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[whitespace] Charlotte Powers Fight the Power: A few neighborhood activists want to recall lame-duck council member Charlotte Powers before she votes on a proposed power plant in her district. Judging from history, it's not likely to happen.

Public Eye

Total Recall

In San Jose's 150-year post-statehood history, only one elected official has ever been recalled. City Councilwoman Kathy Cole earned the dubious honor in 1994 when voters punished her for delivering a speech caught on videotape where she tugged the sides of her eyes to describe Asians. Before Cole's ouster, it had been 30 years since a San Jose politician faced recall (in that case, four council members survived). Even though they are rare, recalls are nonetheless threatened as often as gas prices fluctuate because politicians, like the oil companies, just have a way of fueling our ire. ... Within the past month, no less than two San Jose council members have been the subject of recall talks. After Berryessa Councilwoman Margie Matthews' recent vote to allow a crematorium to locate near a school, the city clerk began receiving calls asking how to boot the District 4 rep out of office. And last week the clerk's office received inquires from voters seeking guidance on how they might oust District 2 incumbent Charlotte Powers. Oddly enough, both council members are lame ducks who will be forced out of office by term limits at the end of next year. Eye suspects that as with most recall threats, nothing will come of either of these. ... This is especially true in Matthews' case, where the damage has already been done. But in Powers' Santa Teresa district, a few hard-core neighborhood activists want to prevent Powers from casting a vote on Calpine and Bechtel's proposed power plant, which nearby landowners view as a threat to their property values. Though Powers has yet to take an official position on the project, some conspiracy theorists suspect she secretly supports it. At the very least, they blame her for not actively trying to pull the plug on the project. "We need a stronger leader," one Santa Teresa citizen gripes. Time, however, is running out on the would-be recallers: They would need to gather about 4,500 valid signatures and have a special election scheduled before the City Council votes on the project. That vote, sources predict, should come in late winter or early spring; by then a recall vote could be a moot point. It took 10 months from start to finish to consummate Cole's aforementioned removal from office.

Cinéma Vérité

Maybe the Redevelopment Agency should have done feng shui on the Pavilion. The latest casualty of the Pavilion Curse is the UA Pavilion Theater, which is scheduled to close at the end of the month, less than four years after it opened. The financially troubled UA chain is closing 79 of its theaters nationwide, to retrench after their recent bankruptcy filing. UA's other local theater, the Pruneyard Twin, closed earlier this year. The UA Pavilion fought for bookings with the mighty AMC and Century chains, and the downtown theater never brought in the crowds necessary to justify the $5 million that the Redevelopment Agency spent on building the theater.

The current plans are to remodel the top floors of the ex-UA Pavilion as office space, leaving an eight- to 10-screen theater at the base. The UA's neighbors and competitors, the Camera Cinemas, are considering renting the bottom-floor theater. Says Pam Kelly, Camera's spokesperson, "We're interested, but we don't know what's going to happen." The chain booked art-house films that the Cameras would have loved to have gotten their hands on, such as the Gwyneth Paltrow picture Emma. "We're not glad the UA Pavilion went out of business," Kelly said, "but this does improve our booking picture. When the Pavilion theater was being planned, we warned the city that this might happen. They wouldn't listen to us--they thought we were being crybabies."

Straight Flush

A centerpiece of Mayor Ron Gonzales's plan to curb gambling in San Jose was to limit the operating hours of Bay 101 and Garden City card clubs, which now stay open 24/7. In June, the mayor directed City Attorney Joan Gallo to review the legality of restricting club hours, an idea also reportedly supported by Police Chief Bill Lansdowne. Gallo's official recommendation to the City Council isn't due for another two months, but gambling and law enforcement sources tell Eye that the city attorney has privately indicated that she doesn't believe the city could get away with forcing the clubs to close their doors. Both Bay 101 and Garden City were previously granted permits allowing them to stay open around the clock. To tinker with that now would open up the city to a lawsuit over property rights, one which it could easily lose in court. Publicly, of course, Gallo isn't showing her hand yet. "We haven't issued an opinion yet," she says.

Eye Opener

Eye got a phone call from attorney Maggie Drucker of The New York Times last week, who was just cordially checking to see if it would be OK if they used Eye's good name, "Public Eye," for a new political column they're starting. The feature would be penned by Times scribe Gail Collins, run on the op-ed page and likely weave its wit and wisdom around matters in the upcoming election. ... Flattering as it was to be lusted after by the Times, Eye had to just say no. For one thing, Eye is too mature and well-known to be giving itself away like some kind of media whore, not to mention that the Times' use would be a trademark infringement (Margaret Carlson, Time Magazine, take note). Metro owns the trademark rights to the name "Public Eye," which the official registration papers describe as a "newspaper column dealing with politics, in the form of provocative commentary based on insider tips and sources." Though the disappointment was tangible, the Times nodded politely and vowed to look around for another name. Eye's suggestion? Something catchy like "The Insider."

Escape To Alcatraz

Working in a courtroom every day, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Emerson should have a feel for what it's like swimming among sharks. This Saturday, Emerson took a literal dip into dangerous waters by participating in the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim put on by Stinson Beach-based Enviro-Sports (www.envirosports.com). The 51-year-old jurist, who played water polo at Fremont High School, and 600 other exercise enthusiasts braved 60-degree waters to make the 1 1/2-mile swim from the prison-island to San Francisco's Aquatic Park. According to event organizers, this was the same swim that the Anglin brothers and Frank Lee Morris attempted in their successful 1962 escape (they were never found). The judge tells Eye that he made the crossing in about 42 minutes. At first, Emerson boasted that he did the grueling swim "for the hell of it." He later elaborated, "I just thought it would be sort of ironic for a judge to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco."

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From the September 9-15, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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