Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 30, 2010

News Digest

Davis up for New Orleans police superintendent

East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis has been named one of three finalists for the job of New Orleans police superintendent, less than a week after he announced he had made the semi-finalist list for the Seattle police chief position.

Davis has been police chief in East Palo Alto for almost five years, and spent 20 years with the Oakland Police Department before that.

East Palo Alto police Capt. Carl Estelle said Davis could find out within the week if he has been selected as New Orleans' top cop. He is also separately scheduled to interview with the Seattle Police Department on May 8 as one of 11 semi-finalists for that job.

Packard Hospital CEO named a PIA 'community hero'

Christopher Dawes, president and CEO of the Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, has been named a "community hero" for his longtime advocacy of children's health, according to the Peninsula Interfaith Action (PIA) group that advocates for social justice, housing and health care for the Peninsula.

The group also named Assemblyman Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) a "public sector" hero for tackling "some of the most pressing issues facing California, including health care and economic development." Hill, elected to the Assembly in 2008, chairs the Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee and the Select Committee on Biotechnology.

Dawes was named a "private sector" hero for his leadership in health care and at the 312-bed children's hospital. He was named CEO in 1999 after a decade as chief operating officer.

In addition to the major hero awards, PIA also presented 15 "Community Hero Awards for PIA Congregations." The complete list is available at www.paloaltoonline.com.

Getting teens 'connected' is topic of Sunday event

Finding ways to support local youth will be the topic Sunday at a public gathering organized by two members of the Palo Alto school board and Peninsula Interfaith Action.

"Connecting and Caring: We Can Do Better for Our Youth," is the title of the event to be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the parish hall of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto.

Child care will be provided.

School board members Barbara Klausner and Barb Mitchell will join representatives from a range of local religious congregations to discuss ways to provide meaningful adult and peer connections, particularly for students who have few or none.

"There are a lot of kids who don't really know anyone, don't have a meaningful interaction on a regular basis with adults," said Greg Smitherman, a Palo Alto parent and St. Mark's member involved in planning the event.

"They sit in class, take the tests, but don't feel connected."

Smitherman cited JLS Middle School's annual Panther Camp for incoming sixth graders as a possible model for community-building on other campuses.

"We look at this meeting as the beginning of a process of driving toward getting kids better connected so when they need to reach out to somebody, there's at least someone they can talk to. We think the school district is just one component of a much broader effort," Smitherman said.

For more information, call Smitherman at 650-321-2266.

Mail-in ballots due Tuesday on Measure A

Ballots for Measure A, the proposed $589-per-parcel annual school tax, mailed to voters earlier this month, must be received at the county Registrar of Voters office by Tuesday, May 4, to be counted.

Last-minute voters also can drop their ballots off at Palo Alto City Hall Monday and Tuesday until 5 p.m.

In the past week, the number of ballots returned has gone from 12,000 to more than 16,000, according to Support Our Schools campaign co-chair Tracy Stevens, who is monitoring the number of ballots returned to the county.

Measure A requires a two-thirds majority to pass. It would replace the current $493-per-parcel annual tax with a $589-per-parcel annual tax, with a 2 percent a year "escalation adjustment" and an optional exemption for seniors. Funds from the current tax generate about $9.4 million a year, some 6 percent of the school district's operating budget. The increased tax would yield an additional $1.8 million a year.

The proposed tax has a six-year sunset clause.

There has been no organized opposition to Measure A in the current campaign.

Toys banned for 'unhealthy' fast-food meals

Tuesday was a sad day for the McDonald's Happy Meal.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to ban toys and other prizes from "unhealthy" children's meals served at restaurants in unincorporated areas of the county.

"We're doing it now because the rates of childhood obesity continue to skyrocket," said Ken Yeager, board president, who introduced the law.

A typical child's meal at a fast-food restaurant can contain 650 calories, more than half a child's daily nutritional need, he said. The ordinance limits meals to 485 calories before "incentive items" can be linked to purchase. (At McDonald's, that means the burger or Chicken McNuggets with apple slices and either 1 percent milk, apple juice or Sprite is OK, but the cheeseburger meals are out.)

"Many have called and said this isn't a role government should play, but government has to pay the costs of problems created," Yeager said.

Still, not all parents are supportive of the supervisors' new law. Some accused the board at its meeting Tuesday of "nannyism," Supervisor Liz Kniss said.

A second reading of the ordinance, which passed Tuesday on a 3-2 vote with Supervisors Yeager, Kniss and Dave Cortese for it and Donald Gage, George Shirakawa opposed, is scheduled for May 11. The ordinance would go into effect 90 days later.

Jury deadlocked in Frost sit-lie case

Victor Frost, perhaps Palo Alto's best-known panhandler, won a partial victory last Friday afternoon after a jury in his sit-lie ordinance violation trial returned "hopelessly" deadlocked.

The jury spent most of Friday deliberating whether Frost, 62, had violated the city's sit-lie ordinance when he refused to move from his panhandling spot in front of Whole Foods Market in downtown Palo Alto.

Frost was cited 11 times after being warned by police, each citation carrying a potential $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. The city dropped all but six citations, which Frost received between April 15 and May 22, 2008.

The judge declared a mistrial after polling each juror — eight voted in favor of conviction, four for acquittal — on if they believed they were ever likely to return with a unanimous verdict.

Palo Alto's ordinance does not allow persons to sit or lie on the sidewalk within 50 feet of a business in the downtown commercial area. But exceptions are made for people with disabilities who are in wheelchairs and children in strollers, among other provisions.

Public Defender Marks Dames argued that Frost's milk crate, which he sits on while panhandling, should be considered an aid to his disability, since Frost suffers from congestive heart failure and cannot stand for long periods of time.

Dames said the case is likely to be reset for another trial. But the judge could dismiss the case if he feels there is not likely to be a verdict. A pretrial conference is set for June 8.

— Sue Dremann

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