Silicon Valley

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Election Road Trip: What Does Silicon Valley Want from Government?

“From the City to the Valley.” This transit map reflects the modern reality that “Silicon Valley” has grown to include the entire San Francisco Bay Area.Credit: Stamen Design

In downtown San Jose, the cavernous, cool ZERO1 Garage is the conceptual epicenter for a wide-ranging art exhibition. Seeking Silicon Valley is an artistic exploration that includes 100 exhibits at 45 museums, galleries, and studios across the Bay Area.

Jaime Austin is one of the curators. Forty years ago, “Silicon Valley” referred to a small clutch of high tech companies in the Santa Clara Valley. Today? “It’s a network of freeways, a network of people, a network of technology, a network of companies and a network is something fairly abstract,” Austin says. “Silicon Valley, at least to me, is really more of an idea, than it is a place.”

Austin stands in front of what looks like a Bay Area public transit map — except the transit is anything but public. It’s a map of corporate bus routes that more than 44-thousand people use to commute to Google, Apple, Facebook and the like. The map (by Stamen Design of San Francisco) is jaw-dropping for its size and complexity — and for what it says about the way Silicon Valley has grown over the last 40 years.

“You know, the idea of San Francisco and Silicon Valley being two different types of cities with two different types of industry is no longer true. The greater San Francisco Bay Area is now interconnected. Because we really are one giant ecosystem.” Austin says.

“That’s one place where government can be a driver — is in providing some sort of guarantee for markets that we think are crucial and that won’t exist otherwise.”

That ecosystem is also one of the nation’s biggest economic drivers. Like it or not, Silicon Valley has a relationship to cultivate with government. Internet industry analyst and author Larry Downes says some of the most intractable political issues trickle down as big business problems across the world of High Tech. Take for instance, patent law. Continue reading

Election Road Trip: Silicon Valley Republicans — Wandering in a Political Wilderness

Boris Feldman tries to woo a potential voter to the GOP. (Image Courtesy Boris Feldman)

Boris Feldman tries to woo a potential voter. (Image Courtesy Boris Feldman)

For Election 2012 The California Report has been hitting the road to talk to voters in various parts of the state –  previously we’ve visited Riverside and Fresno. Today we turn to Silicon Valley. You might think the famously entrepreneurial business culture of Silicon Valley naturally fosters Republican sentiments, but the Republicans we talked to say they’re wandering in the political wilderness.

The Santa Clara County Republican Party recently held a fundraiser for Johnny Khamis, the GOP-endorsed candidate for San Jose City Council District 10. About 25 people showed up to rub shoulders over platters of hors d’oeuvres from Costco. If Khamis were to win, there would be two Republicans on the 10-member council.

“I go knocking on doors in my precincts every day,” Khamis tells me, “and some of them will ask me straight up: ‘Are you a Republican or Democrat?’ And I tell ‘em, ‘It’s a nonpartisan race.’ And then they say, ‘So what are you? A Democrat or a Republican?’ And I say, you know, ‘I’m a Republican,’ and if it’s a Democrat,  a lot of them will, um, slam the door in my face. Occasionally. OK, not a lot of them. But occassionally. It happens.”

“The Republicans in California have to completely recast the party or they’ll be in a permanent minority.”

Here in Santa Clara County, Republicans account for just 23 percent of registered voters. Compare that with 30 percent statewide. It’s fair to say Republicans are feeling outnumbered in many parts of California, but Helen Wang of San Jose says she  feels like she has a target on her forehead.

“That’s how I feel,” she says, laughing. “Because usually nobody supports me at all.” Continue reading