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This Bud's Embedded: Eye trailed along with the sheriff's office on a pot-pulling operation.

Public Eye

Middle Man

As San Jose's power poles Labor and Business duke it out publicly over whose wordy plan better equates to economic revival, San Jose Councilmember David Cortese has courageously positioned himself in the middle. Chameleon Cortese is parading around press circles as City Hall's guy in front on labor's current cause. But at the same time, he's trying not to alienate business boosters. The cause forwarded by union arm Working Partnerships, referred to as the "Community Benefits Initiative," is a 133-page document that calls to task subsidized redevelopment without labor's (and the public's) input. "The RDA does virtually everything behind closed doors," seethes Working Partnerships' chief policy wonkster, Bob Brownstein. Brownstein, of course, would know. He oversaw city budget policy for Mayor Susan Hammer for eight years and presumably was behind some of those doors. But pro-development busybodies gripe about their plight, too, also feeling dissed."Cortese gave the business coalition the sense that he was backing them," one anonymous business guy pouted to Eye, while two of his pals nodded in agreement, at a press conference held Wednesday, Aug. 20, by the new group calling itself the San Jose Coalition for Jobs Now. "We learned last week that Cortese accompanied labor to an editorial board meeting at the Merc. ... Eyebrows were raised!" Union insiders say Chamber of Commerce folks are nervous because they see Cortese as their swing vote on the council. Without him, business boss Jim Cunneen is nothing, say labor folks. They are convinced that former state legislator Cunneen's trying to set the table for another office run. So far, Cunneen denies that. Cortese seems to be signaling that Cunneen can't necessarily count on him for support. But Mr. Swing Vote isn't ready to look for the union label either. Instead, he sends the confusing message that he sort of supports Working Partnerships' redevelopment-tweaking proposal. "[Cortese is] taking the lead on initiating the community outreach process," Cortese aide Don Rocha boldly suggests. "We're not promoting or going to present the adoption of it anytime soon." Regarding the confusion over where his boss stands, Rocha clarifies, "It's clearly the Chamber that wasn't clear on what Dave's plans are."

Old World Charm

Buca di Beppo, a massive Italian eatery chain, boasts 18 "neighborhood locations" in California on its website. One of those nuevo Old World joints stakes its claim on South Bascom in Campbell. Buca di Beppo likes to think it's unique and calls itself the "home of immigrant Southern Italian cooking in your neighborhood." But just so that the more easily confused customers don't mix it up with some other place, Buca di Beppo is making a habit of suing places with similar names. Hence Campbell's restaurant formerly known as Buca (which means "cave," "basement," "hole" and apparently several other words in Italian) shall now be called the Restaurant "O" Catering & Tasting Room. "O" Chef/owner Justin Perez attempts to excuse the distressingly awkward new name by claiming that the "O" stands for "out of the ordinary." He likes to prepare antelope chops and other weird things. Perez resists talking specifics about Buca di Beppo's lawsuit against his restaurant, and referred Eye to his attorney, Eric Sidebothem, who's way too busy to talk to the press, even at $275 an hour. Anyway, Perez insists he harbors no ill will toward the restaurant chain. "If I ever get to the point where I have 96 restaurants, and I'm trademarking them, I would probably do the same thing," he figures. "Am I bitter? No." Buca di Beppo filed a similar suit in Seattle, Wash., which cost La Buca, a minieatery that's now 11 years old, its name in 2000. The Campbell restaurant formerly known as Buca originally opened as Buca La Pastaia in 1997 and changed its name to Buca Restaurant in 2000, when Perez and partner Rick Ardizzone took over ownership. Now that the Buca problem has concluded, Perez and Ardizzone can just sit back and wait for Oprah to serve them papers disputing their new name, which they clearly stole from her magazine.

Smoking Embed

Eye, who missed out on the opportunity to become an embedded journalist for President Bush's war against Iraq (it had more to do with the cost of the plane ticket than anything else), was elated last Friday when the county sheriff's office extended virtually the same opportunity. This time, rather than the war on Iraq, Eye scored a front-row seat to the war on drugs. Well, really, a chaperoned trip to a secret location to watch sheriff's deputies and other agents (including the federal Department of Agriculture) perform "marijuana eradication." Eye asked why reporters would be interested in tagging along. "It's good footage," answered Deputy Terrance Helm, a media relations specialist from the sheriff's office. "It sells papers. It sells TV time." Whatever; Eye wasn't going to miss the chance to experience embeddedness again. By Monday, Helm was still tightlipped about Tuesday's excursion. The location was still undisclosed, and the only instructions were to be at the west county sheriff's substation at 8:15am on Tuesday, to bring plenty of water, to pack light and to wear hiking boots. "It's turning out to be a media event," Helm said. "There were a couple of requests [by media] to be put on a list whenever we did [eradication] again. I just notified everybody on my list." By the time Tuesday rolled around, it didn't take Eye long to figure out that being embedded sucks. Almost a dozen journalists showed up--print, TV, radio--and the first two hours or so were spent mainly being entertained by NBC11 reporter Jonas Tichenor (a man of many jokes) in the briefing room at the sheriff's office. (Defying stereotypes, sheriff's deputies offered the reporters neither donuts nor coffee.) Helm, meanwhile, could only say that the delay happened because authorities were having trouble transporting a suspect from the still-undisclosed site. Helm also mentioned that the sheriff's office received a tip on Sunday that enabled them to "eradicate" a site in the eastern part of the county on Monday that yielded about 3,000 marijuana plants, which had a street value of about $2.5 million. Finally, the journalists were instructed to caravan with Helm to the eradication site in the hills near Los Gatos. Once there, another hour or so of waiting ensued, and officials gave a few chosen ones a helicopter ride to check out the pot plants. Later came more waiting, and reporters were told that if they waited a little longer, the helicopter would bring back actual eradicated plants for the journalists to view and photograph. Despite Helm's promise of further thrills, Eye disembedded. ... In related pot gardening news, here comes the Sept. 5 one-year anniversary of the DEA's raid on the WAMM medicinal marijuana garden in Santa Cruz County. In honor of the year-old bust, WAMM is throwing a memorial party in Santa Cruz on Sept. 14. "All our gardenettes are in private backyards now," WAMM's Jean Anamoto tells Eye. "I think [the celebration] might be big. This is the first one we've done." Anamoto tells Eye that it's OK to burn a fat one out back during the commemoration if celebrants have a medical prescription or a card. "Otherwise they have to go find a tree to hide behind."

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From the August 28-September 3, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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