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Kerry Upstaged

There were all the trappings of a major political event—red-white-and-blue balloons, patriotic cakes and an American flag the size of a billboard. And though about 200 guests couldn't stay in their seats whenever John Kerry mentioned booting the current administration from office, they would have never come together to hear the Democratic nominee give his speech last week if it hadn't been Madge Overhouse's 80th birthday. Overhouse, a former librarian, has been a staple of the Santa Clara Democratic Party by acting as mentor to nearly every local Democratic candidate of the past two decades. She was so influential in Santa Clara politics that a documentary is being made about her life. She was supposed to be in Boston with the rest of the California delegates but was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and was too weak to travel. Instead, about 100 well-wishers were photographed at the convention holding signs saying, "Happy birthday," including Ben Affleck, Barbara Boxer and a lobster. A phone call from state Controller Steve Westly was broadcast over the sound system just before Kerry took the stage. "I love you to pieces," he gushed. Once Kerry finished his speech, a group of women surrounded Overhouse, hugging her and taking photographs. The band sparked up "Johnny B. Goode," partly because it's a Kerry's campaign tune and partly because it's one of Overhouse's favorite songs.

Governor Still Peeves Students

In February, a group of San Jose State University students walked around downtown for about an hour, banging on a tub and decrying the governator's bogus university funding. Arnold has since agreed to open the purse strings somewhat, but students are still unhappy. It seems the state has yet to resolve a 4-year-old lawsuit, Williams v. State of California, which demands that schools in poor neighborhoods be afforded the same resources as those in rich neighborhoods. Many of the SJSU students who protested in February returned to march the same route last week, chanting slogans like "Hey, hey, ho, ho, ignoring students has got to go." The difference this time is that students presented a fake Arnold with a large blank check made out for zero dollars and common sense. No word yet from the governator's office how he intends to spend the students' offering.

Selective Quoting

Fly was perusing one of the valley's business rags this week and noticed, well, an eye-catching piece. The city of San Jose's Redevelopment Agency, Fly learned, proposed to allow high-rise condo developers to build in downtown without having to include the mandatory allotments of affordable housing. While the proposal promises to be short-lived (the logic goes that if poor people are swept out of the way, downtown will finally become "cool"), the article cited a study co-authored by San Jose State University economics professor Edward Stringham that found that affordable-housing requirements "depress" housing production. Stringham, accordingly, advocated that San Jose ban affordable-housing requirements entirely. Councilmembers Cindy Chavez and Pat Dando were credited with pushing for the suspension of affordable housing, while developers such as John Michael Sobrato from Sobrato Development Co. were allowed to chime in about how great the proposal was. Meanwhile, not a single affordable-housing advocate was quoted—an obvious necessity since this region is one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. But then, if you're going to sweep away the underclass from downtown, why bother giving them a voice in the media? The Community Homeless Alliance Ministry will nonetheless hold a rally Aug. 4 at 4:30pm at the federal building on San Carlos and Fourth streets. Why the federal building? Because in addition to the NIMDT (not in my downtown) syndrome here in San Jose, Congress is also down on affordable housing. Not only is there a 4 percent cut in federal housing vouchers proposed for next year but also a reduction in housing for seniors, the disabled and homeless. Speakers at the rally will include residents currently on the federal voucher program as well as families currently homeless.

No Breasts for 'Silicon Valley Mag'

Even today, eight months after it hit the newsstands, readers of San Jose Magazine greet photographer Pete Constant and ask the question: Was that you who shot busty Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn for the January cover? The photographs were mostly tame—Cohn dressed in a cowboy outfit, in red satin, in a black vest and shades—except for the cover, which presented the assemblywoman in a leopard-print sundress, her shoulders rolled back, her chest jutting forward. The sheer volume of photos, including a centerfold of Cohn lying with her ankles crossed behind her, had many political types lost in a what-in-the-hell-was-she-thinking kind of way. "Everybody says they love the photos," Constant says. "I'm sure they're just stroking me." Sadly, the titillation is over, at least at San Jose Mag. Constant is taking his show to a startup general-interest magazine, Silicon Valley Magazine, that will compete with San Jose Mag beginning the middle of September. Constant says the magazine will have fewer ads than San Jose and will focus on a less-aristocratic lifestyle. "Instead of profiling the chef, we'll highlight the dining experience," explains Constant, who was asked to be co-publisher with Rich Amor, a former trial attorney who, after 16 years, became burned out by the legal system. "I lasted longer than most of my colleagues," Amor admits. The magazine will likely have a press run of more than 50,000, will cost $3.50 and will, its creators hope, reach 144 pages someday. Will there be any photos of assemblymembers dressed in leopard-print dresses? Probably not, the publishers say. "We're not intending to be controversial or salacious," Amor says. "We want to be informative."

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From the August 4-10, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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