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August 22-28, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Civil War

"A person should have the right to say Liccardo is an idiot." Councilman Sam Liccardo knows better than to set us up like that, but he was wrapped up in the point he was trying to make at last Tuesday's City Council meeting when he said it. And check this out, we're not even going to take the bait, because you know what? It's the dawning of a new era of civility in San Jose, and far be it from us to stand in the way of progress. That's right, San Jose city leaders are cracking down on mean language and abusive behavior at City Hall. At last week's meeting, the council agreed to the new set of rules aimed to make San Jose meetings more civilized—in other words, no more disrupting city meetings with your hissing and booing or else the mayor might toss you out or even have you arrested. Initially, the new guideline stated that abusive language would not be tolerated. But councilmembers debated whether that language went too far in terms of restricting residents from their First Amendment rights. So the group tweaked the resolution to read "abusive language is not appropriate." City Attorney Rick Doyle says it's not just a constitutional issue—the city also has the right to adopt some guidelines that will help officials keep public meetings from spiraling out of control, he says. City officials decided six months ago to strengthen its code of conduct after one local whack job dumped a bucket of dirt and mold at the council podium during a public meeting. "The fact they can dump something there in front of lot of people raises concerns," Doyle said. Aside from no more mean words, individuals also can't chew gum, eat or drink anything other than bottled water with a cap in the chambers. Oh, and no hairspray, tools, corkscrews, large backpacks and suitcases carrying items that are unrelated to the meeting. "I have been in the audience where I felt threatened," Councilwoman Judy Chirco said. "If you have audience yelling from the seats it doesn't engender comfort." And isn't the democratic process all about making our elected officials as comfortable as possible? By the way, Liccardo is an idiot.

Invasion San Jose

Not everyone knows that Silicon Valley plays host to one of the top UFO conventions in the country. But for the ninth year in a row, UFO researchers, seekers, abductees and other enthusiasts will be drawn by an inexplicable force to the BAY AREA UFO EXPO in San Jose (OK, the email list helps). The experts at the Doubletree Hotel this weekend will include SEAN-DAVID Morton, an authority on both Area 51 and the goat-sucking Chupacabra, and Dr. Roger Leir, who researches alien implants when not practicing podiatry. The expo attracts somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 visitors of the earthling variety each year, and God knows how many spies from Alpha Centauri. Expecting a saucer-eyed believer behind the event, Fly was pleasantly surprised to talk with founder and executive producer VICTORIA JACK, who proved to be a charming and decidedly down-to-earth woman who admits to never having actually seen a UFO. Her lifelong interest in extraterrestrial activity was sparked by her father, ROY FORTNER, a commercial truck driver who often regaled his family with stories of UFO sightings while out on the road. Jack, who was an accountant in her pre-expo life, became a regular attendee of events like ConspiracyCon and the international UFO conference in Las Vegas, from which she'd bring her father T-shirts and videos. Fortner passed away a decade ago—while watching a video about UFOs, no less. A year later, a friend talked Jack into producing a UFO expo in Santa Clara, which took off immediately and has become, she says, the most populous UFO conference. "I like to have a forum for all these people to talk," says Jack, "It's gotten to be like a family." If so, this year's crazy uncle will be UFO enthusiast GARY BUSEY, who will be in attendance.

First Shall Be Last

Fly is just plain sick of tripping over this beautification project along South First Street, which has turned the entrances of several businesses including Metro into something out of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome over the last few months. The $684,000 streetscape project was supposed to be done weeks ago, but there are still lingering orange cones and patches of dirt along the street. City officials explained to Fly that they are waiting for PG&E crews to finish off the last leg of the project. Also, the "artsy" pedestrian lights the city ordered especially for this street haven't arrived. Meanwhile South-Firsters have been stepping around construction crews and orange cones and walking along makeshift sidewalks for the last four months. "It did seem like forever," said Cathy Kimball, executive director of the ICA, a museum that recently relocated here. In fact, South First Street businesses have been waiting for a more attractive streetscape since the early 1990s, when the city first drew up a plan to beautify downtown for pedestrians. No word yet on what's going to happen to the area's curbs—for example, there is probably no longer any need for a long yellow curb in front of the Quilt Museum. That was there for the trucks that unloaded at the defunct Community Thrift Store. And the curb cut in front of the renovated but empty former Earl Scheib could be a parking spot, as the driveway is now a glassed-in window. The white curb in front of DeCarolis Design was for the Victorian House (a.k.a. Pasquale's) restaurant, which closed a decade ago. You get the picture. Doesn't someone get paid to monitor this stuff? It's kind of a surprise the city hasn't jumped on the chance to put in more meters to support those underfunded police and fire pension plans.

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