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July 10, 2012 > Editorial: The Club

Editorial: The Club

Clubs, congregations of those with common interests, have existed for centuries. Many are formed for social, political, business purposes or to pursue hobbies; they meet in specific physical locations, inviting known community members to join. Others are more nebulous and secretive. Absence of physical meeting places may suggest an amorphous structure but even these have well-defined rules and regulations. Recently, I have been become aware of a well-disguised, but active club operating in our society.

This club is exclusive; members are secretive and selected to further the goals of the organization. I have watched subtle and obvious signals relayed between members; some who dress in flowing judicial robes while others flex power from mega-businesses. Sitting as supreme rulers, these groups of lords who rule as gods make weighty decisions following a strict code enforced by an unseen inner circle. There is little fear of retribution since they not only impose their will on society, but control the ultimate enforcement powers as well.

There is only one small flaw in this arrangement - occasional exposure of the club's existence. Since most citizens know little and see nothing of member behavior and the few that do are busy praying and beseeching favors, risk is low; any whim, no matter how absurd, can be granted or denied by these all-powerful beings. Woe to those who dare speak, display emotion, object or pretend to instruct in their presence. Only those who are either members or representatives of masters - known as jesters and fools in some societies - are allowed latitude.

Neophytes of this order are easily spotted since they can have a tendency to stray outside club borders, questioning some of the rules. However, they are quickly admonished and reminded of their tenuous hold on membership. After all, those that invite can disinvite!

Tri-City Voice (TCV) challenged the newspaper monopoly of Bay Area News Group, daring to enter the realm of newspaper publishing, recognizing the significance of the Southeast Bay Area. Although a timely and costly proposition, TCV recruited local people to tell our stories and deliver the news from the Hayward area, Tri-Cities and Milpitas. Almost all personnel who work with TCV live here and believe in the quality of life and value of local people, venues and events.

As readership and popularity of TCV increased, we asked a series of judges in the Alameda Superior Court system for recognition as a "Newspaper of General Circulation." An amazing demonstration of arrogance, faulty reasoning and courtroom misbehavior by both judges and a legal representative of the Bay Area Newspaper Group have revealed what I believe to be collusion and bias to protect a corporate-judicial gang of miscreants.

Filing for this status does not exclude any other newspaper from also maintaining the same status. Adjudication of a newspaper is not designed as an adversarial procedure, simply whether the applicant has qualified or not. This has been made clear to the court on many occasions but BANG, through their attorney, has objected, declaring that they are "gatekeepers" of the realm. No matter how they serve (or not!) this community, this monopoly will not be threatened and they have court cronies to make sure it never happens. Spurious citations of law are stock in trade for this group and it appears that they have significant help from clubmembers. It is obvious that, behind the scenes, something is askew.

After a strange experience with Judge George Hernandez in which he initially expressed surprise about the challenge by BANG and questioned the situation, the mood rapidly changed to that of deference to BANG attorney Duffy Carolan and even as he questioned the veracity and reasoning for her convoluted requests, everything she asked for was granted and any objection from TCV was met with anger and rejection.

Following this debacle, TCV returned to court and asked Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte to grant our request. This judge appeared to be perplexed by the opposition and questioned the opposing attorney. When she appeared to understand what was happening and leaned toward approval, a sudden reversal was the result. Why? When TCV finally decided to bring witnesses to the court hearings, we were unaware that the die had already been cast. Citizens were treated to a masterful presentation filled with contrition, bemoaning the complexity of the situation; oratory worthy of a great politician. Sensing semblance of intellect, TCV asked to return to this judge - Brenda Harbin-Forte - for another chance to qualify. When the judge agreed, she was quickly challenged by BANG as "prejudiced" even though they previously received a favorable ruling. Why? Were they afraid that reason and justice might prevail?

So, on to the last judge - Robert McGuiness - who presented an arrogant and hostile appearance to citizens who attended the hearing. TCV supporters and the Fremont City Attorney filled the courtroom and the judge was not pleased. McGuiness noted that he didn't care if 1,000 citizens attended even though a large part of his decision should have been based on any deleterious effect on the community served. He said that only subscribers would be of interest to him (he didn't ask if any attendees were subscribers). Judge McGuiness said that although he had reviewed the case, the following weekend would be used for review and a decision would be issued within 10 days but, he said, actually much sooner.

Since this preliminary hearing was designed to consider only whether the argument could continue on to discuss the merits of TCV adjudication, a definite court date had been set for the subsequent visit. A month passed with no decision and I hoped it was possible that backroom negotiations to obstruct the request were not going to succeed; TCV would prevail. As it turned out, this was an illusion. TCV asked subscribers to attend the hearing set for July 13 to allow no wiggle room for arguments of whether TCV has a bona fide list of subscribers.

Judge McGuiness finally released what I now surmise was a foregone conclusion of rejection... after a month of waiting. In my opinion, this delay was designed to defuse community anger and bury the decision in the approaching Independence Day holiday. Political decisions such as this are often made with close attention to how and when they will be publicized to affect impact. The reasoning and legal basis for the McGuiness decision was without merit; a purely political maneuver. The saying: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. In this case, the quacking is deafening!

TCV is currently working with legal counsel to determine our next course of action. Until then, we will continue to publish an expanded Tuesday edition and represent our community to the best of our ability.

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