Letters | March 5, 2008 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 5, 2008




The move to use only reusable containers is certainly the ideal method to reduce the use of paper and plastic, both having negative impacts on the environment.

However, I have two questions.

1) Is there an alternative to these two that we could use to line kitchen garbage cans?

2) What could we use to replace the produce plastic bags?

In the case of the latter, we are not like the Europeans, who market almost daily and carry their smaller amounts of produce home in a net bag.

Yes, unfortunately, they do now have "supermarkets" and are using more of the plastic produce bags, but not to the extent that we do.

I truly want to use my reusable bags exclusively, so if anyone can suggest answers to these questions, I would be most appreciative.

Mimi Kugushev

San Mateo Drive

Menlo Park

Costume drama


So now I am to believe that, as several time co-chair of the Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre's costume sale, I was in fact embezzling when I and the legions of other volunteers innocently sold excess theater inventory to an unsuspecting public.

This notion would be utterly laughable if it weren't causing such damaging consequences to people whose lives have been devastated by the clearly unfounded claims of "financial irregularities."

If I learned anything during my several stints of involvement with the costume sale it was that Pat Briggs and Alison Williams were consistently and tirelessly concerned that any item of city property be treated accordingly.

Both staff members were vigilant about this issue and weighed virtually all items that came through the theater doors with careful scrutiny.

The many volunteers who worked to make the sales a success were equally respectful.

The costume sales themselves serve as widely anticipated community events, as a consistent way to maintain some control over the theater's costume inventory, and of course as fundraisers for theater endeavors.

It is nearly unimaginable that an investigation founded on such flimsy claims be allowed to extend to the removal of three unflaggingly dedicated staff members, one of whom, Pat Briggs, has spent her entire working life in service to the community.

It would have been difficult enough for Pat, Alison and Rich to return their jobs after the loss of their beloved colleague Michael Litfin. Asking them to continue to sit this investigation out in isolation, their home computers confiscated, the police telling them not to speak to each other, cut off from their offices, their e-mail accounts and their work colleagues, is grossly out of line with the allegations.

The police need to call an immediate halt to this investigation, apologize and let these dedicated people get back to doing what they do so brilliantly, which is to serve the children and their families of this lucky community.

Kathleen Walkup

Marmona Drive

Menlo Park

Memo to manager


A message to Palo Alto's prospective new city manager:

It is my understanding from Mr. Michael Litfin's Palo Alto Historical Society lecture last year that Lucie Stern's gift to Palo Alto intended to provide children with the opportunity to create their own theater productions and also have access to seeing these shows at little cost to themselves.

It could be interpreted as Palo Alto's civic duty to fulfill the purpose of her gifts by keeping the Palo Alto Children's Theatre alive and well in the spirit of Patricia Briggs and Michael Litfin's great leadership.

We need a city manager who comprehends and appreciates the responsibilities of service to children as have been so clearly elucidated by Lucie Stern and so wholeheartedly and brilliantly carried out by PACT directors Patricia Briggs and Michael Litfin.

There is nothing that can assuage the sorrow of the loss of Michael Litfin for the Children's Theatre community here and around the country, but the exoneration and quick restoration of the theater staff currently on "administrative leave" may provide our prospective city manager with an awareness of how highly valued children in Palo Alto really are and how completely committed to their creative development the theater staff has always been.

Patricia Briggs deserves the unwavering support of the new city manager, by her own stellar example these past 45 years, by the mandate of Lucie Stern's legacy and by the words of the late great Michael Litfin.

I write to you as a grateful parent of one of the thousands of the incredibly lucky children raised by our beloved "Pat," "Michael," "Rich" and "Alison."

We will never forget Michael and we want our directors back today.

Joanne Margalit

Central Avenue

Menlo Park

Staff's rights


I guess I'm sorely in need of a civics tutorial. Since grade school, I was under the impression that an American citizen's civil rights could not be taken away unless the person had been arrested, and that nobody could be arrested without sufficient evidence.

I guess I've been mistaken all these years. It seems to me that the civil rights of some of our most respected and beloved citizens, role models to our children — Pat Briggs, Alison Williams, Rich Curtis, the late and beloved Michael Litfin, and even Leon Kaplan — have most certainly been abrogated while the police department hunts, in the most demeaning fashion, for "evidence" of a "crime" (most likely consisting of a messy desk — it must be there in the criminal code, somewhere).

Our beloved Children's Theatre staff has been (it seems to me) denied freedom of association, freedom of movement, the right to privacy, the basic rights to health and happiness, and certainly been publicly humiliated.

I thought we were supposed to be upset because this happens in China.

Somebody please enlighten me.

Judy Lurie

Ohlone Street

Portola Valley

Dish complaints


Why is it that Stanford can make the recreational area at the Dish available to the public without having to provide public services such as parking and restrooms?

It takes so long to park that by the time you've found a space you need to go back home to use the facilities!

More than once have I seen people, not only children, using the bushes to relieve themselves. And what was wrong with parking along Junipero Serra anyway?

Katja Broddesson

Cass Way

Palo Alto

Costume confessions


I admit to being a parent volunteer involved in what the police may be calling the criminal activity of selling costumes at the annual Children's Theatre Costume Sale. May I describe my crime?

Weeks before the sale, a herd of volunteer parents begin many hours of sorting hundreds of well-used princess gowns, snuggly animal inventions and colorful fantasy costumes. At dawn on the day of the crime a team of theater staff, parent and child volunteers arrive and prepare to help shoppers at the carnival-like event.

Hundreds of tiny tots, elementary schoolers and even those ordinarily sophisticated Palo Alto teens flock to the sale. Children search through racks finding Halloween attire and fanciful, glittery costumes, useful for hours of creative play, make-believe and dress-up.

With costumes bundled in arms, children leave in glee, their parents delighted that the costumes are affordable and wholesome. After the sale, exhausted theater staff and volunteers begin hours of bundling up unsold items and clean-up.

This costume sale is a long Palo Alto tradition of wholesome recycling. It brings joy to families in our community and healthy play activity to our children. Most importantly, every penny of the proceeds is counted, and put back into the Children's Theatre toward more opportunities for future Palo Alto Children to enjoy.

I am a volunteer guilty of participating in this tradition and outraged at the cruel accusations made about the devoted Children's Theatre staff who work tirelessly and selflessly for our children.

Bonnie Bernstein

Bellview Drive

Palo Alto


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Three letters appeared in the PA Weekly today from people associated with the PA Children's Theatre. They were all extremely critical of our Police and City Staff in relation to the Children's Theatre investigation.

What puzzled me was all these extremely critical letters had been written by people, supposedly associated with the theatre; two from Menlo Park and one from Portola Valley.

Do these people get a free ride at the expense of Palo Alto taxpayers who financially support the Children's Theatre? If they are so critical of procedures in Palo Alto, perhaps they should stay in their own cities.

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Posted by Marcia
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 6, 2008 at 11:45 am

I am amazed that anyone would criticize people who stand up for basic rights. What would they do if they were in a situation where they were accused of unspecified crimes, lost their jobs, were smeared in the public press, had to spend thousands of dollars defending themselves against nothing specific, and no one cared????
My kids are not in the theatre, though they enjoy the shows. But I can understand why people familiar with the staff, and volunteers who have worked for years to supplement city funds for this program, are outraged.
A Palo Alto parent who still believes in the Constitution

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Posted by Dave
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 6, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Quoting Marcia, "I am amazed that anyone would criticize people who stand up for basic rights. What would they do if they were in a situation where they were accused of unspecified crimes, lost their jobs, were smeared in the public press, had to spend thousands of dollars defending themselves against nothing specific, and no one cared????"

What basic rights have been taken away from anyone in this investigation? The people on administrative leave have not been accused of unspecified or specified crimes. They have not lost their jobs, but are on administrative leave and still being paid their salaries.

They have not been smeared in the public press - the press has been very careful in their reporting. They have not spent any money to defend themselves because they are not accused of a crime. The only money raised has been by an ad hoc group for "defense", of what is not spelled out.

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