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December 10, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, December 10, 2004

No agreement on Shoreline tickets No agreement on Shoreline tickets (December 10, 2004)

Council members keep VIP season passes

By Jon Wiener

A controversy brewing since the spring ended in anti-climactic fashion Tuesday when the city council failed to reach a decision on what to do with its free VIP season passes to concerts at Shoreline Amphitheater.

Council members suggested many different solutions, none of which garnered the four votes necessary for passing. Options included keeping the existing policy, selling all of the tickets, selling only the box tickets, using badges to view concert operations and others.

With Council member Mary Lou Zoglin absent during the discussion, the remaining council members could not agree which option to choose, effectively preserving the status quo.

The city receives 20 premium tickets for each show and 300 additional tickets a year as a condition of its lease agreement with media conglomerate Clear Channel, the operator of the amphitheater. Each city council member receives two of the premium tickets, worth $8,750 for the season, while the rest are distributed to city employees and volunteers.

The policy, which allows city officials to observe the amphitheater's operations from the inside, has been in place for the last 18 years. It became public knowledge in April when Council member Greg Perry said the tickets posed a conflict of interest.

But most council members insisted that the tickets presented no conflict of interest at all. A motion to maintain the current policy failed 2-4, with Rosemary Stasek and Mike Kasperzak voting in favor.

Stasek said that she had used the tickets more often than any other council member yet still managed to be the most critical of Clear Channel. The Texas-based company, she added, "has been robbing the city blind for years."

The city is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Clear Channel, accusing the operator of withholding thousands of dollars from its landlord.

Mayor Matt Pear, despite saying it was only a "perceived conflict of interest," refused to vote for the status quo and at one point proposed washing the council's collective hands of the issue and selling all of the tickets. That motion also failed 2-4, with only Pear and Perry in support. Nick Galiotto and Matt Neely favored more moderate adjustments to the policy, but the council could not reach a workable compromise.

Council members said privately that the motions to sell the tickets appeared to be based on a desire to avoid more negative media coverage.

Apparently fed up with the criticism, one newspaper reporter approached council members as soon as the meeting adjourned, loudly scolding them for ignoring the media's role as a watchdog.

"You may not like it, but that's what we do," said San Jose Mercury News reporter Julie Patel.

Even Perry said that he was surprised by the amount of media attention the tickets had attracted, and apologized for bringing it up.

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