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Spark Charter School Failure Was Predicted by County Board

Parents and the media seemed surprised when Spark Charter School in Sunnyvale was forced to close down after one of its students was molested by a staff person.  The school had failed to keep the required background checks or TB tests for the majority of its employees.  But some saw this coming.

The Sunnyvale Unified School District Board, denied the charter, citing a number of serious problems.  When the Santa Clara County School Board approved the charter on a 4 – 3 vote, several of the Board members echoed those concerns.

Members of the County School Board questioned the validity of numerous aspects of the Spark petition including the financial analysis presented, the Special Education program, the English Learner program, and the testing of low-achieving students. When County School Board Members asked former Chief Strategy Officer Toni Cordova for her assessment, she stated that she did not believe the Spark Board of Directors or the school administrators had “the depth of experience in education or charter schools” necessary to “launch an education program.” In voting against approval, both Trustee Chang and Green expressed disappointment that a six-year effort had produced a petition they could not approve.  Trustee Song, who also voted against the petition, was more pointed when she directly asked parent leaders what would happen if the school was approved and then failed.  The Spark parents dismissed her questions insisting that they had the expertise to open and maintain a school despite the petition’s flaws. Read more »


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City of San Jose

 Council Members Khamis, T. Nguyen call for Crime Free Multi-Housing program to be implemented in San Jose; would evict residents for any violation

Council Members Khamis and T. Nguyen recommend the City Manager report out, at the October 6th City Council meeting, on progress toward the implementation of an opt-in Crime Free Multi-Housing Program to be supported by the San Jose Police Department, place the item on the October 14th Neighborhoods Commission agenda for review, and place the program’s implementation plan on the October 27th Council agenda.

The Crime Free Multi-Housing program has been discussed for almost two years, with discussions now reaching an impasse.

 Where: San Jose Rules Committee

When:  Sept. 30, 2015,

Link to item:

Link to agenda:

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San Jose City Council District 8 Race is Shaping Up

The San Jose City Council District 8 candidate pool is filling up quickly.  The seat is currently held by San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Herrera who is terming out in November 2016. Let’s take a look at who may be considering a run for the seat.

Joshua Barousse is currently serving as a Council Assistant to District 2 Council Member Ash Kalra.  Barrousse, a San Jose native, is young but has a Masters of Public Policy from San Jose State and a good deal of civic experience.

Another strong contender is Attorney Jimmy Nguyen.  Nguyen ran in 2012, finishing second in the full primary field and losing to incumbent Rose Herrera after a hard fought runoff campaign.  Could there be a third Nguyen on the San Jose City Council?

Rounding out the field of top candidates is Jenny Do, a workers compensation attorney with a long history of activism in the Vietnamese community.

Other aspiring contenders for the seat include former candidate Pat Waite, a retired businessman who lost his run for the seat in 2008 and businesswoman Denise Belisle.  We’ve also heard rumors that business owner, Kim Trang Nguyen considered throwing her hat in the ring, but has decided against it.

All eyes seem to be on Pattie Cortese, who if she decides to run, would instantly become a front runner.

While its early to predict all the individuals who will join, District 8 will have an eventful race. In 2012 District 8 had high turnout with almost 32,000 votes cast. Candidates for City Council can begin raising money in December.


Pope’s Visit Energizes Fight for Economic Justice

The Pope’s visit to the United States is reenergizing organizations throughout our nation that advocate for the just, humane and dignified treatment of workers.  The Pope’s message on income inequality, workers’ rights, migrant rights and economic justice has put the spotlight on a very real issue facing working families in Silicon Valley: the significant and growing economic disparity between those who are sharing in the prosperity of the region and those who are not.

That is why, in honor of the Pope’s visit and to promote his message, Silicon Valley Rising, along with UNITE HERE and SEIU-USWW came together to demonstrate their support for the workers who are fighting for quality jobs and fair treatment at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara and Citrix. Silicon Valley Rising and its partners joined forces to disrupt inequality by calling on the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara to stop denying its contract employees a fair process to organize and Citrix to end its contract with Universal Protection Service (UPS), one of the largest security contractors in the country that provides low paying, part-time jobs.

The technology and hospitality industries offer many of their direct employees living wages, good benefits and a high quality of life, but most people whose jobs are connected with those industries are not participating in its economic success.

The issue of economic disparity is a moral one that has a solution.  Companies, like Hyatt Regency Santa Clara and Citrix, are making the conscious decision to pay their contract workers low wages, deny them benefits and limit their hours. These decisions are keeping their workers from attaining economic stability and paying for life’s basic necessities like food and shelter.

All people who work hard and play by the rules should be paid a wage that allows them to sustain their families and live with dignity.

The call to disrupt inequality does not end when the Pope returns to the Vatican.  Disrupting inequality is, in fact, the only thing that will change the landscape for our region’s employees and ensure the responsible treatment of contract workers.


Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet for what’s going on in your community

City of Santa Clara

 Final adoption of ordinance to raise minimum wage to $11/hour

 This is the second reading of the ordinance approved by City Council last month. The ordinance will raise the City of Santa Clara’s minimum wage to $11.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2016, and bring it in line with the other cities in the region that have also passed minimum wage ordinances above the State’s rate. This wage will be adjusted annually based on the Region’s CPI.

 Where:    Santa Clara City Council

When:  Sept. 22, 2015, 7:00p

Link to item:

Link to agenda:

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Sunnyvale Adopts Silicon Valley’s Strongest Short-Term Rental Ordinance

This week the City of Sunnyvale adopted Silicon Valley’s strongest ordinance to regulate short-term rentals of residential properties, such as Airbnb, HomeAway, or FlipKey. The ordinance, which is aimed at mitigating the impact of short-term rentals on affordable housing, allows hosted-only short-term rentals, requires a permit from the City, and does not extend the policy to mobile home parks. It also regulates a maximum of 4 occupants per night at any given single-family dwelling. Additionally, the Council committed to monitoring the growth of short-term rentals in their community and keeping an eye on potential impacts to the local affordable housing stock.

As the “on-demand economy” continues to grow, there has been a rise in speculative buyers and absentee landlords purchasing apartment buildings or multiple homes and converting them to short-term rentals for profit. This takes desperately needed rental units off the market and puts the security of the community and the preservation of the neighborhood at risk. That is why it is imperative that policies that safeguard our communities, support quality jobs, promote a high quality of life, and preserve the ability for local governments to protect their residents be put in place.

Sunnyvale’s ordinance, which has stronger protections than San Jose’s, is a positive step in protecting affordable housing in Silicon Valley. As the City continues to grapple with this issue, there are additional protections that should be considered, such as a permanent residency requirement and a cap on the total number of days a property can be short-term rented per year. These requirements would ensure people do not turn residential space into perpetual short-term rentals and remove housing from the market.

It will be important to continue monitoring the impact of short-term rentals on affordable housing and remain watchful of how our local municipalities address the issue.


Levi Stadium: Home of the Vikings Fan Attack

On Monday the 49ers beat the Vikings on the field, but suffered a dangerous loss off the field – to their reputation.  A number of 49er fans savagely beat one Vikings fan as he lay helpless on the ground. Here is the video of the ugly incident:


While the motives for the attack are still unknown, this incident highlights the blatant lack of security at Levi Stadium.  The 49ers have been criticized for hiring two low road companies, Landmark and Elite, to provide security at the games, and the video proves the critics right.  Landmark and Elite obviously failed to create a safe environment at Monday’s game.

The safety of the public is not something the 49ers should  take lightly.  It is their duty to ensure that the security officers they hire are well-trained and sufficient in number to manage a game day crowd. The tackles and sacks at Levi Stadium should only be seen on the field, never in the stands.


Policy Watch: Your weekly tip sheet for what’s going on in your community

City of San Jose

MEMOS regarding Liccardo’s proposed minimum wage study

The memo from Councilmembers Kalra, Peralez, Rocha, and T. Nguyen recommends the Council approve the memo from Mayor Liccardo, and Councilmembers Jones and M. Nguyen which puts forth a study on minimum wage increases, adding additional direction. New directions include:

  • The study should fully consider the potential positive effects of raising the minimum wage
  • The option of adopting a minimum wage increase with no exemptions should remain on the table
  • The Memo should specifically state that there is no predetermined policy outcome in advance of completion of the study

The memo from Councilmember Khamis recommends that Council approve the recommendations regarding the minimum wage study, and that they add an analysis of the impact of a change in the minimum wage on working recipients of governmental support programs such as CalFresh, SNAP, etc.

Read more »


Santa Clara County Ends Contract with Turner Construction

Today, the County of Santa Clara decided to terminate its contract with Turner Construction. Turner is years behind schedule for completing the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and is costing the County thousands of dollars a day in lost revenue.  In addition, last year’s steam explosion at the Medical Center, which injured workers, raised questions about the company’s safety procedures.

The firing of Turner Construction shows serious flaws with the way the company was handling its project.  There were grave safety issues on the worksite, massive cost overruns and subcontractors who had gone a long time without being paid. Some have speculated that Turner was spread too thin, trying to complete Levi Stadium and the Medical Center at the same time. A lack of resources and oversight meant that safety concerns were not limited to just one construction site. The Levi Stadium project had its own set of complications including the exclusion of minority businesses and the tragic death of two workers.

This is a major black mark on the reputation of one of the nation’s largest construction companies.

At least the workers on the Medical Valley project have had some assurance that workplace safety will improve and that Turner’s poor performance won’t cause them to lose their jobs.


Santa Clara County Cities Association Joins Silicon Valley Rising in Regional Effort to Raise the Wage

Last night, the efforts started by Silicon Valley Rising (SVR) to achieve a regional minimum wage took a solid step forward at the Santa Clara County Cities Association (Cities Association) meeting.

For more than a year, Silicon Valley Rising has been leading the charge to raise the minimum wage throughout the Valley and has seen success in Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and most recently Palo Alto and Santa Clara. These cities have also committed to SVR’s goal of working towards a regional minimum wage of $15 an hour.

These victories have kept the momentum strong for the Raise the Wage campaign in the Valley and have motivated the largest city in the region, San Jose, to consider increasing its minimum wage and joining SVR’s regional movement.

Read more »


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