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Silicon Valley News Notes

Hammer Time

Just when is San Francisco attorney Jim Hammer going to get the guts to run for office? The 45-year-old legal hotshot and television commentator loves juggling high-profile cases but has already passed up two opportunities to land Northern California's most visible law enforcement jobs. A wag reminded Fly that Hammer was throwing around the idea of succeeding former Santa Clara County District Attorney George Kennedy (who retired last year) but never filed papers. Then the ambitious lawyer raised eyebrows at the local DA's office, where he used to work as a prosecutor in the 1990s, when he took a gutsy stance against newly elected DA Dolores Carr by championing the alleged De Anza rape victim. He is representing the girl and her friends (who say they witnessed part of the incident at a rowdy college party) and told reporters that his pro bono clients have "completely lost faith in the system." Ahem, the "system" would be Carr, who declined to prosecute the rape case last spring, citing a lack of evidence. So is this all about Hammer trying to scratch his political itch? He told us that it is nothing personal with Carr—he accepted the case because he was moved by the witnesses' story. "I respect Dolores Carr," Hammer said. "Two prosecutors can disagree on the same set of facts." Last month, Hammer told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had considered trying to replace San Francisco DA Kamala Harris but wasn't ready "for the personal level of politics."

Little Diddy

Nightlife in downtown San Jose might be dysfunctional, but maybe all it needs is a new Diddy. P. diddy, that is. When the hip-hop superstar P. Diddy was looking for an assistant, Milan Balinton's friends urged him to apply for the position. "They said, 'You're like the Little Diddy in San Jose," says 25-year-old Balinton, a junior at San Jose State University who currently sits on the board of the African American Community Service Agency, is a member of the National Pan-Hellenic Council for Historically African American Fraternities and Sororities, is president of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, and president of the local chapter of the Collegiate 100 Black Men, among other activities. His impressive credentials speak volumes about his diplomatic skills, which he employed recently at a Hospitality Zone meeting organized by the San Jose Downtown Association and the Responsible Hospitality Institute. University Housing Services director Susan Hansen asked Balinton to represent students in general and minorities in particular, which he did at a moment's notice. At the meeting, Balinton brought up familiar issues like insufficient parking and police mistreatment. "Security is usually OK with clubs, but the police sit outside and look at people all crazy," says Balinton. "There was a consensus that the police should be taking some interpersonal classes," he adds, smiling. "I understand they're trying to protect lives—my dad's a cop in the San Francisco Police Department. But at the same time, their approach can be changed." Balinton says his fraternity throws all its parties at clubs in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Mountain View, despite the fact that most of its members live in downtown San Jose. Balinton says downtown clubs are both expensive to rent and often require a minimum bar tab, which forces would-be party throwers to promote heavy drinking so they don't get stuck with the bill. Ever the problem solver, "Little Diddy" has been kicking around the idea of opening a club of his own. "I've been discussing opening something like I've seen in New York, something comfortable and classy, like Jay-Z's 40/40," says Balinton. Classy in San Jose? It just might work ...

The Big Stink

Did you get a whiff of that smelly odor lingering in downtown San Jose last week? If you did, you could have followed the stench all the way to the Hilton Hotel, which apparently suffered from "repeated sewage overflows," according to a city worker who caught an unpleasant and unexpected nose-full while walking by the upscale hotel. When inspectors from the Environmental Services Department went to check it out, they discovered that the hotel's pipes were backed up with cooking grease, fats and oils and coming from the ground-floor bar and grill. The Hilton's corroded pipes were quickly replaced to avoid an embarrassing stink. San Jose relator Lindsey Wolf says the predicament could have happened to the best of hotels. "When you have a facility with a restaurant or something that uses fats, oils and grease, there's potential for developing blockages that create odors or worse ... sewer backups," Wolf said. Just a few months ago, for example, residents in Evergreen complained of a foul scent that turned out to be caused by clogged pipes at a nearby restaurant.

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