Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 3, 2010

Around Town

FACE OFF ... A college dropout with a reputation for brains and an Ivy League graduate known for folksiness collided at Facebook's headquarters this week, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and former President George W. Bush took part in a question-and-answer session to promote Bush's new memoir, "Decision Points." Though the meeting focused largely on the book, the 43rd president was also subject to some light ribbing from the Silicon Valley crowd. Bush's folksy smile temporarily faded when he was asked about the Dallas Cowboys, who have a surprisingly dismal 3-8 record, and the Texas Rangers, who lost to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series in early November. Bush acknowledged that as a Cowboys fan, he is "disappointed" but declined to name his favorite Giants player. "Their pitching was awesome," Bush said. "I was surprised they beat us." Bush also gave Zuckerberg props for founding the social-media giant and compared it to his own decision to run for president. "You seized the moment here at Facebook, and I congratulate you for it," Bush told Zuckerberg. "The question is not whether you'll be dealt a hand but how you play it. I played it as well as I thought it could be played."

A TASTE OF FIBER ... Mayors and technophiles all across the nation have been lobbying Google to select their cities and towns for the company's Fiber for Communities experiment. Palo Alto is one of hundreds of applicants, with the pool ranging from Chicago and Baltimore to Waterloo, Iowa, and Androscoggin Valley, Maine. The reasons for why residents want a fiber system are as varied as the cities, as Google made clear by publishing snippets from letters on its website. "We could use a 'city of tomorrow' today!" a letter from Ashburn, Va., stated. "It would rock to have some Down South Google Lovin'!" a Nashville writer opined. "I want to watch videos of my puppy at light speed," someone from Lomita, Calif., said. "Because if you do, I'll bake you a pie," noted someone from Bonsall, Calif. The company plans to announce the recipient of a citywide ultra high-speed Internet network by the end of the year.

FIRE IT UP ... After a month-long lull, the subject of staffing in Palo Alto Fire Department is scheduled to flare up again Monday night, when the City Council takes up an ongoing study on the highly contentious subject. The topic of firefighter staffing last came up on Nov. 2, when voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure proposed by the firefighters' union to freeze staffing levels at the Fire Department and require citywide votes for any staffing reduction or fire station closures. The union, which is in the midst of contract negotiations with the city, has persistently blasted the new study, which is being performed by two different firms, Systems Planning Corporation/TriData Division and ICMA Consulting Services. The city aborted a previous study after learning that the consultant who worked on that study had never recommended a staffing reduction for any other municipalities he'd assessed and concluding that the Palo Alto study was likely to be biased. The new report aims to evaluate the department's overtime expenditures, analyze the department's organization and consider the station locations. Consultants are expected to update the City Council on the study on Monday night and return in January with a final presentation.

BEST IN CLASS ... State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who led the effort to require California children to turn 5 years old by Sept. 1 before they could enroll in kindergarten, was named the top legislator of 2010 by a statewide association of school officials this week. The California School Boards Association named the former Palo Alto mayor and school board member its "Outstanding Legislator of the Year" for his efforts to support funding for K-12 education and for his legislative efforts in the educational realm. Jo Lucey, president of the Cupertino Union School District Board, said in a statement that Simitian "understands the challenges our state's school face at the local level" and "knows what it takes to get the job done." Lorraine Lumley, vice president of the Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees, agreed. "He 'gets it,' and that understanding is clearly reflected in his work in Sacramento."

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