Around TownFIRST CHAPTER ... Palo Alto's two newest City Council members made their dais debuts Monday night, and the differences were striking. Liz Kniss, a political veteran who has twice been a Palo Alto mayor and just concluded her last term on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, opened the newest chapter in her council career by reverting to campaign mode and thanking supporters who helped bring her back to the council — her husband, her family and her campaign manager. Attorney Marc Berman, the only truly "new" member of the council, kept a lower profile but managed to inject a little levity to the august proceedings. His first comments after being sworn in came after Councilman Larry Klein nominated Greg Scharff to serve as the city's mayor in 2013. At that point, Berman — who was temporarily sitting in outgoing Mayor Yiaway Yeh's chair in the middle of the dais — asked staff for some clarification. "If Greg gets elected, do I lose this seat?" he asked. "It might change my decision." He did lose the seat, but it didn't change his decision. Berman praised Scharff, calling the new mayor "generous with his sage advice but also open to different viewpoints." Scharff was elected unanimously.
LAST CHAPTER ... The first council meeting of 2013 was the last meeting for two Palo Alto council members. Yiaway Yeh and Sid Espinosa, who both joined the council in 2008 and who had served as mayor, respectively, in 2012 and 2011, earned official commendations and an outpouring of praise from their colleagues. Councilwoman Karen Holman, in commenting on Yeh's tenure, pointed out that on Jan. 7, 1992, exactly 21 years before the Monday meeting, Tom Seaver and Rolly Fingers were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. "I thought it was appropriate to mention it this evening because you, as mayor, hit it out of the park," a somewhat verklempt Holman told Yeh. To Espinosa, she offered another date — Jan. 7, 1936. That was the day of the famous tennis match between Helen Moody and Howard Kinsley, in which the two combined for 2,001 volleys. She likened it to Espinosa's famous ability to go without sleep and to be seemingly everywhere at once. She referred to Espinosa's "boundless" energy and called him "omnipresent and indefatigable — which is what the tennis record is." Both former mayors returned the favor and heaped praise on their colleagues. Yeh, in a tearful speech, thanked his family, his fellow council members and the voters of Palo Alto who elected him in November 2007 despite his young age. "Let me close with what I know is very much in the room tonight — a deep appreciation and love for Palo Alto and all of our community." Espinosa also had kind words to say about Palo Alto's civic-minded populace. "We have a city full of ridiculously smart people who get involved, get the facts, rally the troops and want to be deeply involved," he said. "I have learned how rare this is in other cities, and we are all better off for it."
BLACK AND BLUE ... One Palo Alto neighborhood could soon see a major overhaul in trash collection as soon as April. The neighborhood, which city staff is in the final stages of identifying, will be asked to say farewell to their black garbage cans. Instead, residents would now be asked to load all their waste into one of the two remaining carts — blue or green. The green one would contain yard trimmings, food waste and all other compostable materials. The blue one would contain recyclable goods and "landfill" items such as pet waste, diapers, bathroom waste and, interestingly enough, granola-bar wrappers. The pilot program was scheduled for City Council consideration in December, but staff chose to kick the item forward to early 2013. On Monday night, the council will get its chance to approve the program and give the residents in the selected neighborhood the city's first residential compostables-collection program. According to a new report, the goals of the one-year pilot program are to divert more recyclable and compostable items from landfills, determine whether the new system is cost-effective, simplify waste-sorting for residents and reduce the number of garbage-truck trips.