Around TownARRIVALS ... Palo Alto's newest high-level planner received a pleasant surprise at his first meeting of the city's Planning and Transportation Commission. Just minutes after Assistant Director Aaron Aknin was introduced to the commission Wednesday night, he received an unexpected visit from another planning body — the San Bruno Planning Commission. Aknin had spent 10 years in San Bruno's Planning Department, the past five as community-development director. The San Bruno commission came south to present Aknin with a special proclamation. "Aaron left very quickly," San Bruno Planning Commissioner Perry Petersen said. "As it turns out, there was not a planning commission meeting for us to make a presentation like this." Petersen said the commission has very much enjoyed working with Aknin and, in the proclamation, praised him for "exemplary service" and for acting "extremely professionally" in his decade in San Bruno. Aknin thanked his former commission for the recognition, calling the members' visit "one of the cooler surprises I've ever had." Aknin's wasn't the only new face at Wednesday's meeting. Its newest commissioner, Michael Alcheck, made his debut. The commission also unanimously elected Mark Michael as its a new vice chair, a post formerly held by Susan Fineberg. The City Council voted last month not to reappoint Fineberg to a fresh term. Commissioner Arthur Keller alluded to that decision and said he was voting for a new vice chair "with mixed emotions." Like his colleagues, he lauded Michael for his background in corporate governance, which members agreed could help him facilitate efficient operations. In its sole overture to tradition, the commission also voted unanimously to keep Eduardo Martinez as its chair for another year.
DEPARTURES ... While Palo Alto's planning officials welcome the department's new assistant director, the Office of City Attorney is preparing for a departure of one of its veteran attorneys. Assistant City Attorney Don Larkin, who specializes in land-use issues and who has been a fixture at Planning and Transportation Commission meetings during his seven years with the city, has accepted a new job at the Santa Clara County Office of the County Counsel. Larkin, who briefly served as the city's acting city attorney after the 2011 departure of Gary Baum, said his last day in Palo Alto would be Aug. 31. City Attorney Molly Stump said the department is now recruiting for Larkin's replacement. "Don's service here was distinguished," Stump said. "He did wonderful things for the city."
WHAT ARE THEY THINKING? ... That's the question Palo Alto's elected leaders are asking these days as they prepare to ask voters to approve a bond measure in 2014. The city has a laundry list of pricey infrastructure needs, with a new public-safety building heading the list, and council members have been scrambling over the past year to find ways to pay for these items. Earlier this year, they agreed not to rush into a bond measure in the current election season. Instead, they decided to spend the next two years coming up with a proposal they can send to the voters for possible approval in 2014. Such proposals haven't always been a hit with the electorate. While voters had overwhelmingly supported recent bonds to pay for school and library improvements, they soundly rejected the city's 2009 proposal to raise revenues through a new business-license tax. To craft a winning measure, the city is looking to enlist a professional polling and public-opinion-research service. Last week, the city released a request for proposals for a company that would spend the next two years helping the city identify the level of community support for infrastructure projects, the level of "tax threshold" the community is willing to support, optimal election timing and "effective themes/messages," according to a report from the office of City Manager James Keene. The city plans to award a contract in late October. Meanwhile, the City Council plans to consider at its Sept. 18 meeting a schedule for placing a possible bond measure on the November 2014 ballot.