City bureaucrats pondering a new title for the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant -- the old "Weepy Seepy" that processes 110 million gallons of sewage a day from 1.4 million residents in eight Silicon Valley cities -- should thank IA's readers for a bounty of clever suggestions.
Several readers who felt the proposed new name -- San Jose/Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility -- fell a little flat offered up some alternatives with a political flair.
Allan MacLaren didn't even break a sweat to come up with "The George Shirakawa Jr. Sewage Plant." Shirakawa, of course, is the supervisor who's seemingly flushing his political career down the drain with self-inflicted damage over expense accounts and campaign paperwork.
"It's a no-brainer," Mac-Laren said.
Larry Lee offered "The Mayor Chuck Reed Down the Drain Development," arguing that "he has led the city, its employees and services down the toilet."
And Marc Rotzow suggested "Rick Perry's Sewage Treatment Plant," after the Texas governor who's trying to lure California businesses to his state, observing that it would offer plenty of potential marketing slogans like: "Bringing the sights and smells of Texas to San Jose."
Others offered amusing titles befitting the purpose and nature of the plant. Ram Ganapathi riffed off a bunch, but his favorite was "Eau de Colon." We also liked "Dungenistan," for its exotic international feel.
Wayne Chan suggested "Affluents' Effluent" in order "to recognize contributions of the Silicon Valley pioneers."
Frank Mangini thought of —'You Flush We Brush' Pollution Control Plant."
And Chuck Stegner came up with "Steamers Lane," which our Santa Cruz surfing friends might appreciate. Or not.
Rotzow had another suggestion, which he thought might be useful to the valley's parents: "Goldfish Memorial Park."
And Kevin Kavanaugh, who once worked at the plant as an apprentice electrician, observed that a generation ago they just called it "The Turd Farm," which does have a nice tie-in to the valley's agricultural roots. But he admits it's not something you'd want to put on a letterhead.
S.J. police union helps Austin recruit city officers
It isn't just Texas Gov. Rick Perry who's looking to lure Californians to the Lone Star State.
The San Jose Police Officers' Association hosted the Austin Police Department last Tuesday to promote Austin's effort to recruit the city's cops. Austin was seeking city officers chafing at pay and benefit cuts brought on by the soaring cost of their city retirement pensions. It's not the first time the SJPOA has hosted outside recruiters in recent months.
But critics feel the officers' union is being hypocritical by inviting recruiters to poach city cops. The SJPOA has argued that the department is dangerously short-handed and blamed Mayor Chuck Reed's pension reforms for driving officers out and allowing crime to spike. A recent newsletter likened the department to the sinking Titanic.
"Truly counterproductive behavior" was how Councilman Pete Constant, a Reed ally and former San Jose cop, put it, arguing that the union is "encouraging people to leave" the force and further jeopardizing the safety of remaining officers and the public. "Their energies would be much better used in looking for ways we can increase the size of our department rather than decreasing it."
SJPOA consultant Tom Saggau said that while continued police departures are "a concern," officers are free to pursue other job options.
"People are filling out applications all over the state and the region," Saggau said. "It's going to get worse before it gets better."
It's worth noting the context: While the San Jose police union has stymied Reed's voter-approved pension reforms with lawsuits, it's in contract renewal talks with the city and seeking raises totaling 16 percent over three years. Reed and his City Council allies have said the city can't afford that without cutting libraries and other programs but have suggested smaller, one-time retention bonuses to keep officers on the beat.
Austin's police recruiter, Lt. Jerry Gonzalez, said the recruitment trip was a success. About two dozen San Jose cops showed up and more than half are potential candidates to join his department.
San Jose has been scrambling to recruit more officers, and hundreds have applied. Deputy City Manager Alex Gurza said San Jose's retirement plans appear similar to Austin's and that salaries are much higher. The base salary is $97,198 for a veteran officer in San Jose, compared with $82,553 in Austin.
"We are still an attractive place to work," Gurza said, "and we still have police officers who want to work here."
Quick, shut the barn door! The horses got out!
Tony Estremera, a Santa Clara Valley Water District board member, has figured in some of the spats recently at the Golden Spigot. Now he's joined an attempt to patch the damage.
In lieu of retiree health care, Estremera and ex-board member Joe Judge each received $90,000 checks in December after threatening to sue the district. But the real controversy was over a confidentiality clause in the pact.
Now Estremera and fellow board members Linda LeZotte and Brian Schmidt have crafted a memo that attempts to open the veil of secrecy at the Golden Spigot.
While not precisely an homage to transparency, the memo (read it at http://goo.gl/WIy62) says that monetary agreements with directors should not have confidentiality provisions. The three are asking the staff to study the proposal.
Closing the barn door after the horse has left? Arguably, yes. But don't forget the political implications. The seats of Estremera, LeZotte and Schmidt -- one member of the old guard and two reformers -- are up for election in 2014. The memo is one way to contain the criticism.
Valley's values raised in Obama's speech
In Silicon Valley, we are used to being the thought leader in gadgets like the iPhone or in social media sites like Facebook. In politics, not so much: Our congressional delegation is aging, and our political leanings are well to the left of the country as a whole.
That's why President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night cheered more than a few local players. Start with Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who has long championed the road to citizenship for immigrants, a topic that Obama struck forcefully.
Then there was the minimum wage. Local labor made a successful push last year to boost the minimum wage in San Jose to $10 an hour. Obama suggested raising the national minimum to $9, a move that would put other Santa Clara cities close to San Jose's level, evening the competition.
Finally was the matter of manufacturing. In his speech, Obama repeatedly stressed the need to revive American manufacturing. That echoed a book that was published last year, "Entrepreneurial Nation," by potential Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna.
The president's theme wasn't lost on Khanna, a lawyer who has been exploring a run against incumbent Mike Honda, D-San Jose. Our sources say Khanna is preparing an op-ed for the Washington Post that endorses the president's agenda.
Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by John Woolfolk, Tracy Seipel, Scott Herhold and Paul Rogers. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 408-975-9346.