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[whitespace] Celestial Choice: USWeb founder Joe Firmage is keeping faith in his mission of proving the existence of alien life.

The Truth Is Out There

In the four months since the publication of The Truth at www.thewordistruth.org, Eye notes that the man thinking farther outside the box than anyone in the valley, Joe Firmage, has landed interviews in Rolling Stone and Time magazines. Eye watchers may recall that Firmage published a web tome late last year that posits the hypothesis that aliens have visited humankind periodically for thousands of years. Despite his media popularity, Firmage's role at USWeb, the company he founded, has diminished from CEO to chief strategist to "that guy at the end of the hall who believes in aliens." Firmage tells Eye he now has no official title, though he still maintains plenty of USWeb stock in his portfolio. ... As might be expected, soon after the book came out, the giggling in the press started and the company's board of directors went ballistic. Most red in the face was probably Mark Kvamme, the "K" in CKS Group, the Cupertino ad agency that merged with USWeb in September. "It's no secret I'm not on Mark Kvamme's list of party guests anymore," Firmage tells Eye. "I don't hold anything against him. If our roles were reversed, I might have done the same thing." Eye notes that Kvamme, who is chairman of the board of the merged company, is not particularly discreet about his devout Christianity, another belief system with its share of skeptics. ... In the months since The Truth came out, Firmage says he has received thousands of emails from people all over the world claiming to have some evidence of extraterrestrials. "I'm just buried in the stuff coming back," he says. "I'm 2,000 emails behind, so I've hired a couple of people just to help me manage the information overload." His new think tank, the International Space Sciences Organization, will be in charge of mining the thousands of tips. In June, Firmage plans to take a video version of The Truth on a six-month tour, hitting 10 cities in the U.S. and another 10 abroad. Firmage says he's learning not to care about what people say. "It's a bloody process to go through," he says. "But I'm fully aware that's what I signed on to do." Meanwhile, the value of the company he started was up to $2.8 billion early this week.

Poor Man, Poorer Man

Last August officials at the county's social services agency realized they needed a new home when they discovered structural problems at their offices at 1405 Parkmoor Ave. Finding a new office, however, hasn't been easy. Landlords are not exactly thrilled with the idea of potentially indigent, drug-addicted and mentally ill social services clients hanging around their buildings. Not that all property owners rejected the agency as a tenant because of its clientele--in some cases, there were straightforward leasing complications. But a couple of prospective landlords--like the owners of a business park on Senter Road--made it clear that they didn't think the agency represented "an appropriate tenant mix." But one place the agency looked at on Monterey Road showed great promise. County higher-ups even proposed remodeling the building to suit the agency's needs. One problem: The building is right next to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which has its own "undesirable" clients. "This proximity," social services director Yolanda Lenier Rinaldo told the board finance committee, "creates a potentially uncomfortable environment that may lead to [the agency's] customers being afraid to visit the agency for service." The bottom line is that the agency is resisting moving next to the INS because, well, it wouldn't be an appropriate tenant mix.

Push to Shove

One of the favorite pastimes of beat reporters in the state capital is to bemoan Gov. Gray Davis' tight-lipped press operation, led by former Mercury News political editor Phil Trounstine. The latest tidbit to surface about Trounstine's strained rapport with the press comes from veteran capital reporter Jack Kavanagh. In his column, "TV Watch," Kavanagh this week mentions an incident from the governor's Mexico trip in February, where the guv's media handlers blocked access to Davis and Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo. "The isolation frustrations," Kavanagh writes, "finally boiled over in a pushing match between a reporter and [Trounstine]." ... The reporter in the altercation was Associated Press scribe Scott Lindlaw, who declined comment. Another capital reporter familiar with the incident insists it never escalated to a pushing match. Rather, Trounstine was trying to hold Lindlaw back from getting too close to the Davis entourage. The capital source says that Trounstine quickly realized he had crossed the line and backed off. When contacted by Eye, Trounstine mumbled after a long pause, "I have nothing to say." ... Reporters aren't the only people in the capital who have crossed swords with Trounstine. Last month state Sen. John Vasconcellos seethed when he heard that Trounstine was lobbying the Mercury News editorial board to craft an opinion piece critical of certain lawmakers for not buying wholesale into the governor's education proposals. Vasco, a member of the Senate education committee, has been critical of Davis' plan to require high school students to pass an exit exam in order to graduate. After talking to editorial writers at the Merc, the esteemed senator thought that Davis and Trounstine were singling him out. "I erupted," the mercurial Vasco said of the day he found out about the governor's furtive editorial lobbying. "I can't succumb to that kind of pressure." Trounstine, meanwhile, assured the San Francisco Chronicle (the Merc never mentioned the exchange), "I called the Mercury seeking support. No one in this administration had any intention of singling out any individual legislator."

Friendly Foes

District 6 hopeful Ken Yeager happily reports that his old boss and friend Terry Poché is not going to vie for the Willow Glen council seat. The two lunched together this week at Good Earth in Santa Clara--Ken ordered the veggie stir fry, while Terry nibbled on nachos--and had small-talked for about 15 minutes when Poché said, "So, I guess you want to know what I'm going to do." To Yeager's great relief, Poché agreed to step aside. "Ken has been at it much longer," Poché later told Eye while her nachos digested. "The both of us running just didn't make any sense." ... Back in the day, Poché and Yeager both worked for Congressman Don Edwards: she was the district coordinator; he was the press secretary. The one-time co-workers previously agreed that they would not run against each other. If they had, the duel might have caused some friction among people other than Poché and Yeager. Former Mayor Susan Hammer is an old Poché pal, while current Mayor Ron Gonzales is tight with Yeager, who has held fundraisers for Gonzo at his Shasta-Hanchett home. No one can recall a time in recent memory when Gonzales and Hammer have gone head-to-head, backing opposing candidates (not counting the not-quite mayoral candidacy of Hammer protégé Margie Fernandes).

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From the March , 1999 issue of Metro.

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