[Metroactive News&Issues]

[ San Jose | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

[whitespace] Transit Authoritarian: Supervisor Jim Beall, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, barely avoided a head-on collision with Mayor Ron Gonzales this week over bringing BART to San Jose.

Public Eye

Rail Tough

THERE ARE MANY OBSTACLES to Mayor Ron Gonzales' dream of bringing BART to San Jose: Money. Land. And for a few moments this week, towering inferno Jim Beall, Gonzo's erstwhile nemesis on the Board of Supervisors. Beall moonlights as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency in charge of regional transportation planning and spending in the Bay Area. The latest row between Beall and Gonzales erupted after Gov. Gray Davis asked the state's regional agencies like MTC to send him their transportation-project wish lists. Last week MTC staff released what San Jose's mayor perceived as a BART-busting spending proposal. The real kick in Gonzo's caboose was MTC and Beall's desire to spend an additional $543 million to extend light rail from the South Bay to the existing BART station in Fremont (what one wag calls BART-lite) and increase rail service, while basically doing nothing to bring BART here. In a March 24 missive to Beall, Gonzales advised, "MTC should revise its proposed funding package to support bringing BART to San Jose ... and provide some real traffic relief." Gonzales' counter-offer: $100 million to buy land for future BART stations (a pittance considering the total cost would be about $4 billion) and modestly supplementing the $96 million already earmarked in county sales tax funds for a light rail connection . ... On the same day Gonzales sent Beall his demands, the MTC chairman co-authored his own memo sticking to the $543 million proposal for boosting light rail service to BART. ... Obviously, someone was going to have to budge in order to avoid a head-on collision. And after a series of hastily scheduled staff meetings and a visit by Beall to Gonzales at City Hall, the duo hacked out a last-minute compromise, revealed at an emergency meeting of the Valley Transportation Authority board Tuesday night. Beall announced that he and MTC were backing off their $543 million push for BART-lite. And the mayor, who sits on the VTA board, voted to back VTA staff's funding recommendations, which didn't include the $100 million he wanted for property acquisition for future BART stations. After the meeting, Beall acted as if he and Gonzo were newfound philosophical soul mates. "Ron and I generally agree on things related to transportation," Beall mused. An insider sized up the high-level pissing contest between the power brokers differently: "I'd say that Jim zipped his pants up first," the wonk contended. ... The question now is whether Gov. Davis will agree with their transportation recommendations for weary valley commuters.

Starter Trouble

It seems like it would be a no-brainer for Mayor Ron Gonzales, a Democrat, to endorse his party's nominee for the 15th Congressional District seat against Republican Jim Cunneen in the general election. Not so when the Democratic candidate's name is Mike Honda. Gonzales, who backed venture capitalist demo Bill Peacock in the primary, has a longstanding rivalry with the civic Honda going back to their days on the Board of Supes. Eye-watchers will recall that when Gonzo ran against Republican Pat Dando for mayor in 1998, Honda stayed neutral. Now comes payback time, and Gonzales is being coy as to whether he'll toe the party line and endorse Honda for Congress. "No decision has been made yet," stonewalls the mayor's frontman, Jude Barry. ... In spite of their past differences, Honda has apparently been counting on Gonzales' support. According to Keith Honda, Mike's nepotist-in-chief, Gonzales promised to back Honda if Peacock lost in the primary. "That was Mike's understanding," cousin Keith tells Eye. But Barry insists that his boss never made any such promise. At press time, the two pols were trying to schedule a meeting to "clarify" their contrary recollections of what was or wasn't promised.

Contract Walks

There are no picket lines yet, but contract talks are definitely stalled between Mercury News management and the paper's five unions. The unions' contracts--including the San Jose Newspaper Guild, which represents the paper's reporters--expired on Halloween of 1998. Talks have progressed so slowly over preliminary issues like working conditions that the two sides haven't even begun to discuss wages yet. Last week members of the Newspaper Guild held a rally outside Merc headquarters to express their discontent. "We're not really making much progress at the table," grouses Luther Jackson, executive officer for the Newspaper Guild. "Everybody is quite frustrated." John Hammett, a senior veep at the Merc, blames the delays on the five unions' insistence on negotiating in lockstep. "We've offered to proceed with [contract talks with] individual unions," Hammett says, "but they've said no to us." Still, Hammett optimistically predicts that a deal will be worked out in four to six weeks. Jackson doesn't sound as optimistic and wouldn't rule out the possibility of a strike. "We'll look at all our options," Jackson sniffs, "but we're most interested in a settlement."

Typo of the Week

From a press release from Assistant District Attorney Al Weger promoting the DA's "Operation Spotlight" program, which recently closed down the Burbank Theater: "The program works to bring different county agencies into a blighted or undeserved area to improve the quality of life for the residents."

Wasting Paper

Before last year's Sunnyvale City Council election, candidate and former Mayor Frances Rowe couldn't get anyone from the Mercury News to hear her out. Now she can't seem to get the paper's reps to stop calling her. ... Rowe says she cancelled her subscription to the Merc after the Nov. 2 election because of its "deplorable actions and editorials." The Merc endorsed Rowe's opponent, Tim Risch, and said the eccentric Sunnyvalean was "unsuited for the job" because of her well-publicized antics during her time on the council. But after she cancelled her subscription, Rowe complains, Merc telemarketers have been calling her practically every week to get her business back. She finally got so fed up that she wrote editor Rob Elder last week demanding he stop the phone solicitations: "I hope that I am making this explicitly clear: I do not want your paper, free or otherwise! And I'm insisting that these weekly nuisance calls trying to entice me to once again take your paper stop! Thank you."

Public Eye welcomes tips. Leave messages 24 hours a day by calling 408/298-7818 and then pressing 2, followed by 412, to reach Eye's voice mailbox. Send email messages to [email protected]

[ San Jose | Metroactive Central | Archives ]

From the March 30-April 5, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate