2020: The Lost Year

It’s been exactly a millennium and a decade since two identical numbers divisible by 10 paired together in such a beautiful fashion, with the additional meaning of signifying perfect ophthalmological vision.

Instead of bringing balance and harmony to the planet, however, it unlocked some evil Chaldean numerological curse. We were smitten with Nebuchadnezzar in the White House and a Biblical plague.

This year reinvented our social existence in a big way, totally turning the notion of what it means to be an individual in a society on its head. We stopped going to the office. Unless we were involved in an essential occupation, we only dressed up from the waist up and selected a virtual background. Anything that couldn’t be done with a laptop or mobile device suddenly found itself in the commercial equivalent of an ICU ward.

Cinemas, concert venues and theaters went dark. Nightclubs—Ritz, Continental, Stritch, Charleys LG—closed for Covid. Two legendary hookup spots—the Watergarden and Grand Central Hot Tubs—turned the key permanently. Schools and playgrounds emptied. Gilroy’s only bowling alley closed.

Politicians made rules that they couldn’t follow. They biked and gathered for Thanksgiving dinners and French Laundry jaunts.

Police clubbed, tear gassed and rubber-bulleted civilians who had gathered to protest specifically that type of behavior. Turns out they were getting their threat information from a federal agency that mistook parody websites for actionable intelligence. San Jose’s police chief pensioned out and lateraled to Dallas.

There were bright spots, too. We learned how to cook and improved our home bartending skills. Long festering home projects got some attention. Following Milpitas’ lead, an initiative to name a San Jose street after Barack Obama gained traction.

We formed tight pods and came to appreciate the people close to us better. We focused on things that mattered. We streamed movies. And, now, finally, this shit year is over.

JANUARY

Shawn Patrick Evans.

With Crimes Like This, It Was Bound to Get Worse

San Jose Police arrested 37-year-old Shawn Patrick Evans of San Jose for placing two cameras inside a Starbucks bathroom at 1815 Hillsdale Ave. Evans was found in his car, windows covered with clothing, with his laptop, some methamphetamine and a glass pipe, police said.

Mr. Peanut Died, for Some Reason

Now this is nuts! The 104-year-old mascot met his demise in January after sacrificing himself to save his friends in a road accident. Shortly after, the Internet was lit aflame over the birth of Baby Nut, which sprouted from Mr. Peanut’s grave from the tears of the Kool Aid Man—if only this were a joke.

Tragedy Strikes NBA Celebrity

Former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant—along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna—were among nine people killed in a helicopter crash on a hillside in Calabasas.

FEBRUARY

We Don’t Want to Wind Up Like Khashoggi

Netflix faced criticism across the U.S. for removing an episode of the Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj from its Saudi Arabia service because it was critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

First Coronavirus Death

Patricia Cabello Dowd, 57, died on Feb. 6 of Covid-19. The San Jose resident later became known as the first recorded U.S. casualty of the virus after Santa Clara Health officials went back to do some postmortem testing, proving the coronavirus arrived in the Bay Area weeks earlier than previously thought.

ACT NINE: Netflix has removed nine series or episodes because they offended leaders in other countries.

MARCH

A Hollywood Ending

Disgraced 67-year-old Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, who serially sexually harassed and assaulted women in Hollywood so often his actions kicked off the #MeToo movement, got a 23-year sentence for criminal sexual acts and rape.

Olympics Will Go On—Someday

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the 2020 Olympic Games were postponed due to the coronavirus, but the decision made history, marking the first time the event was canceled or postponed for anything other than a war.

MAKING HISTORY: This year marks the first time the Olympics have been postponed for anything except war. (Photo by Jason Evans)

APRIL 

Zoombombs Away

With the pandemic came the rise of “Zoombombing,” in which ne’er-do-wells hacked into broadcasts—including at City Hall and the VTA—to disrupt meetings with sexually explicit and racist photos and epithets. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan explained the company “did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying and socializing from home.”

MAY

Low Blow

The San Jose Police Department fired off rubber bullets at protesters over the summer and came under fire themselves—in a less literal sense—for roughing up civilians. The most stark example of that behavior was when Derrick Sanderlin—a 27-year-old African-American man who trained the city’s police force on biases and building trust—suffered a ruptured testicle after cops shot him with a rubber bullet on the first day of protests.

Now Trending: SJPD’s Jared Yuen

San Jose cop Jared Yuen sparked widespread outrage over filmed interactions during the George Floyd demonstrations that show Yuen looking a little too excited to be mixing it up with protestors. He cussed out civilians, smirked and licked his lips in what could only be described as antagonistic behavior. Yuen trended on Twitter, and his actions earned condemnation from city leaders, but he remained on the public payroll.

Time to Goat 

A herd of about 200 goats stormed the affluent suburbs of Silver Creek, helping themselves to manicured shrubs and curbside trash cans. Video of the rampage shot by local resident Terry Roelands was evidently just the ridiculous, whimsical content the world needed, because it went viral faster than you can say “baaah.”

Antisocial Media

In what turned out to be a harbinger of things to come, social networking company, Twitter, was among the first in the Bay Area to give its more than 5,000 employees the option to work from home indefinitely. Others soon followed, including Silicon Valley heavyweights VMWare, Facebook and Stripe.

Start Your Engines

Tesla CEO Elon Musk reopened his Fremont-based electric car-making factory in defiance of state and county health orders—and with seemingly no repercussions. A Covid skeptic, he filed a lawsuit against Alameda County, which he later dropped.

YEUN TROUBLE: Officer Jared Yuen (center) became the target of widespread outrage over filmed interactions he had with protesters. (Photo by Kyle Martin)

JUNE

China Zooms to Censor Critics

San Jose-based Zoom acquiesced to the Chinese government’s request to shut down accounts of political activists critical of the communist regime. The video conferencing company later apologized, reinstated the three blocked accounts and promised to never do it again. Forgiven?

Racists in the Ranks

The disturbing content emanating from a closed Facebook group of current and retired San Jose cops became a part of an FBI probe after being outed in a Medium post when the anonymous author gave an exclusive look at the group’s postings to San Jose Inside. The Facebook group 10-7ODSJ—a name that refers to police scanner code for “off duty”—has many posts disparaging Black Lives Matter and Muslims, the latter of particular concern to a department being sued for Islamophobia.

The Baby Cougher 

This is no laughing, or coughing, matter. A former Oak Grove District school teacher, Nancy Nordland, was accused of deliberately hacking on a baby sitting in a stroller at a South San Jose Yogurtland. Police say Nordland was upset with the baby’s mother, Mireya Mora, who was not socially distanced enough for Nordland’s liking. Nordland faces a single misdemeanor count of assault.

Arriving: BART in San Jose

At long last, Bay Area Rapid Transit opened a station in the largest Bay Area city. The 10-mile, $2.3 billion Berryessa project extends BART service from Warm Springs in Fremont through Milpitas and to North San Jose, marking its first venture into Santa Clara County in the transit agency’s 55-year history.

JULY

Campaign Crashes  

Former San Jose City Council candidate and Bay Area Women’s March founder Jenny Higgins Bradanini was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. The charges took seven months to arrive after Higgins Bradanini allegedly struck a pedestrian with her SUV while under the influence of benzodiazepine, a prescription that comes with a warning that it doesn’t mix with driving.

Leader for Leadership Group 

Ahmad Thomas makes local history by becoming the first Black CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group—one of the region’s most influential jobs. A former aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco), Thomas says he’ll focus on the three I’s: inclusion, investment and immediate impact.

Valley Execs Answer for Misdeeds

In a five-and-a-half-hour hearing, Congress grilled four tech CEOs—Tim Cook of Cupertino-based Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Menlo Park-based Facebook, Sundar Pichai of Mountain View-based Google and Jeff Bezos of Seattle-based Amazon—to answer questions about how their businesses operate. It wasn’t pretty.

AUGUST

Fire Season Came Early

In a metaphorical trash fire of a year, real fires devastated the Bay Area. Three blazes, called “lightning complexes,” scorched the region, paired with rolling blackouts in time with a record heatwave. The SCU, LNU and CZU Complex fires caused 100,000 people to be evacuated as smoke filled the air on and off for weeks.

Epic Battle Brewing 

Epic Games, maker of the wildly popular battle royale game Fortnite, doesn’t appreciate Apple and Google’s app store rules. Specifically, it dislikes the companies’ 30 percent commission on in-app purchases, so it found a way to bypass that little inconvenience, only to find itself banned from both shops. The North Carolina-based game maker sued both companies over their alleged monopolistic behaviors.

The Life (Sentence) of the Golden State Killer 

Joseph James DeAngelo, a 74-year-old former police officer, pleaded guilty to a series of murders and kidnappings that terrorized Californians for decades. He got 11 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole for 13 murders, an additional life term for 13 kidnappings, plus another eight years for weapons charges.

Unidentified Flying Who Knows?  

The federal government started investigating UFOs after releasing footage in April of UFOs spotted near military bases. Military personnel now have official guidelines to report these sightings. Is it aliens? Maybe. Or maybe it’s an earthling adversary trying to catch a sneak peek.

FIRE POWER: Lightning fires scorched the region, paired with rolling blackouts and a record heatwave. (Photo by Matthew Hahn)

SEPTEMBER

Rules for Thee

When San Jose enacted a curfew on May 31 in the aftermath of the nationwide protests spurred by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, Mayor Sam Liccardo broke the citywide order three times in four days for some evening bike rides. The kicker? No one would’ve known had the mayor not posted his own workouts on Strava, a running and cycling app that maps movements.

Land of the Fee 

San Jose enacted commercial developer fees to fund affordable housing. Proponents believe that even though downtown office construction will be taxed at a higher rate than the rest of the city, developers can absorb the costs. Fee opponents argue the timing’s wrong to disincentivize economy-boosting projects.

OCTOBER

SVO’s Spectacular Implosion 

Silicon Valley Organization CEO Matt Mahood resigned (or was fired) over an online campaign ad that was widely denounced as racist and sleazy. The SVO, which represents 1,200 businesses as the South Bay’s regional chamber of commerce, ran an ad on its website that depicted a group of Black men in a cloud of smoke or tear gas overlaid with the question: “Do you really want to sign on to this?” as part of an attack on then-San Jose D6 challenger Jake Tonkel.

Superspreading the Word

After months of trying to get Calvary Chapel Church to abide by public health orders that cap indoor gatherings at 100 people and mandate masks, social distancing and then imposing $350,000 in fines to no avail, Santa Clara County took Calvary to court to stop the indoor services that routinely drew 600 mostly maskless worshipers. Come hell or high water—or a pandemic—church convened even after a judge granted a restraining order on the gatherings. The head pastor and church was held in contempt of court in December, but the church says the show will go on.

Double Dipping

Monte Sereno Councilwoman Rowena Turner cast two ballots in at least five general elections, including in the 2016 and 2020 primaries, research by San Jose Inside shows. Republican Party-endorsed Turner collected the most votes out of the four candidates running for Monte Sereno’s two available City Council seats in November’s election, but for years has been registered to vote in both Grants Pass, Oregon, and Monte Sereno.

NOVEMBER

FAR OUT: Elon Musk got an unwanted nickname after a Twitter faux pas.

Ex-Google CEO’s Tax Dodge 

Americans got a rare peek into the world of billionaires when former Google CEO Eric Schmidt applied and won approval to become a citizen of the island of Cyprus. The program Schmidt used to get that citizenship is one used by wealthy people around the world who want to buy their way into favorable tax laws in other countries. Days after the news broke, the Mediterranean nation suspended the controversial passport program, known as “Citizenship by Investment,” reserved for those willing to spend between $2 million and $3 million in the country, often on property.

Speed Test

Elon Musk perhaps thought he was about to drop some knowledge on Twitter—or maybe he thought very little at all—when he tweeted about the mixed results he got from rapid antigen tests for Covid-19. Emma Bell, a postdoctoral fellow at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, shut that down, explaining that the rapid test trades accuracy for speed. “What’s bogus is that Space Karen didn’t read up on the test before complaining to his millions of followers.”

It’s Laundry Day

Gov. Gavin Newsom flouted his own public health rules to attend a fancy birthday party with lobbyists at the famed French Laundry—sans masks. Meals start at $350 per person at the exclusive restaurant, giving new meaning to the term “food to die for.”

Santa Clara Flips

In the latest battle between the 49ers and the entrenched Santa Clara power establishment, the football team won by knockout. Kevin Park, Suds Jain and Anthony Becker were elected in November to three of the four open seats on the council after being backed by a $3 million Political Action Committee funded by 49ers owner Jed York. That means Mayor Lisa Gillmor lost her longstanding majority control of the council. The newly elected say they have no allegiance to the football team but agree the balance of power on the council has shifted.

Turkey in ’Toga

In another glaring example of skirting the very rules he advised others to follow, Mayor Sam Liccardo apologized for flouting Covid-19 safety protocols on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the holiday at his parents’ home in Saratoga, an outdoor gathering that included a total of eight family members from five different households.

DECEMBER

Russia, Russia, Russia

Potentially dozens of organizations, including Palo Alto’s VMWare and San Jose-based Cisco, were hacked by Russians in “a highly sophisticated state-sponsored attacker utilizing novel techniques” according to Milpitas-based cyber security company FireEye. While Republican Senator Marcus Rubio called it “the gravest cyber intrusion in our history,” President Donald Trump dismissed the event, blaming the “Lamestream Media” for blame-shifting and tweeting that “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens.”

Goodbye Fossil Fuels—Almost

San Jose made history by becoming the largest city in the U.S. to ban natural gas in commercial buildings, though it came with a loophole: facilities such as Bloom Energy, the new employer of mayoral buddy Carl Guardino, remain exempt, drawing the ire of environmental groups.

One Comment

  1. > There were bright spots, too. . . . Following Milpitas’ lead, an initiative to name a San Jose street after Barack Obama gained traction.

    This is a bright spot?

    Tearing down statues of Thomas Jefferson, freed slaves, and saints of the Catholic Church and naming a street for the lawless oligarch who initiated Operation Fast and Furious and Crossfire Hurricane which triggered an unprecedented illegal intelligence operation against a rival presidential campaign?

    How about other “bright spots” that Mr. Newsroom may have overlooked in the blinding glare of the Obama “bright spot”:

    > The impeachment of a sitting president for asserting his rights in a court of law under the Constitution;

    > The takeover of our universities, culture and society by a nihilist ideology of “wokeness” intent on throwing out “The Enlightenment” and returning humanity to primitive tribalism.

    >The ending of the possibility of democratic self-government through the subversion of “free and fair” elections by technological deceptions, intentional administrative misfeasance, “lawfare”, and pervasive corruption.

    These were “bright spots” all right: conflagrations of our institutions and our civilization.