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December 13-19, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Ticket Master

Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone gave Fly an earful about sanctimonious journalists last week. The tax man and heavyweight politico needed to vent about his recent spate of unwanted media attention when a confidential letter he wrote to San Francisco 49ers CFO Larry MacNeil last fall suddenly appeared on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I am hoping to be in Seattle (my hometown) for the Seattle game on December 11th," Stone wrote on Oct. 5, 2005. "If you could arrange a couple of tickets and let me know the cost, I would appreciate it." This leak fueled the fire raging between San Francisco and its pro-football team over moving to a stadium in Santa Clara. Was it proper for Stone to hondle CFO MacNeil for football tickets on official County Assessor letterhead? Why couldn't he just buy them online like every other Seahawks or 49ers fan? "I don't know what the big deal is," Stone told Fly. "I paid for the tickets." OK, but did working his high-level connections get him good seats? The county assessor said he doesn't think he got very good seats, then added that he "can't remember." He also said the game was "great," even though the 49ers lost to the Seahawks. With all of his stadium hopping, it's no wonder the games start becoming a big blur. Stone told us he often arranges tickets to out-of-town baseball games with Oakland A's president Michael Crowley—most recently on a jaunt to the Big Apple to see the New York Yankees. Would he do it again? "Sure," Stone replied, dismissing the media's "holier-than-though" criticism. "Why not?"

Icecapade

A dozen protesters, some clad in orange Guantanamo Bay prison jumpsuits, livened up the Dec. 5 San Jose City Council meeting. They asked the Council to remove Jeppesen's sponsor banner from Downtown Ice, the Downtown Association's winter skating rink at the Circle of Palms. Jeppesen is the San Jose company named in The New Yorker as the CIA's preferred provider for their "extraordinary rendition" flights. Just saying no to habeas corpus, Jeppesen helps the CIA abduct European and Middle Eastern citizens by flying them to developing nations where it's legal for the CIA to torture them into confessing that they are terrorists. Homeland Security has yet to issue stats on the percentage of actual terrorists apprehended by this program. The South Bay Mobilization for Peace and Justice's Charlotte Casey asked the Council to remove the banner, saying, "Jeppesen is engaged in a dirty business and shouldn't be allowed to get the prestige and publicity that's associated with Downtown Ice's family friendly holiday tradition." The Jeppesen banner is near Havana Cuba Restaurant's "Warm up with Cuban comfort food," and they don't mean bread and water. It's also right next to Grand Prix sponsor Taylor Woodrow's. Every Friday at 4:30pm, South Bay Mobilization members hold a vigil in front of Jeppesen's building on West Santa Clara and Almaden. But Casey tells Fly that no vigils are planned at the rink. "We don't want to disturb families," she says. "It's disturbing enough that the banner is there."

A Turn for the Aerts

Monte Sereno Councilmember-elect Alan Aerts is a big fish in a small pond. The tiny city that he'll be representing covers just 1.56 square miles next to Los Gatos and is home to 3,800 residents. Aerts, however, is a larger-than-life character at 6 feet 5 inches, 265 pounds—all muscle. The "power lifter" (who's careful to distinguish himself from a body builder) can heave over 500 pounds in competition. His 6,400-square-foot home got national media attention two years ago when he erected a 10-foot-tall Grinch in his front yard pointing at the house of a neighbor who had complained about Aert's extravagant holiday light display that drew thousands of visitors every year until the City Council passed an ordinance pulling the reins in. This year, Aerts has trimmed down significantly. The only signs of the season outside his house are a few ornamental shrubs shaped like reindeer and a hefty evergreen wreath on his front door. "I don't want to be known as the Christmas lights guy," Aerts tells Fly (he donated his decorations to the city of Campbell). All the media coverage he's received, especially during the recent election, supposedly hasn't captured the real him. One local resident, who we'll keep anonymous, told Fly that Aerts was a big, scary bully who waves guns around. He got that notion from a recent Merc exposé about a complaint filed by a Kaiser hospital X-ray technician who alleged that Aerts threatened his life. Aerts generally carries a gun on his body, allowed by a concealed weapons permit that he obtained under extreme circumstances. He says the article portrayed the situation "180 degrees wrong"; he maintains that he never threatened anyone's life, but merely raised his voice in frustration at the hospital employee who was perpetuating a patient relations problem he had been dealing with for four years. "I'm the most mellow guy ever," Aerts assures us, comparing himself to an elephant. "They're big sweet animals, like me." In any case, Aerts still managed to snag a council seat with 749 votes, and he plans on making a new name for himself. He wants to people to recognize him for his charitable organization called the Senior Care Center. His first goal as a councilmember is to create a senior commission for Monte Sereno's elderly residents. All this sounds fine and dandy, but Fly doubts Aerts will be able to stay on the down-low for long. "I'll shake things up, I'm sure," he admits. "Just by my nature."


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