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Sunday Moaning Coming Down

Hey kids, reading is fun! But giving you a place to do it is a different story. For this year's annual budget process, S.J. Mayor RON GONZALES proposed an idea held over from last year. He wanted to eliminate library hours at all 16 branches Mondays and add hours Sundays based upon the theory that San Joseans working weekdays will have time on the Sabbath to catch up on their reading. Good idea, perhaps, but not one based in reality. As part of a six-month pilot program, the San Jose library system opened four branches on Sundays last year only to discover that the number of checkouts per hour was miniscule. Library patrons are apparently used to using the MLK Library on Sundays or heading over to Santa Clara. In the ensuing uproar, the mayor backtracked somewhat, and proposed limited hours Mondays and Sundays. It's a compromise library director JANE LIGHT said was a good one. But it also raises a few issues. By contract, librarians are guaranteed two days off, which makes scheduling more difficult under a seven-day work week. Some union reps are complaining about the Wal-Martization of library personnel, speculating that more part-time employees—those without benefits—will be employed under the new plan at the expense of benefited employees. Light was writing the council memo last week outlining which of the eight branches will be open Sundays, beginning in September. She couldn't say how the new hours would impact benefited employees. But she says the new hours look like trouble already. "Nobody wants to work every Sunday. Nobody wants Tuesday and Wednesday to be their regular days off."

To Infinity and Beyond

As the Navy begins the long process of how best to handle the environmental cleanup of Hangar One—the oversized, elongated dome sitting like a pyramid in the middle of Moffett Field—the age-old problem of what to do with the building has once again emerged. Cleanup of the hangar, built in 1932 to house blimplike vessels called dirigibles, will cost around $7 million—too much money to spend to leave the building isolated and underutilized once workers find a way to rid the building of cancer-causing PCBs. One idea that has floated around for at least two decades is to turn the building into a space-themed center that will inspire and educate the next generation of scientists. "There have been astounding new developments in space exploration," says SETH SHOSTAK, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute who is one of eight board members who hope to convert Hangar One into SpaceWorld, an interactive, museumlike attraction still very much in the development phase. "Scientists have found planets around stars we never knew existed. There may be more planets than there are stars. These are very recent discoveries. It turns out the universe is a much more interesting place than we thought." Shostak won't say what sorts of exhibits might be found in SpaceWorld. But if the group's board is any indication, the center should be a fascinating place. In addition to Santa Clara County Property Assessor LARRY STONE, the group also includes astronaut SALLY RIDE, film director JAMES CAMERON and former Apple CEO GIL AMELIO. More than anything, the board has been in a holding pattern, waiting for ideas and financing. Shostak did meet with a group of about 20 experts on what kinds of exhibits SpaceWorld might include. Shostak wouldn't share the substance of the meeting but said, in general, the board wants the space center to have exhibits worth repeated visits. Hangar One's sheer size—you can almost stand a space shuttle upright inside it—would give SpaceWorld an opportunity to do some "really big stuff unapproachable by other space centers." SpaceWorld's fallback position is to show exhibits in a tent near Moffett Field. But the feeling is that since Hangar One needs a tenant, it might as well be SpaceWorld. Shostak recommends contacting your Congressional representative to ensure the transition occurs. "When you inherit a building built for some other use, it's never quite what you had in mind," Shostak says. "But Hangar One is truly iconic."

Unrulys R Them

Now that East Side Union High School District Superintendent ESPERANZA ZENDEJAS has resigned, the fate of the website created to bring her down is up in the air. The site, unrulyrus.com, claims to be the voice of the East Side Union community while distancing itself from the teacher's union or any other group. Some of its content can be pretty funny, like when one contributor took time to dissect one of Zendejas' districtwide emails, pointing out grammatical errors and poor usage. The Skeletons page is the site's best section because it provides links to fact-based news articles tracing Zendejas' career as far back as her tenure in Indianapolis. There's even a section devoted to undermining Mercury News coverage of the district, especially columnist JOHN FENSTERWALD, who Unruly contributors single out for writing several "glowing" Zendejas editorials and befriending East Side board member CRAIG MANN, whom many teachers distrust. But it turns out—imagine this!—neither Zendejas nor board members seemed to appreciate the unruly site. Board member PATRICIA MARTINEZ-ROACH suggested at a meeting last month that the district's legal counsel look into who's behind it—and maybe even go after them. (Martinez-Roach tells us she was worried about racist comments on the site, though she was out of town last week and could provide no evidence.) Site administrators say they'll keep the site up, with new information, for the foreseeable future, especially since Zendejas might be looking for a job in the South Bay. "I believe that, as the former superintendent has expressed an interest in being a superintendent around here or anywhere, it is important for unruly to exist to warn others about what product they are buying," an unruly rep tells us. "I imagine the Merc will give her very public letters of recommendation as long as Fensterwald can hold a typing finger over his information-challenged computer." No matter what the unrulys do from here, it's obvious they've made their mark. You'd be hard-pressed to find the site if you googled "East Side Union High School District." But the site comes up eighth if you google "Esperanza Zendejas."

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From the July 20-26, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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