Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 2, 2010

Around Town

WAGE LABOR ... The Palo Alto City Council is, in its own view, an underpaid bunch. Members receive $7,200 a year to read thick bundles of weekly staff reports, pass budgets and set the city's policies. By Councilwoman Karen Holman's estimation, the salary translates to about $3.47 an hour. With that in mind, the city's group of elected below-minimum-wage-earners defeated a proposal by the council's Finance Committee to trim the council salaries by 10 percent. Councilman Greg Schmid, who opposed the pay cut as chair of the Finance Committee, said Monday he was taking his cue from another civic leader — President George Washington. One of Washington's greatest decisions during the Revolutionary War, Schmid said, was to recruit and retain a professional army to oppose the British oppressors. Washington defied calls to rely on volunteers, recognizing that the nation needed to provide financial incentives to its soldiers. "You don't want soldiers who come out on one glorious day at Bunker Hill," Schmid said. "You need them seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. By paying them something, you create incentive."

ANIMAL HOUSES ... In what Mayor Pat Burt called a "ruff" decision, the council decided Monday night to scrap an earlier proposal to raise fees for animal adoptions. The city's proposed budget included a recommendation to charge between $120 and $150 for adoption of dogs and cats, depending on age and animal type (puppies come at a premium). But after hearing from Councilwoman Karen Holman and Councilman Greg Scharff, the council unanimously voted to keep the current $100 fees for all animals unchanged. Holman said the animal population is very important to Palo Alto residents, and that she opposed any proposal that would make animal adoption more burdensome. "You can just walk on the street and see how many pets there are in this community," she said.

BY THE BOOK ... It's been a dizzying few months for Palo Alto's bookworms, with libraries opening and closing seemingly every week and hours and services in constant flux. For those who lost track, here's a recap: The Downtown Library has recently closed for major renovations, as has the Mitchell Park Library. The Cubberley Community Center now includes a temporary library, which opened this week to replace the Mitchell Park branch. The Main Library will temporarily close next year, also for bond-funded reconstruction. The College Terrace Library has been closed since last summer but is scheduled to reopen in the fall, after the failure of a budget proposal to keep it closed until next year. Meanwhile, the branches that are still open will have shorter hours starting July 12. Main, Mitchell (at its new Cubberley location) and the Children's Library will open at noon (they currently open at 10 a.m.) because of budget constraints. Not all news is bleak, however. The group Friends of the Palo Alto Library (FOPAL) has just approved two grants totaling $300,000 to support the library system. A $100,000 grant to the Palo Alto Library Foundation will help buy furniture and equipment for the libraries undergoing renovations, and a $200,000 grant to the library system will fund new programs and expand the book collection. FOPAL President Jim Schmidt announced these grants at the City Council's meeting Monday night, at which time he also expressed concern about the council's decision to cut $115,000 from the libraries' collection budget. "The purpose of Friends' activities has been to enhance the libraries, especially the collections," Schmidt told the council. "Increasingly, as I watched the numbers, including your $115,000 reduction in the library-materials budget for the upcoming fiscal year, I wondered whether the Friends' contributions are in fact enhancing or rather replacing."

CHILI TIME ... Palo Alto will continue its favorite Independence Day tradition this Sunday when more than 20 teams compete in the 29th annual Chili Cook-off. City Manager James Keene said the categories this year would include "corporate chili," "open chili" and "vegetarian chili." The free event is sponsored by the Palo Alto Recreation Foundation, the Palo Alto Weekly, Palo Alto Online, Piazza's Fine Foods and KDOW 1220 AM. The event will kick off at noon at Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive.

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