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Christopher Gardner

No Free Ride: Acting city manager Debra Figone has warned city employees to stop parking illegally around City Hall.

Ticket to Hide

Regular visitors to City Hall may have noticed within the last week and a half how easy it has been to find a metered parking space. That's because city vehicles aren't hogging the spaces anymore, thanks to acting city manager Debra Figone's recent threat to start ticketing them. ... City employees driving "exempt" government-owned cars and trucks--those dull-looking white Fords with the "E" license plates--apparently have had a nasty habit of illegally parking for several hours at a time without plugging the meters. One day last month, Eye even spotted an official "parking control" car parked at an expired meter near the police administration building. Another day, in the mid-afternoon, at least one-third of the available metered spaces on Mission Street between First and San Pedro were occupied by city vehicles. ... The scofflaw activity hasn't been limited to City Hall. Near the Horizon Building, where several city departments have their offices in the heart of downtown, city vehicles regularly camped out at expired meters on Santa Clara and on side streets like Third and St. John. ... What made this disregard for the law even more maddening was that parking-control officers routinely drove right past illegally parked city cars but would ticket any John Q. Citizen's car sitting at an expired meter. Furthermore, the city provides ample free parking to its employees at the civic center garage and other downtown garages. ... So why, after all these years of freewheeling abuse, is the city finally clamping down on its parking poachers? Well, the city has just added 20 new spaces for "E" vehicles near City Hall, making the crackdown seem more reasonable. Ultimately, however, the situation posed a public relations problem. Deputy city manager Kay Winer says the city has been getting a rash of complaints recently from people who haven't been able to find parking near City Hall.


Joe's Save

Just a few months ago, city officials insisted that there was no way to save the Jose Theatre. But now that Ron Gonzales is mayor, somehow city luminaries have managed to do the "impossible" and devise a plan--the details of which are sketchy--to spare the theater from the wrecking ball. ... A couple of weeks ago, Gonzales sent an emissary to talk to the Preservation Action Council's board of directors about the mayor's plan to save the downtown landmark. "We're absolutely delighted," gushed PAC president Rick Sherman. "I think it [the Jose] is going to stay." The PAC board is still waiting for some final details to be worked out before it officially endorses the mayor's plan. ... The "emissary" sent by Gonzales to meet with PAC was none other than mayoral minister of budget and policy Joe Guerra. Eye notes it's the same Joe Guerra who, as chief of staff for Councilman Frank Fiscalini, previously helped negotiate the theater's demolition. The point man for PAC, meanwhile, is Guerra's old classmate at Bellarmine Paul Bernal. As legend has it, Bernal founded the "I Hate Joe Guerra Fan Club" in high school. He might want to rename the club if Guerra and the mayor keep the Jose standing.


Clear Field

Three years ago Pete McHugh linked his opponent Pat Sausedo to San Jose's card-club scandals. Sausedo, in turn, knocked the former Milpitas mayor for losing the support of the city's police union. But that was three years ago. This week invitations went out for Supervisor McHugh's first re-election fundraiser, being held April 22 at the Wyndham Hotel in San Jose. One of the people on the event's 60-member host committee is none other than the Saucy One herself. "Pat and Pete have made their peace," a Sausedo pal reveals, adding that Sausedo has put her political aspirations behind her. One cynical observer suggests the reconciliation had a more practical basis: Sausedo is a lobbyist for developers and McHugh is chairman of the board. Asks the source: "Why pick a fight with him?" ... Apparently, that logic wasn't lost on other development interests including Homes Builders Association prez Mark Lazzarini, a former Sausedo partisan also serving on McHugh's fundraiser committee. Another familiar face on the committee is Pat Castillo, the former Sunnyvale mayor once mentioned in this column as a possible challenger to McHugh.


Up and Comer

San Jose readers of Esquire may have recognized a familiar name in the magazine this month: Exiled Mercury News reporter Gary Webb, now an investigator for the state Legislature, has a 10-page spread in this month's Esquire about police profile stops, "Driving While Black," a must-read for local law enforcement officials. ... Still, Eye couldn't help but chuckle at one of the "victims" of profile stops mentioned in the piece, Los Angeles state Sen. Kevin Murray. Actually, Webb only mentions Murray--an African American who was pulled over and questioned in Beverly Hills after winning the June primary--in passing. Webb's New York­based editors, however, figured that was enough to devote a full page to a black-and-white portrait of Murray. Perhaps they didn't know that three months ago Murray was reportedly questioned by police after being caught with his pants down--literally--with a well-known Hollywood hooker in his state-owned Corvette in broad daylight. According to L.A. scribe Jill Stewart, the "profile" cops had on Murray was a grown man with a woody standing in front of a prostitute sitting in the 'Vette's passenger seat. For reasons that remain unclear, police did not arrest either the hooker or the up-and-coming lawmaker.


Hoop Screams

Best wishes to District 3's first gentleman, Mike Potter, who tore his Achilles' tendon during warmups for an intramural basketball game at San Jose High School last week. Eye hears that Potter, a district staffer for state Sen. Byron Sher who is betrothed to Councilwoman Cindy Chavez, is recovering from surgery to mend his wound. "It was a freak accident," recalls one of Potter's teammates. "He was warming up and all of a sudden he pulled up limping." Potter was carried out to his car and driven to the emergency room at San Jose Medical Center and put in a temporary cast, a friend says. Potter plays in a city intramural league for "the Innovators," a squad of San Jose pols that includes Councilman George "Shaq" Shirakawa Jr., mayoral budget ball-handler Joe Guerra, council aides Jonathan Noble and Don "White Chocolate" Rocha, Homebuilders Association sixth-man Michael Van Every and campaign finance agent Ash Pirayou. The Innovators, by the way, lost the game. No word yet on who will replace Potter. It definitely won't be the mayor's diminutive but scrappy chief of staff, Jude Barry, who earlier declined the honor of keeping the bench warm for Guerra.


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From the April 1-7, 1999 issue of Metro.

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