ON A HIGH NOTE ... Mayoral elections in Palo Alto are typically feel-good affairs bursting with compliments, platitudes and back-patting aplenty. But there was nothing typical about the reception outgoing Mayor Sid Espinosa received Tuesday night just after he handed over the top City Council position to his colleague Yiaway Yeh. Dozens of speakers, including state dignitaries, environmental leaders and past mayors, praised Espinosa's year as mayor in what former Mayor Gary Fazzino, a local-history buff, called one of the most remarkable outpourings of tribute to an outgoing mayor. The immense number of speakers turned normally brief thank-yous into an hour-and-a-half affair. Councilman Larry Klein said the tribute set a new record. "I think I sat through 15 or 16 of these events for an outgoing mayor, and I can't remember anything that comes remotely close," Klein said. "It's not because someone went out and beat the bushes for all these people to show up. It's because of genuine feeling of respect and admiration and, really, love of the job that you've done this year." Espinosa also came away from the ceremony with enough props to make Carrot Top jealous. These include a poster of him dressed as Harry Potter, courtesy of Library Director Monique le Conge; a red-and-gold "Downtown Crown" from Russ Cohen, executive director of the Downtown Business and Professional Association; and a baseball cap affixed with a tiny El Palo Alto tree on the bill and the title "Mayor Sid" from Urban Cummings, board member of the nonprofit tree-planting group Canopy. After the council unanimously passed a resolution of appreciation, Espinosa said he was touched and humbled by the comments from the community and his council colleagues. "It really takes all of us to get this stuff done," Espinosa said.
BATTLE OF THE GREGS ... Immediately after the council elected Yiaway Yeh to serve as Palo Alto's mayor for 2012, members embarked on the more suspenseful task of electing a vice mayor. Though the council ultimately elected Greg Scharff by a 9-0 vote, the vote tally belied the fact that this was the most competitive race for vice mayor in almost four decades. Scharff, who joined the council in 2009, was facing off against Greg Schmid, who was elected in 2007 and who has not held a leadership post on the council. Four council members initially wrote Schmid's name on their ballots, and the remainder wrote Scharff's. After Schaff's victory was assured, the senior Greg asked his colleagues to make the vote for the junior Greg unanimous, which they did. Both Scharff and Schmid were commended by their colleagues and by members of the public, including former Mayor Gary Fazzino. "Thanks for keeping all of us entertained and interested," Fazzino said. "It says much about the two individuals considered tonight." Before this week, the closest race for vice mayor occurred in 1982, when Betsy Bechtel edged out a youthful Fazzino by a 5-4 vote.
EASING THE STRUGGLE ... If students at Palo Alto High School are feeling overburdened, they might be cheered, at least momentarily, to hear a 2012 priority list shared by Principal Phil Winston. No. 1 is "supporting struggling students — we are redistributing our resources to better support struggling students," Winston said. Next on the principal's list is creating "a culture that values reflection" and collaboration, including opportunities for teachers to observe one another in action. The third has to do with homework: The school is implementing a software program called Rjenda to track and assess student workload, he said.
ALL SHOOK UP ... To honor the Jan. 8 birthday of the King of Rock and Roll, Chef Charlie Ayers at Calafia in Town & Country Village is adding two Elvis-inspired foods to his Sunday menu: buttermilk-brined Elvis fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and mashed potatoes as well as griddled peanut-butter banana bacon sandwiches. Ayers, a huge music fan, used to cook for the Grateful Dead and continues to cook for large music festivals, his spokeswoman said.
BACK TO THE COUNTY ... State Sen. Joe Simitian's quest to return to his old position on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors became a tad easier Thursday when one of his opponents for the county seat, Mountain View Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga, ended her candidacy and decided to back the former Palo Alto mayor. "After a great deal of thought and consultation with my supporters and family, I have decided to withdraw from the race for County Supervisor and throw my support behind Joe." Simitian will be termed out of the state Senate later this year.