Around TownOF OTTERS AND MEN ... The Palo Alto City Council had plenty on its plate this week, including changes to water and trash rates and the increasingly irksome topic of housing projections. But first, the sea otters. Yes, sea otters. In case you missed the Monday meeting, this week is Sea Otter Awareness Week. To commemorate the event, Councilwoman Gail Price read into the record an official resolution honoring sea otters as "a symbol of wilderness and an integral part of California's natural ecosystem." John Aikin, director of the Junior Museum and Zoo, noted that sea otters don't actually live in Palo Alto, but the city's open space preserves protect the near-shore habitat and, in doing so, support the otter population. "We are the nurseries that nurture that environment," Aikin said. "Working with rest of the communities in California to protect the sea otters is a good thing to do."
WHAT'S IN A NAME? ... If a Palo Alto police officer gets arrested, should the Police Department be required to release the person's name? That's the question that the city's independent police Auditor Michael Gennaco has been considering in recent months. His conclusion? Yes. The debate was triggered by a 2009 incident in which an off-duty officer rolled over his vehicle on the highway and was arrested for driving under the influence. The department had initially refused to disclose his name but confirmed his identity more than a year later (the officer, Eric Bulatao, paid a fine, was placed on probation and ultimately returned to the force). This week, Gennaco issued a report that recommends that the city adopt a policy for releasing names of officers who are arrested. Under his proposal, the city would be required to make "the fact of the arrest and the identity of Department members" known to the public. If the police chief, the city manager, the city attorney or the district attorney were to object to the disclosure, the "fact and reasons for the objection should be documented" under the proposed policy. If the officer were to be arrested by another law-enforcement agency and the city were to get a request to identify the person arrested, the Palo Alto police chief would inform the arresting agency of the request. "We believe the above draft policy recognizes the public's right to know when PAPD members arrest one of their own, which right should only be circumscribed for countervailing compelling reasons," Gennaco wrote.
END OF AN ERA ... When Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, concludes his 12-year stint in Sacramento next year, his departure will spell an end to a decade-long tradition that turns citizens in his district into lawmakers. Simitian's "There Oughta Be A Law" contest, which made its debut in 2001, allows residents to pitch ideas for new legislation. So far, 18 ideas have become laws, including, most recently, a proposal by Palo Alto police officers to ban sales of certain intoxicating cough syrups to minors. On Thursday, as Simitian kicked off the final contest, he invited his constituents in the 16th District to get involved. "My district is home to some of the most well-educated and civically engaged Californians," Simitian said in a statement. "It would be a shame not to put their good ideas to use." Residents can contribute their entries for the final contest at www.senatorsimitian.com/oughta.
HUZZAHS FOR HUMANITARIANS ... This Saturday, three civic leaders will be honored by the nonprofit Hidden Villa of Los Altos Hills, including Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa and Susan Ford Dorsey, a local leader in philanthropy. The third honoree is Norman Mineta, former U.S. secretary of commerce and secretary of education. Espinosa is the director of corporate citizenship at Microsoft and previously worked in the Clinton White House and at the U.S. Justice Department. He also worked as director of global philanthropy for Hewlett-Packard and oversaw the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in nonprofit organizations and schools around the world, according to a statement from Hidden Villa. Ford Dorsey, president of Sand Hill Foundation, serves on the boards of several nonprofit organizations including Menlo School, Palo Alto Medical Foundation and Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Josephine and Frank Duveneck Humanitarian Awards recognize inspirational leaders who exemplify the organization's mission and values through their environmental, social and educational activism. Among the organization's programs are a 66-year-old multi-cultural summer camp; environmental education for children; a community-supported agriculture program; and the country's oldest continuously operating hostel.