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[whitespace] Jay T. Harris and Bob Ingle
Merc Martyr: Jay T. Harris, paparazzied seven years ago with K-R colleague Bob Ingle (left), earns a remarkable second week in a row as Eye's bubble model by unexpectedly quitting Monday.

Public Eye

Saint Jay

At least during his Silicon Valley days, Jay T. Harris was not exactly a man of the people. Audiences at his speeches sat through detailed explanations of how he coordinated his pen sets with his cufflinks each morning. His own newspaper called him one of the valley's ten most powerful people. He sat on the board of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group. He led his newspaper's charge against community-based Hispanic and Viet small publishers. He lived in an ultra- exclusive West Valley neighborhood. He refused interviews. When contract drivers refused to make deliveries unless the paper helped cushion the impact of rising gas prices, Harris scolded them for days in signed front-page editorials. And the journalists he indirectly supervised squirmed when they learned he was a backroom power broker on the very issues, like BART and regional energy policy, that they were covering. . . . Harris nonetheless became a working-class hero at 1:46pm Monday when he hit the send key on a rambling email to the entire staff of the San Jose Mercury News, scolding his profit-jonesing corporate overseers for asking him to pass out pink slips. ... At 2:30pm Executive Editor David Yarnold called a meeting to answer questions from a shell-shocked staff. Yarnold, attendees told Eye, all but bronzed Harris for his stance against K-R execs Tony Ridder and Steve Rossi following their now-infamous "acrimonious" meeting. A counteremail from the execs, meanwhile, insists that Harris was assured that newsroom layoffs would be avoided. ... By 4pm, union boss Luther Jackson had called a 5pm walkout in support of Harris. About 200 Merc faithful attended the five-minute wake. "The morale of this paper is in the tank right now," Pulitzer winner Pete Carey grumbled. St. Jay didn't return phone calls--not even to his former reporters-- and neither did Ridder or Rossi. ... Meanwhile, some staffers suggested Harris' duties will be covered by General Manager Mindi Keirnan, one-time assistant to Ridder and former operations VP during the Monterey County Herald massacre of August 1997, where all 200 employees were given the ax upon Knight Ridder's takeover. Keirnan kept mum on future arrangements at the Merc. "I've got no comment on anything," she helpfully informed Eye.

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Final Words: Mercury News publisher Jay T. Harris' last email to his staff, and the response from Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder.

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New Dimension

San Jose Redevelopment Agency siren Susan Shick sang a sweet tune when she came here two years ago from Long Beach. But she's recently shown a penchant for humming taps when someone gets in her way. Not too long ago, Eye reported on the agency's eviction of longtime downtown restaurateur Marcelino Castillo--owner of Casa Castillo on South First--and other obstacles to progress to make way for a sports bar and Italian restaurant. Now, the agency has obtained a court order to take possession of the old Dimensions nightclub in the SoFA district against the will of owner Stephen Lin. The goofy thing, according to Lin's attorney, Andy Faber, is that the agency hasn't expressed an interest to redevelop the Dimensions building itself. No, Faber says, agency hard-hats want to use the parking lot in back for a construction staging area to facilitate the renovation of the Fox Theatre and make it ready for the San Jose Opera. As for the building itself--which has hosted a string of failed dance clubs over the past decade--agency officials have told Lin they want to use it as a giant electrical outlet to facilitate construction next door. And considering the SJRA's kryptonite-proof powers of eminent domain, there's probably not a whole lot Lin can do. To be fair, the agency has initially offered $8.9 million toward acquiring the building and land, though that doesn't satisfy Lin, who insists he wants to develop the site himself. (Lin and his family partners bought the 45,000-square-foot site for a reported $1.5 million in 1985.) "Money isn't the issue," Lin protests. "I want to [keep] the property."

Pass or Fallon?

Berzerkleyans did not discover San Jose, but they have invaded it. Thanks to the antics of Columbus-hating Santa Cruz (which is Berkeley with a beach) activist James Cosner, Berkeleyans and their beach brethren have taken a keen interest in our little town of 800,000 people. This week, Cosner's attorney, Larry Hildes--who, yes, hails from the land of 510--held a press conference in front of the Hall of Justice before his client's bail hearing. A few Cosner supporters--including a ubiquitous hack from the Mao-sympathetic Berkeley Tenants' Union--came out, too. For the uninformed, Cosner made headlines by taking a sledgehammer to a statue of Columbus inside City Hall while shouting, "Genocide." Initially, police booked Cosner for vandalism and his bail was set at $4,000. But members of an Italian-American civic organization complained and soon afterward, Cosner's bail was raised to $50,000 and he faced a hate crime enhancement. Hildes groused to a handful of reporters Monday that a $50,000 bail was usually reserved for "rapists and murderers" and not sledgehammer-wielding vandals. "We feel," Hildes emoted, "like we've been treated as if Mr. Cosner actually killed Christopher Columbus." An environmental activist from Sunnyvale also chimed in, "I see no difference between Adolf Hitler and Christopher Columbus." By the by, Hildes did manage to get the bail lowered to $20,000. ... Finally, Mayor Gonzales is promising to restore the damaged Columbus statue. City Hall insiders say that if repairing it is too expensive, the mayor will simply replace it with the dust-gathering Fallon statue. (Memo to Ron: Just kidding.)

Keep Truckin'

Friendly enviro-nut Bill Chew rolled by Metro's offices the other day to offer Eye proof that Mayor Ron Gonzales is not the energy-aware pol he claims to be: a digital photo of Gonzo's new city-subsidized black Ford Expedition XLT 4X2. That's right, the mayor ditched his more regal-looking Lincoln Town Car Cartier and exchanged it for a 5,000-pound V-8 sport utility vehicle that seats nine and clocks 16 miles to the gallon around town and 21 on the highway, according to our friends at the EPA. The mayor is using his $400-a-month city car allowance toward the lease on the Expedition. Gonzales pays the rest out of his own pocket, according to mayoral motormouth David Vossbrink. Observes one City Hall snoop, "For an individual who is focused on energy and the environment so much lately, isn't it just a bit surprising that he is driving a brand new [SUV]?" But Vossbrink assures Eye that there isn't a major difference in gas mileage between the Cartier and the Expedition. The Expedition, Vossbrink concedes, is a little worse--by 2 miles per gallon in the city and 4 mpg on the highway. So why did our local role model trade in his stately luxury ride for an underpowered monster vehicle? Vossbrink would only say that the mayor wanted more room. But even a senior mayoral wag couldn't resist snickering, "He's a golfer, and you've got to fit those golf bags somewhere."

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From the March 22-28, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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