Thank you to the Weekly and reporter Arden Pennell for the excellent coverage on the new sound-equalization systems in classrooms at El Carmelo Elementary School (Feb. 20).
I also want to commend the El Carmelo PTA, teachers and principal for working together to bring this innovative technology to help all students.
The Palo Alto PTA Council is sponsoring a demonstration and presentation about this powerful technology Wednesday, Feb. 27.
Research shows these systems improve test scores and classroom management. This free community event begins at 7 p.m. at the PAUSD district office at 25 Churchill Ave. in the boardroom.
Come experience for yourself a technology that gives equal access to all.
PTA Council Parent Ed Co-Chair
If the City Council is sincere about its new civic-engagement priority, it will need to make some changes.
The council needs to reach out and encourage the community to get involved. Twenty, 30 years ago there was extraordinary civic involvement in Palo Alto but that is past. Both the council and public have forgotten how to make involvement happen. The last seven or eight years have felt as though City Hall discouraged or even resisted citizen input.
A good first step would be for council packets to be available one week before topics in that packet are discussed by council. Indeed, the Weekly recommended this in an editorial last month.
Occasionally, it may be necessary to "fast track" an item but this should be the rare exception.
Normally, the packet is available at City Hall at about 6 p.m. Thursday. So even if one picks it up Friday morning, there is not time to read it thoughtfully, perhaps call City Hall for clarification and e-mail council members that same day.
Of course, every other Friday City Hall is closed, so there's a 50 percent chance of being unable to clarify points until Monday. Thus, if a neighborhood group or nonprofit wants to comment on an agenda item there is no time to meet, develop a consensus and relay views to council members before Monday night's meeting.
Having the packet available a week in advance would allow time for thoughtful, constructive civic engagement. This is consistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan that calls for the public to "be actively and effectively involved in city affairs, both at the citywide and neighborhood levels."
Civic engagement is a terrific goal but must be encouraged and enabled by the council.
Ellen and Tom Wyman
Is anyone else alarmed about the pesticide warnings all over Seale and Greer parks?
I am simply appalled that a city as purportedly "green" as Palo Alto permits the spraying of unnamed chemical pesticides in the very places where our children play.
At this point, scientists pretty much universally agree that children are the most vulnerable to pesticide damage. In fact, we're watching rates of neurological disorders skyrocket in this very community as well as others in the valley (autism rate of 1 in 166 kids).
And, the rate of childhood cancer (the leading cause of death by disease among non-infant children under the age of 15) is increasing approximately 1 percent annually (on average).
Yet, I'm curious to know how many studies the city has conducted assessing the safety for children of whatever chemical was sprayed within 5 feet of the play equipment in our local parks today.
Who has proven that no pesticides actually remain once they remove those signs?
Slots for students
The good citizens of California have chosen not to stabilize the funding of our community colleges (defeat of Prop. 92).
So, it is time to put another proposition on the ballot. This one would allow the community colleges to install slot machines in their student centers. Surely, those profits would finally provide a steady funding source.
Mary Ellen Farwell
With the death of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), animals have lost one of their greatest advocates and the world has lost a great man. We at PETA came to know Rep. Lantos when he offered to help us with the Silver Spring monkeys, a group of animals that had been terribly abused in a Maryland laboratory.
I had the honor of interviewing Rep. Lantos and his wife, Annette, about their efforts to send these animals to a sanctuary. They showed me a photograph of themselves from 1939, when they were happy childhood friends in Budapest, Hungary. But they were Jewish, and not long after the picture was taken, Annette went into hiding and Tom was sent to a forced labor camp. Their families were killed in the Holocaust. These traumatizing experiences, they told me, helped them understand what it was like to be victimized simply because they weren't like others.
When they came to this country in the late 1940s, scarred but eager for a new life, they decided that they wanted to work for a new world in which no one — regardless of race, religion, or species — could be treated as an object rather than as a living being.
Rep. Lantos did exactly this, founding the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus and sponsoring or supporting dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at ending the suffering of humans and other animals.
Even as we mourn his loss, we celebrate his amazing work for all beings.
Director of Research
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals