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01.09.08

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Stop the Merc, I Want to Get Off

The way the top jobs at the Mercury News keep getting shuffled around, it's beginning to look like a game of musical chairs set to speed-metal. Friday's edition announced the hire of the paper's fourth editor-in-chief in five years. The new new guy, David J. Butler, arrives from Miami, replacing Carol Leigh Hutton, who was hired last May to replace Susan Goldberg, who replaced David Yarnold in 2003. The newspaper has seen four publishers come and go over that same period. Seems like it's time for MediaNews to consider returning the newspaper to its original name: the San Jose Visitor. There is some dispute about what brought about the most recent sudden change in leadership. Friday's New York Times ran a piece under the headline "Top Editor Ousted at San Jose Paper," and described the incident as "a top-level shake-up." But later in the day, a piece on the Editor & Publisher website quoted outgoing editor Hutton as insisting she is leaving of her own volition. Contacted by phone Friday, Hutton declined to comment. "I really don't have anything to say about it," she revealed. Pete Carey, a 40-year Merc newsroom veteran, says he is inclined to believe Hutton is being honest. But he concedes that there's been a fair amount of tension in the newsroom surrounding a so-called "Rethinking" project that Hutton was heading up, the apparent futility of which Fly wrote about last year. Carey, who was on the team that won the Merc a Pulitzer Prize in 1986, is more generous—or judicious—in his assessment. "MediaNews is really digging in to try and make a newspaper viable in the digital age," he said in a telephone interview Friday. "It's a learning process, and obviously, it's not always going to be smooth."

Next for Nora

San Jose City Councilwoman Nora Campos put the kibosh on any potential run for Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors when she officially endorsed her colleague San Jose Vice Mayor Dave Cortese in his run for a seat on the Board of Supervisors. It's not that the District 5 councilwoman hadn't considered running against Cortese. According to Ryan Ford, Campos' chief of staff, she decided against it, chiefly because she wants to stay in San Jose and work on economic development and other issues facing her district. "She is focused on finishing out the last three years of her office and focused on the East Side," Ford said. "The rest is going to fall into place." There's been some talk that Campos is eyeing Assemblymember Joe Coto's seat, Ford said it's too early to suggest she is making plans for higher office, yet he did say Campos will consider every opportunity that would keep her in public office. "I think she loves public service and would like to continue to serve the public in some capacity," Ford said. "It's a question of what opportunities will arise."

Vision Thing

While zooming above San Jose in a zero-emission hovercraft made possible by Mayor Chuck Reed's Green Vision plan, Fly was thinking that—wait, what? Oh yeah, we didn't get a hovercraft! In fact, we haven't gotten much news about Green Vision since it rocked city politics in October with an ambitious if somewhat abstract plan for green revolution in South Bay government. But not to worry, we'll be seeing green again soon. Over the holidays, Reed met with all factions of Silicon Valley's solar industry—attending the summit were companies such as SunPower, Nanosolar, Akeena Solar and REgrid Power; legislators Barbara Boxer, Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren; investors such as Bank of America and Chevron; and more stodgy stakeholders like PG&E and the California PUC. Collin O'Mara, clean tech policy strategist in the city's Office of Economic Development, says December's Solar Summit was designed to pinpoint what's holding back the industry. The verdict, at least in part: red tape. More specifically, a hobbling morass of paperwork. "We need 77 distinct signatures to get the rebates from the state," says O'Mara. All of this is about to go very public: on Feb. 1, the city unveils its Green Vision Implementation Plans in a special three-hour study session. About the same time, the City's Clean Technology Legislative Agenda, also part of the Vision, is due out. Kerrie Romanow, chief deputy director for Environmental Services, says no one is backing down on the Vision's aggressive aims, which include 50 million square feet of green building, 100 percent renewably generated electricity, and a 50 percent reduction in energy use per capita (that's you, me, and everyone we know) over the next 15 years. To O'Mara "green" means money. He estimates that the greater San Jose area, home to over a dozen solar companies, has a 2- to 5-year window to become the solar capital of the world—against some stiff competition. States like Oregon and Arizona are offering fat packages, $5 million and $10 million cash investments on top of other incentives, to attract solar companies. "I'm negotiating with a company now and the numbers are huge," says O'Mara, adding that other states are also outbidding California in utility costs and taxes. Still, he's confident that Mayor Reed is on the case. And to nonbelievers who find the whole GV thing pie-in-the-sky, O'Mara says: "15 years ago, you wouldn't have believed in the Internet."


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