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February 1-7, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes


Howard Dean paid a surprise visit to Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone last week, giving the local office staff only one-hour's notice to scramble together preparations. The former presidential candidate (whom Stone didn't support) and current Democratic national chairman dropped by "to chat" with the county official, who has contributed more than a half-million dollars to democratic candidates in the past 12 years and co-founded the Democratic Forum of Silicon Valley in 1988. The assessor is up for re-election this fall, but Dean's interest, apparently, had nothing to do with campaigning. Stone says that the national figure is an "engaging" conversationalist and just as boisterous as he appeared on TV when he was running for president. The two mulled over memories for an hour. The assessor boasted that he had spent a night in the White House to hang out with Bill Clinton just before he left office. Dean said he was also charmed when he met with the former president in 2000 to ask for his endorsement (which, unfortunately, he didn't receive). Then they got down to business: chewing the chew over how the Democrats can regain power in the House and Senate. They agreed that the party needs to start talking about "a vision" that the American people can relate to. Fly wonders what role Stone can play in a Demo assault on Washington since he is but the local authority on property-tax values, but whatever—now he's got another friend in high places. "It was really fun," Stone says.

Dueling DAs

Prosecutors make a living off pointing fingers, so it's no wonder that they've resorted to exactly that schoolyard tactic in the race for Santa Clara County district attorney. The heat from a Merc investigation on the DA's office, which revealed pitfalls in the criminal justice system, has turned campaigning into a blame game, with candidates trying to position themselves as outsiders in order to get a better finger-aim. The funny thing is, none of them really are. At a recent forum held at the Billy DeFrank LBGT Community Center, Deputy District Attorney Jim Shore sounded off with an oxymoron: promising to be nonpolitical in a political race. "I'm just an ordinary guy who believes that politics have no place in the DA's office," he said, distancing himself from criticism as a nonmanager. He used the same strategy as Superior Court Judge Dolores Carr, who worked as a supervising deputy district attorney from 1985 to 2000. "It's time to bring new energy to the DA's office," Carr declared, pretending to be that fresh alternative and making the most blunt attack (just short of naming names) on Chief Assistant DA Karen Sinunu. "That person has no business running for office," Carr said. Sinunu, the highest-level manager, with George Kennedy's endorsement, has become the prime target for critics rooting out problems in the agency. Sinunu, ironically, aided in the three-year Merc investigation that is now coming back to bite her in the political arena. She held her own at the forum, sticking to self-congratulation for her brave attempts in getting hate-crime enhancements (which didn't, in fact, succeed). Assistant DA Marc Buller, another high-level manager, couldn't find a plausible excuse to side with the enemy. So he mustered a sober smile and said, "I'm proud to be a member of the district attorney's office." Fly was about to leave when Shore, thankfully, brought things back to reality. "Nobody on this panel has all the answers to fix the criminal system," he said, "and anyone who says they do is full of it."

Go Tell It to the Spartans

Spartan Bookstore at San Jose State University went on the offensive last week and called the cops on Tom Pack, an attorney who was out in front of the store promoting a rival business, Beat the Bookstore, of which he is the assistant manager. You see, Spartan Shops doesn't allow promotion of any competition on campus property. The university fuzz immediately descended upon the scene and cited Pack for unlawful solicitation. When he made a stink, they slapped him with a noncompliance charge. Spartan Bookstore director Tony Sanjume would not comment, except to say that SJSU has a no-solicitation policy for commercial off-campus businesses and was just following those regulations by notifying the campus police. Talk about smashing the competition. Geez. Of course, there just happened to be a Spartan Daily photographer right there at the time, and Beat the Bookstore just happens to employ at least one Spartan Daily staff member. And then on Jan. 25, the Spartan Daily ran an article spinning the whole thing in favor of Beat the Bookstore. Beat the Bookstore then bought a $12.99 SJSU shirt—from Spartan Bookstore—and wrote "I got arrested at" right above the SJSU logo and then stuck it in their window the day after the article came out. Fly thinks it all smells like a ridiculous publicity stunt. The hysteria originated last semester when the Student Union sent Pack packing from in front of the building because his table was soliciting for a competitor of Spartan Shops, which, again, isn't allowed. He had also rented the table under the guise of his law firm, so no one knew what he was up to in advance. "[They] were soliciting for a competing business on what is essentially our turf," said a source at Spartan Shops who asked to remain anonymous. "Any vendors must be cleared by us, to make sure they're not selling SJSU logo merchandise ... or whatever might infringe on our ability to make a profit. It's the same way McDonald's would react if you tried to sell Whoppers in their parking lot." Pack himself did not return a call for comment.

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