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November 8-14, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

If You Were in Jail, You'd Be Home by Now

You know you're in suburbia when inmates at the local county jail are more afraid of you than you are of them. Fly got an anonymous call from an inmate at the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas warning us that people were "getting ripped off" by a massive new KB Homes development that's sprouting up around the jail. It sounded like a bizarre place to put housing, but should we be worried? Well, there is that spate of recent escapes. In the early morning hours of Sept. 3, three inmates scaled two 14-foot, chain-link fences—the only barriers surrounding the complex. One had been charged with auto theft and possessing burglary tools. The others had been locked up for DUIs and drug-related charges. Authorities caught up with one culprit at a Denny's restaurant five days later; the other two are still missing. Then on Oct. 8, a fourth inmate escaped. Eusebio Gonzales had been charged with being under the influence, as well as outstanding warrants for burglary and auto theft. His fugitive jaunt ended on Oct. 12 when he died in a car crash while being pursued by sheriff's deputies. All of this drama has led Milpitas resident Ann Zeise to conclude that living next to the jail might mean "bad vibes." But she and Dan Peoples, president of the Milpitas Downtown Association, were noticeably unalarmed, and pointed out that Elmwood is a minimum-security facility. "There aren't terribly dangerous people there," Zeise said. So far, the only complaints from residents have been about other residents—namely, from residents in the neighborhoods about a quarter of a mile away, who fear that new dwellers in the taller KB buildings will be able to peer into their single-story homes. At least somebody thought about the potentially risky location: Milpitas City Planner Tom Williams said a 15-foot decorative wall will divide the jail from the closest housing on its north side, and a strip of grass will increase the total buffer zone to just under 200 feet. A wider, busier Abel street separates the new houses on the east side of the jail, and a car dealership is in the works for the west side. In the end, it looks like South Bay home buyers—who let's face it, don't have a lot of options—are more than willing to accept that hundreds of locked-up criminals will be living in their backyard: Williams said over 1,600 people showed up on opening day last month to view the 648 units for sale.

Election Gag Reel

Now that election day has come and gone, Fly thinks you deserve a good laugh while you're recovering from your grueling democratic duties. So let's take a look at the best blooper made on the local campaign trail. And the winner is: Manny Diaz for exposing elementary school kids to the uncensored vixens of MySpace.com. The District 3 candidate tried to blast his opponent Sam Liccardo for his MySpace page, which started as a campaign outreach to young people and morphed into a raunchy virtual meeting place for public masturbators, butt cheeks, nipples and more sexually explicit images that we can't describe here. We would tell you to see it for yourselves, but Liccardo nixed the page when he discovered that it had gotten out of control. Diaz, however, preserved the Internet "evidence" and passed out 40-page packets of the kinky material during a press conference—in front Horace Mann Elementary School! Come on, Manny, what were you thinking? Runner-up is Cindy Chavez for making the strangest play on the religion card we can remember. Last week she held a press conference criticizing Reed for funding religious classes taken by one of his District 4 staffers. But Chavez didn't mention that the city employee, 32-year-old Mandy Nguyen, qualified for a $1,400 tuition reimbursement for an intercultural studies program at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. The religious classes were only a few of the requirements for her degree. Ironically, the strongest reaction Chavez earned for the attack was from local religious advocates. "Injecting such allegations into a political race is disingenuous and serves no legitimate public purpose," said Larry Pegram, president of the Values Advocacy Council. "It evokes the sort of misleading information that has characterized city leadership over the past eight years."

Growing Pains

At dawn, Stockton Street is awake with the sounds of trucks, cars, buses and planes zooming overhead. The ruckus is so noisy on this strip between Taylor Street and Lenzen Avenue that it drowns out dozens of commuter trains rumbling only blocks away. Add a fleet of diesel trucks, tour buses and cement mixers to the chorus, and you have one of the noisiest neighborhoods in San Jose. It's no wonder your average human being wouldn't want live in the middle of this giant loading dock. But Fly had to scratch its insectoid head when it got a call from a fuming resident complaining about horn beeping and engine idling. She voluntarily moved into an old gay bar next to Royal Coach Tours last year and begged the city to give her residential zoning. She got her wish, but now she's on the warpath. City code enforcer Michael Hannon got caught in the middle. He told Fly none of the businesses in this industrial area are breaking the rules, but the conflict is symptomatic of the city's growing pains. "As we change industrial lands to residential," he said, "we are going to see more of these situations occurring where longtime businesses are hearing from new residents outside their fences." San Jose industrial lands have been dwindling over the past decade, according to City Planner Jean Hamilton, but the city's exorbitant home prices still force some residents into these awkwardly evolving neighborhoods.


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