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Sour Suites

Denizens of the San Jose Arena's luxury suites are truly a blessed clan, sipping from their private liquor cabinets, taking in Sharks games high in the Arena heavens above the beer-spilling, pretzel-snarfing masses. Granted, the Sharks take a big bite out of suiteholders' checkbooks for their own private lounges in the rafters, but there are amenities: including the private potties, and admission to all the ice skating, Journey revivals and tractor pulls they can stomach. But this year, a letter from the Sharks is raising some suite owners' ire: Arena management is charging upwards of $50 grand for the privilege of watching the Warriors this season. What's more, said the letter, if they don't fork over the dough, their luxury suites will be leased to someone else for the Warriors games. Many decided to pay up, but others were so rankled by the idea of loaning out their exclusive domain that Arena management was forced to back down. The result? Some suites will sit dark. "The Arena could have required the purchase of the [Warriors] package," assures Rich Muschell of the Warriors, "but we didn't want to do that." But this does not console livid suite owners who already feel gouged by the Sharks. "I think it sucks," spat Romeo Danais. "The contract with the Arena includes all events in the Arena with the exception of a major sports tenant, in which case that is added on to the existing package," he explains to Eye. "But the Warriors didn't locate here, they're just visiting. That's like saying Neil Diamond is going to have 30 performances here." Even if there was a full-scale luxury-suite revolt, the city of San Jose's take is secure. The city negotiated a $100,000 payment from the Warriors whether the suites fill up or not. This is on top of the $358,294 the city will earn from Sharks' luxury suites this season.

It's in the Mail

North county supe candidate Barbara Koppel has blamed her loss on her opponent, supervisor-elect Joe Simitian, who, she claims, "trashed" her reputation with the help of the local media and the "Democratic machine." While Koppel is dishing out the venom, she might consider serving a plateful to her own campaign manager, Ron Smith, who helped set off the initial ethics fury with the March primary-election hit-mailer he produced that wrongly accused Simitian of favoring card club expansions in Palo Alto. Smith's admittance that he played "fast and loose" with the facts to win that election was used effectively by the Simitian forces in convincing the Mercury News to switch its endorsement from Koppel to Palo Alto's Joe. Another factor in the reversal of fortunes was Koppel's surprise (and unauthorized) use of prominent Democrats in her March primary campaign literature, which made it appear that people like Vice President Al Gore were among her supporters. This time, the veep penned a letter to local voters making it clear that Koppel's use of his likeness was unauthorized and that he was, in fact, a Simitian backer. But Koppel went down swinging, sort of. Just before last week's election, Smith tried another variation on his misleading March primary mailers by paying for something called the "Democrat, Your Voter Guide." The slate card, mailed to registered North County Democrats, looked like an official Democratic Party mailer and instructed voters to punch their ballots for President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Assemblyman Ted Lempert, state Sen. Byron Sher, No on Prop. 209 and to also vote for that great Democrat, Barbara Koppel. The only problem: the mailer was delivered on Wednesday, the day after the election. Hey, anyone want to hire a former political consultant?

Cops Out

The election fireworks are over in Milpitas, but there may be some residual uneasiness about who actually endorsed whom. Candidates for city council and mayor in Milpitas didn't let a schism with the officers' union prevent them from claiming support from "police officers" and "public safety personnel" in campaign ads --never mind that on Oct. 18 the cops almost unanimously withdrew endorsements of sitting councilmembers, including mayoral wannabe Jim Lawson and re-election perennial Bob Livengood. The cops wanted the council to discipline City Manager Larry Moore, whom they accuse of interfering with a case of after-hours misuse of city phones. Three other employee unions quickly followed suit. ... Last week, a Livengood ad in the Milpitas Post said he was endorsed by "public safety personnel" and quoted a man mentioning he had "added over 10 police officers in the last four years." But the man quoted was not a cop. It was Ralph Moss, president of the firefighters union, which hadn't pulled its endorsements. ... But it was the Lawson promo, which ran in the Post on Oct. 24, that most reminded Eye of the "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV" ads. This paid political advertisement featured a picture of "Dennis Grilli, Police Officer" talking about Lawson's contributions to public safety in Milpitas. But if you squint hard enough at Grilli's badge on the ad, it shows he's a cop for Santa Clara, not Milpitas. "I'm not a politician," the ad begins, "I'm a police officer who lives in Milpitas." With politician friends.


Weeks of anticipation ended a few weeks ago when the morning Merc hit Eye's doorstep with a younger, hipper relaunch of the section formerly known as "Living." And Eye just hopes that life here isn't as depraved as the new "Silicon Valley Life" sections would have us believe. In the premiere edition, we were treated to the flagship section called "Consuming Passions." "People here spend," offered the intro, "and spend a lot." At this point, Eye could only imagine the palpitations in the tickers of Merc advertising execs. But, as it turns out, advertising in that section is free. The first issue featured stories on the hottest consumer catalogues, Michael Jordan's new fragrance and doggie breath-fresheners--all available in stores near you, and just in time for the holidays. And it gets better. The opening of the lead story, "Buyer Be There," reads: "See me. Feel me. Touch me. Buy me." Eye suggests that, for the post-holiday edition, editor Charles McCollum send a Consuming Passions team member to cover "International Buy Nothing Day," sponsored locally by the Bay Area Environmental Forum in Palo Alto. That's Nov. 29. And readers, that means buy nothing--phone credit card orders and $2 coffees included. Better loosen those pajama straps, 'cause waking up to Silicon Valley's daily these days is conspicuous consumption indeed ...

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From the November 14-20, 1996 issue of Metro

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