Many thanks to the League of Women Voters for hosting Tuesday night's debate on Measures D and E. I found the issues presented on both measures very useful as a citizen of Palo Alto desiring to do what's best for our city.
I was interested in the point that Shani Kleinhaus mentioned a couple of times during the debate on Measure E. She said that the measure needed to be defeated to return civility to our community. Civility to me means respecting different opinions and finding ways to work with one another. This often requires compromises by all parties concerned.
For me, Measure E provides a perfect compromise between conservation concerns and environmental concerns. With the passage of Measure E, we'd get a greatly enlarged Byxbee Park and the least desirable piece of former dump land to process our waste and provide green energy and compost. It's like turning a sow's ear into a silk purse.
I'm voting for Measure E and I expect it to pass; but if it doesn't, I will remain civil towards those who voted it down. That's what being a responsible citizen is all about. Regardless of how passionate one may be about an issue, not everyone is always going to share your passion.
No on E
It isn't easy to oppose a "green" project. In the abstract, who wants rising ocean levels to swamp our coasts? I want clean local energy. I want to be independent of Middle East oil. Business and Labor agree, we want the jobs created by alternate energy suppliers.
Going from the abstract to the specific, however, each "green" project should stand on its own merits. For example, how much should we support High Speed Rail ripping up the Peninsula? Should we drill for oil in the Arctic Sea? Should we limit vacation travel overseas?
Palo Alto's Prop. E proponents have claims but no price tag. What is the hurry to grab parkland? Let an independent group with no "skin in the game" look at the competing costs and benefits. Prepare an Environmental Impact Report then decide on the need for parkland.
Vote no on Prop. E.
The deceptive mailers from No on E have started to hit my mailbox. Yesterday's flyer pictured a green wetland trail versus a bleak factory building with a big red X on it. Of course, the reality is that the 10 acres that Measure E would hold back from park development are anything but green. They are right next to the sewage treatment plant and are currently part of the recently closed dump.
Contrary to what's implied in this flyer, Measure E, the Green Energy and Compost Initiative, includes no building plans. Measure E simply gives us the opportunity to further evaluate various options by releasing 10 of the dump's 126 acres from park designation. Since there are no construction plans, the opponents' flyer is what's "misleading," claiming that Measure E would require digging up tons of already buried garbage.
Far from being "untested," anerobic digestors are commonly used in Europe and others are now planned for the Bay Area. Moreover, if further analysis shows that the concept won't work (either technically or financially), then the land will revert to park status.
The "foolish" risk would be to deny the opportunity that Measure E offers Palo Altans to save money and generate needed clean energy from our waste stream, while reducing a train of garbage trucks trekking our compostables to Gilroy.Vote Yes on E.
No on E
A vote to un-dedicate 10 acres of Bay parkland for an organics processor is environmentally and financially risky.
Measure E permits only the processing of organics. Since we are already collecting and processing yard and tree trimmings and commercial food waste, an organics processor will only add household food waste to our current programs — a relatively small net increase to today's recycle/reuse rate of 77%.
Other California communities — Los Angeles County, Santa Barbara, Salinas Valley — are developing new regional municipal waste processing plants that could bring their total recycling/reuse rates to 98% with green energy output that is 10 times higher per ton of municipal waste than this proposal. Within a year we will have detailed cost and performance data from these new demonstration plants including environmental reviews and consultant reports.
We have plenty of local experience that should warn us against refuse options that lag the market. Over the last seven years our landfill operation has lost some $30 million (run down of cash reserves and postponed rental payments) — money that refuse users will be paying off in coming years. Adding a plant that will cost between $40 and $70 million and deals, at best, with only a small portion of our outstanding waste stream and that threatens the viability of neighboring parkland, is an invitation to financial and environmental disaster. This proposal ties us for the next 25 years into an option that is costly, inefficient and ineffective.
Vote No on E.
In the discussion by the Palo Alto City Council Oct. 3 of the Page Mill project of condos above an R&D lab, councilmember Pat Burt brought up a good point — the potential danger to the condo residents should an accident happen in the R&D lab below. The reply he got was simply that the city had to be strict about the amount of hazardous chemicals used in the lab and the type of experiments conducted. It was suggested that city staff would decide on the restrictions. Like staff includes chemists! This is shocking! The first floor can be retail. No living units should be above any kind of laboratory. The city has tended to be rather complacent about dangers to residents from industries in their neighborhood. This project is going too far. And this danger is in addition to the toxic plume beneath the site. No such project should ever be allowed, no matter the zoning. Insist on retail or other harmless commercial on the first floor.
California Avenue plans
Reducing California Avenue from four lanes to two was studied since fall 2004, when the "Streetscape" project began, and I organized a meeting for all city department heads to share their work schedule with CAADA's Board and Canopy's Susan Rosenberg, with the schedule culminating in street re-surfacing.
When Rosenberg suggested CAADA hold a stakeholder's "charette" to brainstorm how they wanted the street to look, I arranged for well-known architects Tony Carrasco and Judith Wasserman to moderate a gathering, assisted by Sandra Lonnquist at the Chamber.
My plan was cancelled, when CAADA Board members Terry Shuchat and Elizabeth "Feeta" Bishop formed "The Streetscape Committee," meeting with the city on CAADA's behalf, designing their own conceptpPlan, drawn, pro-bono, by architect Heather Trossman.
Committee Chairman Shuchat went to other communities and worked closely with Bob Morris of Public Works. When their concept plan was presented to the CAADA Board, it was accepted unanimously, including lane reductions from four to two.
Were the Streetscape not stopped in September 2009, all street work would have been done by that Thanksgiving, including the lane reduction.
A 7-year-old boy was hit in a crosswalk last summer, adding him to the list of others that includes a man in a wheelchair, and a local property manager, all hit in crosswalks.
The four-lane footprint from the 1950s does not serve the pedestrian activity of today. The only surprise is that not more people are hit. Two lanes are ideal for California Avenue.
Former President of CAADA
As someone who lost his father at a similar age to a similar cancer, I offer my deepest condolences to the Jobs family. Amid all the rightful reflection and admiration for what Mr. Jobs accomplished professionally, I hope that praise does not distract from or lessen our sensitivity to the profoundly personal loss the family is feeling.
While we may not have an example of his personal accomplishments in each of our living rooms, I will be presumptuous enough to assume that they were no less a source of pride.
Today I honor not the creative genius behind the gadgets I love, but the love of a father and husband lost all too soon.
A friend asked me "Was Steve Jobs an inventor or someone who took others' inventions and rearrange them in a new and cooler way?" I think both descriptions entirely miss his genius.
Steve Jobs was an artist whose medium was technology. He brought esthetic art to the world of technology. Technology is logical, quantitative and functional. But art is qualitative, emotional, intuitive. So was Steve. His genius was to create artistic technology products.
His genius can't be described as just rearranging existing parts into a cooler product. Paint and canvas existed before the Impressionist painters Monet, Cezanne, Cassatt and Renoir came on to the scene. Before them, painting was in the style of Realism. They created a different artistic esthetic, a different goal of painting.
Such was the work of Steve Jobs. It wasn't enough what something did (which was what traditional technologists did), but how it did it. The concept he brought was: Doing something, functionally, wasn't enough. The new goal was to emotionally like what you were doing.
Jobs was the artist who brought technology from "Realism" to "Impressionism." He changed the goal of technology. This required more than just the most visible part, making a cool product. It took changing the mindset of the people who worked on the technology, the structure of a technology company and yes, the products themselves. But it also required changing the expectations of the people who used technology, to expect to like using technology. And this, I think, is his biggest and will be his longest lasting achievement.