THE MEANING OF RESPECT ... Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission typically deals with issues of police oversight, support of nonprofits and civic involvement. But in November, the commission decided to issue an official statement on the tense labor negotiations between Palo Alto's administrators and its largest labor union. The statement touched on the themes of stereotypes, respect, work and community and urged both sides in the negotiations to get along. "Palo Alto's history is one of the whole exceeding the sum of the parts. We hope the continuation of that history will be an essential part of the next round of negotiations," the letter stated. But not everyone appreciated the conciliatory gesture. Councilman Larry Klein said at Monday's joint meeting of the City Council and the Human Relations Commission that he didn't understand the point of the letter. "It seemed to me you may have been overstepping the boundaries of the HRC," Klein said. But his council colleague Gail Price disagreed. "I very much appreciate the statement that was created and the language and thought that were brought together in the letter," Price said. "I personally believe that it is an important extension of the work of the commission." Commissioner Ray Bacchetti, one of the letter's authors, told Klein that the commission wanted to respond to the bitterness surrounding last year's negotiations. "Some people were demonizing each other," Bacchetti said. "We wanted to make a statement."
MORE NAME GAMES ... A crusade by a group of downtown businesspeople to rename Lytton Plaza to Thoits Plaza ran into an unexpected snag last week when the Parks and Recreation Commission voted 2-4 against the idea. As at previous discussions, the public split on whether the plaza should get a new name. Developers and members of the group Friends of Lytton Plaza argued that the Thoits family deserves to be honored for its three generations of civic involvement and investments in downtown Palo Alto. Others observed the city's renaming policy requires a "compelling reason" before a facility switches its name. In this case, a compelling reason does not exist, argued Winter Dellenbach. Former city Mayor Jim Burch offered a compromise — name the property University Plaza and put up a bronze plaque informing visitors about Palo Alto's history. The plaque would also mention Bart Lytton, who built the plaza, and note that the plaza was renovated in 2009 by a group of business owners who wanted to honor the Thoits family, Burch said. Ultimately, only commissioners Sunny Dykwel and Pat Markevitch supported the Thoits Plaza proposal. Commissioner Joel Davidson, one of four nay-saying commissioners, praised Burch's compromise but also said he wouldn't mind keeping status quo. "I'm fine with 'Lytton Plaza' because it's been that way for so long," Davidson said. The issue will next go to the City Council, which would have a chance to accept or overrule the commission's recommendation.
SEEING DOTS ... The day-long Palo Alto City Council retreat on Saturday was progressing so smoothly with collegial discussions that it elicited audience comments — until it became a connect-the-dots exercise near the end of the day. Council members were pasting colored dots next to priorities they considered most important. After repeated rounds of dot-pasting, Mayor Pat Burt said it was easy at that hour to get "a bit giddy" — more like a bit dotty, one council-watcher observed.