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09.26.07

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Silicon Valley News Notes

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And the award for Best New Use of YouTube goes to: watching taser videos! Ah yes, but who can keep up? Especially after the latest entrants: the guy in the "Don't taze me, bro" JOHN KERRY incident, then the Ohio woman getting gratuitously fried after hitting her head on a police car. The debate that has raged in San Jose since the PD armed itself with stun guns has now percolated into a national debate. Despite good intentions, the use-of-force debate locally seemed to sink into absurdity at last week's San Jose City Council meeting, in which councilmembers attempted to describe the role of the city's police auditor, BARBARA ATTARD. The issue became bogged down and entered the realm of the surreal during long debates about semantics. Would Attard be a part of a panel that would "audit" or "review" use of force cases? "You can so easily get hung up in semantics, and semantics are not that important," admits City Attorney Rick Doyle. "It comes down to this: We don't hold her to auditing standards." Attard was certainly a little surprised to learn that the auditor's job is actually to not audit cases of police-involved shootings. Nobody was paying attention to what the auditor did or didn't do until recently, when she requested that the city expand her auditing powers so she could investigate more than just officer-involved shooting cases; she wanted to audit death cases where officers used any kind of force, including tasers and batons. But her good-faith efforts to expand accountability backfired. In researching the city's auditor role, the San Jose's legal team discovered that the city charter prohibits Attard from auditing police involved shootings—unless there is a citizen complaint. Attard, however, has been conducting audits of police-involved shootings ever since 2004 when she says the City Council expanded the auditor's role to allow for that. Apparently, there was a misinterpretation, because city lawyers said the council never granted the IPA those powers. And since Attard never found any glitches in the system, nobody really knew why she was auditing these cases. "I was surprised to hear no one else realized we were auditing," Attard says. The council felt it had no choice but to follow the law. The group stripped her of her powers that she doesn't even have and voted 10-1 to instead create a panel to "review"—not "audit"—use of force deaths. We'll see if Attard accepts the invitation for a new job as police reviewer.

Sam I Am Not (Running)

It seems like only yesterday that San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo was just a 40-year-old candidate—by the way, sorry about that one, Sam! Anyhoo, less than a year into his term, insiders are already whispering about where the first termer is sniffing about—with a few even suggesting he might consider a challenge CHUCK REED in the next mayoral election. Liccardo himself denies he'd run in four years. "The chances of my running for mayor against Chuck Reed are between zero and the chance that Larry Craig will get a job working security at the Minneapolis Airport," Liccardo cleverly responds. "I hope that resolves lingering doubts in anyone's mind." But the ambitious pol wasn't so quick to rule out a bid for mayor in 2014. The District 3 councilman wouldn't say "yes" and he wouldn't say "no" to whether he might run for mayor in eight years, or for another office, like state Assembly. Liccardo swears he's too busy juggling a plateful of issues, including BART and affordable housing, to stop and consider his campaign plans eight years from now. "I really haven't thought about it at all," Liccardo said. "Maybe in four years voters will decide they are tired of me." With quotes like this, we doubt that.

Stay Off Our Block

If you've ever wondered why the Victory Parking Lot on Market Street in downtown San Jose is sitting on such valuable real estate, you're not alone. Referred to as the Mitchell Block, the 3-acre parcel bordered by Market, St. John and First streets is up for sale to the highest bidder. It could be the next big thing for downtown development, if the family members can agree upon a selling price somewhere in the mid–eight figures, one that will likely set a new record in the cost-per-square foot category—or not sell at all. The city's Redevelopment Agency (which controls much of the surrounding area) won't be able to touch it. Not after it lost in court to the Mitchell Block's owners, Gross and Holmes Properties, who sued the city in 2002 for tagging the property as "blighted." Redevelopment director Harry Mavrogenes said his agency had its eye on the site for the ambitious Century Center expansion, a failed pre-dotcom-bust effort with developer Palladium championed by then-direcor Susan Shick. But the agency's "blight" report, which it needed to institute eminent domain proceedings, didn't hold up to legal challenge by Gross and Holmes attorney William Brooks. He called the assessment "flawed," "superficial" and "overbroad," and got a Superior Court judge to agree with him in 2005. While Mavrogenes has since pulled the Mitchell Block from redevelopment's buy list, he said he's still watching it closely. There are plenty of potentially lucrative options: high-rise housing, office buildings, retail outlets, restaurants ... even a courthouse or future BART station if the federal government or Valley Transportation Authority (who have both shown interest) win bids for the property. But Fly would be surprised if the Mitchell Block's owners make any concessions for public buyers after the trouble they went through to shake off the redevelopment agency. In July, they put it on the market unpriced to determine its highest value, although they wouldn't tell us how things are coming along. "There are things happening, but it's all confidential," Brooks said. "I just can't get into it."


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