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July 26-August 1, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Free as A Bird?

Maybe you don't need a psychic medium to capture the unspoken thoughts of city councilmembers. Maybe you just need a good old-fashioned video camera, recording the right place at the right time. That's the view of Jim Lohse, the outspoken medical-marijuana-advocate-turned-politician, who says he literally "fell off his chair" while reviewing a tape of the June 27 Mountain View City Council meeting, which appears to show departing Councilmember Matt Neely signing off with a flip of the bird. Now, tensions were high in the crowded council chambers that night, as dozens of residents voiced opposition to a proposed high-density housing development on a 27-acre property that was once home to Mayfield Mall. One neighbor named Andy Rose pointed out what he called "fundamental problems" with the Environmental Impact Report and accused city officials of deliberately ignoring his previous criticisms of the document. The meeting dragged on until 2am. Video footage shows Neely sauntering through the chambers during a five-minute recess. He walks by Rose, and the two wave to a camera off to the side. But it's not the camera that's actually recording them. The one that is—at the opposite end of the room—reveals what appears to be the councilmember flicking his middle finger behind Rose's back. This thing has to be seen to be believed, so see it for yourself here on our website, metroactive.com. Neely is the brown-haired thirtysomething in a gray suit, and Rose is the gray-haired man in a white shirt, holding a cell phone to his ear. Watch Neely's left hand closely as he slips it behind Rose's right shoulder. Was that the finger? It sure looks like it. The councilmember even laughs mischievously. Then he looks over his shoulder, spots the camera behind him, and points to it in an "Oops, you just caught me" gesture. This was Neely's last meeting as a councilmember before he quit his term six-months early to take a teaching job in Italy. As of this week, his home phone number was disconnected and he had not responded to our email. Lohse says that Neely, a former vice principal at Mountain View High School, is generally a jovial, well-liked character. But then, so was Zidane before his parting World Cup head-butt. At the end of the day, councilmembers voted unanimously to go along with the proposed development—a decision that caused many in the crowd to gasp. Rose, the unknowing recipient of the finger, says councilmembers listened politely to the public comments and then "unanimously ignored our issues." But after thoroughly reviewing a video clip along with two friends, Rose is giving Neely a parting gift: the benefit of a doubt. "Looking at it frame by frame, starting at eight seconds, I see Matt Neely pointing at me with his index finger and then merely rotating his hand without changing his finger," says Rose. "Matt is not giving me the finger." Rose's analysis hasn't spoiled Lohse's fun—currently running for a spot on the Mountain View City Council, he posted the video to his campaign website.

Endorsement Shuffle

District Attorney George Kennedy has finally made public what we wrote about nearly a month ago: he's not endorsing any candidate to replace him. That's a roundabout way of saying he's ditching Karyn Sinunu, the chief assistant that he recently replaced with Assistant District Attorney Marc Buller when she took a leave of absence. Meanwhile, the former candidate Buller has endorsed Sinunu's competitor, Superior Court Judge Dolores Carr. Since Kennedy's name has disappeared from Sinunu's campaign website, Fly wondered about the other district attorneys (11 from California counties) that have endorsed her. Are they thinking twice about lending their support to a candidate who their colleague no longer backs? Most of the top prosecutors that we contacted were too busy to return our calls, but Greg Totten from Ventura County had his secretary tell us that he is still endorsing Sinunu. Bob Kochly from Contra Costa County told us that he endorsed Sinunu when she was actively soliciting his support—partly because he knew she had Kennedy's endorsement. "I felt it was the right thing to do at the time," he said, but added that Kennedy's pull leaves him in a difficult situation. "I don't know where I stand because it sounds like a lot of things have changed," he explained. Sinunu tells Fly her campaign is still going strong, especially with a new endorsement from Assemblymember Joe Coto.

File This

While Kennedy's move challenges Sinunu's campaign, Judge Carr is battling recent attempts to sully her image. A tipster faxed us a curious document last week called a "Certificate of Non-Filing" issued by the California secretary of state. Stamped with a gold seal, it looked an honor society award with Judge Carr's name. Not so. In the confusing world of state bureaucracies, people get certificates when the secretary can't find a document they are supposed to have filed. In this case, the secretary couldn't find Judge Carr's oath of office. Our tipster thought he had stumbled upon a scandal, but it all amounted to a paperwork snafu. The "Certificate of Non-Filing" was dated in January 2002, a month before the county clerk sent in Judge Carr's second oath of office. A state representative said the county might have sent the documents a little late, and there is no penalty for getting a "Certificate of Non-Filing." Carr called the whole thing "silly" and wondered why someone would rehash the four-year-old mix-up. "Do you think it has to do with me running for office?" she asked. Gee, ya think?

Information Blackout

Like thousands of other San Joseans, Fly spent Saturday night in the dark, listening to a small radio, chatting with friends beside a camping lantern and trying to keep cool with a battery-powered fan. On Sunday, we checked the PG&E website to try and get some information about the outages and what did we find? A big red-type energy conservation lecture (as if the equipment failures were our fault!) but no news about where and when the outages occurred. The news section of their website did have a section on winter storms. "Information for reporters covering 2005-2006 winter storms." Hey, thanks, guys! The news release area was filled with dispatches about hiring diversity, executive hiring announcements, their commitment to renewable energy and boating safety. But no real-time information about what they euphemistically call an "unscheduled power interruption." When is PG&E going to get a real website? "We are working on new systems that will provide assistance," says PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith, "but there are no specific details at this point."


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