HIGHER EDUCATION ... Assemblyman Ira Ruskin (D-21) is preparing to tour through the 21st district to talk to his constituents about higher education and its future in the state. The discussions will focus on the progress of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Master Plan, which he co-chairs. The committee is putting together a report assessing California's higher-education needs. Ruskin's first meeting will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 27, in the Redwood City Community Activities Building, 1400 Roosevelt Ave., Redwood City. Ruskin is also scheduled to hold a meeting in Palo Alto between 10 and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 10, at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave. The same day, he will also hold a "coffee and conversation" meeting in Los Altos between 3 and 4:30 p.m. at Brian's Restaurant at the Rancho Shopping Center.
FUNDING SAFETY ... Palo Alto's effort to fund private security guards for the West Meadow train crossing continues, but police Chief Dennis Burns notes some recent good news: "Through the concerted efforts of a number of private persons there has been more than $80,000 donated, which is truly awesome." The guards have been patrolling the tracks since late November, prompted by concern in the community over distressed teenagers lingering at the crossing. The guards cost the city more than $3,000 a week. The city is still seeking and receiving donations, Burns said, and has established a PayPal account for online contributions. Donations can also be made by check, and all are tax-deductible. Both the PayPal site and the Safety Net Fund mailing address can be found at http://tinyurl.com/PAsecurity.
WATER HEROES ... Cisco Systems, the Campbell Union School District and the City of Hayward all received awards this week for their water-conservation efforts from a coalition of Silicon Valley green and business groups. The three agencies were among the six winners of the second annual Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards, which were handed out on World Water Day, March 22. Nurserymen's Exchange, the California Landscape Contractors Association and Humane Society Silicon Valley also received awards for drastically reducing water usage. "With water shortages in the news on a weekly basis, water conservation has become a critical issue facing Silicon Valley," said Mike Mielke, senior director of environmental programs and policy at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, one of the sponsors of the award. "To maintain our leading edge in the economy, Silicon Valley must also be a leader in the efficient use of water."
WEIGHTY MATTERS ... Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission normally wrestles with issues of police oversight, civic engagement and employee relations, but every once in a while, weightier matters intrude. Last week, the commission looked beyond city borders and unanimously endorsed a resolution opposing the death penalty in California. The resolution was proposed by the Santa Clara Coalition for Alternatives to Death Penalty, a group that includes Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Green Party and other death-penalty opponents. Commissioner Claude Ezran argued that the death penalty is immoral and that Palo Alto should take a stand against it. "It's not only about victims or about murderers; it's also about us," Ezran said. "It's about who we are in the society, as individuals, as a nation and as part of human kind."