CELEBRATION TIME ... Palo Alto will briefly set aside its reputation as a wonky hub of Big Ideas and celebrate its lighter side on May 5. The city will hold its 90th annual May Fete Parade, and this year's theme will be "Palo Alto at Play." Bear Capron, event coordinator, said in statement that this year's parade "is the perfect time to show everyone that we know how to play and have fun." The parade will begin at 10 a.m. at University Avenue and Emerson Street and will proceed down University Avenue to Heritage Park, site of a fair. The procession will feature floats, clowns, marching bands, dance groups and martial arts studios. But for all the frivolity, the event will include several reminders of the city's status as a locus of innovation. The parade will include a "flotilla of environmentally friendly green cars," according to the city. And the grand marshal this year is Robert N. Klein II, who authored a stem-cell initiative in 2004 and who until recently served as head of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.
THE PRIZE ... Mary Schmich, who this week won a Pulitzer Prize for her columns in the Chicago Tribune, has her own Palo Alto connection. Schmich had served as an intern at the Palo Alto Weekly in the early days of the paper's existence. Her contributions included a profile of Newman Walker, who had served as Palo Alto's school superintendent from 1975 to 1985. Schmich had also spent time as a reporter at the Peninsula Times Tribune, a newspaper that replaced the Palo Alto Times and closed its doors in 1993.
WATER WOES ... Palo Alto proudly boasts some of the cleanest tap water in California state, but the quality comes at a price. The city, which is one of about two dozen to gets its water through the Hetch Hetchy system, is responsible for paying its share for the system's $4.6 billion upgrade project. At the same time, the city's Utilities Department is plowing forth with its own repairs on the city's water pipes and a new water-storage tank at El Camino Park. For local ratepayers, these improvements will likely mean higher bills. Residential rates are scheduled to go up by 15 percent under a staff proposal that the City Council's Finance Committee endorsed Wednesday. Councilman Pat Burt said there's been a lot of perception in the community that the council keeps on raising rates "willy nilly" — a perception that Burt tried to debunk at the meeting. He noted that the city's gas and electricity rates would remain unchanged this year and that the water-rate increases are driven by concerns over safety and reliability. "In fact, we're flat on rates on all our utilities except for contending with something that will matter a great deal to all of us," Burt said. "It's a wise, necessary investment." The only other increase will be in wastewater rates, which will go up by about $2 on an average monthly bill. The Utilities Department estimates that the impact of all rate adjustments would be about $9 for the average monthly bill.