Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 21, 2011

News Digest

Palo Alto polling community on city's trees

Palo Alto community members who would like to stake a claim in the state of the city's tree canopy are being asked to participate in a survey of values and concerns about Palo Alto's trees.

The survey is being conducted by the Department of Planning and Community Environment, which is creating an Urban Forest Master Plan to maintain and enhance the canopy.

"Our vision for Palo Alto trees is being developed through the survey in collaboration with the Palo Alto community," Public Works arborist Eric Krebs said.

The results of the brief survey, which closes Jan. 26, will guide recommendations set to be discussed at a City Council study session Saturday, Feb. 7. Results will be considered as the city develops a Master Plan, funded by a CalFire grant to Palo Alto made prior to the controversial 2009 cutting of 63 trees on California Avenue.

"We got the grant before that happened, but it did heighten the need for this," Curtis Williams, director of planning and community environment, said.

When written, procedures for canopy maintenance and interdepartmental collaboration will take into account the questions and concerns community members express in the survey, city officials said.

"We want to develop an ongoing index of trees in Palo Alto and a way to continue to monitor the health of the urban forest. We want to ensure that we have policies and procedures for when we must take trees into account," Williams.

The survey and the plan will mainly be concerned with trees on city property, Williams said.

Merger saves City of Palo Alto employees' credit union

A financially struggling credit union used by City of Palo Alto employees has been taken over by one of the largest credit unions in Silicon Valley, according to a California Department of Financial Institutions filing.

The 70-year-old Palo Alto Community Federal Credit Union, with assets of $11.7 million, merged with the much larger San Mateo Credit Union in November after posting significant losses since the September 2008 stock market and housing crash. Efforts to expand its clientele could not help Palo Alto Credit Union survive on its own, according to Stephen Tabler, San Mateo Credit Union vice president of marketing.

Credit unions are nonprofit cooperative financial institutions controlled by members, often by federal, state, county or municipal workers. Some unions are for large institutions, such as universities, or are community-based. Members pool their assets to provide loans and other financial services to each other, resulting in lower loan rates and dividends and fewer service fees, according to the Credit Union National Association. The institutions are not owned by outside stockholders.

The City of Palo Alto makes transfers to employee accounts through payroll deductions but does not have a banking relationship for other city funding with the credit union, according to Lalo Perez, city administrative services director.

City employees voted in September to accept the merger, Tabler said. The employees started the Palo Alto credit union in 1951. Located at 616 Ramona St., it served 1,553 members, according to National Credit Union Administration.

San Mateo Credit Union has seven branches and a mortgage-loan center, 68,248 members and $605 million in assets, Tabler said.

Mexico president to address Stanford grads June 12

Mexico President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa will be the speaker at Stanford University's 120th commencement June 12, the university announced Jan. 18.

Also highlighting commencement weekend will be Class Day speaker Rob Reich, a Stanford political theorist and former sixth-grade teacher; and Baccalaureate speaker Gail E. Bowman, chaplain at Dillard University in New Orleans.

Calderon, elected in 2006 to a six-year term, "is committed to finding solutions to a number of national and global problems, ranging from combating drug cartels to comprehensive immigration reform and arms control," Stanford President John Hennessy said.

"His views on a life devoted to solving pressing problems and to improving society will be particularly meaningful for our graduates, as will his experience leading a nation so vitally intertwined with the future of California and the United States."

Reich will address seniors, families and friends June 11 in a 30-year "Class Day" tradition of hearing a last lecture from a popular Stanford professor.

He is an associate professor of political science, also teaching in the Philosophy Department and School of Education. He is faculty director of the Program on Ethics in Society.

Bowman, a Harvard-trained lawyer who has been chaplain at Dillard since 1998, is a teacher as well as preacher and a member of the Louisiana Board of Ethics.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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