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The Bigger The Sign...: Even road signs can't escape the corporate sponsorship craze, as this new sign on U.S. 101 shows.

Public Eye

Shore Sign

CALTRANS DOESN'T KEEP TABS on items such as "Longest Title on a Highway Sign for an Exit," but Eye has a nominee, spied on U.S. 101 southbound last weekend: "The Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View Presented by The Chronicle Next 2 Exits." The use of directional traffic signs to promote commercial brands probably started long before 3Com Park wound up on a green plaque, but that was no doubt a watershed in the commercialization of the freeways. Nonetheless, "presented by" might be breaking new ground. ... The brief 'n' sweet marker appeared, remarkably, just days after the Chron announced its five-year "sponsorship" deal of the storied venue. The sign's seemingly immaculate erection left commuters wondering how the Chron managed to kick CalTrans into high gear, but SFX dude Lovester Law assures Eye that the sign issue was getting ironed out months before the announce-ment. "The state wouldn't approve [the change] until the city approved it," Law says. "And that happened months ago." ... Still, the sign's sudden appearance surprised even Debra Hall, the Chron's director of marketing and promotion. "Oh, the sign's up already?" Hall asked Eye. "How's it look?" Hall says the Chron asked SFX to include the sign in the deal, but took a back seat when it came to heavy lifting. "We asked them to give us their best effort, and they said they would, but they gave us no guarantees." The Shoreline, Bay Area residents will recall, was previously sponsored by Apple Computers and Pepsi at separate times--neither of which petitioned CalTrans for a new sign. This is the second rocking venue the Chron has swiped in the last two years, the other being The Chronicle Pavilion at Concord. "We have the exclusive," Hall said of her paper's latest acquisition. "Our competitors got the boot and they can't do any advertising inside the building."

School Bondage

District attorney investigators are looking into an allegation that public money was illegally used to help finance a 1999 school bond campaign, Eye has learned. Special Assistant District Attorney Bill Larsen confirms that his office is examining the finances of the campaign committee that helped pass Measure E, a $248 million bond measure sponsored by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. Larsen would not reveal what he's specifically looking for, but did say, "There is a question that we're trying to definitively resolve as to what money was used to fund the [Measure E] campaign." Robert Grimm, the campaign treasure for the "Citizens for Foothill-De Anza" committee tells Eye that he turned over a stack of financial records to the DA within the past 45 days. "We have nothing to hide," Grimm insists. ... As it turns out, Mountain View busybody Gary Wesley--who actively opposed Measure E--is the one who complained to the district attorney about possible improper use of school funds for the bond campaign. One of Wesley's gripes has to do with political consultant Larry Tramutola. In March 1999 the district hired Tram, widely regarded as a school bond guru, for $38,500 to gauge public support and help craft a measure. Shortly after the board of trustees voted in late June to put a measure on the ballot, Tramutola finished up his duties for the district and went to run the bond campaign. But Wesley says Tramutola continued to advise the district while running the Measure E campaign. He points to an Oct. 2, 1999, invoice for the printing of a district-paid "informational mailer" signed by Chancellor Leo Chavez regarding Measure E. According to Wesley, the invoice says that the printing was "ordered by L. Tramutola." ... Attorney John Shupe, who represents Foothill-De Anza, assures Eye that no public money went to pay Tramutola for campaign-related work. For his part, Tramutola says he doesn't remember the details surrounding the mailers, but adds that he usually does that kind of work before a school board puts a measure on the ballot. Wesley grouses that when district officials originally contracted Tramutola in March 1999, "they basically hired him through election day." He further argues that the "informational mailers" did cross the line into campaign propaganda. Even though the mailers don't say, "Vote for Measure E," they do portray campus facilities as crumbling remnants from the Pleistocene era. "They [the mailers] were plainly designed to secure passage of the bond measure," Wesley huffs. ... That's not all Wesley passed on to investigators. He is also challenging the legality of postelection contributions from the De Anza Associated Student Body ($75,000, the campaign's largest donation) and the Foothill College Student Association ($1,000). Tramutola and Shupe confirm that the DA has asked the consulting firm and district officials about the donations. But Shupe says that the donations are legit private donations.

Political Perfume

It looks like the race to succeed Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) in the 22nd Assembly District is devolving into pettiness at an early stage. Demo candidate Sally Lieber is attempting to make hay out of her charge that her primary electoral opponent, Santa Clara Councilboy Rod Diridon Jr., ribbed her the wrong way over her attire while they were attending the state Democratic Party convention in Anaheim. While political backslapping is a time-honored political tradition, Lieber thinks Roddy crossed the line when, as she tells it, he came up behind her on the convention floor, shocked her with an overly firm pat and said, "Thanks for wearing a suit; now we all have to wear one." ... "I was pretty surprised," the Mountain View councilmember clucks. "You don't normally encounter violence on the convention floor." Diridon insists he can't recall anything of the sort taking place. "It didn't happen," he swears. But Diridon readily admits that during the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group's big dinner a couple of weeks ago, he did come up to Lieber and sniff her. Diridon says he was admiring her perfume, which smelled like the Hawaiian lei being worn by esteemed state Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara). "You smell good like John Vasconcellos," the young pol complimented. ... Diridon says he kept a socially acceptable distance while performing his olfactory inspection, though Lieber seemed to think Roddy penetrated her personal space. "It was puzzling," she says. ...

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From the May 17-23, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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

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