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03.05.08

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Silicon Valley News Notes

All a Board

Santa Clara County's human relations guru, Richard Hobbs, made a last-minute announcement this week that he'll make a run for the county Board of Supervisors. He says he'd been contemplating a run for some time, but only committed in the last week to join the field of candidates hoping to replace termed-out Blanca Alvarado. The fact that big names like Cindy Chavez never followed through with their "explorations" of a run had everything to do with it. "I definitely had been thinking about it when it became clear to me a number of people were not running," Hobbs said. "It seems to me that the electorate deserves other choices." At least five other potential candidates are running for that seat, so it's not as if voters don't have a race on their hands. Still, Hobbs declares he's the candidate who knows county government inside and out, having worked in almost every department in the county. As the director for the county Office of Human Relations and a trustee for the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District, he says his campaign will focus on improving government "process." He points to his recent work attempting to ease tension between the Vietnamese community and San Jose City Hall over the naming of the Vietnamese Business District—although that could certainly be going better. "What is going on in the city of San Jose is really difficult for everyone, and we need to avoid those situations through taking the time for open and democratic processes that are inclusive," Hobbs said, "And I mean very inclusive."


Hollywood or Bust

Several months ago, in the depths of the writers strike, an oddly hilarious escalating argument between Will Ferrell and a surly, supercute 18-month-old baby girl (playing Ferrell's alcoholic landlady) drew 50 million visitors to the website Funny or Die. Maybe that's what caught the attention of Tinseltown moguls and reminded them that there may be opportunities on this new-fangled Internet thing. The New York Times reported on Monday that the William Morris Agency, talent representative to the stars, is working on a new-media play with two Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Accel Partners and Venrock. The group has also brought in AT&T as a limited partner. Of course, this is not the first time Hollywood has come to Silicon Valley. Talk of old-media types launching invasions of the web date back at least to 2002, when Renaissance dudes Ben Affleck and Matt Damon teamed up with some venture money for an ill-fated company called Live Planet. In that endeavor and dozens before and since, clashes erupted between valley nerd culture and the glitzy L.A. crowd. The fancypants movie folks seem to have learned at least one lesson from that string of failures: the Times report points out that the new venture fund seeks to "invest in digital media start-up companies based in Southern California."

It's Easy Being Green

"Green" has become a coveted designation for any business in Silicon Valley, but ironically it doesn't seem too hard to earn that title in Santa Clara County. In order to be recognized as environmentally friendly, local businesses must apply to the county's Green Business Program. To be accepted, the company must be found to comply with all environmental regulations; "take steps to conserve natural resources, prevent pollution and reduce waste"; and be an "environmental leader." A business that measures up is officially designated "green" and can use the "Green Business" logo in its advertising and in signage. Sound grueling? Apparently not. Many companies here, it seems, are a step ahead of the county already. "We didn't have to do anything special to be classified," says Aseem Das, owner of World Centric. "We were already doing many things which would have already been classified as green." Das' nonprofit, which works to raise awareness about sustainability, was rewarded by the city of Palo Alto for joining, receiving a free installation of low-flush toilets. Mike Monroe's People and Planet, which works on fair trade issues, was also ahead of the curve; he says his company had "naturally evolved" into a green business and didn't have to change anything to meet the criteria of the county program. Around 200 businesses have become part of the Green Business Program since July of 2005. However, getting with the green program is a little more difficult for some newbies—it took Jeff Winn of Big Sky Construction & Design three months to go eco. "It's a different way of thinking of how to run your business," he says. His company started turning computers down at night, dropping power consumption 25 percent. They also shredded 85 percent of the paper that employees were using. "We switched over the tubes to fluorescent," he said. Total cost: about $150. "Not a substantial investment," he says. And one that's likely to bring in a whole other kind of green.


The Best Defense

Accused City Hall hacker Eric Hernandez showed up for his arraignment on Friday, represented by one of the valley's most expensive criminal attorneys. Attorney Benjamin Williams appeared and dropped the bombshell that Hernandez had retained his boss, superstar lawyer Steve Manchester, to handle the case. "He's the best guy to hire if I was accused of first degree murder," one of our legal experts opined. "He handles the biggest guys who are in the deepest shit." Another member of the bar offered similar praise for Manchester's acumen. "His shit's better than Alan's these days"—a reference to Alan Ruby, the lawyer who handles Barry Bonds and got Ron Gonzales' bribery charges waxed. (We doubt either of these testimonials will wind up on Manchester's website.) No clues about how the teenage intern from one of San Jose's poorest neighborhoods got Manchester's business card or is paying the defense costs. Let's just say our calls to South Bay Labor Council executive Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins went unreturned. Hernandez worked for former District 3 Councilmember Cindy Chavez and stuck around to help Chavez successor Sam Liccardo set up his email accounts. He's charged with hacking Liccardo's girlfriend's email looking for dirt on the relationship and of leaking unflattering memos from the mayor's staff to an anonymous blogsite.


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