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The Fly

Quality Control

A source inside City Hall dropped a dime on disgraced former Chief Information Officer Wandzia Grycz, saying she "lacked expertise in IT subject matter." The insinuation was that Grycz, who was at the center of the $8 million controversy involving the installation of telephony and computer infrastructure in the new City Hall, was unqualified to do her job. According to the source, Grycz was "totally dependent" on Wendy Walker, a deputy CIO who resigned four days after Grycz, for advice. Since Fly interviewed Grycz in March and found her knowledgeable but bureaucratic, we decided to check with her former employer to learn more about her background. From August 1993 until February 2001, when she was hired by San Jose, Grycz was assistant city manager for the city of San Leandro, just below Oakland. Her duties included working with department heads on development, budget and personnel issues. But before August 1993, she was San Leandro's information systems coordinator, which is essentially the city's information systems manager. Her duties as the IS coordinator involved planning and implementation of telephony and computer systems. Councilman Forrest Williams, who holds a doctorate in computer science, also vouches for Grycz. "She had knowledge of where we were trying to get [to], there's no question about that," he says. City Hall observers continue to opine that Mayor Ron Gonzales and City Manager Del Borgsdorf told Grycz to work with Cisco so that the Silicon Valley-based company received the city's contract. But Councilman Chuck Reed says that absent evidence of high-level collusion the best theory is that the city underfunded Grycz's department, leading her to take shortcuts then lie about the results. "That may help explain the behavior," he says. "We didn't have enough staff, putting them in a situation where we created an opportunity for failure." As for Grycz, expect her to be taken care of, maybe by Cisco. "I'll bet she lands on her feet pretty damn well," says one source. "If she starts talking, then [city administrators] have got a problem."

Air Force

In the summer of 2001, San Jose and Calpine signed an agreement allowing the energy giant to build a 600-megawatt natural gas power station in Coyote Valley. The agreement stipulated that Calpine would install two offsite air-quality monitoring stations on property chosen by San Jose officials. The trouble is the agreement failed to say when the monitoring stations would begin operation. Nearby residents say the monitors should have been installed a year prior to the opening of the Metcalf Energy Center to obtain before-and-after data. That means the monitors should have been operating in June, the month the plant is expected to open next year. "We're already too late to get a year's worth of data," says Elizabeth Cord, president of the Santa Teresa Action Group. Calpine spokeswoman Lisa Poelle says there's no debate about when the stations should be in place. But the company is waiting for the city to provide the sites. "We're ready to go when instructed," she says. Councilman Forrest Williams says he's under the impression the sites have been held up by a lawsuit the Action Group filed against the agreement because of allegations the city caved in to the energy company. But Assistant City Attorney Bill Hughes says the city still intends to enforce the agreement even though it's being challenged in federal court. Either way, Williams expects the stations to be operational by Oct. 1. Calpine officials point out the Metcalf Center's exhaust stacks will still be monitored on-site, around-the-clock as well as by periodic visits from Bay Area Air Quality Management. The California Energy Commission, in permitting the Metcalf, did not endorse the offsite system, saying it was unnecessary. "There will be no way to prove the emissions came from Calpine," says spokesman Ralph Borrmann. But Core, the Action Group president, says the stations will provide valuable data even if they are located several miles from Metcalf's exhaust stacks. "We're not as concerned about where it goes out," she says. "We're concerned about where it lands."

I Spy

Will Wal-Mart, your public library and your bank soon be sharing information with John Ashcroft in the near future? With the release last Monday of an ACLU report titled "The Surveillance-Industrial Complex," the chilling reality of personal details collected in one database doesn't seem far off. Terrorism, it appears, must be combated with no regard for civil liberties. Congress has already shot down TIPS, a Justice Department initiative that would have recruited millions of informants, such as your cable guy, as the eyes and years of government. (Its pilot, the ACLU tells us, was slated to have 1 million informants in 10 cities.) Now, the ACLU warns us about four surveillance trends already under way: the recruitment of individuals as informants (even after TIPS was dumped); the recruitment of private companies to provide consumer information to the feds either voluntarily or through laws like the Patriot Act; the accumulation of mass data; for instance, having states share their data on individuals or buying up data from the private sector; and the lobbying of private companies to persuade the government to base its surveillance on private-sector data.

Sheriff Bogart

Medical marijuana smokers want their weed back, Fly has learned. According to an informal study released by the Berkeley-based Americans for Safe Access, a nationwide group of 10,000 patients, doctors and advocates, California's law enforcement agencies are seizing green from medically approved tokers—and not giving it back. Under state law, of course, medical marijuana is perfectly legal. Authorities are required to return confiscated marijuana (or the cost of that marijuana if it's no longer smokable) to pot patients. However, the Safe Access study concludes, the estimated annual cost of compensation exceeds $4 million. "In the case of a state situation, what ends up happening is that police officers say, We don't know how to distinguish [medical from nonmedical growers], so we're going to seize the marijuana," says William Dolphin of Safe Access. Three dozen patients asked California courts to return a combined $1 million worth of marijuana. "There's a few particularly good agencies who will step forward and say, You're legit, and voluntarily return it," says Dolphin. "But in most cases, they're not voluntarily returning it."

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From the August 18-24, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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