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April 25-May 1, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Jeppesen: You Win Some ...

The San Jose City Council considers Jeppesen a dead issue in local politics as of a ruling last week. But they'd better watch out, as the Human Rights Commission may be preparing to do a little extraordinary rendition of their own, right over the council's heads to Congress. Jeppesen, the San Jose subsidiary of Boeing accused of helping the CIA arrange their torture by proxy flights, was facing a resolution drafted by the HRC which asks the council to investigate the company's role in the flights, prevent Jeppesen from gaining favorable publicity from city-sponsored activities, and urge it to break its ties with the CIA. However, citing a 1979 council policy forbidding them to take positions on federal government activities when they don't directly affect San Jose's residents or resources, the council's Rules Committee decided last week not to bring the resolution before the council. City Attorney Rick Doyle said there would be first amendment problems if the city interfered with Jeppesen's advertising or sponsorships. Councilman Sam Liccardo doubted how much impact they could have even if they did find the time to take up the issue, saying "the HRC is the appropriate vehicle for the city to express its indignation." But David Parker, the commissioner who spearheaded the resolution, isn't backing down. "I'm disappointed that the Rules Committee is hiding behind the 1979 resolution stating they won't take positions on federal issues when this issue is a local, state and federal issue," he says. "They should have given the full City Council the opportunity to address this." Parker believes he can circumvent the 1979 policy by if congressional representatives push the City Council to take up the issue. ~"I'm sure I can find at least one member of the House of Representatives or a senator to ask the City Council to hear this matter," he says, " I'm hoping my fellow commissioners will work with me and we don't drop this."

... You Lose Some

The news wasn't all good for Jeppesen last week, though. The company was slated to host the Friends of Guadalupe River Park & Garden's annual Window on the River Park Benefit on May 9. But GRP&G's board of directors voted to move their fundraiser after members of the South Bay Mobilization for Peace and Justice, the National Lawyers Guild and Amnesty International asked them to sever their tie to Jeppesen. GRP&G's Leslee Hamilton said in a written statement that their decision shouldn't be viewed as a position of support or opposition. "In order to keep the focus of this event on our organization," Hamilton says, "our May 9 event will take place at the River Street Historic District Patio."

Radical Thoughtsfor Big VTA Problems

Valley Transportation Authority got a bad report card this month, and they were the kind of grades any middle-schooler would be terrified to bring home to Mom and Dad. Unsatisfactory at best was the verdict in many areas, including cost and efficiency. Sixty-seven of the 70 bus routes fail to reach the agency's goal of 33 riders per hour. As of now, 7 percent of the lines carry 50 percent of VTA passengers. And the agency has one of the lowest fare-box returns in the country: only 14 percent of operating costs are covered by the riders' ticket purchase, about half of what's needed. But taking a page from the schoolkid handbook on spinning Report Card Day, VTA acted fast to demonstrate that there's no reason to take away its Playstation 3 for a month. New changes that will be voted on in August and go into effect in 2008 include consolidating or eliminating two of every seven bus routes and offering more express buses and smaller, cheaper vehicles on certain lines. However, one city employee tells Fly that VTA needs to think way, way outside the fare box at this point. The biggest problem, he believes, is that the VTA and Redevelopment Agency are working from entirely different agendas: "The hub of all VTA bus routes are downtown, with so many routes serving it. So hypothetically one would think this would be a focus for the powers that be. Who are the primary users? Those without vehicles. But even though the downtown developers pay a fee to support affordable housing, those projects are delegated out of downtown, as the RDA focus is for upscale clientele." The irony, he says, is that "the condo buyers are the least likely to set foot on public transit. They are not making those Beamer payments so their cars will stay at home during their workday."

Making Trouble

Turns out there are a lot of people in San Jose who want to make trouble. They're just not necessarily sure how to go about it. This Saturday, they'll find out, when local activists unite with the union activist organization Labor Notes to hold the Bay Area's first Troublemaker's Institute—a one-day training camp to instruct union and nonunion workers how to more effectively get what they want from employers and governmental agencies. The daylong seminar focuses on constructing aggressive grievance campaigns, handling negotiations, using the labor movement to end the Iraq war, fighting for trade unions, fighting repression, campaigning for fair contracts, negotiating for health care and other troublesome topics. "It's real practical stuff," says Erik Larsen, chapter president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 108. "But it's what people need to know so they're not taken advantage of." Larsen says the Troublemaker's Institute debut meeting is already sold out, but he's got more trouble in mind. "We're definitely going to do this again," he says. "We'll just try to get a bigger room next time."


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