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11.28.07

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Tap Dance

Councilman Sam Liccardo, the freshman councilman who's already running for mayor, is ramping up his green agenda, planning to ask the City Council to ban city-purchased bottled water. That would mean no more bottled water at council meetings, task force meetings and city community events. "There are a billion water bottles sitting in California landfills because the plastic is difficult to recycle," Liccardo reasons. "Bottling water leaves a much larger carbon footprint than taking water from the tap." Okaaay. Now, what's the alternative? A jug of water with reusable cups? "I think it's stupid," chimes in fellow Councilperson Pete Constant. He thinks relying on used bottles creates a potential health risk. "When you reuse water bottled without cleaning and drying you get bacteria. I know there have been news accounts of it and medical reporting highlighting this problem." If the issue is that there are too many plastic bottles piling up in the landfills, then the city should create a mandatory recycling policy, not ban bottled water, Constant says. But maybe it's better to just stop using plastic bottles period. The county's Agriculture and Environmental Waste Department placed a ban on using bottled water almost a year ago. Instead, staffers bring in jugs of tap water and reusable mugs. "It's great to recycle but better to not produce it in the first place," said Zachary DeVine, spokesman for the department. Liccardo, meanwhile, says he's still looking for the best way to go landfill-lite. "We may have to be creative," he said. One person who isn't worried about the switch-over is the city's Environmental Waste Services director John Stufflebean, who says San Jose is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on hydration. How will City Hall manage? "Like we did for 10,000 years before bottled water," he reminds us.

Recall by the Numbers

Obviously there was high-profile support for naming the new Vietnamese Business District "Little Saigon"—the Dome has never seen a council meeting as raucous as the one last week—but is there really anything to this recall hype? Fly is highly skeptical. Some Little Saigon supporters say they're ready to recall Madison Nguyen, who convinced the City Council that Saigon Business District was an acceptable compromise. Now, people often hear "recall" and think a candidate is done for, but take a closer look at the numbers. According to San Jose's City Attorney Rick Doyle, 12 percent of registered voters residing within Nguyen's District 7 must sign a petition to get a recall onto the ballot. There are roughly 32,000 registered voters in District 7, which means the Vietnamese community needs to collect almost 4,000 valid signatures to force a recall onto the ballot. "I don't know how easy or how hard it is," Doyle said. It might be harder than it appears, considering some of the people leading the recall effort are not residents of Nguyen's district. Still, they are hoping to mobilize enough support from within the district to boot the first Vietnamese-American councilmember from her seat. "They don't understand why she is allergic to the name 'Little Saigon,'" said Barry Hung Do, a member of the Committee for Little Saigon. "We would rather have a non-Vietnamese-American and good ally than a Vietnamese-American that betrays us." It wouldn't be the first time a councilmember was facing a potential recall. A handful of councilmembers have thwarted such attempts over the years. The only success of the last two decades: in the early 1990s, voters recalled former Councilwoman Kathy Cole after she was caught on videotape tugging both sides of her eyes to describe Asians.

Wilcox Revisited

There are two sides to every story, and in the case of Colleen Wilcox, the former Santa Clara County schools superintendent who was accused of discrimination and harassment, the South Bay has only heard one of them. At least, that's what Wilcox supporters say. A group of 100 of them are throwing the former schools leader a party in her honor. Hundreds more are expected to attend the Dec. 4 soiree, where attendees can make their checks out to the San Jose State University Wilcox Education Endowment. Perhaps this will help polish up her tarnished reputation after she was pressured to resign amid accusations that she harassed and berated her minority employees. Wilcox supporters say she was a victim of disgruntled employees who ganged up on her. "When an underperforming or incompetent employee becomes aware that their performance has come under close scrutiny, their simple solution is to file charges of harassment and/or discrimination (often in collaboration with other disgruntled and underperforming colleagues) against their superior," wrote one, "thereby triggering an investigation and a 'no retaliation' clause. The party's organizers say that in 16 years "there is bound to be a certain number of people who would like to see you fired. You have to look at all the things she has done over the years."


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