Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 13, 2013

News Digest

Voters unlikely to fund bond for police HQ

A bond to fund a new public-safety building in Palo Alto would probably fail if it were put on the November 2014 ballot, according to a survey conducted by the city's public-opinion polling firm.

Fairbanks, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates (FM3), surveyed 600 residents by phone and asked about their likelihood to vote for five funding initiatives to pay for infrastructure improvements.

The residents considered a 2 to 3 percent increase in the city's tax on hotels (known as transient-occupancy tax); a one-eighth or one-quarter percent increase in sales tax; a $66 million general-obligation bond for transportation projects; a $71 million general-obligation bond for public-safety improvements; and the establishment of a community facilities district (CFD) to fund parking improvements.

The hotel tax emerged as the clear frontrunner, with 65 to 79 percent of likely voters approving of it, depending on the context in which the question was asked.

But the public-safety general-obligation bond would fall short of the two-thirds majority it would need to pass, with 55 to 65 percent of residents approving, the surveying firm found.

Adding urgency to the push for a funding solution is an offer by San Francisco Developer Jay Paul Co. to build a new $49.3 million public-safety building at 3045 Park Blvd. as part of the approval of a new, adjacent office complex. The proposal has been widely criticized by residents for its potential parking and traffic problems.

The report was referred to the council's finance committee for a recommendation.

Mother struck, seriously injured by car

A woman who was walking her young child to school was struck by a car in Barron Park Tuesday morning, Dec. 10, Palo Alto police said in a statement.

The woman in her 30s was struck at 7:49 a.m. by a car driven by a minor. The teen driver called police dispatch to report that he or she had just struck a pedestrian in the 3800 block of La Donna Avenue, between Paul and La Para avenues.

Responding officers and personnel from the Palo Alto Fire Department found the woman unconscious with major injuries.

Personnel from the Palo Alto Fire Department transported her to a local hospital, where she is being treated. Police said Wednesday night that she is a serious but stable condition.

The teen driver remained at the scene and has been cooperative with investigators. The driver has not been arrested or cited, as the investigation is still ongoing. He or she was not injured. No additional information about the driver is being released in accordance with standard operating procedures involving juveniles, police said.

The victim was walking her young child to school at the time of the collision. The child was not struck and was not injured. No additional information about the victim or her child is being released, police said.

Police are asking anyone with information about the accident to call the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to paloalto@tipnow.org or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

Board sets new school calendars

The Palo Alto Board of Education Tuesday finalized school district-wide calendars for the next three years, ending — for now — a debate over how early in August the school year should begin.

The2014-15 school year will run from Aug. 18 to June 4; the 2015-16 academic year from Aug. 17 to June 2; and the 2016-17 academic year from Aug. 15 to June 1.

Tuesday's unanimous vote ended nearly a year of discussion following Palo Alto's major switch in 2012-13 to a calendar in which, for the first time, the semester ends before the December holidays. That change created a work-free semester break for students that was cheered by many, but pushed the school start date to earlier in August.

The calendars struck a compromise between parents, who had sought a later August start date, and teachers, who said making the first semester much shorter than the second semester would compromise their teaching.

Also Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a 4 percent pay raise, plus a 2 percent bonus, for all teachers, staff and administrators with the exception of Superintendent Kevin Skelly. In the case of Skelly, they unanimously approved a "one-time annual salary increase" for the 2013-14 school year amounting to 3 percent of his regular pay of $287,163.

The raises approved Tuesday will cost the district an ongoing $5 million of its $180 million operating budget, officials said.

— Chris Kenrick

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