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10.24.07

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Bait and Switch

Santa Clara City Councilmember and state Assembly candidate Dominic Caserta knows that you can't please everyone all of the time. So he had to choose: fat checks from developers to fund his assembly campaign, or the votes of Save BAREC open-space supporters, to whom he's been paying lip service for the past three years. Caserta sided with his city councilmates in June when they gave the go ahead for a residential development with Palo Alto–based Summerhill Homes—despite resistance from one of the most persistent citizen movements we've ever seen. The pushback was so strong, in fact, that open space advocates gathered more than 10,000 signatures in July for a referendum that could overturn the council's decision. Many of those signees will remember that Caserta courted their favor during his council re-election bid last year, claiming he supported their cause. Activist Kathryn Mathewson said some of her friends even walked neighborhoods for his campaign. "Then he just changed overnight, like that," Mathewson told Fly. Well, the change might have actually happened over the five-month period earlier this year when Caserta received $13,450 in campaign contributions from eight people associated with Summerhill Homes, half of which came from CEO George Marcus. That's not including $22,8000 that Caserta raked in from other major developers.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with getting contributions from Summerhill," the assembly candidate told Fly, adding that he pleaded with the BAREC folks to come up with at least $1 million to help the city buy the land from its owner, the state of California. But the money never materialized, so "at the end of the day, I felt the only logical decision from a policy-making standpoint was to approve this project," Caserta said. But Santa Clara's "Outstanding Citizen of the Year," Jackie Moore, saw things differently. "I told Kathryn not to trust him, " she said about Caserta. "I wasn't too surprised, because I know that when money is involved, Dominic will switch." For a rundown of Caserta's promises to champion open space on BAREC during his 2005 re-election campaign, go to www.sv411.com. "Make no mistake about it," he declared on his website. "A vote for Dominic is a vote to preserve open space on the BAREC property."

The Diridon Factor

BAREC is sure to be a hot issue among Santa Clara voters this election season while Caserta and two other democrats vie for Sally Lieber's termed-out assembly seat. Candidate Rod Diridon Jr. ran for the spot six years ago and is going at it again, even if winning this time means leaving his cushy job as Santa Clara city clerk and auditor, all $116,000 per year of it. Diridon Jr. didn't have anything bad to say about his friend Caserta or the influx of developer money. So far, he himself has received $4,600 from two major developers, although his campaign coffers aren't nearly as full as others in the race. For his part, Diridon Jr. wouldn't take a position on BAREC because he said he must remain objective as the city clerk. But he voted in favor of early development plans on BAREC before he left the City Council in 2004. He said he thinks the race will come down to character and track records, although he hopes it "doesn't come down to a bunch of democrats trying to beat each other up to get elected."

Shock Blocker

One thing San Jose shouldn't have to pay for is your filthy porn habits. At least that's what Councilmember Pete Constant believes. The father of five young children is asking that the City Council put a filter on Internet porn sites at the city's 17 library branches. Kids should be able to go the city's public libraries without having to be confronted by "second-hand porn," Constant says. "Someone could be watching porn and my child could be walking by and be exposed," Constant says. "They are not looking for it, but can't help but see it because it's right there." Even worse, Constant says, there's documented evidence of people masturbating in the libraries while looking at porn sites. But library officials say they rarely get complaints about people viewing porn. And when they do, they just explain San Jose's long-standing policy: you have the right to view porn online at the libraries. San Jose would be one of the last major cities to block porn at city libraries—Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver and San Diego have already filtered out adult material. "People have different definitions of what porn is," said Ned Himmel, assistant library director for San Jose Public Library. "We do feel it's a parental responsibility for knowing what kids are doing when they come to a library."

Log Jam

Remember when the Neighbors Against Irresponsible Logging (NAIL) blew away hundreds of community members in February with an ultra high-tech presentation you'd only see in the Silicon Valley? Well it worked. With aerial photos taken from a helicopter and the help of a Google Earth software whiz, neighbors proved that San Jose Water Company owns at least 2,754 acres of timberland in the Santa Cruz Mountains, exceeding the 2,500 maximum to qualify for the contentious logging plan the company is proposing in woodsy Los Gatos. Just a few weeks ago, California Department of Forestry officials agreed with the technical flaw and denied San Jose Water's application. "CAL FIRE will take no further actions on this NTMP given the determination that the landowner does not qualify as a non-Industrial tree farmer," wrote director Ruben Grijalva in his rejection notice. But San Jose Water won't take no for answer. In what is now the third round of tweaking this logging plan to get approved, the company's attorney requested yet another public hearing to appeal the forestry board's decision, saying it just doesn't agree with the technical findings. Fly's not sure how the water giant will wriggle out of this one, but one thing's for sure, the entire NAIL posse will be there pushing back.


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