convenient promotional tool. NBC has the rights to the games this year, and KNTV has been using that as an excuse to air stories about anything connected to the games and do cheerful stand-ups from Utah. If any Eye watchers (or North Bay residents who don't have cable) didn't get a chance to take this in, here's a recap: KNTV wants you to know that it is (A) now calling itself NBC3; (B) an NBC station; (C) broadcasting the games; (D) on Channel 3. ... There have been other changes at the station. The network SWAT team running the show behind the scenes brought in a gaggle of new faces to do the news, and more changes are almost certainly on the way. That may be foreshadowed by the News Team link on the station's webpage: "We are still working on the content for this page." Station GM BOB FRANKLIN is still in place, but since NBC bought the station from Granite Broadcasting a few days before the Jan. 1 affiliation switch, there's been plenty of talk that he'll get the boot once the deal is finalized this summer. Word around the station is that SWAT team head STEVE SCHWAYED, who was grabbed by the network from another NBC-owned station in Philly, will take over once Franklin leaves. There was also a surprise up the station's sleeve: a new helicopter. Eye hears the whirlybird is on loan from NBC right now but will become a permanent fixture once the station changes hands. Station brass, however, wouldn't confirm that or release sensitive info about what kind of helicopter it is, how much it costs or who's paying for it. The new chopper lets news teams on the ground beam video via microwave or satellite plus get aerial footage of things like the car over a cliff and the construction accident the chopper covered during its first week on the front lines. But no matter how fast it flies (another classified fact), it evidently can't do anything to improve quality of news. The station still has plenty of time for hard-hitting stories about new plastic surgery techniques and weight-loss products that use--gasp!--misleading ads. Grade the News, a joint venture by local PBS station KTEH and Stanford's J-school, recently rated the revamped news outfit. The station earned a D-plus overall, including an A for local relevance but Fs for newsworthiness and context. "KNTV's newscast was the worst we've ever rated for newsworthiness," concluded the study by media researcher and journalism professor JOHN McMANUS. "Topics of great importance across the region--rising unemployment, threats to hospital care, the governor's and others' assessments of the state of the state, falling housing prices--were all but displaced by emotional stories important to very few viewers."

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From the February 21-27, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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