Sunday, May 21, 2006
The only difference you can tell on the Web is that the editors decided after running the story twice they ought to give a byline to Luke Stangel (a Daily News reporter who apparently works for a no-longer-existent company called Knight Ridder). The real reason is that they either forgot or neglected to run the suspect sketch on Thursday, despite it being the main point of the story.
(Lacking a scanner, I have to ask you guys to trust me on this one).
A longer and slightly different account appeared in the Voice.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Some other highlights from the report (available on-line here):
- People in households earning less than $20,000 a year are, on average, less satisfied than everyone else.
- Men feel safer walking at night than women do. Men also make up 52.5% of the city's population, plus or minus 4.5%.
- 26% of residents do not know where Cuesta Park Annex is.
- 63% of residents, counting the "probably yes" crowd, support a half-cent sales tax to bring BART-to-San-Jose. I wonder if they realize it won't be coming through Mountain View.
One interesting part of the report documents the distribution of household incomes (page 73). Assuming the numbers are statistically significant (please feel free to check my math) and the number of people who decline to report are evenly distributed, it appears that Mountain View's middle class has shrunk since the 2000 census. The number of households earning under $40k appears to be about the same. There are substantially fewer people in the next few income brackets, while the number of people earning above $120k has increased quite a bit.
It would be nice to think that all those middle class people simply got rich, but I have a feeling they just got priced out of the housing market and moved to Tracy.
Monday, May 15, 2006
(See what you get for telling me not to write a "Know your Daily News reporters" post).
Anybody who has questions about the tax ought to the column, as well as this article in the San Jose Metro. They both make the argument against the tax that opponents should be making -- it is a dishonest attempt to build an expensive and inefficient BART extension to downtown San Jose that may ultimately be bad for transit riders.
At the same time, even Herhold's column does a much job of making the case for it than any of those silly voice-over commercials you see during the A's games -- it may be the only way to build what could be an important piece of infrastructure for a developing area of the county.
It would be nice to see both sides put those arguments out there and see what the public thinks. Instead, the they are spending all their energy making straw-man arguments and attacking each others' credibility.
This is the first tax election I've covered, and I have to say I am extremely disappointed in the way the process works.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Oscar Garcia, whose rousing speech punctuated the event, jubilantly compared the rally to the Holiday Tree lighting ceremony. Maria Marroquin, director of the Day Worker Center, promised the movement would futilely attempt to make change at the ballot box, saying, "Today, we march. Tomorrow, we vote."
Good luck with that.
Maybe Katz really is a money-grubber who specializes in holding public agencies hostage. Maybe the income from all his rental properties is just not enough pay for his crusade, and that he actually needed the $200k from El Camino to keep fighting for his rights elsewhere. Who knows.
Even the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, named for the man behind Prop. 13 and perhaps the most famous crank in California history, says the law is against Katz. But the settlement with the hospital district doesn't diminish the potential ramifications of his argument. Even if he were to win only one of his cases, he could force a huge change in tax law.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
"The Los Altos City Council early today agreed to allow gay teens to walk through the city's downtown."
This actually is a bigger deal than you might think, considering the council once passed a law targeted at keeping Latinos from standing on the sidewalk and little kids from selling lemonade.
UPDATE: Lauren McSherry points out that Los Altos Hills has its own anti-lemonade ordinance, one that has not been repealed or cost the city a $60,000 settlement.
Details of the settlement came out after Tuesday night's council meeting. In addition to the lump sum, the two sides are signing a new lease that pays the city $1.8 million in annual base rent. The city also expects to get up to $1.3 million from its insurance company, since Clear Channel's original lawsuit (which does not look like it was such a good idea right now) revolved around safety issues.
The settlement money will go in part to cover the costs of the case. The city spent more than $4 million on this over the last three years, an incredible amount compared to other agencies who have fought with Clear Channel. The cost was mainly in legal fees ($3.1 million and counting), but it also included things like $200,000 in copying charges, which gives you a pretty good idea of the scale of the case.
As for what happens with the other $5-$6 million (which appears to be the back rent the city was claiming minus any damages or fees) now might be a good time to jump in with those hare-brained schemes you've been cooking up. My guess: the city spends it on something entirely reasonable and boring, like covering health benefits for retired city employees.
Now it's on to the next big story at Shoreline: why do people think it's cool to wear one band's t-shirt to another band's concert? I wouldn't wear a Red Sox shirt to watch the A's play the Mariners, why are you wearing a Bon Jovi t-shirt to a Journey concert? (Yes, I go to Journey concerts).
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Jun Munakata, sitting at the drive-thru window, sees a car slam into a tree across the street, and then catch on fire. As the clerk calls 911, Munakata sprints across El Camino Real and yanks the man from his car moments before it explodes.
The driver has a different version of events -- he says he was not drinking and exited the car under his own power -- but he says he's grateful for Munakata's help. In any case, it was hard not to think of Kitty Genovese when I heard about all the people who stood around watching and doing nothing.
If you thought that dispute had been settled by centuries' worth of advances in the field of voting rights, you're not alone. Nor are you right, judging from Superior Court Judge Kevin McKenney's refusal to throw the case out and risk being overturned on appeal. Katz still has cases pending against Mountain View-Whisman and two other school districts. In his e-mail quoted at the end of the Voice article linked above, he appears to threaten a suit against Foothill-De Anza.
The two sides aren't saying how they arrived at $200,000 in this case. Clearly, Katz's suit was costing the hospital an order of magnitude more than that. However, since he represents himself, it's difficult to figure his legal bills, or his tax liability, were anywhere close to this high. All I can say is that I hope one day somebody offers me $200,000 just to leave them alone.
I sense there's some kind of Jurassic Park-related joke here, you know, something about recreating an extinct species from fossilized DNA and then Jeff Goldblum almost getting eaten.
The case has echoes of the beating of Angel Santuario, who was pummeled outside a gay bar by three out-of-town construction workers who were putting in the new track at Los Altos High School. Santuario is straight. Matthews is a goy. From the Merc story yesterday:
"Everybody in the community is a potential hate-crime victim,'' Tracy Matthews, 57, told the crowd. "Even if you are not part of a recognized target group, you're not safe. Our son Cameron is not Jewish, but that didn't protect him from an anti-Semitic attack. We have to make it clear that we do not tolerate hate crimes against anyone.''
The two incidents demonstrate the logic behind hate crime legislation: Theoretically, Cam (and his roommate) and Angel were not the only intended victims. The attackers were also seeking, in one way or another, to intimidate every member of a given class of people. Whether or not Cam and Angel are members of that class is almost beside the point.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
The timing probably could have been better for Vice Mayor Greg Perry's proposal, which would eliminate a fee charged to developers (3% of the total sales price of the project) and direct most of it (2 of those 3 percentage points) to an existing fund for park development. Tuesday night, the council will also discuss what to do with millions of dollars currently in the affordable housing fund.
Perry's argument is that the the city's so-called Below Market Rate program gives a huge subsidy to relatively few people without increasing the overall supply of housing. He appears to have the four votes he needs for his proposal, but will face strong opposition from other council members and housing advocates, who say BMR or "inclusionary zoning" is an important way to guarantee that at least a few low-wage workers will always have a place in the community. One, after hearing about Perry's proposal, said only, "That's awful."
Cy's Cal team upset favored BYU at Stanford yesterday, clinching their third consecutive USA Rugby title and bringing Cy's collegiate career to a glorious and merciful end while his body is still sort of intact.
Here's a recent article in the Daily Cal, headlined, "Cyrus the Great," detailing the Dorostis legendarily high tolerance for pain and suffering. My favorite part is how he went through his first two years on the team without telling the coach that he had been observing Ramadan and going without food or water. The top knuckles on his hands are all bent from snapped tendons, he wears ankle braces every time he plays anything, and his shoulder is messed up so badly that he couldn't even raise his arms over his head at the closing whistle Saturday.
Meanwhile, Cy's older brother Arcia is travelling with his Mission teammates to South Carolina in two weeks to play for the somewhat less prestigious and more alcohol-based USA Rugby Championship at the Division III level. In contrast with Cal, the Mission team has no coach (the program guide actually lists the coach as "uncoachable") and is sponsored by Fred's Place of Mountain View, "The last neighborhood bar where everybody knows your shame." That of course doesn't stop Arcia from taking it very seriously.
A great line by sports writer Vytas Mazeika in today's Daily News, which features the Mission team in an article that liberally quotes the older Dorosti: "The only thing that may match the intensity of the tournament is the drinking that follows it."
Having seen these guys drink, I figure it must be one hell of a tournament.
UPDATE: Mission won their semifinal match with a team from Toledo, Ohio today in South Carolina, on a missed point-blank kick as Arcia prayed and time expired. After they recover from their hangovers, they will travel to San Diego June 3 to play for the Division III national championship against a team from Boston.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Apparently, military recruiters were offering the signing bonuses despite a section of U.S. code apparently prohibits the army from paying signing bonuses to officers. The day before OCS graduation this last Thursday, the Army circulated a memo to the 115 officer candidates who had made it through the months of training, an official notification that they would not receive their promised bonuses. Their signature was a condition of graduation. 114 of the officer candidates signed it. Pat called his lawyer. Four days later, he is in a work detail, awaiting some resolution that will most likely lead to a voiding of his contract and a one-way trip home.
It is unclear whether the army ever intended to pay the bonuses at all, or, whether recruiters continued to offer bonuses once they knew they could not do so -- I haven't been able to reach anybody at the local recruiting offices yet. Many of the officer candidates who were promised a signing bonus may have passed up college loan repayments in doing so. In any case, the Army is about to lose a great man, and the local chapter of the Los Altos Water Polo Alumni Association is about to get one back.
(Apologies to any Los Charros patrons whom I disturbed Friday night by yelling about this).
UPDATE 5/19: MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM PAT THIS MORNING READS AS FOLLOWS:
THINGS MARCH ONWARD - THE COLONEL BRIEFED ME YESTERDAY THAT I'M BEING RECOMMENDED FOR AN HONORABLE DISCHARGE AND SHOULD BE ABOUT TO START OUTPROCESSING. SO HOPEFULLY I GET HOME MID NEXT WEEK.
(DOESN'T IT LOOK MORE OFFICIAL IN ALL CAPS?)
UPDATE 7/4: THERE HAVE BEEN MANY FURTHER COMPLICATIONS. A JULY 17 RETURN NOW LOOKS MORE LIKELY TO BE IN LATE SEPTEMBER, MONTHS AFTER THE ISSUE CAME TO LIGHT.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Still smarting from criticism over its decision to proclaim a ban on all offensive proclamations, most notably those regarding the extent to which high school students should be embarrassed about their sexuality, the Los Altos City Council is now under pressure to approve a June parade proposal. According to the Mercury, offers of support have poured in from all over, further embarrassing a city (and an anonymous editorial writer) that already had much to be ashamed of.
I'm not sure how the vote will go, but the Mormon mayor credited with orchestrating the rejection and subsequent prohibition of gay pride proclamations said that Los Altos is so tolerant that it doesn't need a parade.
Said Ron Packard:
The citizens of Los Altos are highly educated and already extremely tolerant and respectful of others, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.Of course, we still hate gays and Mexicans, and people who celebrate Halloween.
Wagner's lawyer James Blackman has since apologized for referring to those children, now adults, as "so-called victims" after a pre-sentencing hearing in March. Of course, it was the kind of non-apology apology that people give when they are trying to maintain a bargaining position that precludes from actually saying they're sorry, or, if they are, they're only sorry that people are taking what they said the wrong way.
The sentencing hearing has already been delayed several times. The new date is June 9th, which Wagner had not wanted because it happens to be his daughter's birthday. You have to feel bad for the guy's children, and it's understandable not to want your daughter's birthday to always be the day her father was sent to jail for molesting children. Given the lack of influence a confessed criminal has over his sentencing date, this is just another of the many, many good reasons not to molest children in the first place.
Scott Herhold, writing on behalf of the preservationists, compares the hangar to Ellis Island and likens the other side to the Taliban.
Patty Fisher, declaring herself "de facto torch bearer for the Hangar One demolition squad," seems to call Herhold predictable and boring, labels the Hangar a monstrosity and says ideas for preserving it are "mere fantasies."
Fun stuff, though I still think Mike Cassidy had the best column of the week. It was about time somebody called out the Black Eyed Peas ("What you gon' do with all that breast, all that breast inside that shirt") for their ridiculous lack of effort to write intelligent lyrics. Plus, Cassidy had the good sense to quote an expert in terrible writing and acting uncool.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
One of the charges in the City of Mountain View's lawsuit is that Clear Channel subsidiary Bill Graham Presents threatened to divert shows to other amphitheatres if it didn't get permission to sell the naming rights to the venue. This seems to fit in well with other local landlords' experience with BGP. San Francisco's Warfield is suing the company for selling naming rights it didn't own, making good on a threat to "fuck that place up" in order to punish the owners for not renewing the company's lease. In Concord, BGP announced that a new lease agreement that included the naming rights of the Concord Pavilion would lead directly to more shows, (none more important The Boss).
BGP/LiveNation is obivously going to direct shows to places where it's most profitable for them, but diverting shows in order to hold public agencies hostage is a serious matter. The company says that most of the fluctuation in the number of concerts is simply reflective of the status of the concert industry nationwide. Unfortunately, as the two sides near a settlement, any evidence (or lack thereof) of intentional wrongdoing at the amphitheater is likely to remain confidential. The city has made no indication as to what they're going to do with the money.
One interesting feature of the concert schedule (which is not complete yet) is none of the shows sponsored by Clear Channel-owned radio stations (KMEL, KUFX) appear to be on the schedule. According to the city's original audit, the company was holding these so-called four-wall shows without authorization and then sending all the revenue to the station so that it did not have to report it or pay a percentage of it to the city. This means more driving for the dozens of us who are vaguely interested in seeing the remnants of the Greg Kihn band perform live again this year.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Last week's Voice broke the story that the Navy had taken the official position that it intended to tear down Hangar One. Unfortunately for those of us who have some modicum of pride in our newsgathering abilities, this story was broken not in the news section but in a legal notice. That's right, an advertisement.
The public has been waiting for this story for nearly a year, but no one noticed the ad until members of the Save Hangar One Committee got wind of it. Steve Williams reprinted the text of the ad on his blog Moffett Users, and the Daily News published a story today that the Merc also carried. (I was going to post on this earlier but had my fingers crossed that the competition was not on the same listservers).
This is the first time in my career (or probably anyone else's) that I have ever lost out on a story to a paid advertisement. It is probably a good time to be quitting the profession.