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10.01.08

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Pier Pressure

"Pulling a Pier" has quickly become City Hall's catch-all phrase for doing something completely random. And San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio pulled another one last week when he asked his colleagues to approve a half-baked proposal to place a moratorium on affordable housing construction in San Jose. Oliverio argues that because affordable housing developers don't have to pay park fees, the city is running low on open space, while signing off on more affordable hosing projects. He's got a point about parks, but the city's housing director quickly stepped in to warn about the dangers of putting the park before the home, at a time when San Jose needs affordable housing the most. "You need to understand the ramifications," said Leslye Krutko, San Jose's director of housing. Oliverio also raised hackles over the weekend after an exchange on SanjoseInside.com where a constituent asked Oliverio about his views on tackling graffiti problems in the district. "Higher penalties and fines," the councilman wrote. "There is no graffiti problem in Singapore." On Monday morning the comment was all over the 18th floor, where city staffers wondered whether the councilman was suggesting the city start CANING its constituents. Or as one City Hall insider put it, maybe it was nothing more than "Pier being Pier."


Citizen Kane

Some concerned Los Gatos citizens are shocked—shocked!—to find a politician casting votes that seem to benefit contributors to his own campaign. The firestorm was ignited at a Town Council meeting last week when one John Grounds, an unfamiliar face, stepped up to level charges against council candidate Michael Kane. Kane, currently serving as chairman of the town's planning commission, had voted to stop the development of a megamansion by dotcom billionaire Rob DiSantis. Grounds claimed that this vote violated state Fair Political Practices laws, since Kane had taken money from a group called Friends of the Hillside (FOTH), a one-issue PAC focused exclusively on stopping the DiSantis project.Kane denied taking money from the group. That is technically (which is to say, legally) accurate. Records show that he did, however, take contributions totaling $1,500 from the group's three leaders. Those members, who include the former Mayor Sandy Decker, are suing Los Gatos over the project, which has already won approval from the Town Council. Councilmember Steve Glickman, who has said he will soon resign his seat in disgust, scoffs at the notion that FOTH is an environmental group. "There are some people here that have a sense of entitlement, that they can have things that some newcomer just rolling into town with a fistful of money can't have," he said, comparing the activists to "a high-school clique."


Ban Played On

Anyone else feel like there's a serious buzzkill on around here? Porn in libraries? Ban it! Smoking just about anywhere? Ixnay on the arty-pay! Now, San Jose is jumping on the plastic bag ban-wagon, looking to cut the number consumers here are using every year (which comes to roughly 400,000). San Jose officials this week are surveying roughly 5,700 retailers, including grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores (not take-out restaurants, though) trying to gauge support for a plastic bag ban or a usage fee, said Jo Zientek, deputy director of integrated waste management services for San Jose. "Fees on bags has proven pretty successful," Zientek said. "Ireland did a fee of 35 cents and reduced plastic bag use by 90 percent." Why target bags? The goal is to reduce the number of them Silicon Valley sends downstream. That's all fine and good, but what are we supposed to pop while we're waiting for our black-market cigarettes and library porn?


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