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9.28.04

Letter from Santa Clara

Running, Jumping & Standing Still.for City Council

By Bill Costley 

Last year we saw a circus of candidates (including strippers and a guy who promised he'd stay dressed in blue) running to recall Gov. Gray Davis (D), but Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), ex-Austrian body-builder & action-film hero, won, restoring California's rep as a land of figurative fruits & nuts &movie-stars. Now a small 4-ring electoral circus is underway in Santa Clara. ("The Mission City." Mission, fund. 1777; City, 1852.) 

Last weekend we did a 3-hour shift selling lemonade and brownies in a church booth at the annual Arts & Wine Festival on Santa Clara's Central Park The 2nd day of this year's festival began with a downpour; but once it broke, I stretched my stiffening knees by wandering into a small semicircle of booths where candidates for 4 open seats on the 7-seat city council met the public. When I told them I was new here, and knew nothing, some of them lit up; others were elsewhere. 

Nam Nguyen (running for Seat 3) immediately slapped one of his red & yellow campaign stickers on my deep-orange store-bought tie-dye shirt, quickly bustling away to leave bottled water (with his sticker on it) on each public bench. His American-flag draped flyer promised "Accountability, Leadership, Integrity" and shows him with his wife (Beth S. Griffo) and their sons Taylor V. (7) & Ashton J. (4). President of the United Asians, an independent software developer, and self-professed community activist, Nam, 40, writes: "As a Vietnamese immigrant who came to America 24 years ago, I have experienced the struggles and rewards of being an American. America is a great country, and my family and I are committed to making a positive difference in Santa Clara." (Gap Kim, a Korean, running for Seat 4, passed on patriotism, citing elected name-endorsements. He works at google.com) 

Declared nativist Todd C. O'Donnell (running for Seat 7) gave away black & white pens with the tag-line "The American Man"; his flyer sports an American flag. His bizarrity, however, is his obsession with Star Wars. His booth had a large Star Wars model-set with the slogan "The Force of Santa Clara," and his flyer says that "in his spare time, he teaches acting lessons to children who want to pursue a career in theater." (His degree from Chico State is in Political Science, and Theatre.) "Todd is extremely interested in the betterment for the City of Santa Clara. He is anxious to listen and will try to answer any and all questions concerning the city from the citizens. Todd loves the All American City of Santa Clara, and it would be an honor to work for the city and give back to the people his wonderful leadership skills, and knowledge." (He works for his parents as a plasterer in a company they founded in 1972.) 

Todd's opponent (for Seat 7) is Jamie McLeod whose website (www.jamiemcleod.org) lists a record of "public service as a public sector land use planner, mediator, coach and volunteer," mentioning her (life-)partner,Vanessa, and membership in the local Quaker (Friends') Meeting. 

None of these candidates mention affordable housing or the homeless; all support home-ownership. I was a rent-striking tenant-union activist in Cambridge, Mass. (1968-73), so I suspect this may be deliberate, but when I called for clarification, the city clerk suggested "it's something they forgot as new candidates."

I'll let you if I find out what's real by the election on November 2nd.