Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 19, 2013

Around Town

CITY OF CHIEFS ... With Earth Day right around the corner, Palo Alto officials took a victory lap this week and celebrated the city's significant green accomplishments. These include achieving a carbon-neutral electricity portfolio and cutting emissions from city operations by 53 percent from what they were in 2005 (demolishing its goal of reducing them by 20 percent). But even as they basked in the glory of recent green victories, City Council members indicated that much more work will need to be done. Councilman Marc Berman compared this on Monday to winning a pie-eating contest only to be rewarded with more pie. Assistant Public Works Director Phil Bobel told the council that the city has already formed a "sustainability board" of key department heads who have been meeting for about eight months and working on green projects. Now, the city is shopping for a conductor of this citywide operation. Bobel said the city is hiring a chief sustainability officer, who would take direction from the sustainability board and implement it. This green czar would be the latest addition to the city's expanding executive team. This week, City Manager James Keene hired the city's first "chief communication officer," tapping former California State University Vice Chancellor Claudia Keith for the new position.

HANDBAGGED BY THE IRON LADY Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz missed hosting a lunch at Stanford University's Hoover Institution Wednesday because he was in London as co-leader of the U.S. delegation to the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Lunch co-host Sidney Drell, a retired Stanford physicist and Shultz colleague in the quest to eliminate nuclear weapons, said Shultz once was "handbagged" by Thatcher, whose structured, black handbags symbolized femininity and toughness. Thatcher "was one of the people who thought it absurd to get rid of nuclear weapons," Drell recalled. When she "handbagged" Shultz on the issue, Shultz reportedly told Thatcher that even her great friend and ally Ronald Reagan believed in the elimination of nuclear weapons.

ON THE RAIL FRONT ... Palo Alto hasn't conceded defeat in its long, litigious feud with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, but this week it decided not to challenge the rail authority's latest victory in court. After a closed-session discussion Monday night, the City Council voted unanimously not to appeal a recent decision in favor of the rail authority by a Sacramento County Superior Court judge. Palo Alto was one of the plaintiffs in a suit that claimed the rail authority failed to adequately describe the latest design of the $68 billion project in its Environmental Impact Report. Judge Michael Kenny disagreed and wrote in his Feb. 27 decision that while the rail authority's process "was not absolutely perfect," it was good enough to comply with state law. While Palo Alto will not be disputing this ruling, it continues to be involved in an appeal of an earlier decision. That case focuses on the rail authority's ridership projections, which Palo Alto has long maintained are grossly inflated.

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