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I Brake for Arnold: The sheriff has a new personalized ride.

Public Eye

SHRF4EVR

In the next few weeks, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department expects to land a spendy new ride--a crime-fightin' chopper. In a Feb. 5 press release, Sheriff Laurie Smith thanked the county Board of Supervisors "for their unanimous (4-0) decision [Sup. Blanca Alvarado was absent] on her request for a helicopter to aid in public safety." But she'll have her own lasting thank-you emblazoned on the criminal-chasing noisemobile from now on in the form of a vanity plate. Well, the helicopter version of one, anyway--a vanity U.S. registry number that reads: N621LS. What does that stand for, Sheriff? "My birthday is June 21," Smith tells Eye, audibly smiling over the phone, adding, "and my initials." Turns out Smith is not the only law enforcement type to get personal with publicly funded plates. Other departments have done it, too. The San Jose Police Department's helicopter registry number, N408DC, pays tribute to late officer and pilot Desmond Casey. (N simply starts off all U.S. registry numbers, and 408 is San Jose's area code.) Casey died in a helicopter crash on Oct. 25, 1999, which was caused by a mechanical failure, says Casey's friend and former flight student Sgt. Gary Hirata, also a pilot with the SJPD's Air Support Unit. Hirata tells Eye that it doesn't cost anything to pick the number, it just takes the Federal Aviation Administration's approval. (Of course, the same can't be said for running a chopper. Smith estimates flying the bird costs about $250 an hour and, based on 1,000 hours of flight time a year, requires another $50,000 for operating costs.) "I didn't know you could do that," Smith says, referring to the personalized copter tag. She notes that her car doesn't have personalized plates. "The factory offered. I was flattered." No word yet on whether the sheriff's officers will be applying the new "Laurie Kicks Ass" bumper stickers to county vehicles.

Arnold & Yarnold

Eye caught Smith, the county's top gun, when she was at San Jose's airport, waiting for hasta-la-vista-baby actor
Arnold Schwarzenegger to arrive. The two were heading over to the Mercury News to stump for Proposition 49, which became news for the Merc the next morning, Friday, Oct. 4. "Actor visits area to pitch initiative," the Merc announced in its headline. The star-struck daily lead off its story with this hard-boiled description: "A tanned and jovial Arnold Schwarzenegger is pressing flesh instead of pumping iron these days, greeting folks in schools, shopping malls and media outlets to build support for his ballot initiative to add $430 million in state money for after-school programs." Eye heard Merc exec ed David Yarnold on KQED on Monday, Oct. 7, promising a caller that the paper intends to focus on real people in upcoming articles. No word on whether they'll be getting a sheriff's escort out to Ridder Park Drive.

Doubting Thomas

The fascinating adventures of white people are unfolding in the pages of Metro. Last week, a letter praising Mayor Ron Gonzales for bringing the "James Fallon statue" to San Jose appeared on our very own letters page. The emailed letter, dated Sept. 20, was attributed to Stephen A. McNallen--understandably, since it said "Sincerely, Stephen A. McNallen" at the bottom. It turns out, however, that Fallon's first name is actually Thomas, and that McNallen, a Nevada City resident and president of the San Francisco-based European/American Issues Forum, did not write the letter. "I'm just vaguely aware that there's an issue involving the statue," McNallen explains. Actually, Louis Calabro, the Forum's Bay Area representative, wrote the letter. Calabro says he signed it with McNallen's name "to honor the president." He also wrote "by Louis Calabro" underneath McNallen's name. But this was no innocent mix-up, according to San Jose lawyer and whites-rights activist Dale Warner. "This is a fraud," he says. Beyond the fact that the wrong author got credit for the letter, Calabro thanked Gonzo for having "fulfilled a campaign promise," which really irked Warner. "Ron Gonzales has not done one thing he said he was going to do," Warner asserts. Warner says that the European/American Issues Forum endorsed and even campaigned for Gonzo during his 1998 mayoral campaign, in part because he pledged not to try to bring Fallon--by various interpretations a 19th-century wife beater, alky, oppressor of Mexicans and/or flag raiser--to San Jose. In a 1998 candidate survey, the forum asked, "What do you think should be done with the Fallon statue that is now in an Oakland warehouse? As European Americans, we do not view this large-scale representation as reflecting our diverse European American cultures in San Jose." The mayor-to-be answered, "Unlike the Liberty Bell and other icons, the Fallon statue is an extremely divisive symbol in our community. I would not initiate efforts that would reopen the wounds of the past debate." ... That was the right answer from Warner's perspective. "We never liked Fallon," Warner says. "We don't want him to represent European Americans" because, he explains, Fallon was "a philandering drunk." Calabro's take, on the other hand, is that Gonzales did the right thing by changing his mind. "If he supports diversity, of course he supports putting the Fallon statue where it is," Calabro says. As of presstime, Gonzo spokespiece David Vossbrink hadn't returned Eye's calls for further enlightenment.

He-Roes, She-Roes

Last week, Eye was passing some time in San Jose's City Hall--generally a happy place--and came across a touching tribute to New York's fallen firefighters in the waiting area outside the City Council members' offices. It was a coffee-table-sized book with striking pictures of fire stations laced with flowered memorials to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. The book, Brotherhood--loaned to the councilmembers' waiting area by Cambrian district Councilmember and retired firefighter John DiQuisto's staffer Jack Salois--also contained photos of mournful-looking men suited up to put out flames and save people from burning buildings. "The New York City Firefighters who lost their lives will be remembered among the greatest heroes of American History," read the introduction. But among these greatest heroes, Eye noticed, were no women. Surely, New York has female firefighters? Yes, it does, confirms a heavily nu-yawk-accented spokesfireman Mike Loughran. Twenty-eight in the city's roughly 11,000-member department, to be exact. None of the women were among the 343 fire and other service people killed on Sept. 11. Despite the fact that women have been allowed into the department since 1982, Loughran tells Eye, they're a rare breed that has to be actively recruited. San Jose's female firefighter percentage is huge by comparison--4.8 percent of the approximately 720 uniforms are worn by women. That's 35 women to the 687 men, San Jose Fire Battalion Chief Greg Spence tells Eye. SJ's first female firefighter, Karen Allyn, came aboard on May 25, 1981, and is now a captain. "Our women are exceptionally qualified," Spence boasts. He's not kidding. A number of them, including relief firefighter and paramedic Gillian Boxx and relief captain Mary Franz Guttierez, are Olympic medal winners, he says.


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From the October 10-16, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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