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Gates of Hell

The architectural gods over at the Redevelopment Agency wield substantial power over building design in downtown San Jose, but in certain areas of the city's core an even higher authority prevails: the federal government. That point was painfully driven home to agency officials recently when the feds announced plans to upgrade security at the Federal Building on First and San Carlos Streets. ... To prevent a car bombing similar to the Oklahoma disaster, the feds want to gate the public thoroughfare that divides the Federal Building between First and Second Streets. Redevelopment's Carol Beddo says the agency objected "completely" to the plan, and when those objections fell on deaf bureacratic ears, it attempted to have a say in the gate design. "It was a futile exercise," complains a clearly humbled Beddo. "We had our input, and they are going to do what they want to do." ... So now the feds are plunging ahead with plans to erect an 18-foot fence at both sides of the thoroughfare. The gates will have 14-foot center sections that open for pedestrian access, says the General Services Administration's Mary Filippini. The gates, which will cost taxpayers $110,000, will be locked weekends and evenings. Construction will begin next month. ... Filippini describes the gates as "in a Spanish mission style," colored with a "greenish patina." Hopefully, immigrants won't mistake it for a prison.

Diesel Does The Slammer

Funny how some folks think nothing can stop them from messing with Mother Nature. Eric Diesel is not exactly chuckling about it, however, especially after spending a couple of nights in jail last week following his arrest on a $50,000 warrant for a half-dozen environmental violations. Readers may remember how Diesel and his 'dozer dug a homemade road above Saratoga's Congress Springs Road last winter, which resulted in massive mudslides (MetroPolis, June 6) that sent Caltrans workers scurrying to safety. Since that disastrous bit of entrepreneurship on the part of the admitted nature lover, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office has been busy building its case against Diesel. The result: three counts of violating the California Fish and Game code for polluting Stevens Creek and three more violating the county's grading ordinance. Environmental prosecutor Will Richmond explains that each charge could result in $500 to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail. ... When reached by phone, Diesel admitted he was instructed not to talk to the press-- but he couldn't help himself. "I think this is going to be an interesting story," the beleaguered land owner says. "The DA brought information to the judge that wasn't true. Then, when the other judge saw the other information, I was immediately released."

Domestic Dispute

If you haven't wondered by now, you might start wondering why the Santa Clara County Taxpayer's Association has taken up the cause against the county's new domestic partners registry. The proposed referendum to repeal the county-supervisor-approved registry would cost taxpayers an estimated $200,000 to $300,000, according to the County Registrar. ... Citing costs not directly related to the registry itself, but possible future acts by the county, association president Patricia Shrum, in a written report, claims the registry includes a number of financial and "emotional" costs to the taxpayer--including a vague "potentially large cost increase for curriculum development" in sex education classes. ... Eye thinks perhaps the association doth protest too much. According to county estimates, the domestic partners registry would pay for itself through fee-for-use charges and includes no legally binding language on any parties. The county already grants benefits to domestic partners--nothing new there. And while Shrum claims businesses might be "pressured" to grant benefits to domestic partners, wouldn't that lessen the taxpayer burden by getting some of those partners off the public health-care dole? Shrum, who lost a feisty San Jose City Council race to Charlotte Powers in 1992, says she had not heard of the estimated high cost, "We look at the raw data. I personally put 1,000 hours of research into that report. Ultimately, this is an expansion of the welfare state." Vicky Giudici of the pro-registry Decline to Sign campaign, calls the arguments of the association "disingenuous at best." Nonetheless, the association proceeds undaunted. Backed mostly by evangelical Christians, the Taxpayer's Association turned in roughly 59,400 signatures last week toward a referendum in 1998. The group needed almost 45,000 signatures and the County Registrar--noting that voter registration takes some priority this month--will report on the number of verified signatures in late October.

Not a Big Shot

And yes, that was Foothill­De Anza trustee Dolly Sandoval standing outside the Mountain View Target store last weekend registering new voters. Sandoval tells Eye she fielded a call from one of the volunteers in state Sen. Byron Sher's campaign headquarters, who, unaware of her lofty perch in the local political pecking order, asked if she would be willing to stand outside the store for several hours over the weekend, clipboard in hand. "Apparently, my name was on their list and they were just running down the list and calling people up," she explains. The college trustee mulled it over for a minute or so and then quickly agreed. "Why not? It's a fun thing to do, beautiful day, nice people," she told Eye while taking affidavits from approximately 30 new voters, most of whom had no idea who they were talking to. As an aside, Sandoval tells us she is very happy with the progress under way at the high-end local community college, including the construction of new facilities and a surge of fresh young talent that is replacing the school's first generation of teachers. "We're getting some money to do some of the things we've wanted to do," Sandoval said while helping an elderly man register to vote. "It's a pretty exciting time."

Mail Call

We'll keep on top of this one, but just in case you've noticed that your mail is showing up later these days, we thought we'd let you know not to take it out on your mail carrier. It seems that our local postal service branches are implementing a new computerized letter-sorting process, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, we are told, that was supposed to speed things up. However, the new sorting process is not working as well as initially hoped. As a result, dozens of local letter carriers were recently asked to report to work one hour later than usual.

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From the September 26-October 2, 1996 issue of Metro

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