Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos
the New Alum Rock Library Groundbreaking,
the Honor Guard marched, the band played and City
Councilmember Nora Campos and others spoke
doing in NNV?
|J.E. Blanton ...||and Foothill Printers||Meanwhile, in Alum Rock Park||Dr. John Pollock|| Andrew
|Ground is Broken for Upcoming Alum Rock Library Branch|
|Nora; Negligent on Noise - Airport Meeting Disappointing by Terry Carolan|
|Circus Wagons Circle Peterson Trial in Redwood City by Meaghan Clawsie|
|February Historical Heritage Commission Meeting by Edward Allegretti|
|NNV Newsmaker: J.E. (a.k.a. Butch) Blanton|
|Budget Strategies for a Sustainable County by Supervisor Pete McHugh|
|Penitencia Creek Trail Plans by City Councilmember Chuck Reed|
|Letter from Home - A Prose Poem by Dr. John Pollock, SJSU|
|NNV Introduces a New Sponsor: Mark DeTar has many relatives in this area|
|Forsake the Bay Area for Mississippi? by Ed Allegretti|
|10 Things You Can Do to Help Wildlife - And 10 things you can do to help WCSV|
|You Dig It?
|White Rock Café - It was the perfect place for Valentines Day by Connie Allegretti|
|FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Wow! Despite a sky full of storm clouds and occasional spatters of rain, it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood on Saturday, February 21st. Ground was officially broken at the site of the superb new Alum Rock Library branch at the corner of White Road and Alum Rock Avenue.
If you ever wondered whether people around here really care about our neighborhood library, all you needed to see was the huge crowd of people who overflowed the fenced-off seating area despite the threatening weather. There were waaaay more people than chairs evidencing the avid interest of the neighborhood - in perhaps our most important community resource.
The ceremony was colorful with the participation of many young people. The Mt. Pleasant Mariachi Youth Group made up of kids playing guitars, violins and horns played and sang Spanish songs. The color guard from Mt. Pleasant High starchily presented the U.S. flag. The crowd enthusiastically pledged allegiance. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were there. The San Jose Fire Department was there with representation from Station #2 around the corner.
And, of course, San Jose District Five City Councilmember Nora Campos was there guiding the ceremony with a huge smile on her face. After all, the East side is her home and shepherding this project along has been a major challenge for her and her staff. Jane Light, the Director of the San Jose Public Library System, addressed the crowd as did John Ramos, a library commissioner. Jan Fox, the president of the San Jose Public Library Foundation invited and challenged this audience of library enthusiasts to become even more involved.
The new City library will replace the old County branch on the site. County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado (sporting an orange cast on one foot and a brace on one wrist!) received appreciative applause for the large role the County is playing in the cooperative effort between City and County to create a beautiful state of the art library branch for the people of the Alum Rock area and the greater East side.
The muddy ground was "broken" by Nora Campos, Blanca Alvarado, Jane Light and John Ramos. Each wielded a plain utilitarian brown-handled shovel - no frills in these lean economic times. The blade of each shovel carried one letter of the word R-E-A-D. A moment of unexpected levity came when the groundbreakers lined up with their shovels dyslexicly spelling "E-A-R-D" and then "D-E-R-A" and "A-R-E-D" before they got it right. Even the little kids had to laugh.
Ceremony guests were invited to inscribe their hopes and dreams for the library on flat river rocks which will be placed in the foundation of the building as it is poured. Ms. Campos pointed out that "the building will stand on the dreams of the community."
Factoids: Old library: 6,890 square feet. New library: 26,000 square feet. Old library collection: 86,035. New library collection: 137,000. Old library computers: 16. New library computers: 39. Old library seats: 38. New library seats: 145. The new library will also have amenities the old library never had. There will be a community room with space for 100 people. It will have a fireplace! There will be an Internet café and a technology center. The planned public art will be unique and finely designed and crafted.
So, when can we expect to set foot in our new dream library? Summer of 2005 (about 18 months from now) is the goal for the opening. Meanwhile our little old cozy 1978 vintage County branch will keep on providing library services right up until it is torn down to make way for a parking lot for the new branch.
Click here for photos of the groundbreaking ceremony. Click here for the San Jose Branch Libraries Web site. Then click on "Latest News" at the right of that page or select "Alum Rock Branch Library" at the bottom.
Many of you may remember that City Councilmember Nora Campos responded to my article on airplane noise in the last issue of the New Neighborhood Voice. At the end of her response letter Ms. Campos invited interested community members to attend a meeting she had scheduled to "answer questions and take input regarding the Mineta San José International Airport Master Plan." Ms. Campos' letter also stated, "all are welcome to listen, comment and share concerns regarding the plan."
I received a call the day before the meeting from someone planning to attend that meeting saying that the agenda prepared by Ms. Campos' office did not have the topic of airplane noise listed as an agenda item. I called Ms. Campos' office on the day of the meeting to assure that this topic would be discussed and was told by one of Ms. Campos' aides that, while there was not a specific agenda item for the topic, there had been a question and answer period set aside after the first presentation and that this would be the appropriate time to discuss the concern about airplane noise in our community.
A number of people attended the meeting specifically because of airplane noise and the invitation extended by Ms. Campos in her response letter. Early in the meeting the representative from the architectural firm designing the airport noted that this meeting was the largest turnout so far for any of the community meetings they had held. Though she didn't know it, it was due to the eight or ten people there who were specifically interested in the noise issue.
From the start it was apparent that Nora Campos had no intent to discuss the topic of airplane noise in the East Hills communities. Instead, we all sat patiently through a solid hour of warm and fuzzy presentations which included pictures of fictitious families, thought bubbles from one pretend person's "airport experience" from the moment she stepped in her cab to her last cup of coffee before she boarded the plane, and finally, a primer on the philosophical difference between "public art" and an artist's "studio art".
Well, you know what, those presentations were actually done well and I suppose they were interesting if that was what you showed up to see and hear. Unfortunately that was not the case for about half the audience. After the presentations I waited patiently during the Q&A period so people who wanted to ask questions about the future airport's look and feel could do so. After about fifteen minutes Ken Hayes of CAAP (Citizens Against Airport Pollution, mentioned in my previous article) asked if we were going to discuss the topic of airplane noise during this meeting. Ms. Campos stepped up to say that the meeting was really about the airport's Master Plan and that she wanted to "respect her community members who needed to get home" since it was already going to be a long meeting. I raised my hand and when called upon, told Ms. Campos that I was very disappointed that we had been invited to the meeting in her letter responding to an article on noise, but that she had not seen fit to include this as an agenda topic and now seemed unwilling to discuss the topic. Ms. Campos then stated that she would be willing to discuss this issue with anyone who could stay past 8:00 PM and again reiterated that she wanted to respect the members of her community that needed to get home. Uh, excuse me, but I thought we were members of the community too!
I was not able to attend part two of the meeting, which was on Reid Hillview airport, because Mr. Fernando Pena, the Marketing and Public Outreach Representative from San Jose Airport, took the time to talk with me. Mr. Pena started the discussion just like a hundred other conversations I've had with airport personnel, which is to say that he wanted to talk, but not listen. To his credit though, he did ultimately listen through the issues and I hope he may be a person we could communicate with in the future. But regarding the part of the meeting on Reid Hillview airport, I was told by those that did attend that it was just as much of a bust as the first part and that attendees ended up again voicing their disappointment with Ms. Campos and her lack of preparedness and concern.
I should probably write Nora Campos off as a City Councilperson who does not care about the real concerns of her community. Her actions on this issue are like a politician who wants to build a pretty park on top of a toxic waste site and then call the problem solved. I haven't written her off though, at least not yet. I would still like to see Nora take a genuine interest, spend some genuine time and commit some genuine effort to the issue of airplane noise and its effect on quality of life and, potentially, property values in the East Hills neighborhoods. Having a pretty airport will be nice and something to be proud of, but it will not solve the impact of noise and how it affects our community.
Oh, as a closing note, we were given a nifty little brochure and some handouts when we came into the meeting. The brochure explained that insulating your home was the solution to the nasty noise issue. So, in case you didn't know, you can insulate your house at your own expense (our area doesn't qualify for the airport's insulation program because we are not in the defined noise impact area) and then sit inside with the windows closed all year. That sounds like the dream of California living to me!
Click here to read Terry's original article and Councilmember Campos' response in last month's edition. Use the back button on your Web browser to return to this edition.
The circus has come to the Bay Area, only it's not of the Barnum and Bailey variety.
Instead of elephants, contortionists, and clowns on unicycles, Redwood City has recently been overrun by the mayhem that is the Scott Peterson murder trial.
In addition to curiosity seekers, mobile food carts, and interactive, roving radio station billboards that surround the San Mateo County Courthouse - and display a running tally of callers' votes as to Peterson's guilt or innocence - there are currently more than 400 credentialed media personnel who have recently decamped in the area.
With so many big-name celebrities being dragged into court for salacious offenses these days, it's surprising that the trial receiving the most nationwide attention is that of an unknown fertilizer salesman accused of killing his pregnant wife and their unborn son.
Not only is this trial covered hourly by the likes of CNN, MSNBC, and Court TV, but no matter where you live, or what you do for a living, chances are you've at least heard something about the tragic tale of Laci Peterson, the beaming young woman from Modesto who went missing on Christmas Eve 2002, only to turn up dead four months later, along with her son, on the shores of the San Francisco Bay.
It's hard to say exactly why the media and the public have been so fixated on this case, although it seems that everyone has a theory. Some speculate it's because Laci was eight months pregnant when she disappeared, making her situation particularly harrowing, while others say it has to do with the catastrophic timing of her disappearance - one of the most joyous and family-oriented days of the year. Still others credit the fact that Scott and Laci seemed to be the perfect couple living the American Dream (by all outward appearances, anyway).
While all of these explanations at least partly explain the insatiable interest, perhaps the biggest reason this tragedy has been lavished with nonstop round-the-clock news coverage is the emergence of a burgeoning kind of soft journalism known as infotainment. With numerous 24-hour news channels hungrily competing for the hottest new tidbits of gruesome news to exploit, stories that in the past would have only gotten a passing mention on local news broadcasts have now been transformed into full-blown epic sagas (e.g. Chandra Levy's disappearance and Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping), complete with regular episodic updates and endless speculation over the most trivial of disclosures and discoveries.
In order to get a better feel for the community's interest in this case, I recently had the opportunity to go to Redwood City and observe some of the courtroom proceedings in person. While there, I spoke with several local residents about what compelled them to brave the cold, the dark, the traffic, and the lack of public parking to congregate by the steps of the San Mateo County courthouse in order to vie for the chance to attend the hearings.
"I'm here because I just passed the bar and I want to see some high-profile attorneys at work," said Dunya, a recent law-school graduate. "It's like an education."
Dana, a former teacher's aide from Los Altos who has sat in on numerous high-profile court cases, said she likes observing firsthand the often nuanced interactions between the trials' major players. "I enjoy seeing how the judge and the lawyers interact with each other. I also like seeing the defendant's demeanor." What does she think of the Peterson trial so far? "I think Scott seems really cocky. And Mark Geragos looks much nicer in person than he does on television."
Susan, a Redwood City nurse, said that attending the trial is important to her because she comes from a "dangerous marriage" herself and wants to pay tribute to Laci. "I was lucky enough to walk away from a very abusive relationship, but perhaps Laci wasn't so lucky."
For a group of journalism students from Redwood City High School who skipped classes to attend the proceedings, seeing the action up-close allows them to learn how journalists interpret the news. "We're going to watch the trial in person, then compare it to how the news is reported on the evening broadcasts," one explained.
Valerie and George, semi-retired tech veterans from Mountain View who attended most of the preliminary trial in Modesto, have found themselves becoming emotionally enmeshed in the case. "When we went to the earlier proceedings in Modesto, we just got sucked in," Valerie said. "George and I plan to attend as much of this trial as we can."
When it comes to the question of Scott Peterson's guilt or innocence, most of the people I spoke with had already made up their minds. In my informal poll, almost everyone said that they thought Scott had indeed murdered his wife, although it was unclear as to whether or not he would actually get convicted.
"If I had been a juror at the preliminary trial in Modesto, I'm not sure how I would've voted," Valerie explained. "Despite my personal feelings, I don't know that the prosecution overcame their burden of reasonable doubt."
No matter what the trial's outcome, the Peterson saga is sure to continue to stay at the forefront of the news.
If you'd like to head up the peninsula yourself to attend the trial, there is a public lottery for seats each morning at 7AM in front of the courthouse (follow the yellow posted signs). The courthouse is located at 400 County Center - formerly 401 Marshall Street - in downtown Redwood City. Seats are drawn at 7:30 AM, and the trial starts most mornings Monday through Thursday at 9:30 AM.
On the days that I was at trial, almost everyone who showed up for the public lottery was able to get a seat, although gaining access to the proceedings will likely become more difficult as the trial kicks into high gear and important witnesses take the stand.
For more information on the trial and how you can watch it in person, visit the website of the San Mateo County sheriff's department at http://www.smcsheriff.com.
Click here for some two-county, three-ring circus photos.
Caskey Country Club Properties, Call Larry and Barbara Caskey at (408) 926-5400
E.M.S. LLC, Environmental
Management Systems, (408) 501-4200
Windermere Silicon Valley
Properties, (408) 251-5860
Keith Bush, Artist/Sculptor, (408) 923-6666, www.keithbush.org
The February 19th meeting of the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission was very lengthy due to many items on the agenda. The main issue was the presentations from those wishing to receive part of the grant money given out each year.
The issue of the Historical Preservation Ordinance was only briefly discussed. Some limited public comment was received from Stanford University and Stanford Leaseholders Association representatives. They basically desire the Ordinance to be less punitive and controlling. Further, that it should give more incentives to property owners so that they shall desire landmark status. The commissioners agreed that more incentives are needed and directed county staff to give suggestions when the ordinance is next discussed.
The ordinance issue will next be heard during the April meeting of the commission. At that time the commissioners will consider various points of the ordinance and direct county staff on revisions that should be made. This process will no doubt occur over a few meetings. Afterwards county staff will incorporate these suggestions into a final Draft Ordinance which the commissioners will again review as a whole before forwarding it to the board of supervisors for their review. Due to the discussion on the grant process that will be held during the March commission meeting, no discussion of the ordinance shall occur until the April meeting.
I'll mention that each year the commission, per county mandate, has available money for historical preservation in Santa Clara County. During our March 18th meeting, we will be reviewing grant requests from various organizations and historical property owners who wish part of the $511,000 that we have to "give away" this year. There are many worthy projects, the process is interesting, and you are invited to attend.
Click here for the Santa Clara County Planning Office Web site for the proposed ordinance. Click here for our February article on this subject. Comments or questions can be e-mailed to Ed Allegretti at EAllegretti@rosendin.com or to the Historical Heritage Coordinator, Dana Peak, at Dana.firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch our Community Bulletin Board and Letters to the Editor for the latest on the HHC meetings and comments from readers.
J.E. is really his name. It doesn't stand for John Edward or James Earl. Unless J.E. is pulling NNV's leg, his parents actually named him "J.E." nearly 65 years ago. It's not surprising that someone hung the more substantial name "Butch" on him along the way. Now this Alum Rock Village fixture is preparing to get out from behind his printing presses at Foothill Printers and join the ranks of his retired peers.
J.E. shares the honor of being The Village's "honorary mayor" with Mario Badillo, the head honcho (yes, pun intended) of Mario's Barber Shop a couple of doors east of the print shop. Mario says that he and Butch have been buddies since grammar school. They seem to have been cut from the same cloth - they both are easy, natural talkers who are happiest when they've got a willing listener to engage. As a matter of fact, if you're of a shy nature, you can visit J.E. or Mario and just mentally cruise along quietly while they entertain you with fascinating commentary (and gossip) of the neighborhood.
J.E. grew up in the Alum Rock area, but in his speech, you can hear a bit of a twang reminiscent of his early life in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. His parents settled in downtown San Jose when J.E. was in the third grade, but later moved to the old farm house at 201 Laumer. He is a proud James Lick High School "Comet Forever." He and his wife Carol still live on Highwood Drive off Capitol Avenue in the Lyndale neighborhood and their kids are also Lick grads. It will probably be a bit of a wrench to leave a lifetime of family history here and move on to retirement in Ceres (that's between Modesto and Turlock - for us newer arrivees to California).
Foothill Printers wasn't always located in the building it's in now at 3144 Alum Rock. Will Loughlin started the print shop in his garage before moving it into what is now the east half of Peter's Bakery at 3124. He moved it to 3144 in 1954. Before Will moved his shop in, there was a series of different businesses in the building. It was originally constructed as an office by the Binky brothers who owned the Shell station next door (today's Brasil Auto). Then it became a plumbing shop. For a while the building housed Sheldon's Hobby Shop (and its infamous slot car race tracks in the back) - before it moved across the street into what is now the derelict pink building which currently awaits its metamorphosis into a produce/deli store. "Tapes R Us" also was located in the print shop building at one point.
The Schaller family bought the printing business from the Loughlins and ran it for ten years until the Blantons bought it in 1977. J.E. has been on the job there ever since - for years with Carol at his side and, since 1979, with graphic designer Cindy Oliver in his employ. They have a fascinating view of the traffic/kids/shoppers/fenderbender hubbub there at the dogleg bend of Alum Rock.
Lest you think that J.E. Blanton is a one-dimensional printer sort of guy, NNV wants to set you straight. He does indeed do the printing for the local school districts, churches, the Indian Health Center and the La Rochelle winery (previously Mirassou), but he also finds time for a passionate love affair with collecting and rebuilding wonderful old cars. J.E. gussied up a VW beetle for his son Chris and a classic Mustang for his daughter Lee Anne. He hopes his first retirement project will be modifying an old 50's era Ford panel truck to pull his twenty-foot ski boat in style.
And J.E. Blanton writes loving poems to his wife! (Only a cynic would suggest that he writes those poems to keep his wife in thrall while he tinkers with his latest mechanical cutie, of course.)
Sometime this summer, the Blantons will head off into the sunset (or not) for Ceres and someone new will own the Foothill Printers business. But, it most probably will not be located at 3144 Alum Rock; that address is part of the parcel which includes Alum Rock Feed & Fuel and Brasil's Auto Shop - which is all for sale. Eastsiders will miss J.E., Carol and Cindy and their down home friendly ways. Hasta la vista, Butch!
Click here for photos of J.E., Cindy and Foothill Printers.
NNV Note: Don't wait too long to stop by and visit J.E.'s old-timey shop where you're welcome to chew the fat and view a few antique gizmos which won't seem so "antique" if you're over 50. J.E. has a free scratch pad for you - or at least he will until the shop starts packing up.
On February 10, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took a number of important planning steps to balance next year's General Fund budget. First, the Board approved a budget balancing strategy that includes achieving a sustainable county as a long-term solution to our General Fund's structural deficit. Second, it adopted a policy goal to achieve a five percent General Fund Contingency Reserve by July 1, 2007. Third, it recognized an additional $5.4 million in available one-time funds and placed them in the Contingency Reserve. Finally, it accepted the first detailed revenue and spending projection for the next fiscal year that showed a worsening financial situation.
The approved Budget Strategy statement provides an overall approach and the budget balancing strategies that the County Executive will use for the Recommended Budget. The overall approach refers to the Board developed mission statement for the County, which is to build and maintain a healthy and safe community. The Statement points out that in moving towards this mission at a sustainable level, the Board will have one service priority. It will seek to maintain preventive programs in health and public safety and to continue the safety net for the most vulnerable residents.
The Budget Strategy statement incorporates five long-term strategies, which the Board has previously discussed and that staff has worked on over the past year. These strategies are long-term because the County is unlikely to achieve their positive impact in time to balance the FY05 budget. They involve:
· Generating revenues by selling County services to other government agencies.
Reducing State mandates that have less value to the community without
losing reimbursements through legislation.
· Exploring process and efficiency improvements.
· Evaluating ways to reduce rates for workers' compensation, liability and health insurances.
· Achieving a more stable financial situation for Valley Medical Center.
Specific strategies for FY 2005 involve ongoing Countywide solutions, one-time solutions and departmental reductions. The Board used many of these strategies to balance the FY04 budget. Countywide solutions look to modify current financial policies temporarily and prudently to lower department costs without reducing programs or jobs. The County will use one-time solutions to cushion the impacts as it reduces programs over the next few years to fit within available revenues. Departmental reductions may include consolidating programs and processes and eliminating layers or levels of management.
A sustainable County maintains the County fiscal integrity to include establishing adequate financial reserves. In my State of the County address in January, I called for the Board to adopt a policy setting a goal to have a 5 percent Contingency Reserve by FY 2008. The County Executive developed a proposal setting targets for the Contingency Reserve at 2.5 percent next year, 3 percent in FY06 and 4 percent in FY07. I am pleased to report that the Board voted unanimously to adopt the 5 percent goal and the County Executive's proposal.
On February 10, the County Executive also presented the mid-year financial report on the current fiscal year. The County Executive reported that staff has projected an additional $4.6 million in available one-time funds at year-end. This projection is based on a $30.8 million shortfall in anticipated revenues and expected spending that is $35.5 million less than the current budget. The Board also recognized $5.4 million in additional one-time funds and allocated them to the Contingency Reserve.
The mid-year budget review also marks the first detailed report on the County's projected General Fund budget for next year. The mid-year report estimates FY05 spending at $1.98 billion and revenues at $1.84 billion for a deficit of $134 million. The revised deficit represents an increase of $43 million over the $92 million deficit estimate the Board had in December. Most of the increase in the deficit between December and February comes from an expected additional $32.8 million decrease in local revenues.
The County is no longer able to maintain its current level of services. I believe the approved strategy statement will appropriately guide the County Executive in developing a balanced Recommended Budget leading to a sustainable County. I also believe the Board is prepared to make difficult and painful budgeting decisions. Now is the time to resolve structural problems and build a better foundation for all of the County's stakeholders.
Click here for a photo of Supervisor McHugh delivering the State of the County address. Click here for the complete presentation (large PDF File).
(This newsletter is in two sections to reduce the download time for this page)
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Copyright© 2004 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127
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Copyright© 2004 by Judy Thompson. All rights reserved. Updated 3/5/04.