Monday, July 25, 2011

San Jose Mercury News' Shameless Business Bias: Lehigh Cement and Scott Herhold

A few years ago, San Jose Mercury News sided with Toll Brothers, a big housing developer, to try to force their way to build massive number of condos in Cupertino. That "Condotino" project was only finally defeated when Cupertino citizens brought the issue to the ballot where 2/3 of voters, through precious votes, publicly embarrassed the council members that favored the proposal (yes, majority of the City council then was infamously known to work with Toll Brothers, too, and was about to approve the project until the citizens were so upset and decided to take the issue to the ballot themselves). Learn more about whom those council members were by reading other articles in Google search results of "Condotino."

That was a few years back. These two days, another San Jose Mercury siding with big business, this time, Lehigh Cement, surfaced. Fortunately this time, other news media caught the news and exposed the ugly truth of Lehigh Cement already elsewhere. It's quite shameless that San Jose Mercury News time and again decided to tender to the interest of big business and attacked any such grassroot citizen efforts. This time, a SJ Mercury writer, Scott Herhold, publicly attacked, in a round-about way, the only City Councilman, Barry Chang, that focused much of his recent effort in bringing public awareness to the issue. Perhaps little did Mr Herhold foresee, the State of California has spoken today, and EPA have sided with citizens over the years, too. It may not be that publicly aware yet, but it's time to let the ugly truth out: about Lehigh Cement, about San Jose Mercury News, and this time, another business-effected writer, Scott Herhold.

Scott Herhold attack on Councilman Barry Chang on July 23rd, 2011:

News of State of California's notice to Lehigh Cement on July 25th, 2011:
(See more of EPA's warning to Lehigh about its violations back in 2010 in the other articles in the "Related Content" of the same article.)

Here is Barry's grassroot effort to get Lehigh to "abide by" the law:

which has garnered so much support that I don't know how Scott Herhold and Mercury News can still act and write as if today were the stone age of media, as if citizens could still only know most of anything through newspapers instead of the real truth and facts out there. Aren't we glad Internet is here to expose the ugly truth and that other news media, available readily online, catch the real news and break it out to the wider audience?

Enough said.
(Can't wait till the shameless and business-serving SJ Mercury to finally wither in the age of citizen journalism.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Dog Park II: looks like only Kris Wang respects...

This past month, we witnessed courageous support and commendable collaboration from increasingly more Cupertino citizens to voice concerns, protest and even file a petition to get Cupertino City Council to officially reconsider their amazingly democracy-sabotaging practice on July 21 to approve the survey-and-trial for establishing unleashed dog parks.

The reason that I didn't update the blog timely is that: after witnessing what happened in the Toll-Brother case in 2006, unless we as citizens get the Council to amend its rules/practices/laws, I no longer trust that Council would respect citizens' protest and reconsider or repent their decision. This was again evident in the Council's decision to regrettably turn down citizen's petition to reconsider on Sept 1st. It was heart-wrenching to see how much time and efforts, hence taxpayer money, this Council has cost so many Cuperitno citizens.

All through this month and two meetings, we saw that only Vice Mayor Kris Wang tried to amend and change officially her vote on July 21 on record. She was also the only one that fought to get the July-21 haste decision reconsidered, citing many excellent facts and reasons: for example, lack of information on impact on other existing uses in the four parks, lack of study on the correctness and saneness of the survey and trials (Are the proposed trial times even sensible? Are the survey scope even democratic and reasonable? What prevents dog-owners to gang up and go to each surveyed park to innudate votes by pretending to be that park's regular users?). Despite her citing many such excellent and logical reasons, all the other four council members rejected citizens' petition, saying, paraphrasing Gilbert Wong: "We take reconsideration very seriously. In the history of Cupertino City Concil, there had only been two times that a reconsideration happened." Orrin Mahoney said, paraphrasing: "We had spent so much time on this issue since last year; instead of just gathering more information, let's just do it and see!"

Gilbert, if history can be the reason for today's action, why do we need you? We can just base every decision on history. Orrin, do you even know the trap of "sunk cost"? If not, look it up: trying to escape out of a due process only because you had put much time into it before now is illogical and simply irresponsible, given that you are supposed to serve all citizens of this city. I really doubt more and more where you went to school: as you like to offer disguising yet illogical statements and make decisions based on them. Either you are now adapt at being a politician or you are trying to deliberately trick more and more voters.

Kris was the only one on record that decided to do what makes sense after hearing community feedback, the only one that knows that just because reconsideration rules are written as such, rules are just words that set the "lowest" standard, just as the law does. When a rule or law doesn't apply in a situation, it is a councilperson or judge's decision to act above and beyond to protect the intention of the rule/law — protecting people and democracy utmost. For otherwise, why do we need judges and any judiciary system at all? However, to all the other four councilpeople, it looks like hiding behind written, basic rules is the best disguise and excuse to avoid respecting their citizens and doing the right thing, as they argued that lack of information doesn't mean violating their haste motion and undemocratic practice on July 21st. (You now see why arguing with the Council on their own rules is of no use — they are the ones interpreting themselves!)

For the record: Gilbert Wong has been known to say things that we sane citizens love to hear, but he hasn't consistently acted according to his words (see the previous article about the 2006-condo-building fiasco he was part of in City of Cupertino on Planning for Measurex Zone). For this matter, to this blog, he is still considered a dangerous councilman to root for because he does not always preach what he says. To all sane citizens, words don't matter. So let's continue to monitor Gilbert on his track record to see whether he is interest-group-tending as well. His action on this matter proves to be increasingly disappointing, raising suspicion that he may be ganging up with Mark on this issue as well.

As for Dolly Sandoval, she is stepping down this year after November election. So this blog won't waste more time on her. She, did, however, do something a bit more reasonable this time: she tried to sweeten her image by motioning to bring the survey results back and discuss together with the community first before proceeding. The candidate she is supporting, for example, Marty Miller, who is running in November, though, may be dangerous as well: unless Marty voices his stand otherwise, given that he is backed by Dolly and Mark, and with Dolly and Mark also for unleash dog parks, I doubt that Marty is a good candidate to vote for as he may be also one of the gang with Mark, Gilbert and Orrin.

As for Mark Santoro and Orrin Mahoney: The best solution is to not vote for them in their re-election bids this November. Mark and Orrin like to say that (paraphrasing): "Well, because people can choose not to come to the park during the off-leash hours, this is a good compromise." They both often cited this as their reason for going for off-leash dog parks. Honestly, any sane person can see how undemocratic and unreasonable this logic is: Let's, for argument's sake, assume that we even think that taking away public space from small neighborhood parks and wasting all taxpayer money on pets could remotely even be sane and reasonable: the proposed off-leash hours are times in the mornings and evenings when most people will be using the parks. By telling citizens that dislike the potential danger and annoyance of unleash dogs to avoid coming to the parks during the off-leash hours, Mark and Orrin are telling Cupertino citizens to not use the parks when they most need the space! Since when are public parks reserved for selected group at the expense and danger of others at the most needed times? Apparently, Mark and Orrin don't care to reason and explain to this level because, one can only gather, they care only about tending to the interest group behind this.

Furthermore, Mark Santoro, in the Sept 1st meeting, even tried to spin his rationale using a racial and minority analogy on camera (which, by the way, just showed his insensitivity) by claiming that "dog-owners" like him are "minority" just like racial minority that should enjoy equal rights. Well, Mark, look up the definition of "minority" in the legal and public sense that you tried to inject in this context: "minority" refers to humans and only humans. Never humans with pets or whatever non-human animals/objects they possess. These are called "special interest" groups. If everyone can go by your twisted logic, then everyone with pets can all claim as "minority" and ask for off-leashed hours and space paid by all citizens. Say, if I have non-poisonous snakes as pets and I love them so much that they are like humans to me, too - hey, they aren't dangerous and don't bite; they wag their tails and look so cute to me; they are the non-poisonous kind and their mouths are even so much smaller than dogs' -, by your twisted logic, others and I with snakes are also minority. Shouldn't others and I with snakes be allowed to walk and run our snakes in our small public parks off-leashed in certain hours and ask others that are afraid to just stay home during these off-leash snakes-walking hours? Mark Santoro's twisted logic is so obviously wrong, yet borrowing racial analogy is such a convenient trick and slogan that could sound so deceivingly grandiose on the first beat. Now you can see further why Mark, Orrin, Dolly and Gilbert are ganging up for "special-interest" groups, not "minority" rights in the legal and public sense.

Citizens of Cupertino: While this blog never likes to side with anyone in an election and prefers to let the voters see each candidate's track-record (actions, not words) and decide for themselves, because of this amazingly interest-group-tending practice of the Council, there is now a very solid, simple and effective solution: DO NOT VOTE for Mark Santoro, Orrin Mahoney, or any candidate that Mark, Orrin or Dolly supports (e.g. Marty Miller unless he comes forward to voice his opinion otherwise) in this coming November city coucil election!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dog Park: Orrin Mahoney, Dolly Sandoval and Mark Santoro

Last night, well into early morning of 2am, Cupertino City Council worked on the contentious action item regarding establishing dog parks in Cuperitno, particularly, Linda Vista Park, Jollyman Park and/or Memorial Park.

Many angry park neighbors, especially those in Linda Vista Park, as one specific item calls for fenced-in dog park trial here, showed up to voice concerns on why none of them was ever informed about the action item that will be affecting their lives. The Park and Recreation commissioner and the Citizen Group working on supporting the dog park proposal, told everyone on camera that they had mailed out postcards to neighbors, to which people angrily shouted out: "Show us the proof." Needless to say, we are witnessing another dirty-politics by the civil servants and the interest group again in Cupertino.

Why is this still happening dumbfounded me after the Toll-brother-condo-building-yet-public-defeating-the-council-in-a-66%-to-33%-citywide-vote in Nov. 2006 (see the previous posts on this blog). Councilpersons Kris Wang and Gilbert Wong proposed to consider alternative sites away from existing parks and particularly neighborhood parks, which look to be the most accepted public approach. However, three councilpersons: Orrin Mahoney, Dolly Sandoval and Mark Santoro, in their decision explanations to the public, never went for this consideration away from existing neighborhood parks. Mark Santoro at the end motioned to go for trials after 50%-neighbor-user-support in a survey to be conducted soon, which was voted by all five councilpersons to all yes'es at the end.

During this process, the tape recording of which, BTW, can be obtained in the 21st-July-2009 city council meeting, Mark Santoro, Dolly Sandoval and Orrin Mahoney, despite hearing all the opposition, all from concerned citizens of Cupertino, most of whom stayed well past midnight on a work day, went for allowing the unfenced trial unequivocally if there are majority neighbor support. Kris Wang proposed to amend the survey radius from Mark's 1000-ft to 2000-ft (households to survey within the radius from the park). Orrin Mahoney, the current mayor, amazingly told the public on camera and went into an argument with Kris: "Why survey that many [Cupertino citizens] about the trials?"

Orrin Mahoney, who are you representing and who voted you into the office? Are you representing and caring for Cupertino citizens or your own small special interest group? After the fiasco three years ago, did you not repent for the action you did then? Why can publicly elected office act in spite of public opinions and just cater to special interest group time and again? Do you really want to get citizens to get signatures to impeach you (or even for that matter, Dolly and Mark) on this matter?

If Cupertino has extra fund and time, not to mention in this economy, why are the elected officers and council not trying to improve the living humans' quality of life and instead spending money to tend to pets? Did you even ask the city citizens on whether they would approve your unilateral decision to spend our tax money to improve non-human lives? Do you think majority of citizens in Cupertino are living their lives and knowing their neighbors so well that the only thing left to improve is the dogs' well-being? Why not use the extra money to host free neighborhood block BBQ party to help neighbors interact and know one another better, as one resident suggested, or host more city-wide festivals meant to bring more people together?! And Mark, and Dolly, despite your tamer explanation and thin-veil on your position, why did none of you even consider Gilbert's suggestion to look into an alternative, unused land now for this purpose, away from neighborhood parks? Mark, what's your point about Stevens Creek County Park's being too far? If dog owners care enough about letting dogs run freely, shouldn't, wouldn't they care enough to do this in an area away from existing, small residential neighborhood parks? Why are you acting in your own and interest group's interest; because you also live close to Linda Vista Park? Orrin, Mark and Dolly, do you need the public to vote to impeach you and set in City's democratic procedure to always ask city citizens about allocating money for non-human use in the future?

I love dogs and have nothing against dog owners. I understand fully why dog-owners would like to have their dogs be able to run freely. But do this without affecting existing, small, residential neighborhood parks. I know this is a good, compromised solution that all can accept, easily judging from the two groups' (both for and against) reactions. No one wants to further divide the city, the living human citizens and neighbors. So why are you coucilpeople acting to do this? Don't believe this? Let's put into city-wide vote! And for that matter, since you councilpeople are forcing the public to do this on your incompetent behalf (just so to let you know how out-of-line and out-of-touch you are), let's ask Orrin, Mark and Dolly to resign if the public vote against them, since they never even wanted to consider an approach that clearly would be accepted by the majority; instead decided to unilaterally act on their own and such a small-interest-group's behalf.

Shame on you to waste taxpayers money and time without consulting with taxpayer majority. We will continue to monitor what dirty deeds you still can do, compromising integrity of democracy in secrecy. At the same time Cupertino citizens let's contemplate legal measures to prevent such unconscientious democracy-sabotaging from happening in Cupertino City Council and prevent special-interest-representing officials from ruining this beloved city in the future.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Richard Lowenthal, Orrin Mahoney and Dolly Sandoval

The latest news are in. Richard Lowenthal, Orrin Mahoney and Dolly Sandoval continued to support massive, tight condo development in the remaining land in Cuperitno.

After Vallco's 100+ units, the project at Finch Avenue and Stevens Creek Boulevard was approved by the above three, adding another 300+ units. Honestly, tour around Vallco and the land close to the intersection of Stevens Creek Blvd and Wolfe Rd., and you will see massive high-rise buildings with boxed condo designs, aimed to maximize space without any regard for aesthetics. It is obvious that Richard Lowenthal, Orrin Mahoney and Dolly Sandoval loved putting condos of ugly boxed design in Cupertino, hundreds of them, because, they would say: traffic would be fine, schools would be fine and we -- as in the city staff -- would get more needed revenue to support our operations. (Furthermore, they will quote: By California law, we can't vote on a proposal because of school concerns. Dear councilpersons, just because it is legal, it does not mean it is ethical and conscientious. Otherwise, why does a legal case need a judge and jury -- humans -- to decide on humane concerns, that is?)

The concerned residents are now working together to place referendums on the ballot to stop these approved units development (1000+ of them) in the general Vallco and Stevens Creek Blvd area. Residents, let's work on this and let the councilpersons know: Shame on you, you do not represent us! Shame on not keeping your promise to ensure good design and sensible growth in Cupertino! Read your own words back in 2002 again, Richard Lowenthal!

Measurex Zoning and Development Decision

These last two entries are about events that has occurred in the last month -- I just didn't have time to update the blog.

After sending Cupertino Courier my last letter, readers can still see that the Courier allows Mr. Paul Fong to publish long exposition on his bias and, what's worse, bashing of Cuperitno residents. After seeing that the Courier would continue to allow a dishonest politician and resident to publish biased and bashing opinions, frankly, I was disappointed in the integrity of the Courier. I wonder whether they are concerned about donations from the special interest in order to keep the paper and staff running happily.

Regarding the Measurex planning and development: the city council, because Mayor Richard Lowenthal decided to withdraw, reached a 2-2 decision regarding the re-zoning of the site from light-industrial to residential, effectively vetoing the new residential development proposal on the site. Councilperson Orrin Mahoney and Dolly Sandoval voted for the project while Patrick Kwok and Vice Mayor Kris Wang opposed.

Kwok, in particular, cited the strong opposition from the community as one of his strong reasons to oppose, while Wang opposed because she didn't feel comfortable about an irreversible design at this point and that the density was great cause of concern as well. Mahoney and Sandoval basically stated general opinions about growth is good, traffic should be fine, we are for growth as their reasons for supporting. Look up Cuperitno City Council's meeting minutes, and judge for yourself whether you find Sandoval and Mahoney as honest and conscientious councilpersons that offered convining and critical analysis on their support -- or whether, they are simply just for growth no matter what. I don't find them believable at all and was frustrated to find that they never addressed residents' concerns (then why hold public hearing?) and simply voiced their own strongly-held beliefs about "we are for growth!" as the major theme.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Cupertino City Council, Mr. Paul Fong and Hugh Biggar

The Measurex re-planning proposal is due for the city council to evaluate on Mar 8th, 2006. In this past month, Mr. Paul Fong, a resident at Cupertino and an elected trustee of Foothill - De Anza District mass-mailed residents of Cupertino with his urge and support for the replanning proposal by Taylor Woodrow, an international housing development group. In his letter, in both English and Chinese -- two versions mailed out separately over a month --, he blatantly lied about the proposed number of housing units: 14 instead of 94! in his arguments for supporting the proposal. By lying about the number of housing units and pitting that this is a proposal about parks instead of the existing light industrial space, he urges recipients to reply to his enclosed postcards so that he can send the positive replies to the city council.

It is so alarmingly dismal to see a resident, let alone a public official, is willing to lie and distort in order to garner his support. Such dishonest conduct smells so obviously like a special interest group that is trying to misinform the greater public in order to incorrectly influence busy residents' impression of the proposal -- those that haven't had time to read the proposal facts. Since a good portion of the Cupertino residents are Chinese-speaking, such act of going a step further in mailing a pure Chinese version smells even fishier -- given that Asian population, especially relatively new immigrant families, are traditionally less active in civic issues as their exposure to the standard Amercian, active community participation is not yet as mature.

The dishonest Mr. Paul Fong aside, when one thinks about why the Cupertino planning commission and the city council are willing to consider such risky replanning proposal speaks volumns about the integrity of their public serving attitude. This proposal supposedly has been turned down and replanned for more than a year now. Now with the new proposal, which proponents claim meets all the city regulations, Taylor Woodrow is trying again. It is depressing when one takes a step back from looking at whether the plan meets regulation or not and thinks about the effects and quality of the plan. If this plan does not harm, or instead merely maintains, or better yet, improves the quality of life at Cupertino and residents living around the neighborhood, why would Taylor Woodrow and proponents all be talking about their great compensation to the schools nearby and their helping mitigating the adverse traffic impact? Why wouldn't they be all talking about how the life quality will be improved? If such proposal will cause no harm, why compensate the schools with so much more money than they need for the next few years to come? If such proposal has no ill effects, why do they need to study how to widen the traffic lanes? If such proposal is all clearly good, why do they need a proponent like Mr. Paul Fong to mass-mail and lie to the public about the plan?

As a city councilman and -woman, isn't it his/her responsibility to ensure that s/he is serving the public -- to guard, maintain or improve the quality of life in the city? If a project has such clear wide-changing and ill-effects and not maintaining or improving the quality of life, why are they even spending so much time, therefore money, to evaluate it -- supposedly for over than a year and more than a few times already? If this is not a plan that one day in the years to come, they can stand next to their kids while walking about the neighborhood and saying: "Look! This dense design and widened traffic lanes next to schools are here all because your father/mother approves it. I am so proud of it," then how can they even be standing in front of the public, on record, and inform the public, we like it and are evaluating or supporting it?

The latest edition of Cupertino Courier contains an article by Hugh Biggar, written in a tone and style that looks to support the plan as well -- as it lacks critical analysis about the plan's effects on the quality of life and instead focuses mainly on the plan's meeting regulations and offering suspicion-raising compensation such as offering money to schools and below-the-market rates for some housing units. (Honestly, if Taylor Woodrow believes that the plan causes no harm, why would it even go so far in compensation?) Furthermore, despite that the city planning commission has recommended denial of the proposal, Biggar writes: "Cupertino's planning department supports the project...." (Biggar may try to defend himself by saying he used the word "department," not "commission.") Shame on a public writer here at Cupertino willing to write in such a style to try to affect the public's opinions. Are you proud to tell your kids one day, Mr. Biggar, that because of your writing style and tone, you have contributed to making it possible for generations to come to see 94 housing units on that land and widening traffic lanes next to three schools nearby?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

City of Cupertino on Planning for Measurex zone

I attended the Cupertino city planning meeting for the suggested plan for the previous Measurex zone tonight at 01/24/06.

This was the first time I went to any city-related meeting and here is my observation on the four commissioners based on what they analyzed and said:

Taghi Saadati: he said he wasn't greatly concerned about the traffic or the school impact without going into any substantiated details and analysis.

=> Why is this guy, unable to provide critical and believable analysis and arguments on this important case, even in the City of Cupertino office and voting to affect our lives?

Gilbert Wong: he said during his initial vote (I may be paraphrasing a word or so; you can check the recorded video): "It is difficult for me to say no even though the project goes against the principles I just outlined."

=> Gilbert offered a good analysis on his principles and what he believed in. But when the time came for voting and acting, he couldn't act on his principles! My goodness, isn't this dangerous to see that a person affecting the city's -- yours and my -- living quality cannot act on his principles? He talked smoothly and convincingly about his analysis and his principles but then when the time came to act, he acted against his principles!! My goodness; who do we have here?

Lisa Giefer and Marty Miller were the other two commissioners that elaborated, analyzed clearly on their beliefs and principles, and acted accordingly.

Also, one question I raised during the meeting was that: how did the number of people assumption, on which all the planning, analysis and mitigation was based on, be so under-estimated: that 94 three-bedroom and four-bedroom family houses will send only 34 kids to a school in total each year? We all know that when an assumption is wrong, everything else falls apart -- just like one is proving a mathematical theory, and in this case, presenting a case and plan. If such core assumption is so grossly incorrect, how would the staff, in particular, Steve Piasecki, the Community Development Director, even let the plan proceed? This just so glaringly tells people of Cupertino what kind of bias he and the staff possess and what kind of job he is doing for us. What is sad is that when you see into a person's bias, you know the rest regarding a particular case/argument is just his spin on things -- and all that is recorded.

City of Cupertino: there are very capable and wise eyes watching you and rest assured that there will be much more -- as there will be more, much easier and faster information dissemination channels in the years to come.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Over the last few months, starting with the Measures A, B and C movement, some friends and I started to pay attention to the city planning and development activities in the city we live, Cupertino, CA. Perhaps like many city residents across the States, my friends, neighbors and I haven't spent much time paying attention to the issues affecting every day life around us -- because there is so much about career, friends and family that divert attention from people of my age and generation that we typically care much less about city development and planning activities; we tend to put a bit more faith and like to trust a bit more of the public officials to do the right thing. Like many others, we were content on ensuring that we set a good foundation in life first for the years ahead and not spending too much time on handling the public and civic activities -- after all, that's why we elected people into the public office as civic servants to serve us.

Of note a few years ago was that sudden dense high-rise development on the corner of Stevens Creek Blvd and De Anza Blvd. If you have been in or visited Cupertino a few more years back, before the crazy bubble was upon the Valley, that corner gave rise to a beautiful, open skyline. When it was first developed, I thought the city would develop something artistic and clean to match the quality of life and design around the city -- just like many conscientious, American design and public planning, at least that was my impression of the supposedly "good" American value. To my and many people's dismay, what ended up was a big, hulky, rectangular box design that any third-grader can see exist solely to maximize room and space occupancy. It was simply ugly.

What prompted me to start this blog, though, was the recent activities surrounding Measure A, B and C that was narrowly defeated in the Nov. election last year. The measures were aiming to limit the insane and reckless growth and development. I wasn't involved early on to examine the wording and issues surrouding the measures. In the few days and weeks before the elctions, suddenly there were a slew of suspicious, advertised objections from politicians, even those that don't reside in the city, that came forward to urge residents to turn the measures down. Even the San Jose Mercury News wrote an opinon column on this measure (now, why would "San Jose" writers be writing about it?). What was also alarming was that a few Chinese-speaking politicians started sending letters and posting newspapers ads to urge residents to turn down the measures. The facts, quoted in those letters and ads, were at best vague and often misleading. Being someone that can read Chinese and understand Chinese culture well, I was dismayed by this series of suspcious activity.

What transpired after the narrow defeat of Measures A, B and C became so alarming that prompted me to start this grass-root effort to publicize and report on what my friends and I see happening at the city planning and development as we speak.

This blog will be about Cupertino, CA — the headquarter of Apple. About the life, the surroundings, the city council, the city government, and the city planning and development that is affecting the quality of life of everyone here involved. Seeing the city operation with a pair of fresh eyes, I will report the facts that I recieve and see. Hope that you get to see an interesting side of city operations here in the United States, in California, and particularly in Cuperitno.