Around TownCHANGE OF SCENERY... Palo Alto officials have a new plan for reaching out to the public — taking their policy-making show on the road. The City Council, which generally meets at City Hall, decided to hold its annual retreat at the Baylands Interpretive Center this Saturday (Jan.22 at 9 a.m.). The council also opted to meet at the Cubberley Community Center Monday night (Jan. 24) for Mayor Sid Espinosa's "State of the City" speech. The goal is to reach out to those residents who have generally avoided council meetings in the past — particularly those who live in the southern part of the city. "We need to get out of City Hall," Espinosa said in a news release. "And, we need to do more in south Palo Alto to connect with the community there." He also indicated that the council will continue to look at other locations for future meetings. "It's too easy to stay here in our Council Chambers, but that's not good enough. I want us to do more outreach throughout the year. This is just a start."
STATE OF BLISS ... Hikers trekking along the Bay Trail off East Bayshore Road in Palo Alto may notice a solitary bicyclist sitting by the trail and taking in the Baylands scenery. The abstract, metal rider has one hand resting on the handlebars and one foot planted in the base of the sculpture, while the other foot rests on a pedal. The odometer on the bicycle reads 20,126. The sculpture was recently installed in memory of Bill Bliss, an avid bicyclist and proponent of bike-safety measures. According to the city's official announcement, one of Bliss' greatest personal accomplishments came in 2000 when he completed the Odyssey Tour — a 20,126-mile 366-day journey. The city's Public Art Commission has been working on the memorial project since 2008, when Bliss' family asked the city to take it on. The sculpture was funded through donations by his family and friends. The commission, along with the Bliss family, selected the artist James Moore to create the sculpture. Bliss' widow, Bonnie Bliss, was on hand to observe the installation. "I decided to sculpt a cyclist with one foot planted firmly on the ground while gazing at the sunrise to convey hope for the future combined with dedicated action in the present," Moore said. "I believe Mr. Bliss personified this wholeheartedly during his life."
FOR YOUR INFORMATION ... Palo Alto officials were pleased to read in the latest Service Efforts and Accomplishments Report that most people (80 percent) rated the quality of city services "good" or "excellent." But not all services are equally appreciated, the survey indicates. While most services scored much higher in Palo Alto than in other cities, sidewalk maintenance scored at about the "benchmark" level, with only 53 percent of Palo Altans giving the city high ratings. Sidewalk maintenance is particularly important to Palo Altans, the survey showed. It was identified by the National Research Center as one of five "key drivers" in Palo Alto that influences residents' opinions about overall service quality. The other four drivers identified by the survey were public-information services; land use, planning and zoning; police services; and preservation of natural areas. This is the second year in a row in which "public information services" were singled out as a key driver in Palo Alto. Though the council routinely talks about engaging the citizenry, the percentage of residents satisfied with these services has remained roughly the same. In 2010, 67 percent of the surveyed residents rated public-information service "good" or "excellent," down from 68 percent in 2009. (See separate story for differences between parts of the city.)