Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 4, 2010

News Digest

Palo Alto kidnap case called 'very violent'

The kidnap and rape of a woman who had parked her car on El Camino Real in Palo Alto May 22 is being described by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office as particularly violent and brutal.

Lionel Blanks Jr., 36, of Santa Clara, appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose last Friday afternoon as he was formally charged with rape by force, penetration with a foreign object, kidnapping, attempted murder, carjacking, second-degree robbery and threats to commit a crime resulting in death or great bodily injury.

Blanks faces a 50-years-to-life sentence plus 12 years and 4 months if convicted, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Erin West.

The attack against the woman, who is not a Palo Alto resident and not homeless, was a "very violent crime," West said.

In the early hours of May 22, the victim parked her Mercedes Benz SUV under a bright street light on El Camino Real a short distance from Serra Street, fell asleep in the passenger seat and awoke to feeling cold air and shattered glass on the seat, according to the victim's statement to police.

Blanks allegedly pulled her out of the vehicle by her neck and began punching her in the face. He then allegedly bound and blindfolded her, drove her to Santa Clara and further assaulted her, according to a report by the Palo Alto Police Department.

He was arrested on May 26 as he was leaving his residence and allegedly ran from police.

A more-complete version of this story can be found at www.paloaltoonline.com.

Reserves used to balance 2010-11 school budget

Elementary class size in Palo Alto schools will stay in the low 20s under a proposed 2010-11 budget for the Palo Alto Unified School District unveiled Tuesday night.

Despite grumbles over $3.8 million in cuts and needing to dip into reserves to balance next year's budget, school board members said Palo Alto is far better off than many California school districts, where elementary class sizes have popped up to 30 or more.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly proposed an operating budget for next year of $154.5 million. With projected income of only $151 million, the gap will be bridged using $3.5 million in district reserves.

Despite anticipated enrollment growth of 2.5 percent, the proposed budget for next year is somewhat lower than the current year's budget of approximately $154 million.

That means that per-pupil spending will decline. As a district funded by "basic aid" formulas that rely heavily on property tax, Palo Alto's revenue is not tied to enrollment.

On the revenue side, income is down this year from property tax, state and federal sources, but up from the $589-per-parcel tax approved by more than 79 percent of district voters last month.

On the spending side, costs are up from seniority-based "step and column increases" as well as employee health and retirement benefits.

Next year's budget incorporates $3.8 million in cuts approved by the school board in February.

Gordon, Becker get $$ boosts for Assembly race

Fueled by hefty contributions from labor unions, attorney and real estate professionals, San Mateo Supervisor Rich Gordon raised more than $192,000 in the past two months, though he still trails Menlo Park entrepreneur Josh Becker in overall contributions, new campaign finance statements show.

Becker and Gordon are vying with former Palo Alto Councilwoman Yoriko Kishimoto to replace termed-out state Assemblyman Ira Ruskin in the 21st District. The three Democrats are squaring off in the June 8 primary.

The new records show a fundraising deadlock between Gordon and Becker between March 18 and May 22 — a period during which Gordon raised $192,090 and Becker raised $192,047. Kishimoto raised $11,613 during the same period.

So far this year, Becker has received about $302,257 in contributions, compared to $220,869 raised by Gordon and $205,975 by Kishimoto.

While Becker has relied heavily on entrepreneurs, investors, consultants and technologists for his fundraising lead, Gordon's campaign chest received a major boost from professional associations and labor unions, many of which contributed four-figure checks to the campaign.

So far this year, Becker has spent the most money of the three candidates — $457,128, compared to $221,560 spent by Gordon and $151,179 by Kishimoto. Becker's expenditures include $125,301 for television time and $23,290 for polling and survey research.

— Gennady Sheyner

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