Monday, December 24, 2012

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

49ers Stars Bring Joy to Children; Build Bikes for Children

By Robert Haugh
Rather than darting spirals aiming for touchdowns, vaulting down the sidelines, gaining first downs or tackling their opposition while vying for gridiron supremacy, several 49ers recently played Santa’s helper, assembling 49 bicycles for children.

Spreading holiday cheer, 49ers players, including rookies Darius Fleming, Michael Thomas, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Cam Johnson were among the many contributing their time, serving as elf toymakers on December 10 at the team’s headquarters and training facility in Santa Clara.

Joining the players were UnitedHealthcare employees and members of the Optum Pro Cycling team.  The bikes were delivered the following day to surprised youth at Bill Wilson Center in Santa Clara during a health and bike fair, which included 49ers alumni Guy McIntyre and Dennis Brown, UnitedHealthcare volunteers and Optum Pro Cycling team members helping kids learn about bike safety and healthy living.

BWC supports and strengthens the community by serving youth and families through counseling, housing, education, and advocacy.

Turning Wheels for Kids, the organization responsible for building and donating over 14,000 bikes out during the Holidays has been donating bikes to in-need children for the last eight years. Turning Wheels for Kids assembles and donates bikes to more than 20 non-profit organizations on the Bay Area.

Turning Wheels for Kids is part of UnitedHealthcare’s commitment to help people live healthier lives in the local community. The mission coincides with the 49ers’ PLAY 60 campaign, which encourages kids to "Get out and play, 60 minutes a day."

Visit www.turningwheelsforkids.org for additional information on Turning Wheels For Kids.

The 49ers Foundation, the non-profit community funding extension of the San Francisco 49ers, now in its 19th year, supports development programs for underserved youth that keep them "Safe, On Track and In School." A significant portion of the foundation’s funding goes toward family violence prevention programs and activities that teach youth leadership and respect.

Through the leadership of 49ers team owners Denise and John York, the 49ers Foundation has donated more than $10 million over the last eight years to non-profits throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

Visit http://www.49ersfoundation.com/ for more information on the 49ers Foundation.


Christmas For Kids Brings Smiles, Toys and Warm Coats to Children

 By Robert Haugh

Playing the role of Santa to 146 elementary school children, Santa Clara Rotary recently brought an early Christmas of smiles, cheer and even tears to many children who may otherwise not have received the giving spirit of Christmas.

Carrying on an annual tradition of bringing Christmas joy to local underserved youth, Santa Clara Rotary provided the children with age-appropriate gifts, a warm, hooded jacket and a hot lunch as part of their annual Christmas for Kids program, held December 6 at Lexus of Stevens Creek.

With holiday music abounding, children were enjoying getting their faces painted, awaiting Santa’s arrival, many of the children having never had a true Christmas or presents under a tree.

Featuring a spaghetti feast catered by Dan Holder and his chefs from Holder’s County Inn, kids were enjoying finishing up their home-baked cookies when Santa Claus came into town on a one-horse open sleigh, or, well, actually driving in a new Lexus convertible.

After arriving, Santa’s “elves” invited each child one-by-one to receive their gifts and a photo with the jolly man himself.

Planning for the event begins several months in advance, with teachers at various schools providing names of Title 1 (underserved) children, with school principals reviewing the names, recommending children to participate in the event.

After the club receives a breakdown of the ages and genders of the children, Rotary members purchase winter coats and various gifts for each child. Rotary members gather the week before the event to sort and wrap the presents for the children.

On the day of the event, excited children, accompanied by the school principals, are picked up at their respective schools by chartered Royal Coach buses, donated by Royal Coach.

Various community service organizations and corporate partners play a vital role in the event, with Wilcox High School’s Interact Club and Cabrillo Middle School’s Leadership team among those participating in the event.

About Santa Clara Rotary
The Rotary Club of Santa Clara, formed in 1936, plays a vital role in giving back to the local community and is made up of community and business leaders who meet on a weekly basis for fun and fellowship. Rotary works collectively to change the lives of those in the local community and around the world.

Each October, Santa Clara Rotary provides 600 pairs of shoes to underprivileged school age children in a program called "Steps for Success." In addition, the Rotary Club of Santa Clara supports programs for seniors and many charitable organizations. Santa Clara Rotary provides scholarships for youth and sponsors high school Interact clubs and several leadership-learning experiences for local students.

Santa Clara Rotary Club meets Thursdays, 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. at the Santa Clara Hilton, 4949 Great America Parkway in Santa Clara. Visit www.santaclararotary.org for more information on Rotary and their service projects.  

Holiday Home Decoration Winners Are Announced

 By Cynthia Cheng

You can save yourself some airfare to the North Pole this holiday season by simply taking an outdoor tour of Santa Clara’s most dazzling houses whose residents have been recognized by the City of Santa Clara for having this year’s best decorated houses with seasonal themes.

“We ran this contest to promote the holiday spirit and community involvement,” says Elizabeth Elliott, office specialist with the city manager. “The judges were volunteers from the senior center. The judging criteria were based on four areas - lighting, festivity, use of color, and originality. We did something new this year, which was that we took the nominations online through our web site, and that was very successful. We ended up with 31 nominations. And from those nominations, we picked most of our winners.”

Winners have set special signs outside their homes and will receive Certificates of Appreciation at a city council meeting in early January. The winners for best decorated individual residences are:  The Berner home at 2583 Johnson Place, the George home at 1882 Homestead Road, the Crocker home at 4292 Burdick Lane, the Bunce home at 1451 Lincoln Street, and the Driscoll home at 1845 Graham Lane. Seniore’s Pizza at 940 Monroe Street got the award for the best decorated business. The award for the best decorated neighborhood went to a street in the Rivermark neighborhood, which runs from 4292 Burdick Lane through 4392 Burdick Lane. The best tree is at 704 Valley Way.

The Jones home at 964 Capitola Way received a special recognition award - this home had not been nominated but was recognized by judges for its eye-catching decorations as they toured the other nominees’ houses around the city. David Jones says it was a team effort among himself and his parents, Catherine and Harold, to decorate their house.

 “We have a nativity scene with Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus,” Jones says. “We also have a couple of reindeer and a couple of lighted trees. It took a week to get everything all set up. The main challenge was trying to find time to do this when it wasn’t raining. The two neighbors next to us also have quite an extensive display, and we have quite a few cars that come by our houses right before Christmas to see our lights and our work.”

For Jan Berner, this is her third year winning an award for having one of the best decorated individual residences.

“It’s wonderful to win,” Berner says. “I love the holidays. I love Santa Clara. It’s so neat that they do this. It’s such a magical time of year. The lights and decorations here are so beautiful and festive.”

At the Berner home, a lighted NOEL rests on the roof with a penguin on the letter L. Also gracing the roof are some blow-up structures of two igloos, a helicopter holding Santa, and a train. On the ground, Santa reappears waving to visitors in a chair. Standing on the grass are a couple of snowmen blow-up figures and an angel off to the side.

Like Berner, this is Rick Crocker’s third year winning the award for having one of the best decorated individual residences. Not only is Crocker pleased to secure another win, he is proud of his neighbors’ work in decorating their homes to help the street, connected by a line of lights along the hedge, earn the best decorated neighborhood award.

“Our layout this year is similar to last year’s,” Crocker says of his home’s outdoor decorations. “We still have Santa Claus taking off on a plane on a runway. We added a gingerbread house this year as well. Some of our neighbors say their kids have to walk by my house every night before going to bed.”

Santa Clara Unified School District’s Solar Energy Program Is a Money Saver

By Cynthia Cheng

What do Millikin Basics+ Elementary School, Buchser Middle School, the Wilson Education Options campus and Peterson Middle School have in common? Solar shade structures have recently been installed at these school sites. This month, workers will start building these structures at the Santa Clara Unified School District office, and both Santa Clara High School and Wilcox High School will have them by the end of next summer.

“The shade structures are steel canopies,” says Larry Adams, director of school bond projects for the Santa Clara Unified School District. “In most cases, they’re covering parking lots. They look like a car port, and the solar panels are on top. They convert into direct current electricity. That electricity is fed into the electric company’s grid.”

According to Adams, the program to implement solar shade structures on various sites will save the school district more than $20 million over 25 years.

“A portion of the power that we buy from the utilities supplier is generated by burning fossil fuels,” Adams explains. “The more power we generate by ourselves using solar power, the less power we’ll need that comes from burning fossil fuels. The fossil fuels come from coal, oil, or natural gas. The electric bill is based on the difference between the electricity we generate and the electricity we consume. So the more solar energy we can generate, the less money [in utilities fees] we’d have to pay.”

Adams and his team at the school district have been working on projects to increase energy efficiency for the last two years. First, the group conducted research to see which sites could benefit the most from having reduced electrical bills. Then, members of the district developed specifications for the product requirements and various companies responded. Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. was the design-build vendor eventually awarded the contract.

“We had to get the building permits from the division of estate architects,” Adams says. “But the biggest challenge was incorporating the shade structures into the campuses so that we didn’t interfere with traffic or playgrounds or student activities. It takes about four months to build each shade structure.”

The voter approval of Measure H back in November 2010 has provided funding for a new school site in North San Jose, the reopening of closed school sites for enrollment growth, the implementation of health and safety provisions, and finally, the move to increase energy efficiency in the district. The district’s total budget for the funds allocated from the bond for all energy efficiency projects is $15 million dollars. Adams adds that the current solar energy project is estimated to cost about $12.5 million and the remainder of the bond funds for the energy efficiency projects will go towards other site improvements.

“I want to thank the voters for approving the bond to do this,” Adams says. “It has been gratifying to finally be able to do a project like this in our district. We have really worked hard on getting the best return on investment for that $15 million dollars. Every dollar we save can go back to the schools towards student instruction. And it’s also a great thing for the environment.”


Santastic! Storms The Retro Dome Stage

By Melissa McKenzie

Santa vacations in Hawaii.

It’s true.

But, what happens when Santa gets held up sunning on the beach and can’t make his “fantastic musical review”?  Is the show cancelled or must it go on under the direction of Santa’s favorite elves and Toy Soldier Guard?

In an original production by Scott, Shannon and Stephen Guggenheim, Santa’s helpers quickly jump into their roles to keep the Christmas spirit alive.  With nods to classic Christmas stories and sing-a-longs to Christmas songs (yes, audience participation through song is strongly encouraged), the audience is sure to be pleased with this production.

The cast performs a rendition of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, sings fun Christmas songs like Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Santa, Baby, and even teaches proper letter-writing etiquette (because you don’t want to upset the big guy).

Eventually Santa makes his grand entrance, but it’s just as the show is ending.  However, it’s the perfect segue to the post-show party where, for a small fee, children (and even adults) can create Christmas cards, make photo frames, decorate cookies, and visit and have their photo taken with Santa.

Cast members for Santastic! come from across the South Bay (including Santa Clara) and range in age from 10 (Lily Guggenheim) to 16 (Rheagan Rizio).  The show itself is a delightful combination of musical theater and audience interaction.  Seriously, listen to someone sing Mele Kalikimaka and try not to smile…I double dog dare you!

The pricing for the show varies from $18 for a single ticket to the 45 minute show to $44 for an All Access Pass which includes a ticket to the show, a Fun Pack (goodie bag of props), access to the Imagination Stations, and a visit with Santa along with a printed and emailed photo.  The pricing steps came from the Guggenheim’s experience with attending similar shows.

“Shannon and I have been taking Lily, our oldest, to Phineas and Ferb and things like that,” said Scott Guggenheim.  “When we go to those things, it’s already really expensive because they’ve included everything.  Mom and dad pay for the same ticket as the kids but they don’t do [the after-show projects].  So we thought we’d try it but make it so mom and dad don’t have to pay and you choose the upgrades and we weren’t sure how it was going to work…This morning we had about 50 kids going through the activity.  This [afternoon] I think I only gave about 20-25 wristbands away.”

Santastic! is on stage at The Retro Dome Saturdays from now until December 22.  Showtimes are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Tickets can be purchased at www.theretrodome.com or by calling (408) 404-7711.


Bruins Make Most of Opportunities, Strike Past Chargers

By Ryan Rainbolt
The Santa Clara Bruins and Wilcox Chargers boys’ soccer teams took to the pitch on a freezing December night last Thursday in a pre-season, cross-town rival match up.  Most of the athletes came out opting to wear gloves, which accompanied their long sleeve kits to fend off the cold.  It wouldn’t stop them, however, from putting on an exciting 90 minutes to see who was in best form early in the season.

During the first half, both teams had some early chances that went awry.  Ankur Patel (’13), the Chargers’ keeper, was very active on crosses, coming out to snatch them out of the air before anyone could get their head on it, while also making some key saves.  As the half wore on, Wilcox was clearly winning the time of possession battle, however, when the Chargers neared the box, the center backs for Santa Clara did a fantastic job of clearing it out of danger along with keeper, Derek Eszlinger (’13).  While the Bruins had few chances, they made the most of their opportunities scoring off of two free kicks; the first being a swift header by Leo Hernandez (’14).  The second came in striking range about 25-30 yards out when Emmanuel Hamzat (’13) planned his attack and hit a screamer to the upper right corner, giving them a solid 2-0 lead.
           
 In the second half, Santa Clara again showed its defensive prowess when the Chargers were in goal scoring range.  They were unable to hold the shut out, though, as Bryan Garcia (’14) struck a monster shot from nearly 40 yards away to bring them to within one.  Despite the late goal, the Bruins finished them off with another free kick, this time taken by Justin Bermudes (’13) who bent it in the far corner to seal the victory 3-1.

A Christmas Carol Comes to the Rep

By Melissa McKenzie

Making something new is never an easy task – especially when it is as beloved a tale is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  However, The San Jose Rep takes on this challenge in its original adaptation of the timeless tale of a grouchy, cheap man and his transformation to a generous and loving person.

Unlike many large-scale productions, the cast of the San Jose Rep’s performance plays multiple roles.  Instead of utilizing dialogue to prove points, the play runs a bit like a performance-reading hybrid of sorts as characters often interject directions and narratives.

Additionally, the performance-reading hybrid actually becomes a performance-reading-musical hybrid (it’s really much less confusing than it sounds).  Prior to the show, the cast treats the audience to a round of Christmas carols to help set the mood.  They then travel through the crowd, greeting them and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  Throughout the play itself, Christmas music is used just as it would be during a musical - to help set the scene or enhance a plot point.

While the entire performance sounds like it would be an absolutely mess, it actually works.  Theater traditionalists won’t feel alienated by the musical performances and musical theater buffs will be pleasantly surprised.  There are even comedic lines and actions scattered throughout to break up the heaviness of the subject matter.

This is the exact same production The Rep put on last year with many of the cast returning, including Scrooge, played by Alabama Shakespeare and Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran Richard Farrell.  Farrell must be called out for his fantastic portrayal of the ultra-conservative, penny-pinching Scrooge.  The audience genuinely falls in love with him as the performance progresses.  He brings a vulnerability to the character that is often unseen in other productions of the Christmas classic.

Another cast member deserving accolades is Ghost of Christmas Present (Collecting Man 1, Mr. Fezziwig, Businessman 3, Man with Corpse Cart, Ensemble) Seth Margolies.  Margolies, another returning member from last year’s cast, has quite the presence on stage.  He has impeccable line delivery and is both charming and terrifying throughout is various roles.

Santa Clara, specifically Santa Clara University, is represented within the cast with assistant professor Kimberly Mohne Hill (Mrs. Fezziwig, Mrs. Cratchit, Miner’s Wife, Ensemble) and professor Kate Ryan (Edna, Ensemble, Music Director).

The San Jose Rep’s production of A Christmas Carol runs Tuesday-Sunday through December 23.  Tickets are $29-$74 and can be purchased by calling (408) 367-7255 or visiting www.sjrep.com.

Be Wary: Small children may not enjoy the performance.  There are a few scenes that are dark and downright frightening.  Also, those with sensitivities to the smell of dry ice should sit farther back in the theater.

Bethlehem Comes to Santa Clara

Hundreds of people journeyed back through time to “witness” the birth of Jesus Christ at the Santa Clara First Baptist Church on December 6-10.  Visitors watched as Joseph and Mary searched the city for a place to stay, only to be told there was no room at the inn.  Eventually, they took shelter in the stable where the Savior was born.  The event, now in its 15th year, continued the tradition of bringing in live animals for the multiple nightly shows and relied on over 100 volunteers to make the city of Bethlehem come to life in the church’s parking lot.  Admission, as always, was free.  Next year’s Bethlehem performances will be December 5-9, 2013.  For more information visit www.bethlehemsc.com. 
 By Miles H. Barber
Watching the San Francisco 49ers knock off a tough Eastern playoff bound team like the New England Patriots from the comfort of your couch is an enjoyable experience. Watching the San Francisco 49ers give up 28 unanswered points within a fifteen minute span is enough to make you want to cough up your cookies.
Sure, we all like excitement and watch our team hammer the opposition. However, the mental lapses that occur at the most inopportune moment is like an early onset of Alzheimer’s.
The 49ers are the Jekyll/Hyde of football, dancing between Super Bowl bound drives and first round choice wantabes. Like golf, there are no pictures on the football score card and all that counts are the final numbers.
For 42 minutes Sunday night the 49ers looked like a football team with invincible talent, orchestrated dominance and Super Bowl contenders. For 18 minutes they would have had a tough time beating the Wilcox High School Chargers.
Well, enough about that game.
The big one is this Sunday night as we head to Seattle to take on the once “limpy” Sea Chickens who have turned into vultures as they have devoured their last two rivals by 50 points of more.
The Seahawks of Seattle will determine the 49ers future in the playoffs. Here’s a note to the team: “Guys, there are 60 minutes in the game.”
Now for the last few remaining skeptics left in the civilized world, Santa Clara is home of the 49ers new stadium. You may have noted last week the gold painted beam that was signed by every construction worker on the project and hoisted to the highest point in the stadium. Two hundred feet high, which is a pretty good indication this project is not only well underway, it also remains ahead of schedule.
Rumor has it that the 49ers are close to signing a major stadium sponsor which is not a surprise. This inked contract will give incredible notoriety to the sponsor and to the newest stadium in the NFL.
As Jed York has pointed out, the Santa Clara stadium is the first new professional football facility to be built in California in over 50 years. What a tribute to the York family to effectively and patiently work with our community, and win the hearts of voters to support this project.
Now that the stadium is about 40% completed, the current vote would probably be 70% in favor rather than the 60-40 vote that approved it. When the 49ers win the Super Bowl the support will probably hit 80% (You just can’t please everyone).
Next, what is exciting is the work our City Council is doing on plan designs for the area surrounding the stadium. Our Entertainment District is becoming one of the great focal points in the United States if not the world.
     To ensure the best use of available ground, we must be judicious in our long term planning to maximize the revenue return for our City. A big thank you goes to the York family and our City Council for having the foresight and drive to launch our next phase of growth.

Marathon Meeting Launches Cultural Revolution at SCUSD Board

By Carolyn Schuk

Last week's 7-hour standing-room-only Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) board meeting brought to mind many clichés, foremost among them, "cruel and unusual punishment," making clear that anyone attending future school board meetings should come prepared with a picnic basket and change of underwear.

Nothing on the agenda was resolved in the muddle of parliamentary process and acrimonious debate, but the marathon meeting did make some things crystal clear.

One is the value of institutional process that mandates a formal sequence of proposal and fact-finding before discussion –and the chaos (i.e. seven-hour meetings accomplishing nothing) that ensues when such processes aren't followed. Second, a lack of respect is contagious; manifesting itself Thursday night in a degree of raucousness more common in the British House of Commons than SCUSD board meetings.

The meeting also made clear the board's new, controlling majority of Ina Bendis, Christine Koltermann, Michele Ryan and Chris Stampolis stands ready Рanother clich̩ Р"to break some eggs to make an omelet."

In this case the omelet is their particular educational philosophy – with Bracher Elementary School as the laboratory – and "eggs" include namely board precedence, district policy, and state education law. It's an approach similar in style, if not substance, to the ultimately recalled Dover, PA school board that dictated creationism be taught instead of biology.

New Officers Not Quite a Clean Sweep

A new broom sweeps clean, and controlling majority intended to do just that by breaking with board precedent and electing a new president, Christine Koltermann, who was not the sitting vice president (Albert Gonzalez, who is the board's sole Latino, a group that Trustee Stampolis has repeatedly claimed is under-represented in Santa Clara elected offices).

However, when it came to electing the vice president, Trustee Ryan broke with Stampolis, Bendis and Koltermann; casting the decisive vote for Gonzalez and against Bendis.

It's All About Bracher

More than half the meeting – 4+ hours – was dedicated to a discussion of two proposals specific to Bracher Elementary School, where Stampolis' children are students.

The first was adding a 6th grade – the original proposal was to add 6th, 7th, and 8th grade, but the state education code (Title 5 of the California Code*) proved to be too high a bar to be cleared this early in the new majority's tenure.

The only discernable facts are that the Bracher School Site Council had some discussions with Superintendent Bobbie Plough about concerns they had about Cabrillo Middle School. The outcome was a visit to Cabrillo, and Plough received no requests to move further on the question. (Trustee Bendis has crossed swords in the past with Cabrillo Principal Stan Garber, demanding access to classrooms and teachers that she considered inappropriate, according to sources close to the district who have asked to be anonymous because of fears of retaliation.)

The second was to directly authorize a new phonics education program, also at Bracher – Zoophonics – that has never been evaluated by the district's curriculum committee, or placed on the district's list of teaching materials through the standard and state-mandated procedure.

Like politburos in communist countries, this majority claimed its authority to bypass the district's study and evaluation processes by virtue of being the vanguard of Bracher parent interests.

"This was addressed to me by the teachers and the principal at Bracher," said Stampolis, concerning Zoophonics. "This is an item that was presented to me by instructional leaders at the highest-performing school south of Kern County."

"We're talking 75 pieces of paper with 65 to 70 that marked 'yea,'" apparently referring to an opinion poll that he claimed the Bracher School Site Council had conducted among parents, although this event and its results had not hitherto been shared with the school board.

"I know parents who've moved their children to Discovery because it is a K-8," offered Trustee Koltermann.

"I've had considerable input…that we do not have a strong-enough phonics supplemental material in our curriculum," said Trustee Bendis, addressing the district's curriculum committee dismissively, saying, "Now that we have some new leadership, [SCUSD should consider] whether we should bolstering the phonics component we do have."

"For many years the district has honored the dedication and professionalism of our teachers," said SCUSD curriculum and instruction director Mary Kay Going disputed both Bendis' statement as well as the trustee's implication that the curriculum committee was inbred.

"For some reason there's an implication that we don't teach phonics," Going said. "Our district is looked upon as a leader in early literacy because of our balanced instruction in early literacy.

"All teachers and all staff have an opportunity to step forward and be on the team," Going said, referring to the curriculum committee. "To circumvent the rights of the teachers is not OK. They decide what goes in the classroom. We have a process. We are also obligated to follow the [state education] code. That clearly identifies that selecting curriculum should be in the hands of teachers."

None of these parents or "instructional leaders" lobbying for these changes spoke at last week's board meeting despite their reported enthusiasm. (Bracher Principal Wayne Leach said they were "intimidated," but he declined the Weekly's request for further comment on the subject.)

The only endorsement for either proposal – outside the board – was a tepid endorsement for a 6th grade at Bracher from Leach, said by some to be a Stampolis favorite to replace Superintendent Bobbie Plough who announced her retirement in June 2013 on Friday.

"I can't remember the exact results," Leach said of the parent survey. "I have had two parents share with the board that [they] were interested in going toward K-8… If the Superintendent comes to me and wants me to develop a plan…I would do that…all we've asked is, tell us the direction you'd like us to go…We will make whatever is to happen, happen, and it will be terrific."

However, the district's teachers were out in force to voice their dissatisfaction with what they perceived as the board majority's favoritism.

"I campaigned for measure A in hopes of providing resources for all our students," said teacher Kate Grimes. "Maybe K-8 schools could be benefit all of our students. Instead I see on our agenda one item to reconfigure one school next year. Is this the best use of our money?"

"We lost our 20:1 [teacher-student ration]," said substitute teacher and volunteer district science fair director Jody Muirhead. "I see that every time I go in. I spent my fall fundraising for the science fair. In Silicon Valley the science fair should not be run by a volunteer. We had to get rid of elementary music…but you want to change one school to K-8. What about K-2? K-3? You can't decide tonight to start next month accepting kids into a program you haven't even defined," she concluded. 

District parents made similar objections.

"There appears to be no needs assessment done for this request," said district parent April Spurgess. "All there is a request from the community and a year-old agenda item…I have to say, where is the data?"

"While in a general way I can see support for 6th grade," said parent and active PTA and Bracher School Site Council member Teresa Debbage, "I have a concern about analysis and prioritizing how money is utilized…We've just stepped out of a dire financial situation…In anything like this…it should have a more inclusive element."

"I strongly support the concept of K-8 schools," said Trustee Jim Canova. "But I think where we differ…is that such a school has to be built that way from the ground up…like Don Callejon. I would want to see this come back as a planning item."

But planning items are exactly what the majority wasn't interested in. Board members, said Bendis, "can request…anything that they want to request….[and] have a right to agendize it as the type of item they think it should be."

Stampolis Tries for an End Run, Bendis Takes Aim At District's Lawyer

As evening turning into morning, and not even half of the 20-item agenda had been covered, Stampolis made a motion that all the remaining agenda items be referred to board president Koltermann to enact – including two added by Bendis concerning the district's legal counsel.

The first was an item-by-item audit of district legal expenses and the second was to fire the district's current attorney and replace him with an "ad hoc" legal committee appointed by the board – ostensibly as a cost-savings measure. Bendis was the subject of at least two formal harassment complaints made by district employees during her 6 years on the board.

"If we have good counsel it saves us a lot…down the road," observed Trustee Canova at midnight. "I don't want to see this as a way for board members as a smokescreen to get legal counsel in here that agrees with them most of the time…Dr. Bendis has had major disagreements with Dick Nowack."

The best summary of what went down that night came from community activist and 2010 candidate for SCUSD board Anna Strauss. "A number of new board members ran on a platform of transparency. At the first meeting we have a blatant disregard of transparency…You have action items that you haven’t got any community or staff input on…How long do you think it would take to get through 20 action items?" The marathon meeting is evidence, Strauss concluded, "You don't want to be transparent."

Find board meeting agendas and recordings at www.santaclarausd.org/overview.cfm?subpage=145153.



Police Blotter

 Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trespass
Location: 2700 Block of Mission College Blvd.
A man was arrested for trespassing after he refused to leave a hotel.
Time 1929
Case number 12-13174

DUI
Location: The Alameda & Newhall St.
A woman stopped for driving erratically was arrested for DUI.
Time 0201
Case number 12-13180

Monday, December 3, 2012

Warrant Arrest
Location: 3700 Block of El Camino Real
A woman panhandling at a restaurant was arrested for outstanding warrants.
Time 1810
Case Number 12-13207

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Theft
Location: 2300 Block of Bowers Ave.
An unknown suspect stole a man’s wallet while test driving his car. The suspect used the victim’s debit card at a gas station and a discount store.
Time 0955
Case Number 12-13230

Hit & Run
Location: Winchester and Pruneridge Ave.
A 54-year-old driver struck another car, then fled. Using information provided by the victim, officers were able to locate the suspect and arrest him for hit and run and DUI.
Time 2152
Case Number 12-13250

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Warrant Arrest
Location: El Camino Real & Jackson
Officers arrested a parolee found to be in possession of two knives, a violation of his parole.
Time 1210
Case Number 12-13276

Domestic Violence
Location: 1500 Block of Main St.
A married couple got into an argument that turned physical when the male suspect smacked his wife on the forearm with a metal broom handle. The suspect threatened to kill the victim, then fled. 
Time 1537
Case Number 12-13290

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Drug Possession
Location: 1500 Block of Civic Center Dr.
A man riding a bicycle was arrested for being in possession of a glass drug pipe and methamphetamine. 
Time 1959
Case number 12-13339

Domestic Violence
Location: 1300 Block of Jonathan St.
After returning home from a football game, a man became upset with his live-in girlfriend and slapped her in the face. The suspect fled before officers arrived.
Time 2116
Case number 12-13340

Trespassing
Location: Accolti and The Alameda
Security personnel contacted the Police Department regarding a man who had followed a female into her building. The suspect fled from security personnel, but was located nearby by officers who arrested him for trespassing and violating his parole.
Time 0048
Case number 12-13345

Friday, December 7, 2012

Burglary
Location: 4900 Block of Stevens Creek Blvd.
Unknown suspect(s) broke into storage rooms at a car wash and stole chemicals that are used at the business.
Time 0727
Case number 12-13349

Burglary
Location: 1200 Block of Loyola Dr.
Officers responded to the report of a burglary at a residence. During the day, unknown suspect(s) entered the residence by forcing open a sliding glass door.
Time 1543
Case number 12-13379

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Warrant Arrest
Location: 4300 Block of Rivermark
A man on parole was stopped for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk and was arrested for being under the influence of drugs and in possession of burglary tools.
Time 0919
Case number 12-13400

Burglary
Location: 3500 Block of Elmhusrt Ave.
Officers responded to a burglary that had occurred sometime between 11/21/12 and 12/8/12. The victim, who is out of town, was notified by a friend that his home had been burglarized. There were no witnesses and it is unknown if anything is missing.
Time 2159
Case number 12-13421

City Desk: Dec 19, 2012

 By Carolyn Schuk

Council Gives Go-Ahead for Proposed Laurelwood Rd. Development           

Santa Clara's Biltmore Hotel is an attractive property. But you can't exactly say that about its neighbors on Laurelwood Rd. To put it tactfully, it's "underutilized" property. And, it doesn't even have a sidewalk.

That's soon to change. John Duquette (ARC Tech Inc) has proposed building a combination office and retail development on a 7-acre parcel at 2121 Laurelwood – currently a retail furniture warehouse. The proposal includes a six-story office building, two one-story amenities and retail buildings, and a three-level garage. The project also includes landscaping and the property's first-ever sidewalk.

At its Dec. 4 meeting, the City Council approved the rezoning – Planned Development – that allows the project to move forward. The City Planning Commission reviewed the project on Nov. 28. However, there's still a long way to go before any concrete is poured.

The project would improve property values and increase tax revenues to the City's General Fund through private investment and development of office and retail uses on the site, according to the city staff report. In addition, the development would pay $1 per square foot of development for local roadway improvements.

Read the agenda report about the proposed development at: sireweb.santaclaraca.gov/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=1256&doctype=SUMMARY

Rising Construction Costs and Right-of-Way Problems Drive Mission Substation Cost Overrun

On Dec. 4, the City Council approved an $8 million cost overrun for Silicon Valley Power's (siliconvalleypower.com) Mission Substation and its associated 60kV underground transmission line extension. The substation replaces the Tasman Substation and is required, according to city projections, to support growing needs in the Mission College area.

The biggest portion culprit in the cost overrun is a change in the right-of-way plan necessitated when the original right-of-way easement owner backed out of the agreement. "The easement issues forced a reroute and never-imaged 1,000-foot extension of the undergrounding effort [running transmission lines underground]," said SVP Manager of Customer Services Larry Owens in an email. "In this case, even built in contingency allocations were not enough."

This combined with a contract-specified supplier's bankruptcy, higher than expected construction and testing costs, and the extension of a water main added up to a total cost for the project of $34.2 million – up from $26.2 million.

Putting this in perspective, "cost overrun" is a rare phrase at Santa Clara's municipal electric company. "We talked about this internally in preparations for the council [presentation], and could not think of any noteworthy instances where a well-defined construction project like this came in over budget," said Owens. "Our estimators typically take a conservative approach on estimates and build in a contingency factor.  In major projects, some aspects will come in under the estimate and some aspects over the estimate.  The net results are that projects invariably come in near or under budget."

However, the most careful plans can come undone when there are unpredictable change to large cost areas of a project. The Mission Substation was both "the first time SVP has estimated a substantial underground transmission effort and the first time we bumped up against intractable property rights and easement issues.

“Even with these costs,” continued Owens, "SVP rates will remain flat through the end of 2013 due to favorable wholesale energy prices and continued strong demand from electric customers in 2012." SVP's last rate increase was three years ago. By comparison, PG&E is currently asking the Public Utilities Commission for a 4.9 percent rate increase.

2013 Inauguration Tickets Opportunity

Santa Clara's congressman Mike Honda is holding a Facebook lottery for free tickets to President Obama's second term inauguration on Jan. 21, 2013. All members of the House of Representatives have inauguration tickets they can give to constituents.

“In 2009, when I first launched this program, the response was overwhelmingly positive and led to constituent-inspired legislation for me in the 112th Congress," said Honda in an email. "Based on the success of that inaugural ticket giveaway, I’m going back to my constituents for more creative ideas that can again inspire legislation.”

Using Facebook, Honda said, helps make the lottery "as fair and creative as possible and gives everyone an equal shot at receiving tickets. Facebook engages a different contingent of constituents that might not otherwise be engaged.  I believe constituents should have multiple avenues for sharing their ideas with their Congressperson, and look forward to this innovative exchange.”

To apply, visit www.facebook.com/RepMikeHonda before Jan. 3, 2013 and share your suggestions on one of two subjects: getting people back to work in good jobs, or making sure every child has access to a high quality, equitable education. You can write a paragraph, submit a video, or even draw a picture. Tickets are non-transferable, and only constituents from the new 17th Congressional District of California are eligible.  Only one entry per person permitted.

Municipal Power Companies Respond Faster According to Superstorm Sandy Data

Municipally-owned power companies outperform their privately-held peers when it comes to responding to natural disasters, according to a recent story on the daily NPR news show, "All Things Considered." 

While thousands of east coast residents waited weeks for the lights to come back, residents of Madison, NJ had electricity just days after Superstorm Sandy ripped through the state. Less than 15 miles away, Summit, NJ residents waited nearly two weeks for the lights to come back on.

The difference? Madison – like Santa Clara – operates its own electric utility, while Summit is served by for-profit utility Jersey Central Power & Light. Summit residents are so angry about JCP&L's performance that an effort is underway to create a municipal electric company.

The reasons why Madison's municipal electric company performed so well are not unique to that New Jersey town. They're advantages generally shared by publicly-owned electric utilities.

"We have a finite territory of 20 square miles," explains SVP's Larry Owens. "We can cover the city end-to-end quickly. That means a single person can develop considerable knowledge about the system” – and some of SVP's employees have decades of experience with the city.

Another thing that makes for reliability in Santa Clara is SVP's tree-trimming program. "The major threat is not rain, but wind," explains Owens. "And that has to do with trees." Because of the utility's grounding in the community for more than a century, SVP is able to maintain an aggressive tree-trimming program that proactively reduces potential problems.

In addition, Santa Clara also enjoys another advantage when it comes to reliability. Half of SVP's system is underground and not at risk from falling trees or power lines. 

Carolyn Schuk can be reached at cschuk@earthlink.net.