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The Big One: Lockheed's smokescreen.

The Fly

Lockheed Spins High Schooler

It began simply enough, when Claudia Inda of Andrew Hill High School entered a districtwide essay-writing contest that coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The topic: sitting down at the table of brotherhood. Inda noticed that the contest happened to be sponsored by Lockheed Martin, a bona fide member of the military-industrial complex. Seeing this, Inda decided to write how companies that make things crash and burn prevented the human race from achieving Dr. King's dream. "I thought that if these kinds of corporations didn't exist maybe we could achieve Dr. King's table of brotherhood," Inda says. Her two-page essay won her school's contest. Then a strange thing happened. Weeks after the district contest, which was held in February, the phone rang at Inda's house. It was a Lockheed spokesman, offering Inda a trip to visit Lockheed to see what they "really" did, which wasn't making bombs but designing missiles. Inda was reluctant, she says, but her sister convinced her to go. She toured the Sunnyvale facilities with a group of other young people (but no one from her school or district) during "bring your kid to work day," April 22. Inda ate lunch and was shown Lockheed's soft side--satellites and NASA equipment. "When word got around our department, we were shocked," says her English teacher, Michael Winsatt. "We didn't think a high school essay could have that much impact on a multibillion-dollar corporation." Inda's tour was mostly positive, she says, though she did feel awkward at the beginning. "I was kind of freaked out, because they had my phone number," she says. "Then again, I have a paranoid personality." Maybe just skeptical and cautious, which are good attributes for the profession Inda intends to pursue: journalism. In fact, she's learned the first lesson of image control.

Boss Hog

If county management wore a bra, its size would be Double D, according to the December report on bureaucratic top heft known as the span-of-control study. Alert readers will recall this issue from a recent news story ("You're Fired!" April 21). A similar report released by the Palo Alto city auditor on April 20 reveals an even bustier problem that's shaking up everyone in charge. Whereas the county averages one supervisor for every nine underlings, Palo Alto's ratio is one to almost six, including temps. In her report, Palo Alto's diplomatic auditor, Sharon Erickson, calls these numbers "less than the ideal ratios of 1-to-15 or 1-to-25 advocated by contemporary governmental and management experts." It's looking pretty bad for administrators who seem to be rounding out the budget paunch in lean times. Says Erickson, "I think it's fair to say that managers in the city are nervous." Palo Alto's lowest-paid workers happen to be trying to renegotiate a contract with the city, which just expired last week. They're already ticked off by the City Council threatening to squeeze cash from their health benefits, and the boss boom doesn't sit well. "Having a bloated management is a way of getting around the issues that are important to union employees," opines Benjamin Holgate, an SEIU Local 715 organizer. Biff Schaefer, a wastewater treatment plant operator who participated at an employee rally at City Hall last week, told Fly he's dissatisfied with the city for apparently ignoring the audit. "They don't have to take from the lowest-paid workers," he insists. But what does Biff know? By his own admission, he isn't even a resident. "I live 45 miles away," he says. "I can't afford to live in Palo Alto."

Cut the Flat

In more disgruntled county-worker news, one information systems employee says that the Board of Supervisors violated her constitutional right to criticize them. One day last December, this dedicated worker went home and dashed off an email to the board. "As a taxpayer of Santa Clara County I was angered to find out about the fiscal irresponsibility when I was informed that [the] Health and Hospital Information Services department is replacing new flat-screen monitors which have already been purchased and installed with the older-style CRT monitors," the money-minded geek wrote. "I feel that it is necessary to try and cut frivolous spending throughout the county, and if such irresponsible practices are going on in our department what is happening countywide?" Rather than directing their response to the concerned taxpayer/county employee, board members sent the email to all of her co-workers for an online chat about flat screen computers. "My gut tells me no flat panels this year, period," declared one confident chatster. The rest of the comments from fellow computer techies are too boring to quote here. The worker who sent the letter believes supervisors on the board distributed the email to make an example of her and to embarrass her for being critical.

Gay and Lesbian Takeover

Gay and lesbians, at least according to Nam Nguyen, president of United Asian, are taking over. To Nguyen's dismay, these gay and lesbians even have their own "gay & lesbian TV Shows, Movies, Radio Talk Shows, [they're] in State Assembly, State Senate, U.S. Representatives, U.S. Senators, ..." Nguyen has elaborated on his views in a weekly 10,000-circulation newsletter. Fly, though, wondered how the impending Gay and Lesbian Takeover relates to Asian issues. "To me, I do not support the gay marriage," the Asian advocate told Fly. "I support the right to civil unions. But they're using the civil rights movement. They want equal rights. It would get them legally married. If they get legalized, they will impose their views upon our children. I think kids are too young to understand that kind of stuff." Fly then asked Nguyen to elaborate about what exactly kids are too young to understand. "Teaching kids about their sexual lifestyle," clarified Nguyen. "I don't want my son to be exposed to this type of stuff. If my father was gay, and if my mom was gay, I would never have been born." Nguyen goes on to say that out of his 10,000 readers, only one person found his views objectionable, and even that person understood after he explained that he, at least, supported civil unions. "I have nothing against gays and lesbians," concluded Nguyen. Fly hopes that will be the message that resonates with his kids.

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From the May 5-11, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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