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Top Stories: July 22, 2009

Reed Fights Back; Home Loan Scam Bust; LGBT Center Threatened

Reed & Mayors Vow to Fight Schwarzenegger Budget

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed struck a defiant pose yesterday in response to California’s new state budget. After hammering out a difficult budget of his own to cover the city’s $84 million deficit, Reed was shocked to learn that his city could be handing over as much as $100 million to the state.
His strategy is simple: Sue the state. “We will certainly be joining in with other cities in litigation,” he said.
This was echoed by mayors across California. In Riverside, Mayor Ron Loveridge said, “We think these are illegal raids of local funds.” Robin Lowe, Hernet Councilwoman and first vice president of the League of California Cities, reflected the growing unease among city officials across the state:
“No one is going to sit still for this,” she said. League president and mayor of Rolling Hills Estates Judy Mitchell added that the League will sue the state if it takes their gas tax funds.
Counties, which also stand to suffer a hit from the new budget, also called the governor to task. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has already voted to sue the state if it took their money.
Santa Clara County is more fortunate. As part of the painful cuts it made to resolve its own $273 million budget deficit, it created a special $63 million reserve fund to complement its $93 million contingency fund. This was done in the expectation that the state would eventually dip into its coffers.
It may not be enough. Some analysts are suggesting that the county could see as much as $280 million in state cuts, which will force the county to make even deeper cuts to public safety and social services. Later, more conservative estimates put the cuts at $100 million, still described as a “devastating blow” by County Budget Director Leslie Crowell.
As the counties begin to crunch the numbers, it seems that nearby San Mateo may have the hardest time of all. Already faced with a crippling $100 million deficit, it may yet owe the state twice as much as most other counties.
All told, the general atmosphere among local officials is one of militant despair. This was summed up by Redondo Beach Councilman Steve Diels: “The state is broken, and misery loves company. We're already feeling the pain. Why we should have to pay their debts is absurd.”
Read More at The Mercury News.
Read more at the The Press Enterprise.
Read More at the Contra Costa Times.
Read More at NBC Bay Area.

Mayor Chuck Reed has issued a formal statement about the new state budget’s impact on San Jose.
“The budget deal announced today will force us to cut services and eliminate jobs. San José balanced our budget a month ago, and we closed an $84 million shortfall and saved critical programs, including fire stations, traffic enforcement, the police mounted unit, the park ranger program, library hours, and community centers. Our residents and employee groups stepped forward and worked in partnership to make sacrifices, and we saved critical services. Now, we’re faced with the consequences of Sacramento’s failure and our residents are going to be the ones to feel the impact.”
Mayor Reed has yet to elaborate how city services will be affected by the budget cuts.
Read More at KLIV.

Arrests Made in San Jose Home Loan Scam
Two people have been arrested for running a loan modification scam in San Jose. The two, Amir Rashidifar and Mary Delvecchio, are alleged to have set up a sham company that charged desperate clients who had fallen behind on their mortgages thousands of dollars to modify their home loans. Police have already identified 129 victims of the scam. Rashidifar and Delvecchio were arrested in Toronto and are currently awaiting extradition.
Read More at KCBS.

Uncertain Future for LGBT Center
San Jose’s Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center, the only Bay Area LGBT center south of San Francisco, is in danger of closing its doors. The center, which relied on corporate, municipal, and county support, has already seen its budget drop by over 50 percent over the past year, from $660,000 to $310,000, but this is not enough, according to Executive Director Paul Wysocki. The Board of Directors now hopes that the local community will pull through with donations, but if that fails to bring enough money by September 1, they may have to let go of all staff members and operate purely through volunteers … or eventually close their doors.
Read More at ABC7.

San Jose Man Faces Deportation to Israel
Hank Nijmeh, 52, has spent the last 43 years in San Jose. He arrived here with his Palestinian Catholic family at the age of ten, joined the boy scouts, graduated from Del Mar High School, and helped his father run the Falafel's Drive-In on Stevens Creek Boulevard. The problem is that he was also diagnosed with chronic psychotic paranoid disorder, which led to numerous run-ins with the police. After his most recent run-in with the law, immigration officials stepped in and decided to deport him. After three years of appeals, the deportation order is about to be executed this week.
Nijmeh’s family and supporters are furious over the decision. He has no relatives left in Israel, they say, and he speaks no Hebrew and very little Arabic. They are especially worried that his illness, which grew worse over the past three years because of inadequate medication, will cause him problems with the Israeli police, who will simply see him as a suspicious-acting Palestinian.
Nijmeh’s attorneys argue that one of the reasons he is being deported is that he fell through a crack in U.S. immigration law. In 1973, when he was sixteen, his mother became a naturalized citizen, but at the time both parents were required to take citizenship for him to gain citizenship automatically. When his father became a citizen in 1975, Nijmeh was already over eighteen, excluding him from automatic citizenship. Because of his mental illness, he never applied, and therefore remains the only member of his family not to hold U.S. citizenship. While the law was changed in 2000 so that a single parent becoming naturalized was enough to confer citizenship on minors, the law was not passed retroactively.
For now, Nijmeh sits in the Yuba County jail. Without adequate medications, his hallucinations have only gotten worse. But the real nightmare will begin soon, when he is put on a plane and forced to build a new life in a country that he barely knows.
Read More at the Mercury News and The Santa Cruz Sentinel.