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August 15-21, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Leader of The Herd

San Jose's employee of the month has hooves, horns and a goatee. Nope, it's not Satan, but good guess! It's actually one of the 300 goats the city recently rented to graze the grounds of a local reservoir where recycled water is stored. Yup, we're chomping our way toward national leadership in green policy, one slobbery mouthful of grass at a time. Kara Novogradac, associate environmental services specialists for the city, explained to Fly that the goats are a more Earth-friendly way of clearing out overgrown weeds and unwanted vegetation, including poison oak and thistle. "You name it, and they will eat it," Novogradac said. "The goats cleared a lot of the weeds and invasive species and it only took them a week."Hey, if the goats get a better gig, we know some junket whores who are probably available. In days of yore—like, last year—the city would spray such highly vegetated areas with toxic pesticides and herbicides ,which often run off into local creeks and other waterways, potentially harming aquatic life. In effort to cut back on chemicals, the city's Environmental Services Department contracted with a Bay Area company to bring the goats to the 4-acre site as a pilot program. But being environmentally conscious has a down side (that would be a lot funnier if this story were about ducks, but whatever). Novogradac admitted that the city's goat program is more expensive than the normal spraying method. The city shelled out nearly $2,400 to rent the goats for the week. But the grazing seems to have been successful. The city is considering hiring the goats to graze at other sites in the city, Novogradac said. Also, the city is thinking outside the box when it comes to tackling bothersome rodents and insects. Officials have started installing barn owl and bat boxes in city parklands and community gardens, areas where gophers are known for tearing up grass and mosquitoes are prevalent. "There's misconceptions about bats; they're seen as bringing bad luck," Novogradac said. "Neither animal needs to present concern." And they don't even get pensions!

More BANG for Dean's Buck

It was no surprise when MediaNews executives on Monday announced the company would no longer recognize the newspaper's union—but it still sent shock waves through Dean Singleton's Bay Area media empire. As reported in this column, newsroom executives a few weeks ago announced that MediaNews Group had plans to consolidate the Contra Costa/Hills Newspapers and the Alameda Newspaper Group to form the Bay Area Newspaper Group -East Bay, otherwise known as BANG-EB. A big part of that that cost-cutting consolidation: the company would no longer have to recognize the newspaper union, which until Monday represented the editorial employees at Alameda Newspaper Group. According to a memo fired off from John Armstrong, the president and publisher of BANG-EB, the Guild bargaining unit of former ANG newspapers now constitutes significantly less than 50 percent of the newly consolidated editorial group of BANG-EB. That means the company can no longer recognize the Guild as representing all full-time and regular part-time employees in the editorial department at its Alameda, Hayward, Fremont, Dublin, Danville, Tracy, Martinez, Livermore, Pleasanton, Oakland and San Mateo locations, according to Armstrong's memo. In the long term this could make it harder to protect pay and benefits, union members say. Guild leaders plan to pursue legal action that would contest this move by MediaNews. Luther Jackson, executive officer of the San Jose Newspaper Guild, said both the Contra Costa Times and the Mercury News have the potential to be brand-name newspapers that will draw national advertising. That's one possible reason Singleton left the Merc out of the consolidation, Jackson said. But there is concern that MediaNews' next step will be consolidating the copydesks at all the newspapers, including at the Merc. "I think everyone has a problem with that," Jackson said.

Re-Pete

Just about everyone thinks that County Supe Pete 'Primo' McHugh is angling to move to San Jose and run for City Council. If he were to move into District 8 and swap jobs with DAVE CORTESE, he could be the second carpetbagger to move into an office on the 18th floor. The first, of course was former Sunnyvale mayor RON GONZALES, the only man in modern history to serve as mayor of two Silicon Valley cities. The 64-year-old political veteran, however, swears his wife won't let him move to the big city. "I think it's a great idea, but it's been vetoed by my wife," he says, adding "I would find it very difficult to leave Milpitas." Instead, he may just take a final spin on the Milpitas City Council, where he spent his first 20 years in elected office. "I'm still able to walk on my own," McHugh boasts. Wow, a baseline criterium for public office if we ever heard one! He said his wife, Gail Marie Parnagian, backs his decision to blaze the campaign trail once again, even though she wishes he spent more time at home. McHugh has lived in Milpitas since 1973, and says he "just loves the city." McHugh also said he doesn't want to miss any of the action when the county opens its new clinic in the northeastern city in 2009... Fly also confirmed that Deepka Lalwani will also be running for the Milpitas City Council, although she hasn't yet made it official. To refresh your memory, Lalwani lost her last attempt to represent the city three years ago when she distributed a distorted and misleading flier about her opponent (and current councilmember) Debbie Giordano that cost her the Merc's endorsement just days before the election. But Lalwani told Fly she doesn't think the past will affect her chances. "I have an impeccable record in community service," she said. "It was an inappropriate flier, but it wasn't that big of a deal." McHugh didn't have much to say when we told him about his potential competition. "In the political process a lot of people make promises they usually don't follow up on," he said, "I expect to be judged on my record."


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