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Silicon Valley News Notes

Nora's No-Shows

San Jose City Councilwoman Nora Campos wasn't shocked when Mayor Chuck Reed recommended to the council that she be removed from his gang task force. In fact, the District 5 representative was so prepared for what was coming that she didn't even bother to show up at the last task force meeting on Dec. 14. That's just the problem. According to Reed, part of his decision to replace Campos was that she was a no-show at meetings this year. "She didn't attend very many meetings," Reed said. "That was a factor." Reed staffers say Campos missed two of the six meetings; she was late to one and attended only half of another meeting. But Campos' staffers say she only missed one meeting when she was sick. And as for the Dec. 14 meeting? She had no reason to go, according to Ryan Ford, chief of staff for Campos. "I don't think missing a meeting when you know you have been removed qualifies," Ford said. In the same breath, Ford was emphatic about Campos' commitment to gang prevention citywide. Campos believes Reed took her off the task force because of their pubic discord over a recent vote to build a fire station in her district. Ford says the mayor took Campos aside after that vote and "threatened" to remove her from a leadership position, which the mayor says is not the way that conversation went. Still, a disappointed Campos didn't put up a fight before the council unanimously approved Reed's recommendation to replace Campos with Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, who the mayor claims is a better fit. "Its not a political issue, it's about community representation," Ford said.

Bullet Measure

So what if state planners finally picked a route for the California High Speed Rail through the Pacheco Pass? It's only a small victory for the bullet train. They can draw up all the plans they want, but in reality, the fate of the bullet train right now lies in the hands of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is considering asking the Legislature to remove a $10 billion bond for the bullet train from the November ballot, said Rod Diridon Sr., a member of the California High Speed Rail Authority Board. "We are realistic," Diridon said. "We know how popular he is"that would be a difficult campaign with the governor opposing the measure." But the bond is the only hope to begin a bullet train. Schwarzenegger says he supports high-speed rail, but he's also skeptical about how CHSRAB will come up with the rest of the money for the roughly $40 billion project. "Before we mortgage taxpayer dollars it's reasonable to expect the Authority to identify concrete ways to finance the project," said Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger. The bond has already been kicked off the ballot twice in the past and the project has suffered serious setbacks. Meanwhile, the Authority has spent millions planning for a bullet train here while the cost of the project has continued to increase. But Diridon says there's growing support for the bullet train, with private investors "chomping at the bit" to be a part of high-speed rail. "We are moving closer and closer," Diridon said.

Bye Said Ted

The bad news: Ted Smith, the high-tech watchdog largely responsible for busting the myth that Silicon Valley technology is clean, is stepping down from his post at the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. The good news: he hasn't forgotten the importance of good stewardship. On Jan. 1, Smith will hand off the running of the SVTC to the valley's next generation of environmentalists. Part of a multiyear transition plan, Smith says he wants to narrow his focus while the SVTC continues to work for a greener electronics industry and takes on emerging technologies. The group has plenty left to do: Superfund sites are the nation's worst toxic waste sites and Silicon Valley still has the highest concentration of them in the country. Smith, a lawyer, co-founded the SVTC in the 1980s when he helped San Jose residents hold Fairchild and IBM responsible for polluting groundwater that caused birth defects and miscarriages in their neighborhood. "We thought originally that the problem was cleaning up groundwater pollution," says Smith. "We didn't realize that it wasn't just the groundwater that was toxic, it was the air, it was the workplace environment and it was the working conditions." As the tech industry moved to other parts of the world, SVTC contacted global locals, helping them organize against what Smith calls the collateral damage of the high-tech revolution. "It turns out the footprint of the industry involves worker health and safety problems, birth defects, miscarriages, cancer, groundwater contamination, air pollution and few employee rights," says Smith. "If workers try to organize to protect themselves, they're usually fired." Smith will continue to work with the International Campaign for Responsible Technology, a collaborative global network of groups working to improve the environment, health and labor rights in the global electronics industry.  He's also chairman of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, and his New Year's wish is that everyone who gets a new TV from Santa visits and disposes of their old one responsibly. "As people who have lived through the high-tech revolution with all of its benefits and warts," Smith says, "We have to make sure the people see the warts as well as the whiz bang."

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