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11.19.08

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Silicon Valley News Notes


SJDA Prez Wants Police Board

The president of the San Jose Downtown Association, the group that represents downtown San Jose business and property owners, has called for the establishment of a police advisory commission. Though his position has not been officially endorsed by SJDA's board, Art Bernstein says it is consistent with the objectives of the group's advocacy arm. San Jose needs "a body in between the police and City Council so that every time there are issues of concern to the community, it doesn't take a City Council meeting," Bernstein told Fly. A "citizen's advisory group" would fill that role best. In an Op-Ed in Sunday's Merc, Bernstein cites recent initiatives to charge downtown businesses for policing costs and notes that police have been "more aggressive with permit compliance, code enforcement and the closing down of some of downtown's bars and clubs." He also points out that the city has "sanctioned a late-night practice of using large numbers of police downtown on weekends." He called on the city to shift "from enforcement to management when it comes to policing downtown." The original version, which Bernstein shared with Fly, ran under the unambiguous and provocative headline: "San Jose Needs a Police Advisory Commission." The Merc softened it for publication, but it is still likely to be explosive. The move is likely to face opposition from the SJPD, which has historically opposed citizen oversight. San Jose formed the Office of the Independent Police Auditor in September 1993 as an alternative in response to calls for a commission to review police issues. The council appointed Teresa Guerrero-Daley to fill the slot, until Barbara Attard took over in 2004. After Attard sought power to review police investigations, the council restricted her powers and ended her contract last month. Bernstein's call for a commission renews the citizen oversight discussion. The San Jose City Council generally hews to a pro–law enforcement line these days. The council's pro-labor union majority supports issues dear to police union members who do not want citizens reviewing their activities. And three members of the non–union aligned council bloc include former SJPD officer Pete Constant, ex-prosecutor Sam Liccardo and a former military man, Mayor Chuck Reed. Councilmember Madison Nguyen, who rose to prominence as part of a citizen's movement that followed a fatal police shooting of a mentally ill woman, is ill equipped to lead the charge. She's currently fighting to save her political career due to a recall sparked by the Little Saigon naming controversy.


Tzu Me

One might figure our mellow Mayor Chuck Reed to be a devotee of the Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu, rather than Sun Tzu (no relation), author of The Art of War. But Reed seems to be following that book's most famous piece of advice: "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." The word around the 18th floor in City Hall is that San Jose Councilwoman Nora Campos is on the short list to be the next vice mayor, now that Dave Cortese is termed out of office. Campos is the Chuckster's biggest political foe. She has hinted at running against him in the next mayoral election. And—let's face it—Chuck and Nora don't exactly have the same agendas. Remember when Reed booted Campos from his gang prevention task force last year, saying she was a no-show for meetings? That had to be embarrassing, especially given that she'd been positioning herself as the anti-gang warrior-woman of east San Jose. Since then, Campos has taken to combative, no-quarter-given political posturing when it comes to the mayor, most recently in his proposal to deal with rising crime in San Jose. The day before the mayor was to release his budget plan earlier this year, Campos held a last-minute press conference, criticizing him for not putting enough money toward hiring more police officers. Campos staffers admit that if she were vice mayor, you can bet she wouldn't be all about advancing Reed's agenda. "The vice mayor should not be a position to cater to the mayor; it should be a partnership," said Rolando Bonilla, spokesman for Campos. "It's not secret [that] a lot of the issues close to her would be helped and brought to the forefront with a partnership with the mayor. That relationship would give them an opportunity to work together on agreeing to disagree and to move the city forward." Shrewd move? Stay tuned.


Zoned Out

Fly likes nothing more than "rexing" and "shooting the duck" alongside a local rock band, but the days of roller-skating to live music at San Jose Skate have come to an end. Andrew Kutsenda, who runs PinUp Productions, booked most of the shows there over the past 3 1/2 years, establishing San Jose Skate as one of the most popular all-ages venues in the South Bay. "When the Gaslighter shut down," says Kutsenda, referring to the former all-ages venue in downtown Campbell, "demand just soared." Live music has been going on with the understanding that San Jose Skate has a history of "skate dancing." But in a maneuver as deft and as brutal as anything the Bay City Rollergirls might have uncorked, the city has found a way to take the wheels out from under this fun-wagon. Mike Hannon, deputy director of the Code Enforcement Division of the city Planning Department, says the property isn't zoned for music anymore. It was rezoned in 1989 in anticipation of the demolition of the rink and the construction of an office building in its place. Good Samaritan Hospital, which owns the land, hasn't gotten around to executing its plan, but in the meantime, the interim use permit for it doesn't include entertainment as a permitted use for the roller rink. Hear that San Jose Skaters? No entertainment for you. All of which means that a rezoning would be required to keep the place going as a live music venue—a fairly costly process that Kutsenda says is out of his price range. "I could see it if I did something dumb, or booked a show and someone got in a fight," says Kutsenda. "But I did nothing wrong and there's nothing I can do to make it better. It's frustrating, you know?" Kutsenda has moved on, booking shows at The Venue in Los Gatos and the Portuguese Band of San Jose. At San Jose Skate, the skating is still lively, but the music is canned.


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