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February 28-March 6, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Red Scare

There are a few things we dig from the '50s. Allen Ginsberg. I Love Lucy. Formica. But of all the things to make a comeback, Red-baiting? Kinda felt like it when two Vietnamese opponents in San Jose's District 4 race started throwing around the "C" word. Candidate Bryan Do declared publicly that his rival, Hon Lien, "is not a communist," while insinuating that her multimillion-dollar corporation overseas could be receiving kickbacks from the Vietnamese government. Although he has no evidence, he questioned her alleged evasiveness about the extent of her business in the Asian country. "The controversy is there; there's no question about that," Do says, but told Fly he didn't want to be labeled as the finger-pointer. Still, Lien's supporters Ho Truong and Duyen Nguyen are calling his digit fully extended—and calling his tactics "inappropriate" and "disrespectful." "Give me a break, I don't think so," Truong said. "I have been with the Vietnamese community for many, many years. The refugees here are so much against everyone related to the communist party." Lien's family escaped communist Vietnam in 1978, and her father died of a stroke shortly after he "delivered them to freedom" in the United States, according to her website. "I'm not in anyway connected to the Communist Party, and they all know that," Lien snapped. "I'm not going to focus on clearing my name because that's what they want me to do. I'm not going to fall for it."

District Switch

Lots of revisionist thinking in the run-up to the District 6 election. The Mercury News got cold feet about its endorsement of Pierluigi Oliverio and went with Steve Tedesco. And in a move that local political consultant Jay Rosenthal said was highly unusual, the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce's political arm COMPAC reinterviewed the two candidates for last month after backing Tedesco. (Click here for Metro's endorsement.) Rosenthal said his former client Sam Liccardo won the chamber's endorsement with no second interview after he made the runoff last summer and speculated that renewed questioning might have come up because "Oliverio did better than anybody expected in the primary." But lame duck Chamber spokesman Bob Hines (he's leaving for Solectron) says second interviews are policy and the group's endorsement of Tedesco is strong. "Steve did a great job," he says. OK, but there's still the matter of Tedesco's exit from the chamber's presidency. When Jim Cunneen took over from him in 2001, he vowed to bring more energy to the business group. "Too many people see the chamber as a staid, slow-moving organization," Cunneen told the news media. Meanwhile, back in the 'hood, Tedesco has been picking on Oliverio's long-ago stint as a paperboy, comparing it to his own veteran political experience in a flier his supporters are circulating. "It's a little heavy-handed," says District 6 resident Rebecca Feind. She says she got creeped out when someone left the flier on her doorstep with an anonymous handwritten note asking her to reconsider her support. "If they really want to persuade me, they should tell me who they are," she says. Apparently, she won't be removing the two Oliverio signs from her front yard.

Information Breakdown

In a groundbreaking discussion Saturday at City Hall, the Sunshine Reform Task Force met to consider whether local police and public officials should continue to shield their public records from public view. The issue has been snowballing since Californians Aware (CalAware) made routine requests to 216 police agencies to see just how hard it was to get police documents—pretty hard, as it turns out. In fact, San Jose received an F-minus grade on records requests, alongside Berkeley, Oakland, San Mateo, Sacramento and others. In particular, CalAware pointed to problems at the SJPD's "records windows"—namely, hours that are limited and require psychic powers to figure out. Even CalAware's auditor was turned away because "she was not there at the right time"—even though the time in question was during regular business hours. Rick Callender, president of the Silicon Valley NAACP, said Saturday's SRT Force meeting was significant because it was the first time that police openness has been discussed in a public forum at city hall. "We're looking for data that would help us understand discriminatory practices," Callender said. "In October 2005, we were told that local police were stopping every African American in downtown. We asked for police records from that date, and they couldn't—wouldn't—provide anything because they said their computers had broken down. There's no excuse for that. And it's good that we were able to bring our concerns into the open." At Saturday's session, Capt. Gary Kirby, of the San Jose Police Department, addressed such issues, stating that there's too much information to collect, and not enough money to collect it: "We voluntarily created a website" for this purpose, he said, though he also expressed concern that releasing reports might hypothetically affect progress in active investigations. "Hypothetical fears aren't actually a problem," said Sanjeev Bery, of the San Jose ACLU. "We just want the ability to review officer reports after they've used force."

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