RAMBLE ON ... Palo Alto's elected officials have a reputation for thoroughness and eloquence — two traits that often turn Monday night meetings into Tuesday morning meetings. Council members frequently use their question period to give lectures and to ask staff rhetorical and meandering "questions." Every now and then, members launch into philosophical monologues to explain a vote they're about to make. So it was this week, when the City Council debated the city's plans for a new composting facility. After four hours of discussion stretching well past midnight, Mayor Pat Burt reproached his colleagues for talking too much and suggested that it might be time to consider imposing time limits for council members. "I had really hoped we can exercise self-responsibility and distinguish between focused comments on subject matter and what we saw tonight, which was some very long monologues that I certainly believed were beyond what was necessary," Burt said in a relatively brief monologue following the composting discussion. "I just don't think we can conduct our business effectively if we continue in that way. ... If we basically can't exercise the self-responsibility, we'll have to make rules for ourselves."
WHO WANTS TO BE A WATCHDOG? ... The Human Relations Commission has a sweeping mandate that includes police oversight, discrimination complaints and fostering civic engagement. The commission's recent efforts include introducing a Civic Engagement Award and bringing World Music Day to downtown Palo Alto. But now, the commission is facing an HR problem of its own. Commissioners Jack Hamilton and Olana Khan had both recently moved out of the city and resigned from their positions. Commissioner Shauna Mora's term has expired and she decided not to reapply, leaving three vacancies on the seven-member board. With only four members, the commission is in danger of not having a quorum if any member is absent. The City Council was scheduled to appoint new members to the commission Monday night but decided not to do so because of a dearth of applicants. Only five people, Masuma Ahmed, Theresa Chen, Robert Kuhar, Diane Morin and Jill O'Nan applied for the three seats. Councilwoman Karen Holman suggested reopening the application process in hopes of attracting more applicants. Her proposal passed 5-4, with Sid Espinosa, Nancy Shepherd, Greg Schmid and Yiaway Yeh dissenting. Anyone interested in applying can contact the City Clerk's Office at 650-329-2571.
FARMERS WANTED ... Fresh produce returned to downtown Palo Alto last week, when the city's newest farmers market opened at Lytton Plaza. The enterprise, spearheaded by the Yolo County-based cooperative Capay Valley Growers, originally opened in front of City Hall as a pilot project last year but shut down because of lackluster demand and the City Council's decision to stop subsidizing the market. Capay Valley will continue to supply produce for the Wednesday afternoon market, but City Manager James Keene said the city is soliciting additional farmers to attend the market, including ones from Marin, Los Altos and Pescadero. Keene said the city hopes to have six farms participating in the project, which is no longer receiving city funds.