FILLING BIG SHOES ... Newer Palo Altans may not know that the legendary David Packard, yes, THE David Packard, served on the Palo Alto school board from 1947 to 1956. That kind of civic commitment from a business leader is recognized annually in the David Packard Award bestowed by Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. This year's recipient is longtime Palo Alto resident Richard M. Levy, chair and former CEO of Varian Medical Systems. A nuclear engineer involved in the early days of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Levy's career led him to a passion for seeking cures for cancer and improving health care delivery. In addition to his stints coaching youth baseball and chairing the board of the United Way, Levy sits on the boards of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Sutter Health. "We waste $600 billion a year on over-use, under-use and misuse of medical procedures," Levy said. "And part of that waste actually produces worse outcomes. If we could find a better way to allocate that $600 billion, we not only could insure people who are uninsured but improve the health care of those who already have insurance."
CELEBRATION TIME ... A veteran East Palo Alto mentor, a Gunn High School graduate who helped students cope with recent suicides and a major fundraiser for the new Jewish Community Center will all be honored by Midpeninsula Community Media Center in March for their significant contributions. The Palo Alto-based broadcasting organization is planning to air interviews with all six winners of its "Local Heroes Award" on Channel 30 between March 7 to March 14. The winners are: Curtis Haggins, dean of students at Midpeninsula High School; Leif Erickson, executive director of Youth Community Service; Carol Saal, board president of the Jewish Community Center; McKay Daines, a Gunn High School graduate who started a Facebook page to help students and alumni cope with the suicides; Bob Hoover, a mentor at East Palo Alto; and Gary Riekes, who runs the Riekes Center for youth in Menlo Park. The Media Center is also hosting a reception for the winners on March 7.
BUTTON PUSHING ... Could Palo Alto's effort to spread fiber to the masses boil down to how many local button-pushers the city can reach? A few city officials and fiber enthusiasts think it just might. On Monday, residents and City Council members encouraged the masses to log on to Google's "Fiber for Communities" web page and to nominate Palo Alto for the company's fiber experiment. Bob Harrington, a resident who advises city officials on fiber issues, said the city's grassroots outreach effort could very well determine whether Palo Alto's bid to get selected for Google's fiber system is successful. Mayor Pat Burt agreed. "We have 65,000 people," Burt said. "If we get 64,000 to hit the button, we may show a good response."
CELEBRATING JOE ... State Sen. Joe Simitian earned wide praise from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society this week — picking up the group's "California Legislator of the Year" recognition. The society called Simitian a "longstanding champion of persons living with MS and other chronic conditions." It also praised Simitian's authorship of Senate Bill 486, which encourages safe disposal of needles, syringes and other "sharps." The bill requires pharmaceutical companies to tell customers where sharps can be safely disposed of. But the bill, ironically, wasn't even Simitian's idea. It was submitted by San Carlos resident Betty Lipkin, who has MS. Simitian said he is "gratified" by the Society's recognition and praised the new needle-disposal law. It makes it easier to do the right thing, and we should all be safer as a result," Simitian said in the statement."