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November 30-December 6, 2005

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Shocking Twist

There has been a lot of attention focused on tasers around here since Jose Angel Rios died after a San Jose police officer shot him twice with one of the controversial electronic devices on Nov. 18. Most of it is centered around Barbara Attard, who wants officers to limit their use of tasers on vulnerable groups like pregnant women, the elderly, children and intoxicated people. But there's an important part of this story that no one is talking about. Here's the real scoop: before two local residents died after being tased this year (the first was in August), Sanjeev Bery of the ACLU asked the SJPD for similar regulations, namely ones that had been deleted from the Use of Force policies in June. The excised rules prohibited taser use on restrained, unconscious and noncombative people, as well as suspects armed with guns or explosive devices. "It concerns us that, amid an ever-increasing number of deaths associated with tasers and a growing national trend to provide stronger regulation of their use, the San Jose Police Department has apparently chosen to deregulate their use," Bery wrote in a letter to the law-enforcement agency. SJPD spokesman Nick Muyo told Metro the deleted regulations were redundant because every officer learns about them in special training for tasers. It's also obvious, he pointed out, that a cop wouldn't tase someone who was unconscious. Including such a rule is "absolutely useless," he said. But the ACLU's Bery didn't agree, because these same precautions are still in place for guns and less lethal projectiles. "It's important to have hard and fast policies so officers know what the expectations are," Attard said, pointing out that 820 SJPD cops have taser weapons and may need to refer back to written rules once in awhile, especially if those rules change since the officer's last training. "I think it's just basic, good management," she added.

Howdy Ho, Neighborinos!

Residents at the Vintage Tower building in downtown San Jose got a bit more than they bargained for when City Hall moved in across the street. The Tower's 59 one-bedroom, low-income apartments were renovated last year when the First United Methodist Church bought the building from the city of San Jose and hired the John Stewart management company at the same time the new City Hall was being constructed. Since this transition, a handful of residents who want to remain anonymous say they have experienced water shortages at least once a week. One man told Fly he got so fed up that he complained to the manager. The response he received was less than sympathetic. "I can fill this apartment up right now if you're not happy," he says he was told. He recalled seeing City Hall employees inquiring about apartments on a regular basis, some even approaching him for information. Another woman heard the same reply when she voiced her dissatisfaction. "There are plenty of people at City Hall who would love to move in" is the reply she says she received. Then there's the issue with the Tower's private parking lot, which has 112 spaces—enough to accommodate a second vehicle for some units and provide for guests. That convenience also changed when the building's new owner decided to rent the 53 "extra" parking spots (one space being allotted for each unit) to City Hall employees. One family was told they now have to pay $100 a month if they want to keep their second car in the lot. "The underlying message is: I should keep my mouth shut or move out," a resident said. Mary Tustin, senior vice president of the management company, said she was unaware of the water shortages, but would look into them. As to alleged blow-offs, she added, "It's never our intention to be rude. We might be once in a while because we're human, but we'll always check ourselves."

'White Flight': The Aftershocks

In September, Metro identified "white flight" as a growing trend in Santa Clara County schools, calling into question whether desegregation has been as successful here as people like to think. Apparently, the Wall Street Journal took notice; this month they filed their own story on the issue, focusing on Cupertino, where Asians make up two-thirds of the population at Monta Vista and Lynbrook High Schools. The WSJ focused on the new Asian/white divide in the affluent suburb. Though the city is half-white, the proportion of Caucasian kids at Lynbrook and Monta Vista has fallen to 25 percent and 31 percent, respectively. And it's not because of test scores, which are among the highest in the nation. The WSJ article revealed that white parents feel that more Asian students make the atmosphere too competitive and narrowly driven by academics. Some kids admit that white students are stereotyped as the "underachievers"—this on campuses where a B average will put you at the bottom third of the class.

Ramble On, Roz

Speaking of updates, Metro's "Rambling Roz," the 73-year-old activist named Roz Dean who was featured in our January news story about the fight to save San Jose Medical Center, has been turning heads ever since. In June, Vice Mayor Cindy Chavez recognized Dean and her coalition for their community service. Now the human rights group Human Agenda will award Dean, along with county Supervisor Blanca Alvarado, at its annual Hunger Banquet in December. Dean is being lauded for her tireless efforts on behalf of the community; indeed, the seven-year battle she has waged for SJMC has the San Jose City Council looking at zoning plans to preserve part of the downtown site for another hospital.


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