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[whitespace] Larry Stone Rolling Stone: Ubiquitous Assessor Larry Stone was conspicuously absent at supervisorial candidate Dolly Sandoval's campaign kickoff last week.

Public Eye

Hello, Larry

Attention-starved county assessor Larry Stone seems to be everywhere these days. On Saturday Chronicle columnist Mark Simon devoted a whole article to the taxman and his efforts to lure the A's to the South Bay. Saturday night the assessor co-hosted a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for Vice President Al Gore at the Peninsula home of real estate magnate George Marcus. The following day the Mercury News detailed Stone's exploits on the golf course earlier in the week. Historically, the assessor languishes in obscurity (can anyone name Stone's predecessor?). But Stone's tireless self-promotion has helped him become one of the county's most influential--and visible--political players. So when the ubiquitous Stone didn't show up at north county supervisorial candidate Dolly Sandoval's campaign kick-off in Cupertino last week, it didn't go unnoticed. ... Not too long ago, Sandoval's camp confidently asserted that Dolly would have the backing of the assessor, who had briefly toyed with the idea of running for the seat himself. Stone acknowledges having given her some encouraging words and told her she'd make a good supervisor. Sandoval came away from her talks with the assessor thinking she could count on Stone's support, though Stone insists he never explicitly promised his endorsement. But when Palo Alto City Councilwoman Liz Kniss announced her candidacy, it complicated things for Stone. Kniss was recruited for the task by Palo Alto Mayor Gary Fazzino, a Stone pal. But Sandoval was being pushed by Stone's other good buddy, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales. ... As a result of his conflicting loyalties, the usually plain-talking, shoot-from-the-lip assessor has been an uncharacteristically cautious quote of late: He really likes both Sandoval and Kniss, but has not--repeat, has not--decided whom to back. "Liz entered this race late, which put a new component into my thinking," Stone confides. "Who fills this seat is very important to me. Let's be frank--I'm interested in who's going to win. Right now I'm looking at the organization these folks are putting together, their fundraising capabilities and how much time they're willing to put in."

Glass Houses

A Los Altos Hills council member called it the town's most dramatic hearing in a decade, which just goes to show that Los Altos Hills is a pretty dull place. At issue: Whether to oust Charles Wong from the town's planning commission for violating local planning regulations. The town council appointed Wong to the commission on July 15. Shortly thereafter, Wong's neighbor, retired painter Mildred Gallo, wrote town officials listing some of his transgressions, like building a pool house without permits and chopping down an oak tree three years before without the town's permission. Planning officials looked in their files and found that Wong had indeed done work on his Miranda Road home that broke town planning rules. Planning Director Curtis Williams suggested to the Town Council that it either ask Wong to step down or kick him off the commission. "[I]t is entirely unacceptable," Williams advised, "to allow a community member who has repeatedly violated the town's rules to sit in judgment of others who must request permit approvals." After a two-hour hearing earlier this month, the council chose to let Wong stay on the commission. Williams says that town planners are working with Wong now to bring him back into compliance. Wonghas even replanted a few trees to replace the one he improperly cut down. Unfortunately, according to Williams, he planted the wrong kinds of trees.

Miami Blues

It was just a year ago that Knight Ridder, the parent company of the Mercury News, moved its corporate headquarters from Miami to San Jose. The move, of course, hindered Eye's ability to refer to the Merc as a paper owned by linen-wearing out-of-towners who know nothing about our fair city. Until now. Eye has learned that Mercury News cognoscenti have decided to re-locate the paper's 30-person customer services division, which handles reader complaints, among other things, from San Jose to Miami. Starting next month, readers who want to gripe about, say, not getting their paper delivered will have to call an 800 number and speak to someone 3,000 miles away. Knight Ridder has a call center in Miami which already handled customer-service complaints for several of the company's newspapers. ... Mercury customer service reps circulated a petition protesting the move (and the loss of their jobs) to no avail with a heartfelt and somewhat panic-stricken plea: "Only local residents can understand the diversity and personality of Silicon Valley," the petition said. "Only fellow commuters can minimize the impersonal contacts suffered by our customers in other dealings. And only the personal touch and familiarity of our surroundings (how many earthquakes are there in Florida?) will keep our readers loyal to print." Newspaper Guild spokesman Luther Jackson says the Mercury has promised to find jobs elsewhere in the company for the displaced customer-service reps.

Napoli's Back

It looks as if scrap-yard queen Kathy Chavez Napoli is getting her motor running to make a bid for the south San Jose City Council seat being vacated by Charlotte Powers next year. The Scrappy One boasts that she already has secured the endorsements of Supervisor Pete McHugh and San Jose City Councilwoman Pat Dando. Napoli, Eye-watchers will recall, backed Dando's mayoral candidacy last year after Napoli's own candidacy fizzled. Oddly enough, for an activist who has made a career of opposing things--the Giants ballpark, Pick Your Part, the Fallon statue--Napoli is remaining cautiously neutral on what promises to be the district's most electrifying issue--Calpine Corp.'s proposed power plant in Coyote Valley. Napoli says she needs to see more information before taking a position. "It's still too early," she told Eye in a recent interview. "It hasn't even gone to the Planning Commission yet."

Blue Note

Last month Eye reported on the uncertain future of the historic Metropole Hotel at the corner of Post and Market, which has seen several deals to restore it fall through. Now comes word that yet another business is interested in the site: House of Blues, the company launched in 1992 by Hard Rock Cafe pioneer Isaac B. Tigrett that serves food and hosts concerts. House of Blues is planning to expand into 12 new cities around the nation including San Jose over the next three years. Whether House of Blues picks the Metropole for its SJ location is another question. The estimated cost to retrofit and restore the ancient brick building is $6 million. Perhaps that's why House of Blues' real estate specialists are also looking at the old Woolworth's site. "It would be a great addition," gushes downtown Councilgal Cindy Chavez, "because it's an interesting place day and night. They've got an excellent restaurant and great music."

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From the September 23-29, 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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