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[whitespace] The Fly

Imminent Dome

Cameramen rushed around filming media people doing nothing. Reporters tapped on glass to see if it was, in fact, glass. And what do you know, it was! Yes, after a week filled with remembrances of Deep Throat and exposés that brought down an administration, the small army of journalists touring the new City Hall seemed at times rather overeager to "investigate" the new 18-story building. What they came for was some obvious flaw to pounce on in the controversial $345 million project. What they got was crushing boredom. This was Press Tour 101 stuff, micromanaged with remarkable precision. Not exactly the stuff of government-toppling. Twenty-one months in the making, the NCH will host its first round of employees when the IT division moves into the 11th floor Monday. But first, the media had to take a look at the one-stop call center, where San Jose residents have been promised they'll breeze through the permitting process as never before. They went up the elevators, certified for occupancy just that morning, and walked among cubicles the IT employees will move into next week. They got close to, but not into, the glass-domed rotunda, which won't open until October. And they stood at the top of the council chambers, where silver-haired architect MICHAEL PALLADINO said he wanted, among other things, to put councilmembers at eye level with constituents addressing them to eliminate any sense of political superiority. "I've given many presentations [at the old City Hall] and felt slightly below the council," Palladino mused to reporters. Scribble, scribble. Check watch. Anybody notice where the bodies are hidden? Guess not. Sadly for our would-be Woodwards, the city has come up with a rare run of good news about the project lately: when all is said and done, its construction is supposed to be only $1 million over budget, and city officials say they've shaved up to $9 million off the $45 million technology budget. Even CHUCK REED, one of two councilmembers who voted against the NCH budget, says he's "cautiously optimistic" about the project's opening. Maybe they can get a good shot of him speaking, dancing and eating (not necessarily at the same time) in the rotunda. Palladino waxed poetic about his $30 million domed building: "It's going to be a public living room for the city," he said. We can't wait to see the fight over who gets to hold the remote.

Pothole Shots

Has ARNIE been so well-behaved lately that people have to start manufacturing controversies around him? The Fly has discovered that that appears to be exactly what's going on, as the San Jose pothole he supposedly dug for himself—news of which was greeted with much righteous taxpayer anger—turns out to have been fake news. The controversy began late last month, when the governor and a platoon of city employees, dressed in shiny yellow vests, descended on a south San Jose neighborhood for one of a thousand photo ops SCHWARZENEGGER has staged since he took office. The event, which emphasized tax dollars for road repairs, involved our governor filling a section of road with asphalt on Laguna Seca Way. In the Chronicle's story about the event, CARLA MARINUCCI, the paper's political writer, wrote that the governor "filled a pothole dug by city crews just a few hours before." Marinucci later returned to the theme, quoting neighbors who said Laguna Seca Way "didn't even have a hole to pave over until Thursday morning." The article made the email circuit, creating a stir among those who don't appreciate potholes dug for any reason, especially for the benefit of a media-hogging Republican governor who claims to be thwarting financial waste at the highest levels of state government. Mayor spokesman DAVID VOSSBRINK sent the Chronicle an email denying workers dug a hole "just" for the governor. In a separate email to Metro, Vossbrink said the Chronicle piece was "another case of mainstream media not letting the facts get in the way of a good story." Schwarzenegger PR flack ROB STUTZMAN sent a letter to the Chronicle, saying the street was not torn up for his boss' photo op. Nobody seemed to be clear on what really happened, so we dug a little deeper. First, we contacted the city's assistant director of transportation, JIM ORTBAL, who oversees the crews that work the summer repaving program and who attended the governor's pothole event. Ortbal said patches of Laguna Seca Way had been scheduled for resurfacing for months. "We were there a week or two before the governor arrived and we were there a week or two after." We then resorted to an old-fashioned journalist trick: we went to Laguna Seca Way to speak to residents in person. They said, essentially, that the Chronicle got it wrong. MATT VUJEVICH, a 74-year-old retired S.J. firefighter, said he told the paper that workers did not dig the hole specifically for Arnie. "They didn't believe me," Vujevich says. "I told them it was an ongoing city project but they kept insisting it was something for him." There were other clues as well. The "pothole" Schwarzenegger filled in wasn't really a pothole. It was a 10-by-15-foot stretch of road—big enough to drive a jeep into. Patches of similarly sized asphalt lined Laguna Seca Way and adjacent streets. Lastly, painted marks, outlining pavement in need of mending, were clearly visible around the exterior of the patch, which a resident confirmed had been painted weeks before Schwarzenegger's arrival. If someone was looking for a real controversy, they might have mentioned the governor left the job half-done. The pavement he worked on sags in the middle, as if workers ran out of asphalt before steamrolling the patch. It isn't the only one like it in the area, but it is bad enough for neighbors to joke about. "Fix that hole," a resident yelled out the back of a convertible as he passed over Schwarzenegger's handiwork. Unfortunately, there are not enough cameras left in the vicinity to bring him back for further improvements.

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From the June 8-14, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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