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Blade Runner: The sheriff invited top brass, like newly elected San Jose Councilmember Judy Chirco, \to ante up for new toys for her new chopper.

Public Eye

Hella Copter

Eye was amused to see the county's top cop-ette, Sheriff Laurie Smith, displaying huge copies of her proud-parent-of-a-new-helicopter wallet photos last week. This was at the Sheriff Advisory Board's $150-a-head fundraiser on Nov. 21, designed to outfit the new hellacopter with the latest in toys and gear. Although the state chipped in funds to buy and operate the chopper, the county got out of paying for fancy extras like camera equipment. Hence the cash bash, which offered mini-chocolate-mousse pies and a comedy skit starring Smith herself, in exchange for Silicon Valley glitterati coming out in their sparkly clothing, dark suits and frosted tresses. The wine-sipping event was a big change from the macho, back-slapping, cigar-smoking SAB affairs of yesteryear. Local luminaries included Saratoga Mayor Nick Streit, fresh from an election romp, new Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Chief Scott Seaman, incoming Superior Court Judge Ron Del Pozzo and new San Jose City Councilmember Judy Chirco. The chocolate pies got a thumbs-up, but the entertainment received mixed reviews. One new sheriff recruit claimed the performance that involved Smith preparing unappetizing food concoctions as a cooking-show spoof was funny. But our impeccable sources-- two teens smoking cigarettes outside after the show--thought the yuks from the audience inside sounded like fake laughter. Anyhoo, Smith was in good spirits, and rightfully so. According to spokesdeputy Terrance Helm, the event raised more than 80 grand ($30k more than Smith had hoped for) to pay for the new chopper's infrared tracking system so that Blue Thunder can get a heat-seeking bird's-eye view of wrongdoing from the sky. To top it off, Smith received another early Christmas present, which she brought with her to the party: a gorgeously penned invitation to join "The President and Mrs. Bush" for a Dec. 12 Christmas reception at the White House. "We're actually thinking about going," Smith told Eye, as if she gets White House invites all the time. If it irks any of Eye's powerful readers that Sheriff Smith was invited, but they were not, the White House comment line phone number is 202.456.1111.

Gomez Strikes Back

Milpitas' absentee voters have pulled a power punch, and everything is suddenly topsy-turvy in the South Bay hamlet of malls and foothills. Just weeks ago, Eyewatchers may recall, City Council candidate Paul Hay was mostly smiles, expecting victory after reports that he led opponent Armando Gomez by 17 votes and then by 32 votes in the days immediately following the Nov. 5 election. Well, we hope he didn't start chilling the champagne. Now, Gomez's campaign manager, Vic Ajlouny, joyously reports that underdog Gomez has risen to a 13-vote lead over Hay. That's as of Nov. 22. Ajlouny says all provisional ballots have been counted, and the county Registrar of Voters expects a planned routine verification will not make a difference in the outcome. So, as it stands now, Gomez can look forward to working side-by-side with his former (and perhaps current?) foe--and winner of the most votes in the race for two council seats--Althea Polanski after the Dec. 3 election certification.

Peace Nazis

Lots of groups oppose Bush's war in Iraq. These include the expected intellectual, hippie, tree-hugger and pacifist contingents--Peace Action, Resource Center for Nonviolence, Voices in the Wilderness, the War Resisters League, who are co-sponsoring a peace pledge on the Internet--and some religious types--Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (auxiliary bishop, Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit), the Rev. Graylan Hagler (senior minister, Plymouth Congregational Church) and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation, who marched in an antiwar protest. No surprises there, but check this out: right here in San Jose, white power neo-Nazis are trying to get in lock-step with the resisters. The National Alliance, a pro-white, anti-racial mixing, anti-Jewish, anti-homosexual group, is going to bat against U.S. military action in Iraq and America's intervention in the Middle East, it says. The local group's activities come to light as hate group watchdogs and academics, including Harvard University's president, have warned of a disturbing increase in anti-Semitic political activity on campuses. "We're very pro-Palestinian," explains National Alliance member Kevin O'Keeffe. "We believe in a European homeland, of course. But we also believe in a homeland for other people. " O'Keeffe, a 32-year-old San Jose resident, says he joined the white power group when he was 26. He's now helping to lead a campaign to leaflet San Jose (specifically the Willow Glen, Cambrian and Almaden neighborhoods), Campbell, Los Gatos and Saratoga with fliers requesting, "Let's not be cannon fodder for cowardly Jews," and proclaiming, "Jewish propaganda: hypocritical, evil, with malice aforethought." The latter flier attacks Viacom Inc. head Sumner Redstone for producing Save the Last Dance, a teen movie about jungle fever. ... Regardless of the alliance's racism, the campaign at hand focuses on xenophobia and anti-Semitism. O'Keeffe explains away the parallel between his pro-white, anti-other stance and Israel's nationalism this way: "There's no question--the Israeli Zionist movement is an ethnic nationalist movement, but it's also an imperialist movement. Israelis seem to want ... to ethnically cleanse the West Bank." Though alliance figures have previously espoused "racial purity" doctrines, O'Keefe says it is "absolutely against using violence." While O'Keeffe, who studied political science and history at San Jose State University, understands that his views are "unpopular," he says he "may very well" run for a state or federal office within the next two elections. He's also working with other alliance members from surrounding cities to start a San Jose chapter in upcoming months. No word yet on the neighborhood response to O'Keeffe's fliers.

Hocus Focus

The bombs were flying earlier this month during the sparsely attended League of Women Voters Community College Crisis Forum at De Anza College. The Nov. 12 event was supposed to focus the public's attention on the cash crunch facing California's beleaguered community college system. Instead, district leaders took the opportunity to sidestep the agenda, making unexpected comments about the district's regular practices. The biggest frag came from Foothill-De Anza College District Prez Sandy Hay, a retired De Anza geology professor, who surprised the edu-wonks in attendance by suggesting that perhaps the time had come to review the customary community college practice of letting students take classes over and over again until they pass. "I'm all for giving students a second chance," Hay said, but reduced resources now leave him wondering "if we should be giving students third and fourth chances?" The comfortably pensioned community college trustee seemed blithely unaware that many economically hard-pressed community college students often must drop classes midterm for reasons that have nothing to do with their academic ability. Outgoing Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Leo Chavez, who recently announced his resignation to take a foundation job, winced visibly at Hay's "your car breaks down, you lose your education" suggestion. He did not, however, mention Hay's idea in his remarks. Interestingly, he chose instead to lash out at college textbook publishers--and the colleges themselves--for participating in a system that often saddles students with as much as $500 worth of required book purchases per quarter. "We ought to be putting that material online and on CDs," he said, adding that at least some of the money saved could be used by the colleges to provide space for the approximately 3,500 students who were turned away from overstuffed classes at De Anza last quarter, despite the state law that promises "access to higher education for all who may benefit." Right now, the only folks assured of benefits, Chavez said, are the textbook publishers and the health-insurance companies, who have been raising premiums by double digits lately. Chavez wants to see those health-insurance rates negotiated by the state for all community college employees, which he says would increase the college's collective bargaining power "and take that item off the table." No word yet on whether his as-yet-unnamed replacement will act on fantasies about throwing students and/or textbook publishers out on their ears.

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From the November 27-December 4, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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