Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 25, 2010

Around Town

FROM RUSSIA WITH SMARTPHONE ... Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to California Avenue in Palo Alto early Wednesday afternoon had all the hubbub befitting a head of state. Roads were blocked off; Russian and American secret-service agents, identified by lapel pins, stood about in sunglasses; curious spectators clutched their smartphones waiting for a photo op of the 44-year-old Medvedev; and sharpshooters were poised on at least one rooftop. While Medvedev met with staff of a Russian company, onlookers outside on the sidewalk amused themselves. One man asked a Palo Alto police officer if Medvedev would use the crosswalk when walking to Printer's Inc. Cafe. "When you're the president of a country you can cross however you want," the officer quipped. When Medvedev finally emerged from the meeting, he walked across Birch Street to shake hands with a crowd gathered in front of Antonio's Nut House. "He DID use the crosswalk!" one observer noted. Afterwards, an older woman remarked on the importance of the occasion. In the immediate post-Cold War era of the early '90s, she said, a Soviet president would have toured a U.S. nuclear power plant or airplane manufacturer, not a high-tech company in Palo Alto. "Times have changed," she said, approvingly.

U R NOT 2 ABBREVIATE ... Attention Palo Alto staff: Do not post abbreviations, profanities or sexual content on your official City of Palo Alto tweets, Facebook postings or YouTube videos. Please keep records of everything you post, for they are subject to public records, and avoid creating more than one Twitter site per department. Remember, this exercise is about branding and driving traffic to Palo Alto's official website, so don't forget to include links to cityofpaloalto.org. You can be creative when you're at home, but all official city Twitter accounts will begin with "Palo Alto" followed by department name. If your department's name is too long (looking at you, "Department of Planning and Community Environment), you may shorten it by beginning with "PA." And if you're going to post photos or videos of your colleagues at City Hall, please don't do it during regular office hours unless you get a waiver from them first. These are some of the policies reflected in the city's recently released nine-page list of policies and procedures for social-media sites — a list that the City Council's Policies and Services Committee reviewed this week. The city hopes to use social-media sites to bolster the city's communication efforts. But as the guide makes clear, it doesn't want staff to sound like typical social-media users. "Departments will use proper grammar and standard AP style, and will avoid the use of jargon or abbreviations," the guide states. "Twitter is more casual than most other communication tools, but communications must still best represent the City at all times."

TONE IT DOWN ... Palo Alto officials are on the same page about just about every aspect of the controversial high-speed-rail project. They prefer underground options to overhead ones, support the "context-sensitive solutions" approach for rail design; and think the California High-Speed Rail Authority's ridership numbers are loaded with errors. But on Wednesday night, the City Council split on one rail-related issue: the tone the city should take in dealing with the rail authority. The council was putting the finishing touches on the city's official comments for the Draft Alternatives Analysis, a rail authority document that lists possible design options for the segment of the rail system between San Francisco and San Jose. Councilman Larry Klein suggested deleting some polite and largely perfunctory sentences in the proposed letter, including one that thanks the rail authority for the opportunity to comment and one that talks about a new rail system as possibly a "great opportunity." "I'd like us to adopt a tougher tone," said Klein, who sits on a special council committee dedicated to the controversial rail project. Councilwoman Gail Price disagreed and defended the customary pleasantries. "I think we'll get a lot further if we at least set a positive tone," Price said. The council ultimately decided to split the difference and to allow staff to draft a letter that balances concern with good manners. The council would review it and then send it to the rail authority by the June 30 deadline.

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