Last week I heard Palo Alto's new sustainability officer, Gil Friend, present our City Council with his thoughts on making Palo Alto a sustainable community. He talked about our successful programs for green energy, recycling and composting, encouraging more bicycling and walking, and other such programs, as Palo Altans are familiar with. But when it came time for Council to ask questions, it became clear that to most of our Council members, sustainability means high-density development. The only exceptions were Greg Schmid, Karen Holman and maybe Pat Burt.
Gil said he wants to be "transformative" in how Palo Alto moves to sustainability — as such he should explore how to improve prosperity without continuous land development, increased density and the resultant population growth that follows. An economy based on land development is not sustainable. And he should resist pressure from City Council to use his office to "green wash" their plans for a high-density future, even though that seems to be why he was hired.
Palo Alto's leaders like to talk up high-density development as the key to environmental sustainability. It isn't and isn't intended to be. It is intended as a full-employment program for real-estate developers. I hope Gil sees through this and focuses on keeping and improving Palo Alto as a sustainable, low-density, family-friendly community.
Janice Way, Palo Alto
Preserve the parkland
Palo Alto must rethink its plan to use 10 acres of parkland to build a compost plant when that land cannot be replaced.
Proponents want to treat 10 acres as "free" since the city already owns it. That would be a deliberate robbery of the citizens.
The fact is that 10 acres are near priceless, and it seems unlikely that any financial study would justify using such valuable and irreplaceable land to manufacture gas.
Let's be real. Our carbon footprint is not just carbon released in Palo Alto. So perhaps a little trucking to a lower-cost place might pollute; however, a small portion of the savings could be used to preserve a few more acres of trees in the foothills (or in another state for that matter) and yield a better environmental benefit than trying to fit a digester here.
While many people accuse Palo Altans of living in a bubble, the fact is that we do not. Our efforts must be based on the greater good of the planet — not some environmental trophy that feeds a false pride of being "green."
Let's truly be "green," take a larger view of the carbon equation and preserve our parklands. Viewed in the light of day, the proposals have been another commercial development hiding behind a green flag.
Clarity gained from this larger global view dictates that the land must be returned to the citizens for recreational use. Let's put aside self-interests and restore our bayfront park for the community good.
Park Boulevard, Palo Alto
Modeling bad behavior
I appreciate the Palo Alto Weekly's reporting on the harassment charges against Phil Winston — I have a child in one of Mr. Winston's current classrooms.
We can argue about the seriousness of the charges against Phil Winston all day, but one thing is certain: My trust in PAUSD leadership has been shaken because every person who spoke about the transfer from Kevin Skelly down to Winston himself emphasized that it was due solely to his health. A sizable number of Jordan's seventh graders this year (he is a special education teacher, but teaches in mainstreamed classes) have been used as guinea pigs to test if Winston was able to work in the classroom without incident. Furthermore, his team teacher — the person who would be most closely able to monitor his behavior — was a young woman teaching her first year in Palo Alto, who I'm given to understand wasn't made aware of the charges.
How can that possibly be considered a good match for proper oversight? PAUSD leadership does have some limitations on what they can say and do if they want to avoid a lawsuit from Mr. Winston or the union that represents him, but secrecy and shuffling around of problem employees, while telling half-truths in order to protect the institution, reminds me of the recent tactics of the Catholic Church.
For the kids, it's a tough situation because they are reading and hearing things that the adults at school pretend aren't happening. This entire incident so far models the wrong behavior if we as a community are trying to teach our children to be honest, ethical and forthcoming.
Pine Street, Palo Alto
'No' on Measure AA
So we have another bond measure on the June ballot. Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District wants more money from us. We are already funding the district, but, like a heroin addict, they want more. Do they realize that all these bond measures are just draining us dry? What are they going to do with the $300 million? They are going to make improvements. Looking at the list in the voter pamphlet, almost all the improvements appear to be in locations far from the urban areas. $300 million is going to benefit only a select number of hikers and bikers.
Most things can be improved with more money, but in this case, the cost/benefit ratio is definitely not right. Most taxpayers don't have an unlimited supply of money. They would rather spend the money on things that improve their quality of life.
Like it or not, most of us have to learn to live within our means. It is time MROSD learns to do the same. If they had managed their money wisely, they wouldn't have to come begging now.
Mackay Drive, Palo Alto