Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 1, 2010

Around Town

OF DOGS AND MEN ... Dog people, unite! Pretty please? That's a request from Palo Alto's recreation officials, who have been debating ways to create more play space in the city for local dogs and dog owners. Last month, about 100 people (including six who don't own dogs) attended a meeting on the subject organized by the Parks and Recreation Commission and staff from the Community Services Department. At its Dec. 15 meeting, the commission digested the feedback from the public and agreed with a staff suggestion to explore ways in which users of local fields can share park space with dog owners. One of the challenges staff has discovered is the scattered nature of local dog owners. Unlike bicyclists and athletic groups, dog owners don't have a coherent team or organization that the city can tap for assistance. Rob de Geus, the city's golf and recreation manager, said the city will attempt to change that. "We'll see what we can do to get the dog owners organized in some fashion," he said. "We'll reach out to them and give them some guidance and some of the history we've had with field users and other groups who pulled together on a particular topic to find solutions."

PLAY NICE, PEOPLE ... Palo Alto's tense negotiations with its largest workers' union are set to resume on Jan. 11, when city representatives and Service Employees International Union negotiators are scheduled to meet in a closed session. The negotiations ended on an acrimonious note in November, when the City Council voted to forego mediation and impose new conditions on the union, which represents 617 city workers. Earlier this month, Greg Schultz, a lineman in the Utilities Department and a negotiator for the union, told the City Council that the imposed conditions (which create a less lucrative pension formula for new hires and force employees to contribute to their health care) have made it difficult for the department to attract new employees. "When your lights are out and we can't get anyone to get in, hold the candle to the mirror," Schultz said. "You guys are responsible because we can't hire anybody." City officials, meanwhile, are still scrambling to cut costs in order to close a $5.4 million deficit in the current fiscal year. The tense atmosphere has promoted the city's Human Relations Commission to put out a special memo asking the two sides to respect one another and to avoid stereotypes. "Though highly structured, collective bargaining and those involved in it exist in a context," the memo stated. "The elements of the context that the HRC would like to emphasize in this letter to the Palo Alto community, namely, the danger of stereotypes, the essential importance of respect, the meaning of work, and the many-sided significance of community deserve, we believe, careful and continuous consideration now and in the future."

THE COLORS OF PALO ALTO ... Want to show your Palo Alto spirit? Whip out your favorite HSV 108, 52, 37 sweater, or perhaps a jacket with a hint of HSV 106, 46, 46. Both colors are among the four types of green artist Sam Yates chose as the"Color of Palo Alto." To arrive at the choices, Yates took photos of all 17,729 parcels in the city, tallied up the average color of the parcels through four different methodologies (mode of means, mean of means, mean of modes, and mode of modes), and then had voters choose the color they like best. Mean of modes, which can be described by a non-artist as "GI Joe-green," won. Earlier this month, Yates earned a standing ovation from the City Council and members of the public for his efforts. He also went through a list of options the city has, now that it has official colors and a photo catalogue of every parcel. City officials can now tally up the number of white picket fences and basketball hoops around town. They can also promote Palo Alto's colors through clothing patterns and paint colors. But Yates said he struggled with the question of whether the "mean of modes" is in fact more Palo Altan than the other three "average" colors, the vote notwithstanding. "We have the people's choice, but in the end all of these are equally valid answers," Yates said.

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