SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS ... On Nov. 9, a member of the Palo Alto Police Department was called up for 10-month tour of duty in Iraq. On Monday night, the City Council debated whether this officer, who serves as a reservist in the U.S. Coast Guard, should receive $41,000 from the city — the difference between his salary and the money he earns for his military duty. The city has an agreement with the police union to compensate employees who serve in the armed forces, but the agreement only applies to those officers who enlisted before Feb. 18, 2003. The soldier under discussion, whose name wasn't mentioned, enlisted after that date. With the city facing a $7.3 million budget gap, some council members argued that the officer in Iraq should receive the salary difference for the first month of his duty (about $5,000), rather than for the full duration of the tour. Councilman Yiaway Yeh called the staff recommendation to pay the officer $41,000 "not an easy decision." The dilemma, he said, demonstrates the impact of federal policies on local budgets. Larry Klein, a military veteran, couldn't disagree with him more. "This person is taking a risk; he's putting his life on the line and he's also putting his career on the line," Klein said. "I don't want to see our city look like it doesn't support the people who put their lives on the line." Human Resource Director Russ Carlsen said he felt "very passionate" about advocating for the police officer, and Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa said he felt queasy that some on the council oppose the staff recommendation. But some did. The council voted 7-2, with Greg Scharff and Karen Holman dissenting, to support the staff recommendation.
NEWS TALK ... Paul McHugh, longtime journalist and author of the mystery novel "Dead Lines," put a unique spin on an age-old phrase during a talk Tuesday at Books Inc. in Mountain View. McHugh said traditionally "No news is good news," but when it comes to the journalism industry, no news — as in no newspapers — is bad news. McHugh emphasized the value of journalism and the need for people to subscribe to newspapers during his hour-long talk.