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January 31-February 6, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Angry Ball Of Blog?

Longtime resident James Rowen is blogging local Santa Clara politics with a page he calls Mission City Lantern, but one of his regular targets says he's got a hidden agenda. Rowen, who describes his blog as the "John Stewart show" of blogs," has been using it to cement an outsider status, despite his insider history as a political consultant for Santa Clara politicians, including Councilmember Kevin Moore. "Santa Clara politics is made up of people I dearly love," says Rowen. "I just think that sometimes they don't reach their own potential." Moore, the powerful Santa Clara councilmember noted for his prominent role in attempting to lure the 49ers to Santa Clara, has another take. "He used to be a pretty good guy," says Moore, who has found himself a repeat Lantern target. "Now, he's very bitter. You know what he is? He's an angry ball of hate." Moore says that he believes Rowen is using his blog to "bully" people to get a seat on Santa Clara's Planning Commission. Rowen, meanwhile, says he's shocked by Moore's attitude toward him. "Bitter? Hateful? I'm not trying to bully anybody," responds Rowen. "What I think is hilarious about Kevin is that if he ran for office, I'd endorse him. The question is if I ran for office, would he endorse me?"

What Is SNI PAC Anyway?

Panera Bread on Coleman and West Taylor is the new early morning meeting place for San Jose City Council members, staffers, police officers, sheriffs and the Alameda Business Association. Sighted this past Friday were former mayors Susan Hammer and Ron Gonzales, who's a regular. A Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Project Advisory Committee work group meets there Fridays at dawn. Since the SNI PAC has become such a big player of late, the acronym is being tossed around a lot. Now's a good time to explain where it came from and where it's going. Dozens of neighborhood associations—Willow Glen's, for instance, and the Campus Community Association—have been around for decades. The SNI Neighborhood Advisory Committee and its PAC were formed in 1999 so volunteer neighborhood representatives could help the Redevelopment Agency prioritize and implement SNI projects in the city's rundown areas. They've evolved over the last two years into a City Council advisory group. Last year, then-Councilman Chuck Reed proposed including all residents' participation in city government by expanding the SNI model, minus the RDA funds, to include the entire city. So when the SNI PAC sunsets this June it will morph into a Neighborhoods Commission (NC) that represents all neighborhoods, not just the 22 SNI redevelopment project areas. They're planning lots of outreach to get representatives from all of the city's neighborhood associations and they'll help unrepresented neighborhoods form associations. Beth Shafran-Mukai, the chairwoman of the NC work group, says that neighborhoods will caucus by council district and elect volunteer commissioners to the NC which will be seated January 2008. The NC won't be an additional layer of government, but a way for all neighborhoods to give input to the City Council, city manager and RDA. "All over the city there are neighborhoods that aren't part of the process." she says, "They have the right to an effective relationship with the city."

Gore Score

Joint Venture is bringing Al Gore to San Jose Friday for its annual "State of the Valley" conference—just as Rolling Stone publishes an article practically begging him to run in 2008. The guy's hot—greenhouse gases hot, even. At the convention, the former vice president will give a keynote speech about the Bay Area's potential for alternative energy. Meanwhile, Joint Venture's new study suggests Silicon Valley is seeing green in more ways than one—its 64-page "2007 Silicon Valley Index" found the median household income rose 6.5 percent last year to $76,300. Welcome news indeed after a 13 percent decline from 2001 to 2004. But what's with the 86 percent high school graduation rate, a 3 percent drop and the worst academic showing in its weight class since 1998? Also rather dire is the study's finding that 26 percent of Silicon Valley first-time real estate buyers (and 25 percent of California buyers as a whole) had enough in the bank to buy a median-priced home in 2006. It's a grim Bay Area statistic when compared to the 44 percent who could afford such a home three years prior. Although not everyone seems to be oozing green, the dotcom bust is now considered officially behind us, thanks to clean technologies and the sprouting of Web 2.0 giants like YouTube. With emigration from the valley down 40 percent, the green generation could be here to stay.

Pretty Insecure

Santa Clara County may see more Homeland Security dollars now that Congress has promised to reform how they're doled out. This month, House Democrats drafted new legislation that would shift money from rural areas to major cities, which were inexplicably being underfunded. Sort of reminds you why the feds got a failing grade (including five big fat "F"s) on their last report card from the 9/11 Commission, when it rated their efforts to improve preparedness. The county may not be getting much, but here at the office we're absolutely swimming in crazy little color-coded handbooks the Department of Homeland Security sent out listing in excruciating detail all the bad things that can happen to the unsuspecting citizens of Silicon Valley. Chemical agents, nerve agents, choking agents—they're all listed here in brightly colored displays without any useful information for dealing with anything outside of seeking treatment. It's all about as relevant as an orange alert. But hey, if the terrorists attack, everyone come on down and we'll hand out booklets to throw at them.

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