Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 14, 2012

News Digest

Palo Alto council takes anti-marijuana stand

With marijuana advocates pushing for Palo Alto to allow pot dispensaries, the City Council voted unanimously Monday night, Sept. 10, against a ballot measure that would legalize and tax up to three such shops.

Mayor Yiaway Yeh, Vice Mayor Greg Scharff and Councilman Larry Klein authored the memo against Measure C that their colleagues supported. Marijuana shops, if legalized, "can lead to 'secondary effects' in our neighborhoods, such as illicit drug sales, loitering and even criminal activity," the memo stated.

Klein rejected the notion that marijuana from pot shops is only smoked by terminally ill patients and pointed to an email from a Palo Alto High School parent whose son reportedly bought marijuana from an adult who picked it up at a dispensary.

"This is not a benign thing or one that just affects people who have pain problems," Klein said. "This is really a subterfuge that we do not want in Palo Alto."

Not everyone shared the trio's depiction of marijuana as a harbinger of greater problems. Councilman Pat Burt said he was skeptical about the notion of pot leading to harder drugs. But he joined his colleagues in opposing Measure C, saying that Proposition 15, which created the state law permitting dispensaries, has been abused since its inception in 1996.

Councilwoman Gail Price agreed with Burt but, like Burt, she voted to support the colleagues' memo.

Palo Alto, Linkoping mark sisterly love

The blue and gold of the Swedish flag flapped proudly inside Palo Alto City Hall Monday night, Sept. 10, as the city enthusiastically welcomed a Swedish delegation and celebrated its quarter-century-old relationship with the city of Linkoping.

The two high-tech hubs formed their "sister city" relationship in 1987, under then-Mayor Gail Woolley. On Monday night, Woolley joined a large group of former and current elected officials to mark the 25th anniversary of the partnership and to welcome Linkoping (pronounced "Lin-cher-ping") Mayor Ann-Cathrine Hjerdt and a delegation from Sweden to Palo Alto.

Current Mayor Yiaway Yeh announced Sept. 10 to Sept. 14 would be "Linkoping, Sweden Week" and led off the council's regular meeting by reading a proclamation honoring the long friendship between the Scandinavian city, which has been around since the time of Viking invasions, and the California one, which has a high school that boasts Vikings as its mascot.

There are other similarities. Each city boasts a major university and a thriving high-tech sector. While Palo Alto draws much of its talent and identity from Stanford University, its Swedish sister has Linkoping University. And while Palo Alto has a large community of start-ups and major technology firms such as Hewlett-Packard, Linkoping boasts Saab AB, an aerospace company that manufactured planes for the Swedish military.

Linkoping is one of six municipalities with which Palo Alto enjoys a sister city relationship. Palo Alto formed its first such partnership in 1963, with Palo, Philippines. Its other sister cities are Oaxaca, Mexico (1964); Enschede, The Netherlands (1980); Albi, France (1994); and, most recently, Tsuchiura, Japan (2009).

MUG OF ELLEN AUSTIN

Paly teacher wins Dow Jones award

The Dow Jones News Fund has named Ellen Austin of Palo Alto High School "National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year."

As the winner, Austin, who teaches both journalism and AP literature at Paly, will speak before national conferences on journalism education and write a column for the newspaper of the Dow Jones News Fund, which supports journalism education and promotes careers in journalism.

The Dow Jones fund has selected 54 teachers of the year since 1960, including Paly teacher Paul Kandell in 2009.

Austin is entering her sixth year at Paly, where she is among several teachers guiding a 500-plus-student media arts program, which produces an array of publications and broadcasts, including newspaper, magazine, video and web.

Besides teaching, Austin advises the Viking sports magazine and website and co-advises INfocus, a live daily news broadcast. INfocus also produces 30-minute feature segments six times a year.

"We've been retooling and re-imagining what our broadcast program can be, and it's come light years in two years," Austin said.

She was the 2011 California Journalism Educator of the Year and spent four weeks this past summer as a National Endowment for the Humanities grant recipient studying Chaucer's life and works in London.

Austin said she plans to strike the theme of "inclusion" in her Nov. 17 acceptance speech at the National High School Journalism convention in San Antonio, Texas.

"Two things that matter a lot to me are student press rights and freedom of expression, and emphasizing the idea of inclusion, from the newsroom to the stories we tell to the audience that we reach," she said.

— Chris Kenrick

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