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[whitespace] Generalissimo Franko: Redevelopment boss Frank Taylor argues that free-market developers shouldn't be able to make tidy profits when he opposes their projects.

Credibility Gap

Eye hates to be the one to say it, but Frank Taylor is acting like a desperate man these days. In his latest tirade against the proposed Town & Country project--which he views as a threat to the downtown's retail revival--the Czar of Redevelopment sounds more like the Mao of Redevelopment, lambasting the evil capitalist scum at Federal Realty, the project's developer, for potentially netting a "windfall profit" if the deal goes through. Of course, such "windfall" deals don't seem to bother Taylor when public dollars are being given away to downtown developers like Jim Fox, to whom Taylor is offering to sell the Jose Theater, a $5 million property, for one dollar. ... To Taylor's chagrin, he can't control the scale of the Town & Country project from Politburo headquarters at 50 W. San Fernando because Federal Realty--unlike Fox--isn't asking for a public subsidy. And without the power of the purse string, Taylor is just a backseat driver in Planning Director Jim Derryberry's car. (Derryberry, who battled with Taylor over the Jose, supports the T&C proposal.) Not to be totally marginalized from the debate, Taylor went out and hired a retail consultant who predictably concluded that the project would jeopardize downtown's future. But T&C boosters are pointing out with great delight that the consultant's own data contradicts the paid-for conclusion: Buried on page 59, the report's numbers suggest that retail demand here is so great that the San Jose area could effectively support 10 Town & Country expansions. ... Another player in the debate who appears to have lost his power of persuasion is ex-Mayor Tom McEnery, part of downtown's landed gentry. Federal spokesman Jonathan Richman tells Eye that McEnery fared poorly in a poll commissioned by the developer. According to Federalistas, less than 20 percent of those polled said they'd be more likely to support an issue if McEnery was in favor of it. By comparison, three times as many people said they'd follow Mayor Susan Hammer's lead. If that weren't bad enough, Eye hears that another poll shows ex-Mayor Janet Gray Hayes, the Macster's old nemesis, has higher approval ratings than McEnery.

No Kidding

We didn't name esteemed state Sen. John Vasconcellos one of the grumpiest people in the valley without reason. Vasco is infamous for holding a grudge against those who have crossed him. So when candidate Jose Salcido asked Vasco for his blessed endorsement, it should come as no surprise that the irascible senator promptly replied, "Jose Salcido--you've got to be kidding!" Salicido's law-enforcement PAC endorsed Vasco's opponent, Tom Hayes, in the 1996 election. Vic Ajlouny, Salcido's campaign consultant, says that Salcido isn't holding any grudges and looks forward to working with Vasco. Salcido and his allies in the Deputy Sheriffs' Association may very well need the senator's help defeating a bill being pushed by the county jail guards that would make them peace officers. Vasco singlehandedly killed a similar bill last year. By the by, Vasco is supporting Ruben Diaz for sheriff. "He has integrity," the lawmaker proclaims, which probably means Diaz didn't endorse Hayes.

At-Risk Builder

Poor Jim Salata. After the San Jose construction boss bought a downtown area home, the California Youth Authority's Parole Services Division took up residence next door. Now, after fixing up Garden City Construction's SoFA office, Salata unexpectedly gets word from the city that a youth center serving at-risk kids will be opening next to his business (and only one block from Metro). "I don't know exactly what [at-risk] means, but it conjures up scary visions," Salata told Dick De La Rosa, the mayor's gang expert. He continued to inform De La Rosa that seniors, women, college students and children live and work on the block. De La Rosa says that Salata had been under the mistaken impression that the city's deal to lease the site fell through. One piece of good news for Jimbo: The site next to his office is only temporary. A permanent youth center will be opening up three to four blocks away in the future, though De La Rosa doesn't know exactly when.

Show and Tell

The Band-Aid is off, and the member is back. That's right, flamboyant businessman Pat Mormon's statue of David is once again fully endowed. Vandals performed a Lorena Bobbitt on the 6-foot model of Michelangelo's masterpiece nearly one year ago, leaving only a bandage where once rested a penis. Mormon hired local artist Fred Ward--who doubles as Pat's massage therapist--to restore David to his original glory. ... Like a good community paper, the Metro-owned Willow Glen Resident sent reporter Christine Lias over to Mormon's antique store to check out the goods (see story). Since Lias hadn't met Mormon and didn't want to offend him, she cautiously used words like "member" and "lower appendage." The man of many gold chains apparently started to get annoyed and interrupted, "Honey, the word is penis. PENIS. And if you don't know what one is, I'll show you one." The stunned reporter feared that Mormon might actually do a little show-and-tell. But Mormon assures Eye he's a little too modest for that. "Maybe if I had one as pretty as David's," Mormon confides, "I would have." Luckily, the restored statue of David was there to provide a human anatomy lesson.

Big Brother Backs Ron

Mayoral wannabe Ron Gonzales likes to tout his high-tech credentials every chance he gets. He's got the backing of techies like Lew Platt from Hewlett-Packard, where Gonzales works, not to mention the blessing of venture capitalist John Doerr. But could he really have the endorsement of Big Brother himself--Microsoft CEO Bill Gates? Well, looking at Gonzo's endorsement list, a reader could get that impression. All of the other community endorsers on his list have their business affiliations clearly listed. Yet near the bottom of the list appears the name "Bill Gates"--with no extra identification. (Does he really need any introduction?) As it turns out, the Bill Gates listed is not the Bill Gates. It's a local attorney enjoying tremendous name recognition backing the former county supe. The Gonzales camp insists that Gates' affiliation was left off the list by accident.

It's a Sign

'Tis the season when campaign lawn signs start sprouting from the ground. But a couple of downtown homeowners apparently awoke one recent morning to discover a couple of unsolicited "Cindy Chavez for City Council" signs amid the daisies and dandelions out front. Perplexed, they asked a well-known neighbor involved in politics if he knew how they got there. No, he didn't. According to the observant pol, one week later, half the lawn signs on the street were gone. Chavez could offer no explanation for the mysteriously appearing and disappearing signs. "No one called to complain," she tells Eye.

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From the April 16-22, 1998 issue of Metro.

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