Peeper Creeper 

Parents fear theater volunteer was taping more than just the show; A retriever? Ignacio's getting soft!; and MTC commissioners travel in style.

The Contra Costa Civic Theater's production of Jekyll & Hyde opening last week was somewhat ironically timed, as it seems one of theater's more recognizable and well-liked figures was something of a Jekyll himself. Robert Knop, 63, was a familiar volunteer with the theater who played Franklin Roosevelt in its production of Annie. His son also performed at the theater. "As far as I knew," says theater president Steve Kirby, "he was a normal family man."

But if police and media accounts are to be believed, Knop had a dirty old Hyde within. Last month Richmond police nabbed him after two teenage girls allegedly caught him trying to get a peek up their mother's skirt with a mini-camera in his shoe. When the cops checked his car, they reportedly found fifty videotapes filled with years' worth of peeping-tom footage. In addition to the shoe-cam, the Daily Californian reported, Knop allegedly had hidden cameras in dressing rooms and public bathrooms as well. He'd also apparently been busted for a similar crime in Southern California in 1999. Knop, who lives in Berkeley, was released after posting a $50,000 bond.

After the news broke, some parents with kids who've been in plays at the Contra Costa Civic Theater feared their children might be on the videotapes. One mother, who asked not to be named, called Richmond police to find out if there was any inappropriate footage of her kid from the theater. She assumes the worst, noting that her child "is pretty creeped out, to say the least." Richmond Sgt. Mark Gagan says police have identified some of the locations where the footage was shot, but declined to name them. In the meantime, though, Gagan says police have warned theater management about Knop "and they have taken steps to make sure he's not around."

Steve Kirby says no one from the theater has seen any of the video footage and he understandably doesn't really want to watch it himself. After Knop's arrest, Kirby says theater officials inspected the dressing rooms to look for hidden cameras and didn't find anything. Knop regularly videotaped productions of the plays, which he sold to the cast and crew for $5 a pop, Kirby says. Those tapes included rehearsal outtakes and backstage footage in the dressing room, Kirby says. Kirby says he called Knop himself and asked him point-blank if he ever took illicit footage at the theater. Knop insisted he did not.

So Where's the Pony Show?

Señores y Señoras, meet the caring, compassionate Ignacio De La Fuente. Last year the Oakland City Council prez and mayoral wannabe, a tough-guy politician notorious among journalists for his four-letter vocabulary, sent out a mailer imploring Oaklanders to plant 25,000 daffodils (available for free) to beautify the city. Then, earlier this month, Nacho's campaign committee sent out a color brochure featuring a picture of the smiling candidate on the stoop of a residence bonding with an adorable young Golden Retriever. "Whether you have a pet in your family or not," the caption read, "I need your help to make improvements at Oakland's Animal Shelter." Inside, the piece describes De La Fuente's heroic exploits in addressing a whistleblower's allegations of mismanagement and animal cruelty at the shelter. To his credit, De La Fuente did tackle these issues head-on, inviting animal lovers to give their input on how to improve shelter operations. But there was clearly some political calculation involved in his taking such a high profile stance on such a populist -- pupulist? -- hot-button issue. The Harley-riding politico doesn't seem like the animal-lover type, after all. So Feeder had to pop the question: Was it his dog? No, De La Fuente conceded, quickly adding, "I don't have time for pets." He paused, and then jokingly corrected himself: "Actually, I have eight pets."

He was referring, of course, to his eight furry council colleagues, one or two of whom he probably wouldn't mind putting to sleep.

Junket? Sheet Yeah!

Those festive folks at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional body in charge of divvying up millions in state and federal transportation dollars for Bay Area agencies, decided to treat themselves to some of that dough last week. The nineteen-member regional commission, made up primarily of moonlighting city and county elected officials, enjoyed a two-day working retreat at Napa's posh Silverado Resort last week. The 1,200-acre wine country getaway boasts a spa, golf course, and 340-thread-count Egyptian cotton linen in its rooms.

John McLemore, who represents Santa Clara County cities on the MTC, says the panel chose the Silverado because its Napa Valley commissioner had an in at the place. He says the MTC paid about $170 a room -- not bad considering the resort normally charges a minimum of $260 on weekday nights. The public also picked up the tab for the commission's dining needs. MTC budgeted $10,000 for the whole shebang.

So what exactly were the commissioners contemplating on their retreat? The primary topic was "transit-oriented development," or TOD, as irritating planning bureaucrats call it, which stresses the importance of building near public transit to discourage sprawl. The irony is that the Silverado Resort is miles away from any kind of public transit. Feeder asked a woman at the concierge's desk what transportation options would be available should he stay there in the future. "There's no transit that comes out here," the woman said. "You can call a cab or you can rent a car." MTC did encourage attendees to carpool, and McLemore says he rode up with a couple of colleagues from the South Bay. "We were extremely conscious of how we got there," he said, adding that as far as he knew, no one indulged in a spa treatment, though a few folks stayed behind to play golf. Presumably they cart-pooled while out on the links.

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