Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 22, 2010

Around Town

TRANSITIONS ... Gary Baum's colorful six-year tenure as Palo Alto's city attorney will come to an end this month, when Baum leaves his office on the seventh floor of City Hall to pursue a career in private practice. Since taking over the city's top attorney job in July 2004 he's helped shepherd the City Council through a litany of thorny subjects, from high-speed rail and Stanford Hospital's massive expansion to municipal elections and the city's green-building code. Though Baum occasionally weathered public criticism from council members, he will be showered with honors Monday night, when the council passes a special resolution commending him for his service. The resolution thanks Baum for his "integrity, honesty and professionalism," his "commitment to mentoring and supporting others," and his "compassion and dedication to service," which include his pro bono work on behalf of victims of domestic violence. For this work, Baum received a Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award in 2007 and an Access to Justice Award in 2009. The council is also scheduled to meet Tuesday behind closed doors to consider its recruitment process for the next city attorney. Assistant City Attorney Donald Larkin will serve as the interim city attorney until Baum's permanent replacement is selected. Baum isn't the only council-appointed officer to depart from City Hall this month, though he is the only one who can't blame a baby for his absence. City Auditor Lynda Brouchoud took off for maternity leave earlier this month, prompting the council to appoint Michael Edmonds as her temporary replacement. City Manager James Keene, meanwhile, missed the council and the Finance Committee meetings this week because he's awaiting the birth of his first grandchild.

TRAFFIC MESS ... California officials routinely praise the voter-approved high-speed rail project as a panacea to both the state's unemployment rate and its transportation woes. Members of the California High-Speed Rail Authority say the system is necessary to get people out of their cars and reduce future highway congestion. But in Palo Alto, where the rail proposal is about as popular as rush-hour traffic, officials fear high-speed rail would have the exact opposite effect, particularly if the authority chooses to build a rail station in the city. The City Council's High-Speed Rail Committee voted unanimously Thursday morning to oppose a local rail station, largely because of traffic impacts. Mayor Pat Burt noted that the city's traffic is already slated to increase because of Stanford Hospital's massive expansion project. Bringing in a high-speed-rail station, which authority estimates would attract about 15,600 daily riders, would add more cars to local streets, he said. This would directly conflict with the city's long-term goal of reducing automobile intensity, he said. Councilwoman Gail Price also said she doesn't think Palo Alto has the "infrastructure capacity" on its road system to accommodate a high-speed-rail station. "I don't think a station location here makes sense," she said. The full council is scheduled to discuss the topic Monday night.

TOP OF THE CLASS ... Palo Alto's library system is in the midst of a dramatic metamorphosis, with three local libraries (Main, Mitchell Park and Downtown) preparing for major reconstruction, and a fourth (College Terrace) getting ready to open its doors after renovations. But while city officials often point to the libraries' bright future, the present system appears to be working just fine. This week, Library Director Diane Jennings announced that the city's library system won the "Star Library" designation from the Library Journal for the second year in a row. The award is based on library visits, items that are checked out, attendance at library programs and computer use. "This Star rating reflects many factors that make this library one that people want to and do use — good collections that meet people's needs, quality programs, accessible hours and services, and great customer service," Jennings said in a statement. "Congratulations to the hardworking library staff who play an important part in earning us this rating."

Comments

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Top of the Class

The award should really be an award for Palo Alto residents rather than the library. We are a community that likes to use the library and the quote about the hours being great, I think it is more of the case that in spite of the hours being confusing and open less hours than other communities, we still are able to work out when we can get there.


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