Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - November 12, 2010

Letters

Oughta be a law

Editor,

Each fall, my "There Oughta Be a Law" contest invites Californians to submit suggestions for new laws. After nine years, 16 new laws are on the books. For the 10th round, now under way, scores of constituents already have sent in their proposals.

However, I suspect that in recent weeks many Californians have been concentrating on which candidates to vote for, not on a law they might propose. So I am extending the contest deadline to Nov. 24.

This has been a year of political rallies and civic activism. My contest invites proposals from folks of all political viewpoints who want to add a law, revise a law or even repeal a law. The winner or winners will have their ideas introduced as legislation and get to testify at a hearing in the state Capitol.

The real prize, however, is the satisfaction of knowing your entry could affect the lives of 38 million Californians.

For an application, see my website, www.senatorsimitian.com, or call my office at 650-688-6384.

State Senator Joe Simitian

Town & Country Village

Palo Alto

Tree report

Editor,

The leak of an eight-page, draft executive summary on the California Avenue tree clear cutting provides new information, extends focus beyond Public Works and highlights the city's reluctance to meet its obligation to the public.

Up through its ranks, the Planning Department deferred to the expectations of the development association's leadership as to whether the streetscape project should be reviewed in public or at the staff level. Planning decisions should be made exclusively on best professional judgment and free of outside influence.

Within the city manager's department, staff determined that changes to the project be noticed via an updated description in the budget, but not in a separate, informational staff report. The revised project's needle within the mid-year budget haystack contained no indication that the trees would fall. Fix this process.

The draft summary extends the currently-known 2009 public record that no one in the city questioned the wisdom of removing the trees en masse. What caused this?

Finally, the community's clear understanding and expectation is that the city would release a thorough report. However, no information of any kind has been forthcoming since the council meeting three weeks after the trees fell. It has been left entirely to citizen investigators the press, and now a leak to fill in the record.

To move beyond this unfortunate episode the city needs to fulfill its obligation to finish and release that report together with the complete set of mechanisms designed to prevent such an occurrence in the future.

Fred Balin

Columbia Street

Palo Alto

Rank hypocrisy

Editor,

Save for its somewhat limited provider list, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program introduced by the state at the end of last month is a wonder to behold.

Benefits are as a rule paid at 85 percent. They are subject to a $1,500 annual deductible and a further $1,000 paid out-of-pocket each year for co-insurance (15 percent of allowed charges) and co-pays.

The premium for all this for a 43-year-old local resident is a bargain at $344/month. Ętna by contrast charges more to cover a 43-year-old female in good health with a plan that features a yearly $3,500 deductible, and a further $6,500 for annual co-insurance at 30 percent.

According to its website (pcip.ca.gov), all that is needed to qualify is to have been uninsured for the past six months. True, sometime in the last 12 months you must have also been offered coverage with premiums higher than those of the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program preferred provider organization plan. But that would be a slam-dunk for our hypothetical 43-year-old as Blue Shield's HMO Access Plus plan automatically fills the bill.

This magnanimous program clearly discriminates in favor of the feckless and irresponsible.

We all will pay for it, but as equal benefit under the law, it amounts to rank hypocrisy.

Michael Goldeen

Tasso Street

Palo Alto

Torture support

Editor,

Well, the dirty secret is finally out.

The unrepentant George Bush admitted to NBC's Matt Lauer that he vigorously supported the torture procedure, known as waterboarding, because "a lawyer" said it was perfectly legal.

He made the dubious claim that "many lives were saved" and he "kept America safe" by approving waterboarding.

Predictably, Bush skirted the issue of the legality of waterboarding of Americans who may be captured in war. He and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair offer no contrition of their decision to deliberately mislead their nations about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

He writes that he was "shocked" when he discovered Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. He writes, "No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do."

How nice! I am sure Iraqis and American troops who died and continue to suffer emotional and physical injuries will find small comfort in Bush's appalling admission that the war was waged on a mountain of lies.

Bush found solace that he "won't be around" when future historians judge his presidency. I wonder if he will be so nonchalant when he meets his creator.

Jagjit Singh

Stuart Court

Los Altos

Malfunction junction

Editor,

If the high-speed rail station would need 3,000 parking stalls for those folks leaving the area, it stands to reason that a few hundred stalls would be necessary for the rental-car companies to accommodate the folks arriving.

We can then compete for having the greatest "malfunction junction" in Northern California.

Tom Cotter

Center Drive

Palo Alto

Comments

Posted by Ted Rudow III,MA, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 12, 2010 at 10:45 am

Matt Lauer will interview Mr. Bush on a prime-time broadcast Nov. 8, one day before Mr. Bush's book, "Decision Points," is released by Crown Publishers. Mr. Lauer will interview Mr. Bush again live on the "Today" show, the country's highest-rated morning show, on Nov. 10. It is easy to see why he and his cohorts would have done everything in their pernicious power to get their nefarious names and dastardly deeds off the telly and out of the papers for awhile! But now after two years of being out of office, he is still defending his views. Germany's justice minister found herself in hot water for saying that "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler also used." She later denied that she had compared Bush to Hitler, but did say that their methods were similar. German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was reelected but found himself in the bad graces of the U.S. for his own stance against a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Hitler was an expert at distracting his people's attention from their real problems and his own mistakes by dragging the red herrings of Red Jewry across his hell-bent trail of national destruction, and conjuring foes without to divert their attention from their much more serious affairs within.



Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2010 at 11:51 am

To Fred Balin's letter - [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Fred pointed out the investigation was left entirely to "citizen investigators, the press, and now a leak to fill in the record."

City leaders were never upfront regarding information collected by the Human Resources Department.

As for the Summary itself, it has errors,omissions and gaping holes in the timeline. Much of what was reported to higher ups is not how I remember events of the 5 years that led up to the Project.

The City NEVER asked me for any information at all, while preparing the summary. From reading what they gathered, they merely relied on INTERNAL information, and from many of the same people that caused the problem in the first place!

As an example:
Fred wrote, "... the Planning Department deferred to the expectations of the development association's leadership as to whether the streetscape project should be reviewed in public or at the staff level." That was reported in the Summary. But it is NOT true.

Two points Fred made that I agree with, 100%, are:

1) "...the community's clear understanding and expectation is that the city would release a thorough report. However, no information of any kind has been forthcoming since the council meeting three weeks after the trees fell."

2) "To move beyond this unfortunate episode the city needs to fulfill its obligation to finish and release that report together with the complete set of mechanisms designed to prevent such an occurence in the future."


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Instead of relying on Ronna Divincenzi's memory of the past five years, why doesn't she just make public all the agendas and minutes of the California Avenue Area Development Association Board of Directors for those five years?


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