TAKE THAT, PORTLAND! ... Palo Alto has a grand vision for becoming the nation's top bicycling city, one that includes expanded bike lanes, new bike boulevards and a fancy bridge to the Baylands spanning U.S. Highway 101 in south Palo Alto. But even without these improvements, the city's bike community is bustling with energy. On "Bike to Work Day" May 10, a record-breaking 1,573 bicyclists passed through the city's four "energizer stations" — a 14 increase over 2011, City Manager James Keene reported this week. Riders had a chance to pick up fruit, coffee and canvas bags and to mingle with top city officials, including Keene and Mayor Yiaway Yeh, who also took part in the two-wheeled celebration.
WANTED: THE NEXT EDISON ... If there's an Edison, a Jobs, a Hewlett or a Packard somewhere out there, tinkering, inventing and plotting the next game-changing technology, Palo Alto's Utility Department is anxious to meet that person. As part of a new program that the City Council green-lighted in January, the department is looking to partner with people and companies involved in "emerging technologies" — that is, "creative concepts for managing and using electricity, gas, water and fiber optics." Utilities Director Valerie Fong said in a statement: "This region teems with emerging technologies, and it's in everyone's interest to find the best ideas out there and help get them implemented." Interested participants need to apply by July 15 and can get an application or request more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A QUESTION OF TIME ... In his first speech as Palo Alto mayor, Yiaway Yeh proclaimed 2012 the "year of infrastructure renewal and investment." But given the city's outdated public-safety buildings and its $41.5 million in deferred maintenance costs, the task of coming up with funds for the needed infrastructure repairs remains daunting. In recent months, the City Council has been pondering going to the voters for help in November and asking them to pass either a bond or a tax increase to pay for some of the repairs (whether it's parcel tax, sales tax, or another kind of tax remains to be determined). This week, the council is expected to officially scrap this idea. Instead, the council is now eyeing the 2014 election as a more suitable time for an infrastructure bond. The council's Policy and Services Committee agreed on May 8 that the city doesn't have enough time to put a measure on this year's ballot and directed staff to plan for 2014. Councilman Larry Klein, who in the late 1980s chaired a planning committee for Palo Alto's centennial celebration, cited the length of time it took to get that event off the ground and urged taking more time to plan for the ballot measure. "There is a tendency, understandably, in human nature to say two years is a lot of time," Klein said. "But it's not. This is a major project." In the coming months, City Manager James Keene and staff will go through the long list of needed repairs and identify projects for a possible ballot measure. Meanwhile, the city is pursuing other avenues to close the gaping backlog. Keene's proposed budget for 2013, which the council is scheduled to approve in June, boosts infrastructure spending by about $2 million, as was recommended by a specially appointed citizens committee last year.