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February 21-27, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Six Scandal

We knew things were getting messy in San Jose's District 6 race, but the hit piece that ran in the Merc on Saturday was just ridiculous. Reporter Joshua Molina dissected Pierluigi Oliverio's résumé with the help of Steve Tedesco backers and a few erroneous omissions of fact. The story's key source, nonprofit executive Kathleen Krenek, claims she isn't endorsing Tedesco (another nonprofit executive), despite the fact that her name is clearly listed as a supporter on Tedesco's campaign website. Wags around town have also seen her sporting the candidate's green and white buttons at campaign events. Subtle! Molina also jabs at Oliverio for his supposedly clandestine attempts at public office under a "different name." The scandalous truth: Oliverio went by "Pierre," a shorter version of his own name, because it's easier to pronounce. He ran unsuccessfully for school board when he worked as a teacher in 1992 and for City Council in 1994—two facts that Molina claims credit for "revealing" only recently. But Oliverio told the Merc's editorial board months ago, which they mentioned when they endorsed him before the November election. We don't know why the Merc is suddenly toeing Tedesco's line, but we'll tell you something the paper should have come clean about: Tedesco's wife, Karen Storey, used to work as a top manager in the paper's classified advertising department.

No More Green Cards?

California's Medical Marijuana ID Program is not issuing enough cards, and, consequently, not generating enough revenue to support itself. The state's remedy? Beginning in March, multiply the cost of purchasing ID cards by more than 1,000 percent, and charge $142 for a card that cost $13 last year. In fact, the total cost for residents in Santa Clara County will rise to more than $200. Something smells decidedly unshibby about this so-called solution. "It might be a way that the state is trying to curb the program," says Kevin Thibault, an entrepreneur and activist who runs Evolution Dispensary in Mountain View. The ID program—which, under California law S.B. 420, requires that every county "establish a medical marijuana ID program to issue optional ID cards to people with serious medical conditions and their caregivers"—is designed to make life easier for users confronted by skeptical authorities. Thibault points out that it's possible to obtain a generic doctor's approval letter online (the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 "prohibits any physician from being punished, or denied any right or privilege, for having recommended marijuana to a patient for medical purposes"), and that the program's main goal is to ensure that someone from the state verifies the letter's legitimacy. "It's a good idea," he says, "but it's optional—at $200, you'd be nuts to buy it." According to California Department of Health Services spokeswoman Michelle Mussuto, the price hike results from grossly inaccurate guesses made about the program originally: "When we first did estimates on how people would use the program in 2004, we predicted that 145,000 would buy the cards. To date, that number is closer to 10,000." She explains that only 24 of 58 counties joined the program. Why? "Because Proposition 215 requires that all counties participate in the program, but it doesn't give a deadline as to when." The price for ID cards is flexible, she says, but unless more counties and more individuals participate, the price will continue to go up. When asked about the program's future prospects, Mussuto declined to comment. But a press release from Assemblyman Mark Leno's office last week points to the ID program's potential fate. The headline reads: "Plan to Boost Patient Fees by nearly 1,000 percent threatens the collapse of the optional ID card program."

Don't Steal This Paper

While free alternative newspapers like Metro are perhaps the best source of news, entertainment and events in any given area such as Silicon Valley, there are admittedly many "alternative" uses for such publications—in a pinch, they can be used as kindling, lining for bird and hamster cages or packing material—all of which are downright rude. But don't even think of taking more than five copies in order to recycle, barter, hurt a business or prevent anyone from reading the paper, because such misuse of free newsweeklies is now a crime. Thanks to Assemblymember George Plescia, R-San Diego, and his superbadass A.B. 2612, it is now a crime for, say, Dianne Feinstein to drive around the South Bay picking up bundles of Metro to prevent people from reading Peter Byrne's exposé; about her connections to defense contractors. Fines and jail time await transgressors of the bill, which Gov. Schwarzenegger quietly signed into law late last year. Surprisingly, it was not one of the alt-weekly heavyweights that bent Plescia's ear. Rather, it was the Chula Vista Star that raised the ruckus after all 10,000 copies of its press run was stolen from its racks and taken to a recycling center in Mexico—not once or twice, but thrice. Meanwhile, in the San Gabriel Valley, the Epoch Times smelled something fishy about the way its paper, which they claim is known for "candid coverage of China's human rights violations," was flying off the racks. According to Epoch Times staff members, for 11 days they followed and photographed a balding, bespectacled Asian man who was stealing "thousands of newspapers from multiple distribution sites." We here at Metro rest easier knowing that he and any other free newspaper-stealing thief can now be fined up to $250 for their first offense, and after that, $500 and/or spend 10 days in a county jail. Nice one, Plescia!

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