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April 11-17, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Singleton to Sell Sentinel Property

You read it here first: Remember the MediaNews Group "guarantee" that they wouldn't move Santa Cruz' daily paper, the Sentinel, out of downtown Santa Cruz? Well, our deep throats at the Sentinel who predicted that pledge wouldn't last were spot on the money. The company, which also owns the Merc and just about everything else in the Bay Area these days, just listed the Sentinel's downtown headquarters for sale. This comes not long after the paper's new owners reneged on their promise that printing operations would remain local. "I don't think it was a surprise," Sentinel publisher Dave Regan tells Fly. "Once they found our production was going over the hill, they realized it was a large building for a few people." That, in fact, was what employees have been theorizing for weeks—they figured that since the building is located on prime downtown Santa Cruz real estate (which the paper has occupied since the mid-'60s), MediaNews would sell the land to help pay for its purchase of the paper. After all, buying up nearly every major daily in the Bay Area tends to put a strain on the war chest. Technically, however, the company has violated only the spirit of their promise, not the exact wording, since no one knows yet where the paper's 80 or so remaining employees will be relocated, including Regan. "I certainly hope we stay in Santa Cruz," says Regan. "Santa Cruz the city, that is," he hastens to add (presumably in case anyone was thinking MediaNews might be mulling over outsourcing editorial to San Jose or Monterey, where it also owns the Herald). However, other employees of the paper are betting on a new locale something more along the lines of a business-park office in Scotts Valley or another spot that is decidedly not in downtown Santa Cruz—and therefore much cheaper.

County Leads On Greening

Zachary DeVine has got a handle on how to make green business work in Silicon Valley: "Most businesses aren't run by granola tree huggers or anything," he says. "But everyone wants to make a buck." And if they're smart, they don't want to burn what they make. But we do it anyway: this year, Santa Clara County residents will consume more than 16 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. To heat our homes, we'll use approximately 300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. To drive our cars and mow our lawns, we'll use 180 million gallons of gasoline. Natural gas use in the county currently runs us close to $250 million per year, and gasoline costs more than $540 million. This ridiculous cost of environmental efficiency is what inspired the program that DeVine, a public communication specialist for the county, has helped kick into high gear. It encourages smarter building, production and transportation choices for businesses, and the strategy behind it goes like this: "If it was just you or I conserving energy, it would make very little difference," says DeVine. "But when you get a whole bunch of like-minded people doing it, that's when things add up." Last month, close to 200 power players met in Palo Alto for the Green Business Conference. The focus was pollution prevention and environmentally preferred purchasing, and it was the culmination of a year's research and outreach by DeVine and others. Local companies are already finding that green thinking equals a green payday; Adobe, for example, invested $1.4 million in 2001 to make environmentally friendly changes to their headquarter buildings. They say those mods saved the company $1.2 million annually, and now generate almost $400,000 per year in PG&E rebates. Businesses that want to get in on the eco-friendliness don't have to wait till next year's conference; the county provides Green Business classes for free at www.reducewaste.org.

Hum Dinger

Speaking of going green, Los Altos assemblyman Ira Ruskin has proposed a plan to reward drivers who buy fuel-efficient cars in California, and punish gas guzzlers. If it passes, the "Clean Car Discount" could put $2500 in your pocket when you buy a car—or take that much out—starting in 2011. It's the first time a global warming bill has actually attempted to penalize polluting. Supporters say you can still buy whatever car you want, just pay the price. Kind of reminds us of comedian Patton Oswalt's routine where he says people should be allowed to own a Humvee—but when they buy it, they should be hit on the head and wake up in Iraq with a gun: "And they're like, 'oh yeah, you have to get the oil yourself.'"

Taxing Their Nerves

With tax day coming this week, local activists are taking a hard look at where our federal income tax dollars go. Susan Quinlan, a Northern California War Tax Resistance organizer, says because more than half of the government's take pays for military expenses, a growing number of people are taking the money due Uncle Sam and sending it to charities like the NCWTR's People's Life Fund. The PLF makes grants to community organizations working for peace and justice. "We want to determine the priorities for the use of our tax dollars and provide critical funds for human services that the government isn't meeting," says Quinlan.~Valley resisters Dave and Mary X (who asked their identities be protected) say their chosen path is not for the faint of heart. War tax resisters earn less and don't own property in order to stay under the radar. And the IRS' scary letters are enough to make even the most radical resister consider rendering unto Cesar the things which are Cesar's. By the way, this year's tax deadline has been extended to Tuesday, April 17.


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