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Silicon Valley News Notes

Bag Ban Passes Despite Threats

As last week's big, fat Best of Silicon Valley issue was going to press, the San Jose City Council was preparing to vote on the remarkably controversial plastic bag ban, which would put San Jose on the map as the biggest U.S. city to adopt such a measure. Following reports that a highly litigious attorney named Stephen Joseph, in the employ of plastic bag manufacturers, was threatening the council, Fly asked: 'Is Sam Liccardo bowing to pressure from the bag lobby? Or did those that pushed for this ban jump the gun ... because other big cities were doing it and they wanted to be a member of the cool crowd?" The answer, Fly is pleased to report, is: neither. Spurred by Liccardo, the council passed the measure 9-1 to take the first official step toward enacting a ban on plastic bags, with Pete Constant casting the lone "nay" vote and Rose Herrera absent. According to the new rules, single-use plastic bags will be banned throughout the city, with an exception made for restaurants and nonprofit businesses. Paper bags will be available, but only for a fee (10 or 25 cents per bag), and only if they are made of at least 40 percent recycled materials. The ban is not yet final. The city must still write an environmental review, determine how it will gauge the success of its new reusable bag program and win the support of other local cities—something that Liccardo himself spearheaded. Palo Alto has already banned single-usage bags, and officials from communities like Santa Clara and Milpitas have started discussing similar ordinances. That is important because many businesses and malls cross municipal lines. It will also help present a united front against aggressive pro–plastic bag advocacy groups, such as Joseph's Following the vote last Wednesday, a headline on that website stated, in the face of the facts, that "San Jose has not banned plastic bags" as a result of their written "demand." In 2007, was successful in getting Oakland to rescind its own plastic bag ban by threatening them with a lawsuit.

Taking the Safe Course

Larry Stone, who has not been shy about sharing his thoughts on reforming the public employee compensation and pension system lately, was similarly unrestrained when explaining to Fly why it had taken him a while to return a phone call last week. "I've been on a golf course for two days," he said, "and up where I am there is no reception at all." The Santa Clara county assessor and longtime Democratic political player said he is currently penning an op-ed on the subject of public employee salary abuse. "Its not that I'm anti-government," he said, "I've been in elective office for years. But the public is beginning to realize how out of control the public pension system is." Stone, who has a framed photo of the Three Stooges golfing hanging on the wall in his office, went on to say that he is concerned about the government not being up to par on who is misusing the system. He fears the public will catch on and react with a policy that would take away all public employee benefits and retirement. "I believe that people who work in government and in the public sector deserve competitive compensation ... but when you can retire with 90 percent of your salary at 50 years old, that's not reasonable," he said.

SJSU May Cease Poisoning Squirrels

In the past, San Jose State University had a humane way to deal with pesky squirrels—they trapped and released them, according to Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU's director of media relations. However, budget cuts recently forced the school to turn to more lethal methods when they no longer had the staff to check the traps. The result? Corpses strewn around the campus. That practice is about to come to an end. After years of routinely poisoning their population of bushy-tailed tree- and burrow-dwellers, the school administration is reportedly "looking into" humane alternatives to industrial strength rat poison as a form of squirrel population control. The campus has had a rampant ground-squirrel infestation for years now, with the little guys chewing away at landscaping and upturning lawns and building foundations. Since the grounds crew began baiting their fluffy nemeses in 2007, it has become a common sight to see little dead squirrel bodies sprinkled around campus in the morning. According to the Spartan Daily, the SJSU student newspaper, the choice method of termination is currently anticoagulants, which "essentially cause the animal victim to bleed to death throughout a period of a few days to a week." Dead or dying rodents flailing on the ground then become prey for predators like falcons and hawks, which in turn get poisoned.


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