News & Notes 

Free radio smackdown; heads rolling in Hayward; double whammy for Sheila Jordan; and something's ticking at Bay Street Emeryville.

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The Hemlock Solution: According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, rural Nevada leads the nation in suicides per capita. Apparently that has something to do with the profound isolation; Nye County, where Pahrump is located, has 30,000 residents on an impressive 11.6 million acres. Maybe Campbell has come to Snuff Central to take the easy way out.

Don't do it, Mr. Campbell! For the love of God, it's only a game! -- Chris Thompson

Raking it in: Understandably, the local news media devoted plenty of ink this past week to Alameda County Superintendent of Education Sheila Jordan's $60,000 raise. Hey, it was a good story with intriguing subplots: Four years ago, in fact, Jordan got elected after promising to slash her salary, a promise she kept -- until now. And the board member who cast the deciding vote to boost Jordan's pay, Jacki Fox Ruby, was elected earlier this year with the generous support of, you guessed it, Sheila Jordan.

But another curious subplot went without mention: Jordan's quiet court victory over her arch rival, ex-board member Jerome Wiggins (whom Fox Ruby defeated in March). During the campaign, Jordan financed a hit piece that portrayed Wiggins as prone to losing his temper and brandishing menacing gardening tools. This, of course, made Wiggins lose his temper and brandish a menacing lawyer. He sued Jordan and Larry Cooperman, her hubby and political confidante, for libel. In spite of an old Daily Cal news story to the contrary, Wiggins contended he'd never been arrested for slugging a former rent board candidate and chasing another off his lawn waving a rake.

But by filing a libel case, Wiggins dug himself into a legal grave. As a public figure, he'd have to prove actual malice on the part of the respondents, says Cooperman's attorney Dan Siegel, who moonlights as an Oakland school board member. "I don't think that Wiggins or his attorneys knew what they were getting into when they brought the case," Siegel opines. "I mean, not only would he have to prove that the statements that Jordan and Cooperman made about him were false, but he'd also have to prove ... Cooperman and Jordan knew they were false and said it anyway."

Siegel gave Superior Court Judge John Kraetzer police reports and other documents backing up the allegations in the hit piece. The judge must have been impressed: He not only threw out the suit, but ordered Wiggins to immediately fork over $7,700 to cover Siegel's fees and costs.

Yep, it's been a pretty good week for Ms. Sheila. So what to do with all that extra compensation? She shouldn't need it for attorney fees, in any case; Jordan plans to make Wiggins pay her lawyers, too. -- Will Harper

The Grinch who stole free parking: As if Bay Street Emeryville hasn't had enough problems. First there was that Ohlone shellmound business; then the opening of the massive retail complex was delayed until November, cutting dangerously close to the holiday shopping season. Now there's the Sign. (Roll horror-movie soundtrack.)

The Sign sits at the entrance to the new development's parking garage. It reads "Grand Opening Special, $1 parking, flat rate." The Sign raises two questions in shoppers' minds: 1) If this is "special," what's normal? (Answer: $1 for two hours plus $1 for each half-hour thereafter; $12 per day; $1 validated parking for AMC moviegoers only.) And 2) Why the hell should I pay for parking when I'm here to spend my unemployment check, and no other East Bay mall makes me pay to park? (Answer: Good question.)

The Sign also raises a question for employees, who get a special monthly parking rate of $60 (nonreserved) or $75 (reserved): Why the hell should I pay to park at my low-wage job?

Oakland's Mica Scott, a self-proclaimed "shopping nut" who says she's pursued her passion just about everywhere, was surprised to see the Sign. "Especially at a mall. I've never heard of it," she says. Scott has a theory: Bay Street is pretty high-end. Maybe the paid parking is intended to exclude those who can't afford the stores. "You're not going to see a lot of teenagers hanging out -- all the riffraff," she says.

It's more than just riffraff doing the bellyaching, though. Old Navy employees say customers and workers alike have been grumbling. Same deal at Talbots and the Body Shop. "We hear about it, a lot," says a Body Shop greeter.

Oh c'mon, says DeeDee Taft, spin-mistress for Bay Street developer Madison Marquette. "People love to complain about paying for anything, especially parking, but this is a city; it's not suburban," she says. "When you go to Embarcadero Center you pay $8.25 per hour. We have to charge a fee, but it's a nominal one."

Yet over at Williams-Sonoma, a high-end kitchen retailer whose customers wouldn't be expected to gripe over a few extra bucks ... um, guess what? They're griping, too. Employees get an earful every day, says store manager Natalie Wortham. "People feel stingy complaining about one dollar, but they see 'Grand Opening Special' and ask how much it's going to be," she says. "We tell them, and then they think it's outrageous."

"They" includes Carolyn Baird, an Oakland mom awaiting a transaction at Pottery Barn Kids. "The dollar doesn't really bother me, it's the principle," she says, adding that she hates shopping and considers paid parking a deterrent. "If they want our business, well, there's a lot of competition. You don't pay when you go to Walnut Creek; IKEA's not charging to park."

And don't think people aren't aware of the free parking right next door. One shopper told 7 Days he plans to park at IKEA next time around, and a store manager who didn't give her name admits she already snags a spot at nearby Powell Street Plaza (Trader Joe's, Circuit City) and walks to her job. "That's how I get my morning exercise," she says.

Madison Marquette, Taft says, is trying to encourage people to use alternative transportation -- the free Emeryville-Go-Round shuttle stops both at BART and Bay Street. She also notes that Emeryville is planning another pedestrian footbridge to get people over the railroad tracks.

Great, but let's face it: People are cheap, and such conveniences merely make it easier for employees and customers to poach free parking from competing retail centers.

Oh, and if you figure on scoring free parking in one of the scarce spots along the Bay Street promenade, you'd better hurry. Santa's bag this year will be bulging with spanking new meters for those spaces. -- Michael Mechanic

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