In the latest Around Town column, snow descends on Palo Alto to the delight of many, the City Council discussing limits on their own speaking time at meetings and a proclamation praising the city's progress on road repairs.
TAKING IT TO THE STREETS ... Eight years after they tripled the city's annual spending on street repairs, Palo Alto officials are stoked about the results. To demonstrate its joy about pavement condition, the City Council will pass on Monday a special proclamation celebrating the city's "pavement condition index," which went from 72 (well below neighboring cities) to 85, the goal that the council established in 2011. The proclamation credits employees from the Public Works Engineering Streets Group who "rolled up their sleeves, worked tirelessly and met the goal one year early." Thanks to the group's hard work (and about $45 million in spending since 2012), Palo Alto "now has the best streets in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties," the proclamation states.
WINTER WONDERLAND ... Snow in Palo Alto?! It was a strange, but true weather event that struck the city and Bay Area on Tuesday morning. The white dusting was enough for the Police Department to block Page Mill Road between Foothills Park Gate 1 and Skyline Boulevard, which also had ice, from about 5 a.m. to around noon. "Wow! I am going to have to get out my snow boots, gloves, coat, etc.," wrote one Twitter user in response to the police tweet on the closure. A Bobcat loader was brought in to clear the roadway. Police officers and Open Space staff relished the opportunity to collect a snowball to remember the spectacle. Park rangers kept a snowball in the staff room freezer that they intend to bring out during a heat wave this summer.
MOTION SICKNESS ... It is an unwritten rule that at some point during City Council retreats, elected leaders will talk about the need to talk less. Council members bring up horror stories of marathon meetings and critical decisions made past midnight. They propose new procedures and vow to be more concise (these vows typically last about as long as the average New Year's resolution). As City Manager Ed Shikada diplomatically explained during this year's annual retreat, which took place on Feb. 2: "Palo Alto has an extreme propensity to talk things out at the dais." This year, the council is trying something new. Councilwoman Liz Kniss noted during the discussion that conversations about limiting council members' speaking time take place every year, to no avail. At one point, she said, the council set timers that went off after a few minutes. Members generally didn't take the hint, she said. "Most of the council just speak their way through it and pay little attention to it." The council did, however, agree to try a few new procedures. Rather than leading with wide-ranging question rounds, council members will try to start their discussion with motions — a move that they hope will prompt a more focused discussion. Members also agreed that they aren't at their sharpest after 11 p.m. "Unless we only want late-night people to be on the council, we have got to come up with some way to make the hardest decisions before 11 or 11:30," Councilwoman Alison Cormack said. To address that, the council agreed to stop discussions at 11 p.m., unless members pass a motion for an additional 15 minutes. The council (which was reduced from nine to seven seats last year in a bid to make meetings more efficient) agreed to try both new procedures for a month and then re-evaluate. Council members also generally agreed that each of them should try to limit his or her comments to five minutes at a time, though without formality and annoyance of an actual clock. Mayor Eric Filseth proposed a less formal bit of encouragement: a "glaring look from the mayor."