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Archive for April, 2007

Loving soccer in San Carlos, but not each other

San Carlos soccer playerThey may all love soccer (as evidenced by this soccer player pictured here), but it appears – at the moment, anyway – that all of San Carlos’ soccer lovers don’t exactly love each other.

The San Andreas Youth Soccer Organization (SAYSO), a peninsula-wide youth soccer academy and competitive club based in Belmont, is suing San Carlos for access to field space. But to get all the information that they need to pursue the case, SAYSO’s attorneys have given other local soccer organizations – who are not plaintiffs in the suit – subpoenas to “produce a lot of stuff,” according to Dan Robinson, president of the San Carlos United Soccer Club.

Robinson worries that attorney’s fees to complete – or fight – the work required by the subpoena could quickly eat up the $10,000 the non-profit organization has in the bank to sustain their season’s activities.

“Once we get the attorneys involved, that’ll pretty much wipe us out,” Robinson said. “That’s the stressful part for us. They seem to not have a problem with it. We’re just a bunch of volunteers.”

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Posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
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Estrella Benavides’s signal received


In an article this weekend, we tackled the question: Why aren’t San Mateo city and county officials reaching out to Estrella Benavides, the Shoreview woman who has covered her home with painted words describing a conspiracy theory, with an offer of mental health treatment?

(The answer, in short, is that it can be extraordinarily difficult to provide counseling to people who don’t believe they need it.)

The article mentioned that Benavides’s story has spread across the nation courtesy of short newspapers items and online links. Here’s an example.

We received a call in February from a woman in Massachusetts who’d come across the story and wanted to assure us that Benavides’s message — of a government/mafia conspiracy that oppresses children and the poor through mind control and witchcraft and convinced Scott Peterson to kill his wife — is based on “true facts.”

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Posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
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New head for county public works

Jim PorterSan Mateo County will have a local man at the helm for their Department of Public Works: San Mateo native James “Jim” Porter.

Porter has been the director of the department of Public Works in Los Altos for about seven years.

The position had been vacant since December, when Neil Cullen retired after working for the county for 40 years. Porter, 44, is set to start the job Monday.

Porter attended Hillsdale High School and currently resides in San Mateo. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in public administration from San Francisco State University. He is a registered California civil engineer and traffic engineer.

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Posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
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Setback for county lawyers in lead paint suit

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jack Komar ruled Wednesday that San Mateo, Santa Clara and other Bay Area counties suing paint manufacturers for lead poisoning can’t pay their attorneys contingent on the outcome of the suit. The deal could have potentially yielded lawyers millions and kept jurisdictions from having to divert pricey fees away from tight budgets for years.

We reported in the print version of the Insider on March 24 (which, regretfully, we did not duplicate on this blog) that San Mateo County had hired big-time Burlingame law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy to represent it in the matter. (See previous post about Joe Cotchett’s connection to county Supervisor Jerry Hill.)

The suit alleges that several paint manufacturers and the Lead Industries Association caused and concealed significant health hazards, causing a public nuisance by promoting the sale of lead-based paint for decades while disregarding the health risks to children.

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Posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2007
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Bowen’s voting audit unclear or misinterpreted?

After our story today, “Elections may prove to be very expensive,” we received this email from Nicole Winger, the deputy secretary of state for communication in the office of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

“I want to correct an inaccuracy in your elections story today. A few local officials are claiming that optical scan machines are not being included in Secretary Bowen’s top-to-bottom review of all electronic voting machines. You wrote, ‘[Warren] Slocum thinks Bowen should take her review one step further to include all voting devices in the state, such as optical scan machines that count paper ballots. Her proposal only calls for reviewing electronic voting machines.’

“An optical scan tabulating device is an electronic machine,” her email continued. “Secretary Bowen’s draft criteria for the top-to-bottom review specifically includes ALL electronic voting systems currently certified for use in California elections: DREs [direct recording electronic voting systems], vote tabulating devices, ballot tally computers and ballot tally software… everything electronic that is recording votes or tabulating votes.”

We reviewed Bowen’s six-page proposal again. It makes prominent reference to the security standards of a “direct recording electronic voting system,” – such as the county’s eSlates – as well as vote tabulating devices and their “design, hardware, firmware and/or software program features,” ballot tally computers and ballot tally software. Though it refers to the elections code that charges Bowen’s office with establishing specifications for “voting machines, voting devices, vote tabulating devices, and any software used for each,” there is no mention of the phrase “paper ballot” anywhere.

We also contacted Slocum, the county’s chief elections officer, to make sure that we hadn’t misheard him.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2007
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Codes, codes, codes

An article in Tuesday’s paper looked at whether the city of San Mateo properly submitted its amendments to California building and fire codes with state authorities.

It’s a dry and complicated subject — let’s talk about it some more!

One thing the article did not spell out was the nature of the amendments that were supposed to have been filed with the Building Standards Commission. So here’s a little more information on what these rules are all about.

The city failed to submit paperwork for three amendments to state codes governing building and construction — a change to the plumbing code regarding sewer line “cleanouts” — and two changes to the building code, one governing materials used for bracing and the other requiring the use of fire-retardant materials for roofs.

As for the fire code, the city maintains it made a sufficient filing with the state related to 20 or so local amendments.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2007
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Redwood City man winner in Simitian’s law contest

If a Redwood City School District board member has his way, voting precincts could be readjusted and expanded to allow people to vote closer to home.

Rest assured, school board members are not suddenly writing legislation. But Dennis McBride might have the chance to take the backdoor approach to affecting the law books as a private citizen and winner of state Sen. Joe Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be A Law” contest.

Under state law, only 1,000 voters are allowed – whether they vote permanent absentee or not – to be assigned a polling site (one from the last Election Day is shown below). Once the 1,000 mark is hit, election officials must split voting precincts. That law, McBride said, left him voting two and a half miles away from his home instead of half a mile. His proposal, now officially SB 967, would expand precinct sizes by allowing county elections officials to subtract permanent absentee voters from the total number of voters in a precinct.


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Posted on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007
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Menlo Park mayor seeing green

Kelly FergussonMenlo Park’s effort to be environmentally-friendly is garnering Mayor Kelly Fergusson increased attention from the green world.

The city recently launched the Green Ribbon Citizens’ Committee to explore measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean alternative energy sources. Along the way, Fergusson has found herself talking at conferences studying green technology.

“I hope Menlo Park serves as a model for other cities,” she said. “All of a sudden, I’m at events. All of a sudden I’ve become an expert in this.”

Recently, she spoke at the Green California Summit in Sacramento and participated at a Sunnyvale event about global warming. She talked about ways to tackle gas emissions, Menlo Park’s green campaign and other related issues.

Menlo Park is also getting attention from documentary filmmakers. Fergusson said a local filmmaker shot the first meeting of Menlo Park’s Green Ribbon task force, and may chronicle the city’s ongoing effort.

“Another filmmaker interviewing cities all over country about reducing gas emissions interviewed me as well,” the mayor said.

Posted on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007
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Indeed, Kucinich appeared Saturday

Ohio Congressman and 2008 presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich did, in fact, make a campaign appearance in Pacifica on Saturday.

We thought it worth posting a photo from the fundraiser, in case you missed it in the paper.

Dennis Kucinich in Pacifica

Previously: Kucinich to make Pacifica appearance Saturday

Posted on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007
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