Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 17, 2010

News Digest

Palo Alto officials proud of 2010 accomplishments

A year that began with a $7.3 million budget gap, a fatal plane crash and deep anxieties over California's proposed high-speed rail concluded on a high note Monday (Dec. 13) night for members of the Palo Alto City Council, who celebrated the city's achievements during their final meeting of 2010.

"There were unprecedented challenges facing our city and cities around the world this year," City Manager James Keene told the council. "I think we can say there was progress and promise from where we began, and I think we ended the year stronger than we began."

Keene's presentation highlighted an array of 2010 accomplishments, which included closing a looming budget hole by cutting 40 city jobs, leading the Peninsula's challenge to the California High-Speed Rail Authority and keeping the city at the forefront of innovation.

Keene noted that in the past year, Hewlett-Packard decided to expand its local headquarters while companies such as Skype, Groupon, Bling Nation and Ning set up shop in Palo Alto. AOL, meanwhile, is preparing to set up "incubator space" for small new start-up companies at its Page Mill Road facility, Keene said.

Keene also lauded the council and staff for grappling with the recent financial struggles, which were caused largely by drops in sales tax and other revenue sources. The council began 2010 with a $6.3 million budget shortfall and wrestled with a $7.3 million structural deficit later in the year.

Palo Alto libraries get $3 million in gifts

Palo Alto's voter-approved quest to reconstruct and expand the city's aged library system has received a major lift from local philanthropists and technologists — $3 million in donations to pay for books, furniture and technology at the improved facilities.

The Palo Alto Library Foundation, a nonprofit group that is spearheading a $6 million campaign to equip the new libraries, announced Monday (Dec. 13) night that its fundraising effort has recently reached the halfway point.

The list of donations is headlined by a $1.5 million contribution from the Morgan Family Foundation on behalf of Becky Morgan, a longtime philanthropist who has served as a local school board member, a Santa Clara County supervisor, a California State Senator from 1984 to 1993, and former president and CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley.

Alison Cormack, who is chairing the fundraising campaign, called the contribution an "extraordinary gift" and said the new children's section will be a "fitting tribute" to Morgan because of her involvement in children's education and technology.

The foundation will acknowledge the contribution by honoring Morgan at the Kids Place on the first floor of the rebuilt Mitchell Park Library — the largest of the three library branches to undergo construction.

The foundation also received more than $500,000 from a group of more than 30 Google employees who live in Palo Alto. The group's donation will be recognized on the second floor of the Mitchell Park library in the new Ventura Technology Learning Center, which will include 22 computers including a teaching station with modern display equipment.

Another sizeable donation came from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which contributed $250,000 to the campaign Monday.

The Library Foundation's campaign will continue through 2012. More information is available at www.palf.org.

Palo Alto pays $400K in bike-crash settlement

Palo Alto will pay $400,000 to settle a claim from a 57-year-old woman who suffered brain injuries after being thrown from her bicycle in the 2100 block of Bryant Street in 2008, Interim City Attorney Don Larkin said.

Although she was wearing a helmet, Janet Pierce of Cupertino was injured after her bicycle struck a construction-related steel trench plate. Her original claim was for $1.12 million.

Larkin called the settlement "fair," considering Pierce's injuries and the potential liability to the city should the case have gone to trial.

"We think it's a very fair settlement given the nature of the accident and seriousness of the injuries and the fact that liability is really uncertain," he said.

"The reality is, nobody knows exactly what happened and there would have been experts testifying and it would depend on which experts the jury believed.

"It's fair for us to accept some responsibility, but certainly not the full responsibility," Larkin said.

The accident has prompted the city to add safety precautions around metal plates, he said.

— Chris Kenrick

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