Archive for the ‘Santa Clara County’ Category

Marchers at county offices want grand jury investigation

Vietnamese-American marchers came to the county building to seek a grand jury investigation into the death of Daniel Pham.

Vietnamese-American marchers came to the county building to seek a grand jury investigation into the death of Daniel Pham.

I only saw this because I drove by as the event was winding down. But according to the Merc’s report, these marchers are requesting the county to open a grand jury investigation into the police shooting of Daniel Pham this past May.

San José going green: Will bags be sacked?

plastic bags -- should they be banned?

Plastic bags -- should they be banned?

This week, the City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee met to discuss a ban on plastic and paper bags. According to a Mercury News article on the issue, the only large city that has implemented a ban like this is San Francisco, as most cities which have implemented bans have banned only the plastic bags. The effort in San Jose is being spearheaded by Vice Mayor Judy Chirco and Councilmembers Sam Liccardo, Kansen Chu, and Nora Campos.

According to a presentation given at the committee meeting, fifteen other Santa Clara County cities are considering banning bags because of encouragement from the County Board of Supervisors and environmental agencies.

The City of San José’s proposed ban also includes paper bags because of the environmental impact involved in manufacturing them. “Green” paper bags, with at least 50% recycled content, would be excluded from the ban.  Restaurants would also not be required to discontinue usage of plastic bags.

Not surprisingly, the plastic industry lobby has already been urging the Council not to be hasty in making their decision. Nevertheless, the matter is heading for vote and discussion by the Council as soon as November, thanks to a unanimous recommendation by the committee.

Failing Grade for Santa Clara County Air Quality

state-of-the-air-20091MetBlogs – Santa Clara County:  Santa Clara County has been given a failing grade for air quality by the American Lung Association.  The State of the Air 2009 report gave failing grades to 39 counties in California, including Alameda, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara.   

This is not a news item that we should easily dismiss.  The estimated number of people that particle pollution kills each year has tripled in our state.  According to Jenny Bard, the Bay Area regional air quality director for the American Lung Association, we have historically had the worst air quality in the Bay Area.  From 2005 to 2007, Santa Clara County surpassed unhealthy ozone limits an average 5.2 days a year.  We also surpassed unhealthy short-term pollution particle levels a yearly average of 11 days, which gave us the 24th highest level in the nation.


The report finds that six out of ten Americans live in areas where air pollution levels endanger lives.  “This should be a wakeup call.  We know that air pollution is a major threat to human health,” said Stephen J. Nolan, American Lung Association National Board Chair.  “When 60 percent of Americans are left breathing air dirty enough to send people to the emergency room, to shape how kids’ lungs develop, and to kill, air pollution remains a serious problem.”


According to the ALA, ozone is the most widespread form of air pollution. When inhaled, ozone irritates the lungs, resulting in something like a bad sunburn. Ozone can cause wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks and can even shorten lives.


It is estimated that over 3,700 deaths annually can be attributed to a 10-parts-per-billion increase in ozone levels.


Particle pollution is a toxic mix of microscopic soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols. It is the most dangerous and deadly of the outdoor air pollutants that are widespread in America. Breathing in particle pollution can increase the risk of early death, heart attacks, strokes and emergency room visits for asthma and cardiovascular disease.


County Health Department Addresses Swine Flu

According to a notice on the Santa Clara County government web site, the site was simplified to enable increased web traffic in response to the national swine flu outbreak and the upcoming elections. A special swine flu update page has the latest information about swine flu incidents in the county.

There have been four cases of suspected swine flu in the county, but none have been confirmed as swine flu by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The first of these cases was a Branham High School student, prompting the county to close the school until Wednesday, May 6.

There have been 14 confirmed cases of swine flu in California, and 91 total confirmed cases around the U.S. as of mid-day today.

Spanish and Vietnamese-language information, slightly outdated, is also linked from the bottom of the county update page.

Scam alert: property tax reassessment

County Building
The Santa Clara County Tax Assessor’s office, District Attorney, and the California State Attorney General are warning homeowners to beware of unscrupulous companies who offer to lower property tax bills. The scam is that the services these companies offer (for hundreds of dollars) are available to any homeowner for no charge.

With the housing market on the decline, many homeowners are starting to worry about how they’ll pay their coming property tax bills, and whether their taxes will be assessed fairly. If the home’s value has declined below its purchase price, the homeowner is liable only for taxes on the current value (as of January 1). The Tax Assessor’s office will be reviewing records on about 200,000 of homes around the county to ensure their assessed values are up to date, and mailing assessed value notification postcards to property owners in June. Owners who disagree with the assessed value at that time can appeal the value at the assessor’s office, either with an informal enquiry, or with a formal appeal. Only the formal appeal costs money, a mere $30 processing fee.

– read Assessor Lawrence Stone’s letter to property owners below the cut.

Bay Area Travel Show 2009

Cruise, not Tom

This weekend is the Bay Area Travel Show in Santa Clara. There will be seminars and exhibitors including: resorts, tour operators, cruise lines, etc.

Most notable will be the seminars presented by Doug McConnell, host of Bay Area Backroads; John Hamilton, KGO Radio Travel & Leisure host; Pauline Frommer, daughter of travel expert Arthur Frommer; along with Rick Steves,

Check the event schedule here for days and times.

Get in line early for Rick Steves.

What a great way to shake off the winter blues by thinking about and maybe even planning some travel.

Santa Clara Convention Center
5001 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara

Saturday, January 24, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday, January 25, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

For ticket pricing, check here.

For more information and other ticket pricing, check here

2-1-1 Online Database

It has been almost two years since we posted about the 2-1-1 services.

The free 2-1-1 services connect you to various information including support groups, drug treatment, elderly needs, homework help along with how to volunteer or provide assists during a crisis. The service is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Mandarin, and 140 other languages, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The call is confidential.

Now, along with dialing 2-1-1 you may access the information online through their website’s online database. You may search the database or drilldown within topics.

The United Way reports that from September 1 to November 30, 2008, calls to the 2-1-1 Santa Clara County information and referral service seeking food increased by 58 percent over the same period last year. Requests for housing jumped 22 percent.

Information available online or by dialing 2-1-1 include:

Clothing, Food, Personal Goods and Services
Disaster Planning, Response and Recovery
Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Education and Training
Employment Services and Financial Assistance
Family, Individual and Community Services
Health, Fitness and Environmental Services
Housing, Shelter and Transportation
Legal, Immigration and Criminal Services
Mental Health and Counseling Services
Self Help Groups and Services
Senior and Disability Services

To access the 2-1-1 database along with more information about the service and United Way’s involvement, check here.

If 2-1-1 is unavailable via your service provider: 866.896.3587

TTY dial: 866.390.6845

The 2-1-1 services are available throughout the Bay Area.

The True Meaning of the Season

I know many of you are probably getting into the holiday season. San Jose (and I’m sure other cities) have had holiday decorations up around town for a couple of weeks now. In downtown San Jose, you can already go ice skating, and the tree lighting ceremony will be Nov. 28 at Christmas in the Park. (More info on that here). And I’m sure holiday festivities are starting around the South Bay each day.

But I have to admit, I’m becoming somewhat of a humbug. It started two years ago, actually. All the stress of buying gifts for people seemed futile. The people I was buying for didn’t need anything. I didn’t want anything from them, except maybe some time to spend together over dinner or drinks. So last year I decided – no gifts. Instead, I would be giving my precious (and few) hard-earned dollars to those who needed it. Did my friends and family miss the presents? Not one bit. Especially when I told my mom, who works for the Girl Scouts, that I was donating money to her organization. And I told my pet-loving friend I’d be donating to the local SPCA. They didn’t mind one bit.

Call me Charlie Brown, but the holidays have become so focused on presents, that I’m afraid people are forgetting about those who will be the coldest, the hungriest this season.

Now more than ever we need to keep those less fortunate in mind. We’re facing an economic “recession” (a euphemism, I’m convinced), and the local foodbanks will be seeing more hungry, hopeful faces this holiday season than they’ve seen in a few decades.

As a board member of a local nonprofit, I can tell you firsthand that charities are hurting. They’ve been hurting for the last couple of winters, but this year is bad. People are scared, and are grabbing that wallet tight – for good reason. But we can’t forget that our neighbors need our help. Even if it’s $20, or 10 cans of food.

To raise awareness that charities need your help, the Silicon Valley Open Arms Coalition was created by local funders and nonprofits. The website gives several ways for people to contribute this holiday season, depending on which organization they’d like to support. Some of the nonprofits involved are First 5, Second Harvest Food Bank, Sobrato Family Foundation, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, and The Health Trust.


Events 10/18-19/2008

Check for current things to do, events, places, stories, and more here.
There’s plenty going on this weekend (October 18-19, 2008), and some of this is going on as we speak. But it’s not too late to join in. Check ’em out:

Grease Sing-Along

9 pm Sat; 4 pm Sun. 201 S. Second St., San Jose

Fans are invited to sing along to the movie musical “Grease” at a special presentation at Cinema 12. Admission: $10 general, $7.50 students with current ID, $7 matinees, and $6.75 seniors 63+ and children 12 and under (10 movies for $60 discount card also available).

Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival

Sat & Sun, Oct. 18-19, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Half Moon Bay.

The World Pumpkin Capital celebrates fall harvest with a display of gigantic champion pumpkins, three stages of smashing entertainment, live music, the Great Pumpkin Parade with San Francisco Giants great Will Clark as honorary Grand Marshal, a haunted house, harvest-inspired crafts, homestyle foods, expert pumpkin carvers, photos with the grand champion gourd, pie-eating and costume contests, The Golden Gourds Youth Talent Show, The Take 5 Lounge with giant screen LED TV, the “ONE” Organic and Natural food tasting extravaganza, festival-label wine and Mavericks Pumpkin Harvest Ale. Admission is free.

Campbell Oktoberfest

10:00 am – 6 p.m. Saturday, 10:00 am – 5 pm Sunday, downtown Campbell.

German beer, music, beer, food, more beer, arts & crafts, and of course, beer. This festival draws over 40,000 people, so come early and expect to stay all day as you visit over 100 arts and crafts booths. Contact the Campbell Chamber for more information at (408) 378-6252, or email

Opera in the Park

Sunday, 4:30 pm at History Park, 1650 Senter Road

Take in a preview of Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, a “happy and charming operatic tale of idyllic life in a sort of 1900s valley of heart’s delight setting,” according to the website. There will also be a pre-preview of History San Jose’s exhibition, “She Made It! – The Tradition of Women’s Arts and Crafts Through the Years,” opening to the public on Friday, October 24th.

Did you know you can’t feed the animals at Central Park anymore?

I didn’t. I didn’t know there was an ordinance passed that you can’t feed the animals at City and County Parks here in Santa Clara County.

When my sister in law was visiting from  Northern Ireland in September, we were out and about with the kids, just chilling and having a good time.  I had gathered a wee bit of old bread, and made a plan to take us over to Central Park to feed the ducks and geese.  It seemed like a nice place for photo ops and just some bonding time between my SIL and her nieces. 

So we get there just after lunch, it was a fabulously sunny and warm, and walk around the path towards the duck ponds.  My children were all excited about the ducks, and eagerly reached into my backpack to get the bread.  Not thinking hard about it,  I broke up the bread and tossed some crumbs into the water for the few ducks that had gathered at waters edge.  Well, one duck leads to another, then the geese and pigeons get involved, and  soon we had hundreds of webbed toed friends squawking at us for the morsels. My children squealed and jumped around with delight.  Well, so did my SIL and I, its amazing watching two little kids have that kind of fun.

I guess our commotion attracted a City worker, which brought him over in a huff. “Please don’t feed the animals”  he said.   I replied, half joking, half smart-ass “Technically they aren’t animals, they are waterfowl” He raced back to his truck and continued his work.

We turned back to the birds, and by this point the bread was nearly gone, maybe a few handfuls, and we were taking family type pictures.  While the girls were still laughing wildly, the City worker came back with an awful stance, and basically told us, we were disturbing the peace.  Now, mind you, there were only maybe 5 or 6 other people in the area of the park we were in.  He was probably  pretty mad at my remark, I thought. 

Just as we were finishing up, and talking about going to the playground, a Police Patrolman strode up behind us to demand stopping our activity.  He stood a few inches from my face, reprimanding me for our behavior, ignoring the posted signs and ignoring the City worker.  He wasn’t civil about it, nor did he back down when I took my sunglasses off (out of respect), and agreed I understood what he was saying.  He offered up a couple of reasons as to why we should stop. He said something about recent animal poisoning, the mess the birds make, and something about the ordinance.  But he got so intimidating that his words became fuzzy, and I just wanted to get my family out of there.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been a smart-ass to the City worker, my bad I know.  But why should they reject ten minutes of pure pleasure for two little kids?  Why did that City worker have to call the police?  Why did that Policeman have to be so bad-ass to WOMEN AND CHILDREN feeding the ducks?  Now when my oldest sees any policeman she asks

You can take a photo, but don't feed!

You can take a photo, but don't feed!

if he’s going to yell at us too.  So, in the end we were banned from that part of the park.  We could go to the playground as long as all food had been tossed away.  No, we left the park, I don’t think we’ll go back. If I see that City worker face to face, I might throw some bread at him.

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