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12.12.07

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Silicon Valley News Notes

To Cross or Not to Cross

Nora Campos: on strike! Well, at least it looks that way, because the councilmember hasn't shown up to work at City Hall since the building inspector's union walked out on Nov. 29. The 90 employees, who play a crucial role in planning and code enforcement, have been picketing for a better employee arbitration process. City officials have so far refused to budge, even though the impasse has cost them at least $115,000 in replacement inspectors. Campos' chief of staff Ryan Ford told Fly that she won't cross the picket line out of respect for the workers. In lieu of her plush office at the top of City Hall's new tower building, the councilmember has set up a temporary office five miles away at the Alum Rock city library. But is the disruption affecting her ability to do her job? And what about her responsibility to the citizens who put her in office and fund her paycheck with their taxes? "I think she is representing the city and her district by representing workers rights and making sure workers are treated fairly," Ford said. "She's also working very hard to see that there is an end to this strike, and I think that again is serving the city very well." Interestingly, Campos is the only city leader to take such a strong stance in favor of the strike, even within the labor bloc. Forrest Williams said he didn't feel awkward crossing the picket line, though he supports their right to have one. Kansen Chu, heavily supported by the South Bay Labor Council when he was recently elected, also didn't think twice about walking past the strikers. Judy Chirco, however, admitted she did feel weird coming to work because her parents were union folks. "It's really challenging when good people on both sides of the table are trying to get to a solution that creates space for everyone, and both sides are doing the right thing for what they believe in," she told us from her office at City Hall. "It's just not the right situation."

In the Dark

You know those court dramas on TV where a prosecutor tries to win a case by undercutting the defendant? Well, it happens in real life too, and Supervising Deputy District Attorney JoAnne McCracken has gone on the attack, suggesting that a group of citizens appointed by the City Council isn't knowledgeable enough to get involved in law enforcement matters. Her recent letter to San Jose's Sunshine Reform Taskforce (SRTF) about their efforts to make police records more accessible dripped with prosecutorial prowess. She wrote 13 pages to make her case for closed police records and spent four of them attacking the SRTF's credibility. One particularly snarky paragraph exemplified McCracken's lowball tactic: "Our criminal justice system is complicated and it is common that people who lack expertise in the area may have misapprehensions about it. Statements made at some public meetings suggest that this may have occurred and influenced task force decisions. For example, one task force member mistakenly thought that most aspects of police investigatory files become public during a trial. Another member suggested that she favored the subcommittee's proposals because she would have used access to police records in a hiring decision. Yet another task force member remarked that the subcommittee's recommendations on police investigatory records were 'much more cautious than other ordinances we've read.' He also found it odd that many 'resisting arrest' charges do not involve an arrest on an underlying charge and cited this as a reason for greater access to police records. If there were no underlying charge, he wondered, how then could the suspect have 'resisted arrest'? These remarks reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the law and criminal justice system." Gee, if we didn't know better, we might think she was suing the 13 task force members, not debating public policy. Seriously, are any of McCracken's concerns about task force chit chat a reason to block better public access to police records? And is she seriously suggesting a task force formed to draft sunshine policy is unqualified to draft sunshine policy? At press time, SRTF members that Fly contacted weren't ready to comment on McCracken's letter before they heard the city attorney's official response. (Full disclosure: Metro CEO Dan Pulcrano is the group's vice chair and a proponent of a sunshine ordinance since 1998.) Commissioner Trixie Johnson said McCracken's missive raised "some serious issues" that she'll be willing to talk about later.

Tuesday Is Fight Night

The Committee for Little Saigon has a new name: The Committee to Fight for Little Saigon. And they are serious. So serious that the Vietnamese-American community plans to rally every Tuesday at City Hall. Until when? They aren't sure exactly. It could make for some more great political theater, since the movement to get the San Jose City Council to rename the newly christened Saigon Business District "Little Saigon" has numbers. More than 1,000 Vietnamese packed the GI Forum Sunday afternoon to decide whether or not they should work for a recall of Councilmember Madison Nguyen, the Vietnamese-American councilwoman who has been unwavering in her position supporting the unpopular Saigon Business District name. The group decided they will ask the council to reverse its decision and ask Nguyen to resign, both of which are unlikely to happen. Wait, did we say unlikely? Try "not a chance." In which case, the committee claims the Vietnamese-American community is ready to recall Nguyen. The Committee to Fight for Little Saigon has already collected $5,000 to retain a lawyer and start the recall process. Those checks have been coming in from all over the country, said Barry Hung Do, a member of the committee. "It's not about the naming anymore, it's about the pride that was violated," Do says. "That's why the Vietnamese community has taken it seriously."


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