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Au Revoir Redev: Susan Shick kicks the Redevelopment habit.

Public Eye


Late last year, Michelangelo Delfino and Mary Day were busy preparing for the publication of their first book, Be Careful Who You SLAPP (SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). The book, essentially a 400-page briefing of the couple's three-year court battle with their former employer, is well titled, since it comes as a slap in the face to said ex-employer, Palo Alto-based Varian corporation. Varian thought it had silenced the loquacious Los Altos duo when it won a court trial forbidding them from posting nasty diatribes on Varian's financial Yahoo! pages ("InterNot Free Speech," March 27, 2003), but like another cyborg menace, they're baaaa-ack. ... Delfino and Day have appealed the injunction, and now, in a legal flip-flop, Varian seems to be in hot water for its attempts to suppress the book. In November 2002, Delfino and Day allege that Varian's lawyers had sent letters to bookstores and advertising outlets warning them away from the book by implying that the court order, halted because of the appeal, was still in effect. As a result, distributors like Barnes & Noble declined to carry SLAPP, and local papers declined to advertise it. "I just felt that I know nothing about the book, nothing about them, nothing about anything," admits Paul Nyberg, publisher of the Los Altos Town Crier. Nyberg's paper had initially accepted Delfino and Day's ad for the book, then dropped it after being contacted by Varian's lawyers. "And I thought, here's this big [judgment] that came in, and we just discussed it amongst our staff here and said, 'Well, we're not obligated to run this ad. Let's not get ourselves involved.'" That, according to Jon Eisenberg, Delfino and Day's appeals attorney, was plain wrong. "There would have been nothing wrong," says Eisenberg, "had [Varian's attorneys] written to Barnes & Noble and said, 'A book has been published. We believe it is defamatory. We urge you to consider carefully whether or not you should be distributing this book because it is defamatory.' There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is to say that the distribution of this book would violate a court order, because it's not true." ... In a rare move, the appeals court has elected to consider Varian and its attorneys for contempt at the same time it hears Delfino and Day's appeal. A judgment is due within 90 days. "Is it embarrassing [for Varian and its attorneys]?" continues Eisenberg. "Certainly, I'd be embarrassed. I'd be far more embarrassed if it was adjudicated for contempt. If they are held in contempt of the Court of Appeal, to me that would be mortifying."

Shick Happened

Eye learned late Tuesday that the rumors swirling about Susan Shick, the lovely director of our city's Redevelopment Agency, and her exit from office were not unfounded, as she announced plans to retire at the end of the year. Shick, who failed to get any major projects going downtown, obviously read the writing on the wall, as she would likely not have survived a council vote to remove her. If Shick works until the last day of December, she will have served the city for just over three years. Redev, in its retirement announcement, brags that Shick, during her tenure, enhanced the investment levels in neighborhoods, helped residents and businesses define their priorities and guided the development of gigantic downtown projects, foremost of which is the new Martin Luther King Jr. Library (a project begun under her predecessors and which is architecturally unremarkable). Her biggest contribution may be igniting controversies over eminent domain, something that also distinguished her tenure at the Long Beach Redevelopement Agency. Mayor Ron Gonzales, in the same announcement, cut Shick some slack for the "challenges and frustrations" created by the economic slump.

Blame Game

Though still relieved from the fresh kill of Proposition 54's color-ignorant initiative, San Jose Asian activists and political types joined other ethnic groups around the country last week in decrying Ghettopoly. Ghettopoly is the updated Monopoly capitalism board game created by Pennsylvanian David Chang. Chang, originally from Taiwan, created his rip-off game to celebrate diversity in the MTV tradition by overusing the words "da," "pimp" and "crack." In response, Congressmember Mike Honda announced his firm position opposing one-dimensional racial concepts. On Oct. 9, he issued a statement against Urban Outfitters' sale of the board game, urging the hipster conglomerate to purge itself of the game whose object is for a playa to make the most money. (One achieves this goal by buying stolen property and getting one's tenants addicted to crack thereby creating a dedicated income source.) Honda clearly has a lot of clout with corporations: Urban Outfitters, despite doing well by its usual game plan, which earned the company nine straight quarters of steady profit growth and a 10 percent increase in same-store sales over the last year, caved and announced that it would stop selling the game at its 61 stores the very same day Honda ask it to. ... Meanwhile, San Jose activist Nam Nguyen, unaware that this fight was over, aimed to capitalize on the controversy, possibly to make new friends out of old foes and to criticize other Asians who don't share his politics. Nguyen, of political-assimilation booster group United Asian, is irritated by the fact that there are Asians behind movements he considers racist. He also called on prolific race-initiative sponsor Ward Connerly to join the fight against Ghettopoly. No word yet on whether Connerly, fresh from losing his special-election bid to annihilate race categories on government documents, has officially jumped on the anti-Ghettopoly bandwagon.

Racey Repp

The heretofore sleepy state Senate race between former Assemblymember Elaine Alquist (infamous for driving employees away) and current Assemblymember Manny Diaz (who drives badly) looks to be getting somewhat interesting. Diaz, who is supposed to outraise Alquist, since he's got the Sacramento advantage, performed poorly at the fundraising challenge this quarter. In fact, Alquist's people were surprised and pleased to learn that their candidate soaked contributors for more than twice as much Diaz. During the fundraising quarter ending on Sept. 30, Alquist raised $100,000 to Diaz's $40,000. Meanwhile, an as-yet-unconfirmed rumor flutters about suggesting that a certain moderate Republican, whose name rhymes with Gon Dage, is thinking about throwing his hat in the race. ... It would turn the race into a "big," competitive race if Mr. Reep jumped in, Eye's sources explain. He's a credible, personable candidate who is arguably smarter than both Alquist and Diaz. His entry into the race could make a splash even though the district, currently (though rather reluctantly since the Terminator's recent election) presided over by grumpy Dem John Vasconcellos, is rich, white and 50 percent Democratic. Dems are especially on edge right now about defending their seats in the Legislature since it would take a two-thirds majority to override a veto by Gubinor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, while any Republican would be a long shot to win Vasco's district, the entrance of a credible candidate means Dems have to dig into their pockets to protect what's theirs. That, of course, cuts into the petty cash. So much for that group bonding trip to Universal Studios.

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From the October 16-22, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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