Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 6, 2010

News Digest

Volunteer readers to be recognized Sunday

Actress and former schoolteacher Jane Seaman of Los Altos Hills has spent 15,000 hours — or 1.7 years of her life — reading out loud in an empty room.

For 43 years, Seaman has gone to a recording studio in Palo Alto to read literature and law books for an online audio-textbook library for people who cannot read on their own.

She is one of 114 volunteers for the Northern California division of the national nonprofit Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic who will be recognized at an awards reception in Palo Alto Sunday.

"It's been a very rewarding personal experience for me in so many ways, and I'm just happy that I'm still able to do it," she said.

Seaman records in four-hour sessions three times a week. She is currently reading a biography of Charlotte Bronte and short stories for a literary anthology. Her favorite subject matter is poetry and plays, especially those she has performed on stage.

"I feel I have an understanding of it and can bring something to it that another person might not be able to," and in the studio she can even play Hamlet, she said.

When Seaman began reading in 1967, she had just finished playing Helen Keller's mother in "The Miracle Worker" when she came across an article about the organization.

"We had several blind children in the cast," she recalled. "I just had to develop, of course, a special feeling for children coping with this type of challenge."

Other honorees have recorded up to 8,000 hours. Those honored will include 32 volunteers from Palo Alto, 16 from Los Altos and 15 from Menlo Park.

Voters to face college parcel tax in November

Area voters will face another parcel tax on their ballot this November, this time to provide funds for the hard-pressed Foothill-De Anza Community College District — caught between increasing enrollment and state funding cutbacks.

The district is seeking approval of an annual $69-per-parcel tax that would last for six years. College trustees voted Monday to place the measure on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The tax would provide an estimated $7 million a year to make up in part for more than $20 million in state funding cuts over the past two years, the district said.

The measure requires a two-thirds voter approval in the college district, which serves more than 45,000 students from Palo Alto, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Stanford, Sunnyvale and portions of San Jose.

Despite increased enrollment, Foothill and De Anza have had to cut course offerings and eliminate hundreds of full- and part-time faculty and staff positions in the past two years, according to district officials.

"Local community colleges are more important than ever," said Bruce Swenson, a Palo Alto resident who chairs the Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees.

"The University of California and California State University systems are raising tuition and turning away more students, making Foothill and De Anza the only affordable options for many local students, including workers who need retraining."

Alma Street sidewalk/curb project starts Monday

A "concrete rehabilitation" project along Alma Street in south Palo Alto will begin Monday (Aug. 9), funded by a $209,000 federal stimulus grant — resulting in weekday traffic slowdowns in sections of the northbound lanes.

The work will continue in sections until mid-October, city officials announced Tuesday afternoon.

The first phase will install new curbs and gutters from Alma Plaza to Colorado Avenue, including repair of driveways and sidewalks, according the Linda Clerkson, communications manager for the city.

Street corners will have new concrete curb ramps installed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, she said.

Starting Aug. 16, the right, northbound lane will have overnight closures in 500-foot sections. A different section will be closed each Monday at 9 a.m. and remain closed until Friday at 4 p.m. The closures are for safety reasons and to prevent cars from driving on the new concrete curbs and gutters along the narrow lane, Clerkson said.

Closures will start at El Verano Avenue and move north to Colorado Avenue. All lanes will be open during weekends, she said.

People with questions may call Public Works Engineering at 650-329-2501 or e-mail pwecips@cityofpaloalto.org.

The project is officially called the City of Palo Alto's Alma Street Concrete Rehabilitation Project, with funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

— Palo Alto Online staff

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