Around TownHOT TOPIC ... Global warming is a subject that rarely strays far from the minds of Palo Alto's elected leaders, who often tout the city's position as a green leader. This week, they will weigh whether the city should participate in one of the most ambitious efforts to date to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The City Council is scheduled to consider joining the "Cool City Challenge," an effort spearheaded by the Empowerment Institute that relies on small groups of volunteers in each participating community to spread the gospel of emission reductions and, if all goes as planned, dramatically bring down the city's emissions. David Gershon, co-founder of the Empowerment Institute, introduced the idea to the council in July and characterized the effort as one that seeks to "reinvent the cities from the ground up." The program would engage residents and businesses throughout the city and set environmental goals that each will strive to meet. At the July meeting, the council tempered its enthusiasm for participating in the program with concerns about the cost and time commitments of pursuing the challenge. Councilman Larry Klein was among those who expressed great interest in having Palo Alto participate in the challenge. The effort, he said, is something that the city should "very seriously pursue." City staff now concurs with Klein. "The Cool Cities Challenge gives Palo Alto a chance to contribute to developing a potentially game-changing local solution to climate change," the report states. "Palo Alto is already a leader in climate protection in many ways, so this is an opportunity to achieve the next level and advance our climate action and energy efficiency goals." The effort would be funded largely by the Empowerment Institute, though it would also include heavy involvement by city staff. Officials don't expect the latter to be a problem. In a letter of intent that the council is scheduled to approve Monday, City Manager James Keene wrote that the city "has a track record as an early adopter city including a desire to take on big challenges, lead the way for other cities, civic pride in past accomplishments, high tolerance for experimentation, and a can-do community culture."
FLAPPING JACKS ... Project Safety Net's first annual Pancake Breakfast is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20. The fundraiser is the brainchild of Palo Alto firefighters, who had been looking to forge a relationship with a local collaborative for youth well-being. Fire Department Captain Carter French said that when five youths died by suicide in 2009 and 2010, "It was difficult. ... We had to deal with that." Since that time, Project Safety Net has developed education, prevention and intervention strategies in order to boost youth well-being and mental health. For those pancake lovers who fear firefighter-cooked pancakes could end up a bit, well, burnt — never fear. Chefs from Facebook plan to do the actual pancake cooking. Other Pancake Breakfast activities will include a fire engine show, a Jaws of Life demonstration, door prizes and a safety fair. The breakfast will be held at Fire Station 6 on the Stanford campus, 711 Serra St., starting at 9 a.m. Tickets are $5.
FOLLOW THE MONEY ... While Palo Alto considers whether to wade into the national debate over political expenditures by corporations, state legislators are celebrating their own recent contribution to the controversial issue. State Assemblyman Rich Gordon, whose district includes Palo Alto and Menlo Park, this week celebrated a bill that was recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to add disclosure requirements for political contributors. Assembly Bill 481 targets "independent expenditure committees" — that is, those not affiliated with a particular candidate or a ballot measure. It requires disclosures of major independent expenditures before an election and disclosure of major top donors on all advertisement by the committees. It also holds the principal officers of the independent expenditure committees liable for potential ethics violations. The bill, which Gordon authored, received Brown's endorsement on Sept. 24. "The growth of independent expenditures makes appropriate disclosure all the more necessary," Gordon said in a statement this week. "In order for voters to make fully informed decisions, it is important they know who, if not the candidate or ballot measure campaign, is paying for political messaging and in what amounts."