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Elephant Hunting

A year ago, Pat Cuviello, a member of Citizens for Cruelty Free Circuses, found himself, along with Santa Cruz attorney Aaron Lodge and others, cited for trespassing at the Ringling Brothers circus at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Now, the Ringling Brothers show is back in the Bay Area, and Cuviello is making sure they remember him. Cuviello and friends already filed a lawsuit against the Pavilion and the circus six months ago ("The Caged Birds Sing," Feb. 5, 2004), and this time around, they obtained a court injunction to protest the circus at the Pavilion. The circus, which had its last show at the Pavilion on Sunday, is also in more hot water with Cuviello. Namely, a member of his group filmed a Ringling handler allegedly abusing an elephant while in Oakland earlier this month. "Our people filmed them viciously attacking an elephant," Cuviello tells Fly. "[The handler] grabbed a bull hook, walked to the side of her, backhands her on the back foot, then jabs her twice with the hook. Later, he goes back to the same elephant, and takes the bull hook like a tennis racket and swings at her two times." Oakland elephant expert Colleen Kinzley was quoted in the media as describing the handler's treatment of the elephant as "disturbing." Meanwhile, Cuviello kept after Ringling during the San Jose shows, complaining to the state's Fish and Game Department that the elephants were confined in violation of state law. "I actually did a surprise inspection yesterday," Kyle Kroll, a warden with Fish and Game, told Fly on Monday. "None of the violations showed up during my inspection." Cuviello, meanwhile, says Kroll showed up during the Animal Open House, which is the only time the circus lets the elephants out of their chains.

Bobbling Bush

San Jose resident Sam Schaeffer seems to have one-upped South Bay resident Kathy Eder, famous for her Operation Hidden Agenda playing cards ("Political Shuffle," July 10, 2003). The 78-year-old World War II veteran recently unveiled his own Bush-bashing collection: a collection of 10,000 bobblehead dolls that depict the sitting president of the United States astride an oil barrel and flashing a thumbs-up sign. The inscription on the base of the Bush bobblehead reads: "IT'S THE OIL STUPID" or "IT'S THE OIL DUDE." According to Schaeffer, he came up with the inspiration for the idea after watching news reports showing Bush's aircraft carrier landing last May. He hooked up with Menlo Park sculptor Rob Browne to design a prototype, subcontracted the manufacturing to China, and found himself with 10,000 dolls. At last count, Schaeffer, who has no qualms about making a profit on the deal, has sold almost 2,000 for $20 a pop. "You'll pick up real quick that I'm anti-Bush," Schaeffer tells Fly. "The first rendition had Bush with a beret on his head, but my wife said why don't you have him wear a cowboy hat?" As for his voting record, Schaeffer comes out as a moderate. "I usually pick the man, mostly Democrat," he explains. "I feel the time has come, and he should go, just for the sake of the country. There's quite a lot of good Republicans that could have been elected and done a better job."

Expanding and Contracting

Last April, the East Side Union High School District board of trustees voted to invoke an article of its collective bargaining agreement and suspend class size limits because of "extraordinary budget circumstances." The teacher's union was prepared to bring the issue to arbitration because of work overload. In June, trustee Patricia Martinez-Roach, a teacher in the Franklin McKinley School District, protested the increase in class sizes by refusing to sign the district's budget. School started districtwide last week. Teachers familiar with teaching classes of 30 discovered they had 40 students but, in some cases, only 35 desks. Two days after classes began, the board rescinded the move to invoke the collective bargaining agreement. Which means nearly every school in the district will have to hire at least one teacher when administrators begin reducing classes. Where, one teacher asks Fly, will they find the best candidates when they've all found jobs over the summer in other, more organized districts?

The Long Goodbye

Inspired, perhaps, by the summer Olympics, our very own lovable lefty, John Vasconcellos, is taking a victory lap around the state to say farewell after 38 long years in the legislature. For a week starting Sept. 1, Vasconcellos will travel from Sacramento through Rocklin, Auburn, Nevada City and Placerville, winding up in Wilbur Spring and Davis, visiting libraries, coffee shops and parks along the way. "We're probably not as familiar with him as we should be," says Jeff Morris, a Trinity County supervisor who co-owns Mamma Llama's coffee shop in Weaverville. "He's a Bay Area guy." Even so, Morris is expecting 100 people to show for a 7:30am curtain call, hoping to hear Vasconcellos say how legislators can learn to regain some of the collegiality from the old days. "They used to be able to argue on the floor and go out to dinner that night," Morris says. "That doesn't happen any more." Vasconcellos is expected to extend his influence well into retirement through several political nonprofits, the JV Legacy Project and the Politics of Trust.

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From the September 1-7, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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