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[whitespace] Jim Cunneen Chamber Made: Ex-Assemblyman Jim Cunneen decided to take the top job at the San Jose Chamber of Commerce instead of Joint Venture. Sources say Joint Venture's days are numbered.

Public Eye

Disjointed Venture

BECAUSE OF ex-Assemblyman Jim Cunneen's close ties to Joint Venture founder Becky Morgan, many insiders figured he was the logical successor to the group's recently departed CEO, Ruben Barrales. But nope, Cunneen opted to accept the top job at the San Jose Chamber of Commerce last week. A businessman with ties to both organizations says that the salary offers made to Cunneen by the two were "about the same," raising Eye's brow. ... It's no secret that Joint Venture--started in the early '90s as a partnership of government and corporate do-gooders--is a troubled organization. Board member John Neece was quoted in the Mercury News after Barrales resigned as saying he and others were thinking about closing the group's doors. The board of directors didn't ultimately take such a drastic action, but it did scale back some of Joint Venture's projects, including a study of the so-called digital divide. Eye has learned of yet another indication that Joint Venture is facing tough times. Hewlett-Packard government affairs rep Gary Fazzino has told Joint Venture that H-P won't be sending its annual $50,000 membership check. In the past, H-P has been one of Joint Venture's most committed backers, donating more than $1 million to the group's education initiative in the mid-'90s (an effort former H-P chief Lew Platt co-chaired), Fazzino recalls. But Fazzino reasons that Barrales' exit made him think it would be a good time to jump off the Joint Venture bandwagon. "It's had a difficult time figuring out how it can make a difference," observes Fazzino, who's also a member of the Palo Alto City Council. "It seems like they've been scrambling trying to find something to do." He also assures Eye that H-P's decision to close its checkbook has nothing to do with the current downturn in the economy. The choice, he says, was precipitated by the organization's painfully obvious obsolescence. "I thought the group was dead a couple of weeks ago," Fazzino says. "I don't know who brought the corpse back to life. It's time to move on."

Stone Cold

Larry Stone is not dripping with street cred when it comes to professing disappointment in political allies. Eye-watchers will recall that supervisorial wannabe Dolly Sandoval thought she had Stone's support, only to learn that the assessor was backing her opponent, Liz Kniss. And now Stone has changed his mind about endorsing Johan Klehs, who is running for state controller. Klehs currently sits on the state Board of Equalization, which means he has regularly dealings with Stone and other county assessors. But Stone withdrew his endorsement when his pal Steve Westly, the decamillionaire eBay alumnus, announced he was running for controller, too. Stone then had to call Klehs and give him the bad news. "He [Klehs] was obviously irritated," Stone acknowledges.

The Pub Rub

Joe Natoli Call up the San Jose Mercury News, and they'll still plug callers through to Jay T. Harris' office despite the fact that St. Jay hasn't graced 750 Ridder Park with his presence since last Monday, according to Eye spies. Harris's helpful assistant, Connie, doesn't inform callers that Harris isn't coming back--ever. "It's like any other business," Connie tells Eye. "Life goes on."... And indeed it does. By Tuesday afternoon, Knight Ridder execs had cheerfully named Miami Herald President Joe Natoli as new publisher of its sagging flagship daily in San Jose. Natoli, a company lifer who worked his way up the bean-counting and ops-side ranks, was named president of the Herald in 1994 at a time when that paper was suffering the scourge of inadequate financial results now plaguing the Merc. He presided over ugly decisions there, including the elimination of the award-winning Sunday magazine, Tropic, a task he won't have to duplicate at the Merc, since our colleagues at the leaderless daily did just that to SV Magazine last week. The magazine, Sunday readers will agree, will be forever missed. ... Meanwhile, Harris has put himself on the public speaking circuit, sharing billing with President Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Walter Cronkite at the impending American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Washington, and emceeing this week's Women of Achievement dinner, held in the shadow of the K-R headquarters. And in a rare interview, Harris boasted to Editor & Publisher that he's had "a number of very generous offers," and the trade rag reported "rumors swirling" regarding a touchdown in Sacramento, headquarters of Knight Ridder competitors McClatchy Co., who own the Sacramento Bee. McClatchy mouths, of course, played stoopid for Eye and wouldn't comment.

Play Ball

For months, boosters trying to lure the Oakland A's to the South Bay have known they never had an ally in Santa Clara Mayor Judy Nadler. But some Athletic supporters were surprised by Santa Clara Councilman John McLemore's defection last week when he voted not to delay a parking garage project on a site being eyed by Oakland's execs. After the vote (in which the A's prevailed), A's-essor Larry Stone went up to McLemore and growled, "John, you're a monumental disappointment." According to Stone, a member of the Santa Clara Stadium Association, McLemore has been verbally supportive in the past. A's enthusiasts privately speculated after the vote that McLemore was trying to ingratiate himself to Nadler so she'll endorse his likely bid for mayor next year. "I don't need to schmooze up Judy Nadler to have her consider me a good candidate for mayor," McLemore grouses. "We gave [the stadium association] two years to do a study and we haven't seen the study yet. It's very simple. Show me the money, show me the business plan."

Hammer of God

The man who took a sledgehammer to a statue of Christopher Columbus in San Jose City Hall earlier this month tells Eye that God made him do it. "I surrender to God's will," activist James Cosner says, "I do whatever God commands me." The deity-obeying vandal adds that, "If you knew the history of Christopher Columbus from an indigenous person's point of view, you'd know that having a statue of him in a public place is like having a statue of Hitler in Jerusalem." Cosner, who has a Swedish mother and a Mexican father, has been described in the Mercury News as "a Ben Lomond resident who has a criminal history of civil disobedience." Though some believe that hammer-wielding and histories of disobedience are prerequisites for living in the Ben Lomond hills, Cosner actually lives in fog-encased Aptos. Cosner faces up to six years in prison, but at least he'll be free until his trial--his girlfriend lovingly posted his $20,000 bail last week. God was unavailable for comment.

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From the March 29-April 4, 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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