Silicon Valley Year in Review 2013
Shirakawa Goes to Jail
A little more than year after Metro first reported George Shirakawa's misuse of campaign funds and a county charge card, the former county supervisor was sentenced to a year in jail. Prosecutors cited the paper's work for helping reveal that Shirakawa opened a secret bank account to funnel more than $130,000 in campaign money to fuel his gambling and lavish lifestyle addictions. Is Hypochondria Inherited?
Federal regulators issued an [ http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2013/ucm376296.htm ]enforcement action against popular Silicon Valley-based genetic testing startup [ http://23andme.com/ ]23andMe after learning that some people were panicking over test results and opting for MRIs and double mastectomies.
Batkid to the Rescue
Making the wish for one lucky boy—and making every grown child jealous to all hell—the city of San Francisco shut down for an entire day to honor Batkid, 5-year-old Miles Scott. Thousands of volunteers came together as part of the Make-a-Wish Foundation's gift to Scott, whose leukemia is now in remission. Dressed as a mini-Batman, Scott took to the streets in a black Lamborghini and stopped staged crimes featuring the Riddler and Penguin before saving the San Francisco Giants mascot, Lou-Seal, at AT&T Park. A parade was then held with Mayor Ed Lee giving Scott a key to the city. It was the make-a-wish to end all wishes.
Xavier Campos Set to Follow Shirakawa?
San Jose's political version of Fredo invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid grand jury questions about a political mail fraud scandal perpetrated by his good buddy Shirakawa. Prosecutors connected Shirakawa's DNA to a mailer sent to Vietnamese voters in San Jose that depicted Campos' opponent in a City Council race as a communist. Campos then ran to NBC's Damian Trujillo to say he doesn't trust those local government lawyers but, of course, he's an innocent victim in all of this. A few weeks later, Metro found that Campos and Shirakawa were creating fictitious business names for their campaigns, which could have allowed them to open secret bank accounts—something Shirakawa knows plenty about. The DA and Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) are investigating.
When Google launched a mysterious vessel into the San Francisco Bay, the tech press exploded with speculation. Is it a secret lab? An NSA spy ship? An ark prepped for impending disaster of which only Google is aware? Turns out the 12-sailed stationary barge was nothing more than a marketing vessel, a floating publicity stunt designed to showcase new product demos and act, basically, like a waterborne showroom. But a month later the company announced it will also launch floating stores to dock in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.
An audit blasted Santa Clara County child welfare services and the agency that runs a local child abuse hotline. As recently as a year ago, up to half of all calls were dropped, leaving an untold number of children in danger. Unfortunately, no one really stepped up to accept responsibility for the lapse in service, blaming budget cuts and staffing shortages. More people are expected to be hired to staff the call center as county supervisors keep a watchful eye.
Mike Honda's wake-up call
Congressman Mike Honda is a likable old Joe, but he's been on the job so long some are beginning to question his effectiveness. He didn't do himself any favors in September when he was caught on video falling asleep at his own town hall meeting.
Call it the great American timesuck. Commutes that ran a half-hour three decades ago take at least an hour now. The South Bay, in particular, is one of the worst regions for rush-hour traffic. San Jose became the fifth-worst city in the nation for roadway congestion, up from 13th a few years prior. San Francisco and Oakland together ranked the third-most congested metro area in the nation. With any luck we'll catch them in no time!
In the shadow of plenty
While the number of homeless people fell nationwide, it continued to grow in Silicon Valley, one of the wealth capitals of the world. A report highlighted the growing disparity between rich and poor, ranking South Bay's homeless population as the fifth-largest in the nation. The report notes that the region also claims the country's highest percentage of homeless veterans and the most chronically homeless children and young adults. Those statistics became real for many when it was found that four people died during the cold snap.