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April 12-18, 2006

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Time to Talk

The sight of San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle whispering to councilmembers at last Friday's study session on Coyote Valley was the visual equivalent of the sound of the other shoe dropping in the long awaited investigation of the council's role in the Norcal garbage contract scandal. Doyle, our supersecret sources say, was arranging for several members of the council to be served with subpoenas about what they knew, and when. Although the council on Dec. 14 voted 9-2 to end its investigation, a civil grand jury still thinks there's more to uncover. Fly has confirmed that Councilmembers Linda Lezotte and Chuck Reed were served, and we'll bet a hundred bucks that Cindy Chavez got paperwork too, but the sunshine queen's staff didn't return our calls and emails on Monday. We'll bet double that amount that the mayor's been served, but we didn't bother calling, since the last time Ron Gonzales returned our call was eight years ago when he needed our endorsement. Sources who have seen the docs say the grand jury wants all communications about Norcal, the Teamsters, the Longshoremen, Recycle Plus, rate hikes or the RFP that took place between the subpoenaed party and any of those entities, as well as the mayor and the South Bay Labor Council. "I got served," Reed says. He'll cough up documents Wednesday morning and testify in the afternoon. Councilman Dave Cortese said on Monday he hasn't been subpoened but supported the inquiry. "They need to keep getting testimony," he say. "Especially sworn testimony."

Trouble Next Door

Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence in North San Jose tags itself as the county's most "comprehensive" domestic violence service agency. But the parents of 14-year-old Joel Beltran say they can barely comprehend their son's recent experience there. Beltran, a quiet, good-looking eighth-grader at John Muir Middle School, was court-ordered to attend a Next Door 26-week counseling program on Gish Road after a disagreement with a former girlfriend led to a domestic violence charge (Beltran's parents say their son never struck the girlfriend). On Feb. 10, less than a third of his way though the counseling program, Beltran's mother dropped him off at his weekly counseling session. Almost immediately after she left, Beltran was jumped by an older, unidentified male. According to a police report, Beltran's assailant asked Beltran if he belonged to a gang; when Beltran answered in the negative, he was punched in his mouth and nose and taken down, until the one-sided fight was broken up by people already inside the counseling session who heard the noise. The assailant escaped in a white van. The problem, according to Beltran's parents, is what happened after the assault. Despite Beltran's battered nose, his swollen lip and the bruise on his forehead, Beltran's parents contend that officials from Next Door failed to call the 14-year-old's parents and simply waited until his mother came back a couple hours later to pick her son up from his counseling session to inform her about the assault. Then, his parents continue, instead of cooperating with the Beltrans to help them figure out who their son's assailant was, Next Door abruptly terminated Beltran from their counseling program, forcing him to begin another, more expensive 26-week counseling course from scratch. Kathleen Krenek, Next Door's director, disputes that Next Door kicked Beltran out and writes off the assault as gang-related. "[Young men] are not supposed to wear any gang paraphernalia," Krenek tells Fly (Beltran was wearing baggy black Dickie pants at the time). "This young man and the other young man came early and got into an altercation over gang-related things." Krenek goes on to argue that Next Door did call Beltran's parents, but, when told by Fly that both parents deny that version of events, says that Beltran himself "did not himself give us much indication that this was something he took seriously," which, she explained, was why Next Door did not call. In the police report, however, the investigating officer notes that Beltran took the issue very seriously, wanting to pursue prosecution against his assailant. For an organization focused on the victims of violence, Beltran's parents find it more than a little odd that Next Door pushed their son out the door. "They just categorize this as gang-related because my son wears baggy clothes," an outraged Leon Beltran, Joel Beltran's father, tells Fly. "Joel's not in a gang, but Next Door's closing the door on us."

The Terrorists Are Here! Not!

The pristine grounds of Stanford University evidently escaped a close call last week—at least according to Patrick Leahy, an enterprising reporter for the university's student paper, the Stanford Daily. In an article published this past Friday, Leahy, in the tradition of Paul Revere's gallant midnight gallop to warn of impending danger, breathlessly reported that not only was Stanford's campus to be the host of an incendiary speaker who has, in the past, been documented to show "support for the Unabomber" and also "help[s] terrorist groups like the Communist Party of India," but that the speaker's visit to Stanford was sponsored by a shadowy organization that "give[s] space to Islamic terrorists." So now you're thinking they must have invited Osama bin Laden himself, right? Relax. Leahy's alarming account of various terror strains coalescing at Stanford loses some—OK, all—of its scare power when you realize the speaker with alleged links to the Unabomber and leftist terror groups in India is Biju Mathew, an associate professor in the computer information systems department at Rider University in New Jersey. Mathew is most known for his critically acclaimed book, Taxi! Cabs and Capitalism in New York City, published by the New Press in 2005. The shadowy organization with alleged ties to Islamic terrorism that is sponsoring Mathew's visit, meanwhile, is the local South Asian group Friends of South Asia (FOSA), a hodgepodge of mostly secular-leaning South Asian Hindus and Muslims—university students, Silicon Valley engineers moonlighting as activists, etc.—who regularly organize local vigils, poetry readings, films and speaker events relating to South Asian issues. So just where did the intrepid Leahy get his information linking Mathew and FOSA to terrorism? From a source who apparently convinced Leahy that the dangers of terror were so great that anonymity was granted. An email to Leahy from Fly for comment went unanswered—Leahy was, perhaps, too busy uncovering the next terror plot threatening Silicon Valley. The Mathew event, meanwhile, was canceled at the last minute when an anonymous source alerted Stanford that FOSA had not followed the correct protocol to book the room.

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