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Public Eye

Chuck Savadelis

Surprised: Supe Mike Honda

Domestic Silence

Who was behind the decision to postpone Tuesday's county Human Rights Commission vote on a domestic-partners registry? The answer seems to change every few hours. ... One thing's for sure: it wasn't Supervisor Mike Honda, the measure's sponsor. He said he was surprised to learn on Friday that the vote had been postponed, supposedly so the proposal to allow unmarried gay and straight couples to symbolically register their relationships could be examined by county attorneys. But at the commission's executive-committee meeting earlier this month, Human Relations Director Jim McEntee told a speaker that the measure had already been thoroughly reviewed. ... Ask around a bit more, and the answer is that a small group of local gay activists put the brakes on the whole thing. Two representatives of BAYMEC were prowling the halls, trying to get a handle on the proposal that they had mostly ignored until just a few weeks ago. Their reason? By delaying the expected approval of the registry by county supervisors, opponents won't be able to schedule a repeal vote until after the November elections.

Killer Newsracks

What next, you ask? First, diminutive Palo Alto City Councilwoman Micki Schneider, touring the city's downtown area, gets throttled by a 6 ft. 2 in. homeless "street artist." The result: more cops on the streets of downtown tonyville, zero tolerance for graffiti and tougher rules for newsracks...Yes, newsracks. The newsrack issue, which surfaced in Palo Alto about nine months ago, has bubbled to the surface in council chambers again. At the meeting, the battered Schneider showed her colleagues a homemade slide show that featured things not pictured on California postcards-- shots of graffiti on dumpsters and people enjoying horizontal seating on bus benches. "It's evidence we've got gangbangers downtown and I don't feel safe when I see them," Schneider said, ticking off a list of grievances that ended with the "proliferation of newsracks," which the councilwoman, who operates a shop downtown, called "a threat to public safety."... Palo Alto senior assistant city attorney Sue Case tells Eye she hopes to have a newsrack ordinance ready by the end of summer. "Most cities have some kind of regulation [of newsracks]," Case says, adding that the first step, a "blinder rack" ordinance, has already been enacted. That rule, passed several months ago, requires the concealment of the covers of publications that are deemed harmful to minors. "We haven't actually enforced it on anyone yet," Case admits, adding that one publication, Yank, has voluntarily complied. The next step: rules to restrict newsracks to certain locations, such as putting them inside communal racks being designed as part of the city's downtown beautification project.

Yellow Zonker

In the fashion chaos of these times it's comforting to know that in the transit mall of downtown San Jose, everything will continue to match, even if it means a few people might be run over by trains. Eye has learned that the Transportation Agency--through some skillful maneuvering--will be installing tasteful gray granite tiles with a black stripe all along the 14 square blocks of track, in place of unsightly bright-yellow bumps favored by the vision-impaired community and safety engineers across the nation. According to one insider, the agency's top brass was so set on matching the muted rose and green granite of the transit mall that it lobbied the office of the state architect to decree that the light-rail tracks are in a national historic district, which shouldn't be defaced with tacky yellow lines. ... The fashion-unconscious feds, meanwhile, have threatened to pull any matching funds for future light rail projects if some kind of approved detectable warning material isn't installed by June 30 ... TA flak Norma Newman dutifully promised that the warning bumps would be in place by the due date, but was unable to tell Eye whether any materials had been ordered or any work scheduled for the transit mall. ... Meanwhile, San Jose City Councilwoman Margie Fernandes, who chairs the Transportation Agency's Transportation Access Committee, had the item pulled from a recent agenda and bumped to May 19. Fernandes says that she couldn't be there and, as the only San Jose representative on the committee, felt the city needed representation. She promised that the second meeting will bring together all of the people with a stake in the issue before any plans are finalized. ... Randy Tamez, the vice-chair of San Jose's Disability Advisory Committee, predicted the outcome of the meeting. "We'll reach a compromise," Tamez said. "It'll be 'We're not going to use yellow and you're going to like it.' " ... Anyway, the disability panel continues to oppose the use of the granite tiles. In a letter to the City Council, disability panel chairman Tom Wenger continues to question the use of the granite when yellow is the color most associated with the warning stripes. The advisory group also wants to know if the granite meets safety standards, which is something else no one could tell Eye.

Convention Wisdom

Downtown Association president Fil Maresca is warning people who live, work or do business downtown to be prepared for next week's Internet conference at the San Jose Convention Center, which is expected to bring 50,000 people into the heart of the city. Maresca told Eye that after the last geekfest at the center in February, downtown merchants came unglued over the loss of parking for three days. (And Eye thought that's what the merchants wanted--a packed downtown.) Maresca explained that other than the restaurants, downtown merchants don't get too much patronage from convention-goers. "They don't come to San Jose to shop," Maresca said. "They are here to go to the convention." ... This time, Maresca says they are prepared. Streets and Traffic is putting up signs to direct drivers to outlying lots, where they can catch convention shuttles. ... To help ease the parking crunch, Iworld, the convention's sponsor, was supposed to have parking information posted on its Web site, but Eye's netsurfers were unable to find the word parking mentioned anywhere on their pages.

Friends Canceled

San Jose City Councilwoman Pat Dando seems to have made some friends in the governor's office, though they apparently neglected to mention this to their boss. When Gov. Pete Wilson was in town last week to attend the press conference announcing Cisco Systems' purchase of a large chunk of publicly-owned land, some of Wilson's aides made sure Dando got a front-row seat, without the knowledge of Mayor Susan Hammer or her staff. After the announcement was made, one of Wilson's aides escorted Dando up to the receiving line, where she was to meet California Pete. The reep governor shook hands with Mayor Sue and Councilwoman Margie Fernandes, but then breezed right past his fellow Republican in the line. ... Eye was unable to contact the Dando office for damage control.

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From the April 25-May 1, 1996 issue of Metro

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