News clips from Joe's work representing Silicon Valley...
Here in the center of Silicon Valley’s tech boom, one of America’s wealthiest enclaves is wrestling with an uncomfortable dilemma: whether it can afford to lose the city’s only trailer park.
A block from multimillion-dollar homes and a few miles from the headquarters of GoogleInc. and Facebook Inc. sits Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, with 117 units that are home to about 400 residents, many of them Hispanic laborers.
Soon, they may be forced out. With property values soaring, the park’s longtime owners, 44-year-old Joe Jisser and his parents, are fielding inquiries from developers eager for a rare large slice of Palo Alto. The value of the park’s 4.5 acres could be as much as $55 million, local real-estate agents say.
Community leaders want to prevent that. Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is heading a campaign to keep Buena Vista intact and has put together $39 million, mostly city and county money. His group made an informal bid to Mr. Jisser last week, and he says he hopes to find private donations to augment the funds and make the bid competitive.
His plan: Turn Buena Vista over to a nonprofit that operates trailer parks in California.
Mr. Simitian, the county supervisor, says his father bought a Palo Alto home on his schoolteacher’s salary. His best friend, later a Palo Alto mayor, was the son of an air-conditioning mechanic who worked two jobs to buy a house.
One of their classmates was a daughter of a Hewlett-Packard Co. co-founder, says Mr. Simitian, 62. “None of us thought it odd that a mechanic’s, a teacher’s and a custodian’s kid would sit in the same classes with the CEO’s kid.”
The question Buena Vista poses, is “are we still that place?” he says, “Or have we priced ourselves out of the opportunities we could offer to almost anyone?”
Dozens of homeless people lined up outside of the North County's new cold weather shelter Monday night, seeking a meal and a warm place to sleep.
The new facility is run by the homeless services agency HomeFirst, and is seen as a much-needed replacement for the old Sunnyvale Armory. The armory provided 125 beds to homeless people in the North County during the cold winter months before it was closed down in early 2014. There was already little in the way of shelter space in the northern end of the county, and homeless people looking for a warm place to stay had to be referred to the Boccardo Reception Center down in San Jose.
County Supervisor Joe Simitian spearheaded an effort, starting in April 2014, to find a replacement for the armory. Options were pretty limited, Simitian told the Voice in June. The hot real estate market meant trying to find a new location for a shelter in the North County had been nothing short of a "Herculean task."
The facility itself is a portable building, pieced together in about a week, consisting of a single giant room full of bed rolls for people to sleep on. In the back is a kitchen area with tables for breakfast and lunch, where HomeFirst staff began serving up mashed potatoes to the people trickling in.
Simitian said the portable building is ideal for the temporary location, and can be easily taken apart and put back together. While the facility itself appears modest, with no partitions, Simitian said the very open floor plan makes it easier to handle changes ratio of men, women and families who show up. Overall, he said, it's an improvement over the Sunnyvale Armory, even though it will only last through March.
"The armory had seen a lot of years of wear and tear. In many ways, this is an upgrade," Simitian said.
One of the broadest pushes to reel in America’s surveillance state isn’t in Congress, the White House or a courtroom; arguably it’s in Joe Simitian’s office in California’s Santa Clara County government building.
Privacy advocates say the Santa Clara regulation would be one of the broadest anti-surveillance measures being considered anywhere in the US. As Washington remains deadlocked over how to put a leash on an ever-growing list of surveillance technology used by state and local police departments, it will probably be up to city councils and county boards to play watchdog.
His efforts come as Congress and states have moved to regulate specific electronic surveillance methods, such as aerial drones, bulk telephone record collection, and devices that impersonate a cell tower to intercept calls.
But making laws takes a lot of time, and as new bits of spy kit continuously show up it can be hard to keep pace.
So Simitian’s draft ordinance would require the local sheriff or any county agency to get board approval if it wants to buy any new piece of surveillance technology or use an existing system in a new way. This applies to any “technological tool used, designed or primarily intended to collect … information specifically associated with, or capable of being associated with, any individual or group”.
I remember the conversation well. I was talking to a constituent, a neighbor, at a community gathering. Out of the blue, she asked me a direct and unexpected question: Why don't we have any hospital beds here in Santa Clara County for teens who are at risk of hurting themselves or others?
Frankly, my first thought was, "That can't be right." But as too many families in our county already knew, and as I would quickly learn, it was entirely right. And it's entirely wrong.