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Getting Coached

If there was ever any doubt about who is behind the decades-long push to bring baseball to the South Bay, it was made clear in a May 6 Merc sports column written by MARK PURDY. Purdy reluctantly took credit for giving county Tax Assessor LARRY STONE, who has been San Jose's Mr. Baseball for 17 years, the idea to hold a press conference in Arizona during spring training. The event helped to give national exposure to Stone's effort; the story ran in 26 media outlets, including ESPN and the Washington Post, by Stone's count. In going public with the admission that the idea came from Purdy, Stone and other baseball enthusiasts, like San Jose Mayor RON GONZALES, left themselves open to suggestions that they were overly influenced by pundits—something akin to the inmates running the asylum. "Just what the hell is Purdy, a journalist, doing giving ideas to the mayor about how to bring baseball to San Jose?" one dismayed emailer asked us. We thought it was a good enough question to ask Stone, who responded by saying Purdy wasn't a reporter, he was a columnist who has been an unabashed supporter of baseball, as has the Merc. He likened the paper's support of Major League Baseball to its endorsement of the ballet, symphony or various civic events around town. Sure, Stone says, the paper has an inherent self-interest in bringing baseball to the South Bay, assuming readers become more interested in the A's in San Jose than they were when the team was in Oakland. But that's no different, he claims, from Metro's CEO endorsing downtown arts events. "That's different than reporters whose journalistic responsibility is to report various viewpoints of controversial issues," he says.

It's Official: James Is In

In an announcement that will surprise no one, JAY JAMES says he will run for the S.J. District 1 council seat available next year when LINDA LeZOTTE is term limited out. James, who has had his eyes on the District 1 seat since 2002, has had a colorful five-year tenure on the city's Planning Commission, where he has sparred with Commissioner BOB LEVY as well as with the daily newspaper. In November 2003, James, an assistant business manager with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, sent a nasty letter to the Merc saying a reporter made two errors in a story about the construction of a Lowe's home improvement store on the old IBM/Hitachi site south of downtown. In the same issue of the paper, Merc editorialists skewered James even as they admitted to the errors. "They were just being the Mercury News," James explains. "They didn't run my entire letter to the editor, and they gave me a backhanded slap in the face. Instead of saying, 'Oh, my bad; we're sorry,' they got flippant." James was also one of four planning commissioners who voted to remove Levy from chairing the commission four months after he took the helm because they felt meetings weren't being run efficiently. Levy responded by questioning James' integrity, saying that as president of the Building Trades Council, James was a handmaiden to developers who routinely appear before the commission. Now the three combatants will converge as the race heats up next spring. Levy is also expected to run for LeZotte's office. James says he isn't worried about the Merc's reporting or endorsement, nor about a potential showdown with Levy. At 61, he's ready to retire from the electrician's union and believes that he can out-campaign Levy next spring. "I'll have more time to run for City Council instead of having to deal with family," he says.

No Staples for You!

How far has the Mercury News fallen? Apparently the 32nd-largest newspaper in America can't afford paper clips. Two weeks ago, managing editor DAVID SATTERFIELD distributed a memo to employees saying the paper would freeze ordering office supplies until the end of June. Satterfield's memo, first reported in Editor & Publisher's online edition, asked Merc employees (not just the newsroom) to "think twice about printing 300-page reports" but stressed that money was still available for luxuries like travel. Satterfield tells Fly the memo wasn't a big deal in light of May and June being slow months for ad revenue, especially in the South Bay. He stressed that it wasn't a labor negotiations ploy; the union contract isn't due until June '06. How are reporters around the newsroom taking the freeze? "People always carp and chuckle when you send out a memo like this," Satterfield says. "We just didn't want someone buying an expensive fax machine and then put in an expense report that the finance department will send back later." Media watchdogs, meanwhile, suggest the Merc's parent company could spare a small cut of its billions of dollars to keep the paper's reputation afloat. "Knight Ridder recently reported gains in retail advertising across the chain," says JOHN McMANUS of Grade the News. "One of the advantages of being part of a chain is that when the economy is down in one area, it's up in another. Perhaps KR corporate in San Jose could ship a few extra dollars for paper clips across town."

Linda Nguyen: Not Guilty

The Election Commission determined last week that District 7 candidate LINDA NGUYEN had not violated city law by running ads in Vietnamese-language newspapers before officially filing to run. The ads ran several weeks before Nguyen filed March 4 as a candidate. Investigator JOAN CASSMAN wrote that even though the state Political Reform Act prohibits spending money before a candidate intention statement is filed, city code did not prohibit the same activity. Nguyen failed to return calls seeking comment.


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From the May 18-24, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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