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Lights Out

Conservative business leaders who spent nearly a million dollars in an unsuccessful try to defeat him got exactly what they feared from freshman State Senator Byron Sher (D-11th District) last week, just a few days after he formally assumed his new office. The former Stanford law professor cast the deciding vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor (on a 5-4 vote) of Senate Bill 2017, which would empower the state Public Utilities Commission to set up a mechanism to settle claims from PG&E customers whose power is not restored promptly after a storm. Currently, customers have to go directly to PG&E with claims and, if turned down, have the only recourse of suing PG&E (usually in small-claims court) for damages for things like lost groceries, thawed frozen dinners or dead koi. According to figures presented at the hearing, PG&E fielded more than 5,800 such claims after the big March 1995 storms and rejected 55 percent of the claims. Pacific Gas and Electric, not surprisingly, opposes the idea of letting the state PUC tell it when it owes customers money for ruining their lunchmeat.

O.J. In 1996

Key leaders of the state GOP are positively gleeful over President Clinton's decision to oppose the anti-affirmative action so-called California Civil Rights Initiative, CCRI, which will be on the November ballot alongside the presidential contest. Eye has learned that Clinton's decision, which was confirmed last week by presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos, will become fodder for the GOP's ad blitz shortly after Labor Day. Being considered: a simple and inexpensive spot (tactfully dubbed "OJ") that scrolls the operative language of the ballot measure, which states that state government may no longer "use race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin as criteria for discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, any individual or group in the operation of the State's system of public employment, public education or public contracting." ... After the scroll, a narrator's voice adds the coup de grace: "President Clinton opposes CCRI. He thinks some people should get preferential treatment over others, based on their race, no matter how hard they've worked or how little they've started with." End of spot. The GOP ad guru, speaking on background, tells Eye that despite President Clinton's current huge lead over rival Bob Dole in the California poll, he has "never seen an issue that cuts like this one does," adding that believers in early, pre-campaign poll numbers should "ask Governor Kathleen Brown for her advice on campaign tactics. I'm taking bets," he says about the outcome of the November election, which, he happily contends, Clinton will narrowly lose "despite the weakest Republican presidential candidate we've fielded since Jerry Ford."

Kiss for Bob

While we're on the subject of political parties, conventions and fêtes, there might not be any suspense over who will get the Republican presidential nomination at the pachyderm convention in San Diego this summer, but Bob Dole might have two Silicon Valley surprises waiting for him on the floor. ... Mark Patrosso and Judy Purrington have been selected as Dole delegates to the convention, and they're both members of the gay and gay-friendly Log Cabin Republicans. In its newsletter, the local group claims the the two are the only Log Cabin members in the nation to bear this distinction. Early in the campaign, Eye watchers may recall, Dole flip-flopped on whether or not the Log Cabin's money was good enough for him to accept.

Free Show

Apparently the San Jose Arena has decided that, seeing as how they aren't the best of neighbors, the least they can do to appease the folks around the block is offer free admission to their events. The Autumn Montgomery neighborhood and business associations have been regular recipients of free club seats to Arena events for putting up with the traffic and crowds brought to the area. Chris Morrisey, the acting top dawg at the Authority, said the residents have earned them. "They bear the brunt of what happens here," Morrisey said. "In working with us they have done everything we could ask." ... The neighborhood is not the only beneficiary of freebie tickets, of course. They are also used by City Council members, ostensibly to reward community volunteers in their districts. Leading the pack in free ticket giveaways is District 10 Councilwoman Pat Dando, who has given away 78 seats during the first three months of 1996, including the city's box suite twice. Councilmen Manny Diaz of District 5 and John Diquisto of District 9 gave away 50 seats each. Of the ticket giveaways, Morrisey said: "It gets so many people in here who may otherwise not have the opportunity. The community outreach has been incredible." ... The mayor's office stayed out of the free ticket business for the most part. However, the United States Figure Skating Association did get the city's prime box seats throughout its national championships, courtesy of the mayor.

Pennies Welcome

"Give me their first five years," said the evil little man with the toothbrush on his lip, and the San Jose Mercury News apparently took heed last Wednesday by launching its weekly "For Kids Only" page. The biggest feature on the page of puzzles and science projects is how to find fun on the World Wide Web. ... Noticeably absent from the page: any effort to inform kids about actual news. (The San Francisco Chronicle publishes "Newspaper Plus," a weekly current events digest written at grade-school level, with study questions at the end.) ... Ever the bashful bottom linebacker, the Merc adorned the flip side of the "For Kids Only" page with a house ad depicting a young Nickelodeonite sipping a tropical drink at the beach, informing businesses the page "is the perfect opportunity to tap into the subtle (but influential) buying power of children." ... Eye called the Merc ad department, posing as the owner of the "Junior Assassin Toy and Hobby Shop," and was bounced around before finally reaching a salesperson who called us back with rates: full-page ads only, babe, for $6,000 in black-and-white.

Take 2

Before remembering last week that his remarks were being broadcast live on Palo Alto's Cable Co-op community access channel 6, Brad Anderson, who runs the North County cable franchise spilled the beans about a recent experiment conducted in hopes of cutting down on rampant cable piracy in the technically adept but somewhat larcenous communities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Stanford. It seems that someone in Silicon Valley has figured out how to make a chip that decodes all of the cable system's scrambled channels, netting everything from Playboy and HBO, to the big, expensive pay-per-view events like boxing matches and Howard Stern specials. However, during last week's televised meeting of the Cable Co-op board of directors, Anderson reported that his engineers recently figured out a way to foil the tekkie cable bandits, by transmitting a signal that automatically turns off all the cable boxes containing illicit chips. Oddly, when their cable TV went on the blink, several of the thieving customers actually brought their zapped converter boxes into Cable Co-op for repairs, perhaps forgetting that they were, in essence, turning themselves in on felony cable piracy charges. "We are pursuing settlements with those individuals," Anderson told the meeting before remembering that the camera was rolling. "Perhaps I shouldn't be talking about this right now, though," he said, quickly changing the subject.

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From the May 16-22, 1996 issue of Metro

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