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July 18-24, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Your Company's Name Here!

Ever since Fly heard the county was looking for corporate sponsorship, we've been brainstorming ideas for the perfect synergy. We called asset and economic development director Patrick Love hoping to read him our top choices, but he wasn't having any of it. According to him, corporations won't be able to plaster their names all over billboards or county government vehicles. "We are not going to become the Coca-Cola County," Love said. Wait, how did he know that was at the top of our list? That probably means they're not interested in Santa Clara County Powered By Intel or Santa Clara County Brought to You By the King of Beers, either, eh? "We are not going to sell out," says Love. Fine, but taxpayers are footing the $130,000 bill for The Active Network, a San Diego–based firm, to find companies who want to brand events and county facilities with their names, and we want our money's worth. Love says we'll get it—the cash-strapped county hopes to rake in as much as $5 million over the next three years from corporate sponsorships, and polish the image of events and initiatives at the same time. There are already some corporate-sponsored events in Santa Clara County, such as the annual Christmas Fantasy of Lights. But this plan is more far-reaching, paving the way for corporate companies to adopt county roadways and name public buildings. Other ideas include sponsoring fairs and events as well as banking service packages. At the same time, it's a chance to funnel money into existing but underfunded county programs as the employee wellness program, staffers say. The watchword is "low-key"; Love says county leaders are promising to be sensitive to the integrity of the community's image. Aw, but can't you just picture the headline: "Santa Clara County to be renamed 'Google Country.'" They already own Mountain View, right?

The Bad Old Days

Memories of financial gloom and ex-Mayor Tom McEnery's puffy hairdo flashed through San Jose Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio's mind last month when he voted against the initial steps toward the first major change in the city's investment policy in over 20 years. Oliverio was only a kid in 1984, but he remembers ditching school to spy on the hearings at City Hall while San Jose leaders wrangled over losing $60 million in bonds from risky investments made by a shoddy independent broker. The disaster gave then-Mayor McEnery a six-month-long stomachache. The city was on the brink of bankruptcy, and McEnery called it "the worst day of my political life" in his book The New City State. The blow hit while no one was looking—except then-Assistant City Manager Les White (currently finishing a stint as interim city manager). Just three months on the job, White was the only one reading the city's investment reports when he noticed something fishy. "It virtually brought me to tears to see the city go through that," he remembers. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money were being gambled away, but staffers weren't trained to oversee the investments. The incident spurred statewide reform in city finance and scared San Jose leaders into adopting a highly conservative investment policy that's kept our $1.2 billion portfolio safe ever since. That's why, when city officials recently decided to explore the possibility of outsourcing some of the pie to an independent broker for financial "flexibility," Oliverio dissented, even though he was the lone no-vote. The shift is only in the earliest exploratory stages, and Oliverio doesn't want to see it go any further, especially since it's going to cost nearly $500,000 in the first year just for staff to manage the transition. However, White said the city's move is "prudent," and he believes there are plenty of controls in place to prevent history from repeating itself. "I appreciate Pierluigi being diligent and vigilant in this matter," the seasoned city manager told Fly. "You can't take anything for granted in this area."

Campbell Without Borders

With no Mexican border in sight, who would have guessed East Bay Minutemen are demonstrating at the busy intersection of Bascom and Hamilton in Campbell?  Campbell's Flag Lady, Roberta Allen, invited them and they say they'll be here every second Saturday at noon. Last weekend, while 30 counterdemonstrators shouted "Racists go home" and held signs saying "Campbell is a Hate Free Zone", 10 Golden Gate Chapter Minutemen and members of the East Bay Coalition for Border Security silently held signs asking for the pardon of jailed U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. Agents Ramos and Compean received stiff sentences for shooting a fleeing drug carrier in the back. "Don't call us racists," says Minuteman Paul Farmer. "We want all illegal immigrants to go home and come back the legal way, not just Mexicans, but Irish, Chinese and anyone else who's here illegally." Surprising, the two sides amicably converged when Dr. Ann López, SJCC professor, and Minutemen Mike Jones and Crys Weaver agreed that NAFTA is the problem.  "NAFTA architects predicted that a million Mexican farmers would be forced off of their land every year because of NAFTA," says López. "Where did they expect them to go?" A 35-year union carpenter, Jones complained that nonunion contractors win job bids because they use undocumented immigrants, which shut him out. "The suits say if we didn't have this labor, housing prices would go up, but back when unions were strong housing was more affordable." He says NAFTA benefits big business while Mexican and U.S. Workers lose big. However, Ruth Robertson, who organized the counterdemonstration representing several local activist groups, says the equal-opportunity opposition doesn't ring true. "We're against civilian border patrols targeting Mexicans, she says. "There are plenty of undocumented people here from all over so if they're focusing on the border there is an element of racism to them."

 

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