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The Fly

City Hall Lockstep

Much like the Bush administration's ongoing explanation 18 months after invading Iraq, city officials continue to go to great lengths to explain the need for the new $388 million Civic Center under construction at Santa Clara and Seventh streets and due to open next spring. Last month, City Manager DEL BORGSDORF approved a 300-word response for city employees pressed for answers by the public why councilmembers approved the project. "Thank you for contacting the city of San Jose and sharing your thoughts on the new City Hall project," the approved message begins. "Contrary to recent news reports, the technology investments recently approved by the City Council are both fiscally sound and prudent." The message then goes on to say the new building is a good investment for the city, that the city's current technology is limited, that services will be consolidated in the new building, that the new building will have 55 public conference and meeting rooms, the opportunity to build a new City Hall comes once every 50 years, efforts are being made to drive down costs and the project will be a signature building for downtown. Not all city employees are enthusiastic about defending a project mired in scandal--the latest involves whether high-level officials tried to cover up a cozy relationship with Cisco that resulted in the high-tech firm receiving an $8 million contract to install telephone and computer infrastructure in the new Civic Center. Chief Information Officer Wandzia Grycz resigned earlier this week, issuing a one-sentence resignation letter, though a city employee unconnected to Grycz's office said she was likely the fall person. "They need to look higher up in the food chain," the employee said. A letter printed by the same employee in this week's Metro (page 6) offers a three-point rebuttal to the city's rosy City Hall prognosis. The new building won't house all city staff, the letter from a city employee says, it won't have enough parking and it won't pay for itself, as promised. The employee told Fly the Civic Center isn't being built because it's needed. He said it was a vanity project for Mayor RON GONZALES, who would one day seek to have his name put on the building. All this leads to one question: What will taxpayers think 50 years from now when officials are looking for funding for yet another new City Hall?

It's a Music Hall, Not a Terrordome

A Metro story last week about the San Jose Downtown Association's lawsuit against Santa Clara County's plans for a music hall at the county fairgrounds ("Showstopper," August 4) didn't, understandably, sit so well with the county's brass. Accompanying the story was an artist's rendering of the proposed concert hall, but it was the caption, which read, "Welcome to the Terrordome," that irritated PAT LOVE, the County Director of Special Projects. "This is patronizing. It's juvenile," Love told Fly after the story printed. Love, Fly quickly ascertained, is hardly a rap-music aficionado--"What does it mean?" he asked Fly. Any hip-hop head would immediately see the reference to the title of Public Enemy's anthem from its 1990 classic, Fear of a Black Planet. Love might do well to pick up a CD and get himself educated: "Every brother ain't a brother/ 'Cause a black hand/ Squeezed on Malcolm X the man/ The shootin' of Huey Newton/ From a hand of a nigger who pulled the trigger/ ... Welcome to the Terrordome." Meanwhile, another member of the county's elite warned that the city and downtown interests might be walking into their own Terrordome: "This is all about money," the county insider told Fly. "They [the city] are in the pocket of the Sharks. The Sharks give money to Downtown Association, and they want to get this. It's purely, purely, brazenly political. You guys have to wake up. Don't let them use you."

Cell Language

Language, Fly learned after buzzing around the state capital beat this past week, is often critical. Just look at last Friday's Sacramento court decision involving a 500-word argument against Proposition 71, a $3 billion November bond issue heavily supported by some pharmaceuticals and Silicon Valley investors that would create an institution dedicated to embryonic stem cell research, the most controversial type of stem cell research involving microscopic human embryos left over from fertility treatments. Supporters of the Prop. 71 measure sued opponents over language put forward as part of the Prop. 71 ballot argument. Prop. 71 supporters, who, per custom, wrote a 500-word ballot argument in support of the measure, were able to have a clause struck from the con argument claiming the state could not borrow $3 billion at a time when it was "teetering on the edge of bankruptcy." As WAYNE JOHNSON, a spokesman for Doctors, Patients and Taxpayers for Fiscal Responsibility, points out, the president has vowed $25 million toward stem cell research, JOHN KERRY $100 million. Prop. 71 would be 30 times Kerry's proposal. But a state cannot claim bankruptcy. So Sacramento Superior Court Judge GAIL OHANESIAN changed the clause to read "teetering on the edge of financial ruin." Supporters lost a bid, however, to have language struck that said embryonic stem cell research relied on human embryo cloning. That still allows critics to claim embryonic stem cell research is "nightmare, ghoulish science." Major medical associations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation have lined up in favor of Prop. 71, while feminists like JUDY NORSIGIAN and environmentalists have lined up against Prop. 71 because of concern for female donors. "It's not a Republican, Democratic, conservative or liberal issue," Johnson says. "Coalitions on both sides are made up of unusual partnerships."

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From the August 11-17, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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