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07.30.08

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Goodbye to Red Racks?

Abetted by the Adobe Systems–funded 1stACT Silicon Valley group, San Jose's Office of Economic Development and Redevelopment attempted last month to introduce an ordinance to regulate news racks in the downtown area without talking to newspaper publishers. Although the advocates of uniform news boxes spent time with daily newspaper publishers, they failed to contact free newspaper publishers. "They didn't talk to me," saysHilbert Morales, publisher of the bilingual El Observador. Among the publications not contacted until the day before the ordinance was scheduled to go to council June 10, was Metro, the city's largest locally owned publication. The City Council responded to the sneak attack by deferring the matter until August. Some publishers fear that consolidating all publications into uniform boxes will cause further economic damage to an industry already hammered by competition from digital media and the general state of the economy. The desperate state of dailies was underscored in Merc publisher Mac Tully's July 16 speech to the San Jose Rotary Club, in which he twice invoked the positive affirmation, "The Mercury News is not going away," before qualifying his prediction with an appeal: "But we do need your help." Tully beseeched the group to assist the Mercury by subscribing and buying advertising, breaking Rotary's longstanding practice of avoiding sales pitches from the podium. Tully's short speech was greeted by one of the most hostile questioning sessions a speaker to the genteel group has ever faced—Tully probably wishes he spoke longer and left less time for questions.



Banner Week

After the hunger strike, protests peppered with personal attacks and various other bully tactics, who could blame city officials for giving in to the Vietnamese again on Little Saigon? The advocacy group at the center of the controversy scored another small victory last week, this time over where they can mount their banners. The city is allowing the Viets to mount 18 banners proclaiming the area Little Saigon along Story Road, at three different spots—including in front of the soon-to-be built Vietnam Town—just as the Little Saigon supporters wanted. But the city only caved after last week's planning meeting, which came to an abrupt ending after things got a little out of hand. The Viets wanted to place the banners all along Story Road, while the city was looking at just allowing them to cluster the banners at two locations. After the meeting ended, Little Saigon supporters started gearing up to start protesting again at City Hall. So the city's Planning director Joe Horwedel met with the Viets and agreed to allow them to mount the banners where they wanted. "It's a win-win," said Barry Hung Do, spokesman for the Little Saigon San Jose Foundation. "We just don't want to create anymore disruption or protest from the community." Meanwhile, some members of the Vietnamese community are accusing Little Saigon supporter Le Tongof eating food during his month-long hunger strike at City Hall—and they said they have a DVD to prove it, though that has yet to materialize. Tong drew international media attention when he camped out at City Hall refusing to eat in protest of the city's decision to name the Vietnamese retail area Saigon Business District instead of the popular Little Saigon. The hunger strike was the watershed moment that forced the city into signing a peace agreement with the Vietnamese community allowing for the Little Saigon banners.


By Any Name

Searchlights announced the reopening of the Cuccini nightclub under the new name, Sabor, this past Friday and Saturday, thanks to a stay of execution issued by JudgeJames Emerson on July 18. The Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order that prevents the city of San Jose from pulling the club's entertainment permit. The city attempted to do just that after the club changed its name from Italian to Spanish and hired club operators Isaac Barrera and Carlos Carmona to help manage the venue. Barerra and Carmona were available for hire because their clubTaste had lost its lease after the purchase of its building by a company controlled by former San Jose Mayor Tom McEneryand fellow San Pedro Square area property owner Frank Cucuzza. Cucuzza also owns the building where Sabor is located. Cucuzza couldn't be contacted by presstime, but he may be happy to know that his building has gotten a swanky new makeover, complete with a black bubble glass bar, stacked stone walls and flat panel screens. Now it remains to be seen whether the newly upscaled club can work things out with its landlord, or whether they'll all be back in court in September.


We Got Served

Fly was handed a letter last Monday from the Silicon Valley Impeachment Coalition, which took a threatening tone: Cover the impeachment hearings—or else. The letter contained what appeared to be a press release from Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announcing a hearing on "the Imperial Presidency of George W. Bush and possible legal responses." This was accompanied by a letter vowing that a protest would be staged right here on South First Street if news of the July 25 proceedings did not appear in these pages. Fly suspected a hoax. But the Judiciary Committee website revealed that a hearing on "Executive Power and Its Constitutional Limitations" was indeed scheduled. Of course, Metro is not in the business of covering Capitol Hill—but that's not the real reason Fly didn't report on the hearings last week. Fly just wanted to see a bunch of people outside waving signs. Last Friday, as promised, a somewhat scruffy throng assembled in front of the Metro offices. At first, they simply leaned their hand-drawn signs against the wall of the building and stationed themselves across the street—a real disappointment. We demand waving and chanting! Thankfully, the group thought the better of it, took up their weapons and positioned themselves to accost drivers passing by on First and Market Streets. Fly dutifully walked over to talk to the protesters, and was again disappointed. Hoping for wild-eyed lunatics who would annoyingly sing the praises of the yapping twerp Dennis Kucinich, Fly instead encounteredValerie Carter, a retired schoolteacher and an articulate defender of the Constitution. First, the obvious question: Why bother impeaching a lame duck? Carter didn't bat an eye: "The president told lies to Congress and to the American people in order to trick us into fighting a war," she said plainly. "Those lies resulted in the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. That is an impeachable crime, and it's our duty, if we believe in the Constitution, to hold him accountable." Damn. So here's more proof that the country has gone nuts. The crackpots are making more sense than anyone else.


Art Head

Susan Krane, 54, the newly hired executive director of the San Jose Museum of Art, remembers discovering the power of art as a child. "We lived outside of Chicago in Gary, Indiana. My parents took us to Chicago, and I took classes as the school of the Art Institute." She recalls that "it was a phenomenal opportunity to see art and to learn. You can look at an object made centuries ago, or yesterday, and it can speak to you." Krane is in the process of finishing her tenure as the director of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona; she will begin work in San Jose in September. In Scottsdale, Krane says that she "walked into a museum that was barely two years old. ... I pulled it out of a serious deficit and put it into the black." Krane's emphasis was on collaborations and educational programs that encouraged public participation and outreach; she points to a recent exhibit on immigration as a way of making the museum a pivotal part of the community. She says that she intends to continue that idea of outreach and education to San Jose. "What I'm most interested in," she says, "is framing museum programming so that people understand the relevance of modern art to their lives." Krane demurs when asked if she has a favorite artist, retreating to a position of curatorial objectivity: "I'm trained as an art historian, looking broadly at what's going on generally rather than having personal favorites." In addition to Scottsdale, Krane has been the director of the University of Colorado Art Museum in Boulder and a curator at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y. Her past projects hint at an interest in modern art in a socially and politically provocative mode. She mentions an exhibit in Atlanta, Ga. (where she worked at the High Museum of Art) on the history of the civil rights movement in that city, done as part of the National Black Arts Festival. Her notes on a current show at the Scottsdale Museum describe how Lyle Ashton Harris' collages "resist all tendencies to use beauty as an escape valve." Krane takes over the San Jose Museum's $5 million operation (about twice the size of SMoCA's budget) from Daniel T. Keegan, who left at the beginning of this year to take a job at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Peter Lipman, president of the museum's board of trustees, says that he looks forward to working with Krane to "make the best use of the building; we would really like to increase what we do in that space—rotating exhibits more frequently, having exhibits with better-known artists and increasing our educational programs." The museum has looked into satellite facilities and into expanding with a third floor, but those projects are not likely in the near or midfuture.


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