Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 10, 2010

Around Town

MIXED REPORT ... Note to the City of Palo Alto: Your residents apparently do not take kindly to being compared with one another, particularly when they feel the comparison is based on faulty information. This truism was played out this week as a new "Home Energy Report," devised by the utilities department to show homeowners how their energy use compares with their neighbors', hit the mailboxes. One person who posted a comment to Town Square, the Palo Alto online forum, complained of feeling insulted and chided in "an unpleasant fashion" by the mailer, which ranked each household against 100 comparable, nearby homes as well as against one's "efficient neighbors" (the most efficient 20 of the 100). The report spells out how much energy a customer used ("You used 16% MORE energy than your neighbors") and gives the customer an efficiency number, such as No. 84 out of 100 neighbors, with No. 1 being the best. (The point of the ranking is to spur conservation.) It wasn't the scolding that triggered complaints, however; it was that customers felt the comparisons were flawed or based on inaccurate information. Noted another Town Square poster: "There are six people living here and that amounts to more showers, more laundry, more dirty dishes and more technology gadgets needing their charge than in a home with two or three people. ... Comparing the size of the home is not as relevant as comparing the number of people living in the home." Another person charged that the city got the square footage of his/her home wrong, thus rating the household alongside non-comparable homes. But some homeowners reacted more positively. Mary Hughes, who lives in Old Palo Alto, was "thrilled that we were in the lower end." She and her husband use space heaters and electric blankets rather than heating their entire house.

FIRED UP ... Firefighters, much like movie stars and astronauts, have always held a special place in the popular imagination, with millions of American children dreaming of one day riding a fire engine and charging into a burning building to perform heroic acts. But while this picture still holds true, the Palo Alto Fire Department has been devoting a greater chunk of its time to medical care in recent years. That was one of the findings unveiled this week by consultants from the firms TriData and ICMA. The two consulting firms found that while the total number of incidents reported to the Fire Department went up by 19 percent between 2000 and 2009, the number of emergency medical service calls jumped by 48 percent. Stephen Brezler, a consultant from TriData, told the City Council this week that this trend isn't surprising, given the latest demographic trends — namely, the aging of the local population. "It's not unusual that Palo Alto is really facing the dilemma that most communities are — increasing EMS demand while fire is actually decreasing," Brezler said. He predicted that by 2020, EMS calls would make up 64 percent of local incidents, while actual fires would only constitute 2 percent (the other 32 percent would be responses to false alarms and miscellaneous service calls). The consultants slammed the department for substandard training, poor planning and a "leadership malaise," but praised the department's rank-and-file for delivering great service — both in the medical and firefighting realms. "The city can sleep well knowing that the Fire Department handles the emergencies, that it does it professionally and does an outstanding job," Brezler said.

BOOKS ON THE MOVE ... Palo Alto residents who rely on the Main Library for their literary needs won't have to stray too far when the popular branch closes for construction in 2012. That's because the City Council agreed this week to set up a temporary library at the Palo Alto Art Center, which stands next to the library, once construction begins. The council voted unanimously to support a staff recommendation for the temporary facility. Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd said the availability of parking at the site make the Art Center an easy and reasonable choice. "I think the community knows how to get there and that's also important," Shepherd said. Meanwhile, the library system has just unveiled a new tool that makes visiting branches unnecessary for most basic services. The new program, called Library Anywhere, allows people to use cell phones to search the library catalog and access library services. The service is available at http://www.libanywhere.com , or through an app download.

Comments

Posted by Books-Are-On-Line-Today, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm

> Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd said the availability of parking
> at the site make the Art Center an easy and reasonable choice.

In a Diana Diamond article in on of this week's Daily Posts, Palo Alto Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez is quoted as saying: "Palo Altans support alternative transportation." (or some such). If this is true, why should parking be an issue for why this location is "good" for Council Member Shepard .. or is it possible that Transportation Rodriguez doesn't know what he's talking about?

> Meanwhile, the library system has just unveiled a new tool that
> makes visiting branches unnecessary for most basic services

This has been true since the time the library starting offering "on call" pickup through the online catalog. Certainly any computing device with access to the web had access to the on-line catalog for quite a while.

But it's great to see the city offering a wireless service .. even if its not going to be all that useful, given the increasing capabilities of smartphones.

By the way, Google has been offering e-books formatted for cell phone reading for over two years now. Anybody at the library know that?



Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2010 at 3:18 pm

What tragic irony: "…the library system has just unveiled a new tool that makes visiting branches unnecessary for most basic services."

Yet we "need" 5 branches.

Ooops. I'm forgetting all those important meeting rooms, community spaces, program centers and all the other areas planned for our "libraries."

Per square foot building costs at Mitchell, Main and Downtown are $1,022, $748 and $422 respectively.

And where is the money coming from to pay for furniture, computers, and other equipment not covered by the bond?


Posted by Energy consumer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2010 at 7:12 pm

I, for one, am grateful to be getting this information from the City on my consumption of energy. It gives me an idea of where I am with wasting or conserving energy. It will help me make better decisions about my use. And no one is forcing me.

I suspect the unhappy people are the ones who waste a lot of energy and are embarrassed to find out. Grow up, accept and deal with it.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2010 at 8:53 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Some of the unhappy ones are those who realize that statistics like these are precursors to rate increases.


Posted by actually, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2010 at 9:38 pm

@Energy consumer

Actually I'm unhappy that money was wasted on a comparison that tells me nothing useful to help me save more energy.


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