Posted by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus, on Jun 20, 2007 at 8:31 am
Jay Thorwaldson is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Well, here we go again, it seems. By way of some background, here's the Weekly's editorial from 2000 at the close of the last eruv saga. Check the end if you like nutty ideas:
Publication Date: Wednesday Aug 2, 2000
Editorial: Eruv proponents blindsided with painted-line scheme
Subhead: Council committee "approval" amounts to a rejection of eruv, reflecting the city staff's increasing frustration with the time invested in a perceived no-win idea
Just when it appeared that nothing more could possibly be said about a more than year-old proposal to add twine to two dozen locations around Palo Alto, the city staff and a City Council committee have added new fuel to the controversy over creation over the city becoming one of about 100 communities around the country with an eruv.
In an action that startled and angered the Orthodox Jewish community that has been pushing for the eruv, the Council's Policy and Procedures Committee voted 2-1 last week for a so-called compromise involving painting lines on utility poles to "represent" a continuous enclosure.
But what might have seemed like a nice way out of a messy political situation is destined to backfire, since the recommendation doesn't satisfy the requirements of an eruv and therefore accomplishes nothing. Perhaps there is still a way for a further amendment to make the eruv effective, but the staff and committee's refusal to allow any attachments to the utility poles seem to doom the concept.
The community is tiring of this debate, and of the hostility it has created among those believing that permitting some twine to be attached to some utility poles is a harmless action that demonstrates tolerance and diversity and those who believe strongly that it crosses the line between church and state.
When we first editorialized in support of creating the eruv one year ago, we commented on the extraordinary outpouring of opinions, both for and against. We said it was an opportunity for the community to demostrate our diversity without any hardship, burden or obligation on the members of any other religious group.
Now, a year later, it is as much an outrage that this issue remains unresolved as it is that we now offer the Orthodox Jewish community an alternative that accomplishes nothing -- and which the city staff and committee members knew in advance would not work.
The eruv proposal should have been voted up or down months ago. It now symbolizes exactly what new City Manager Frank Benest wants to put an end to: issues that aren't priorities that sap energy and emotion, create wounds and drag on and on.
But the fact that the eruv proposal should have long ago been decided by the City Council doesn't mean that it should now be killed by the proposal of a clever, yet unworkable, alternative. We accept that members of the city staff and City Council would prefer that this issue simply go away, but the community members who have so passionately debated it for so long deserve to see their political leaders vote on the eruv as proposed.
We continue to believe the eruv is a harmless and positive idea and support its creation. But it is far more important to make a decision and move on.
Here's one possible solution: In the late 1960s, when the council was approving a utilities-undergrounding project that would bury telephone and power lines, the late Stan Norton -- on the council at the time -- expressed concern about what would happen to squirrels that use the phone lines to get from tree to tree.
Norton proposed, in a tongue-in-cheek memo to colleagues, that the city create a "Squirrelways" system of ropes between trees so the squirrels could get around without fear of ground-level cars, cats, dogs and kids.
Well, the squirrel-hazard problem still exists, and a line of ropes around the city might just do double duty as an eruv without raising the pesky church/state question.
This plan isn't any nuttier than the "solution that isn't" recommendation of the council committee.