Letters | March 19, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 19, 2010


Utilities response


This is in response to a recent article about a fiber-optics business customer leaving the California/Park Avenue area due to power outages.

The city's electrical network comprises over 446 miles of overhead and underground conductors, and more than 10,000 transformers and switches spread across 10 square miles. The city provides a high level of electric service reliability due to continuous system maintenance and monitoring. For example, when we observed increased age-related cable failures, we implemented the underground-cable replacement program. Since 1995, 41 miles out of 100 miles of underground cables in the electric system have been replaced, including the recent completion of a substantial system rebuild in the California/Park Avenue area at a cost of $ 1.2 million.

Palo Alto's system consistently fares well. In fact, the city loaned PG&E transformers when its system became overtaxed, its inventory ran low and its customers experienced prolonged outages during summer heat and winter storms.

Outages are caused by different factors such as equipment failure as well as tree limbs, birds, rodents and Mylar balloons (the cause of a recent outage) contacting power lines; cars crashing into power poles; and third parties digging into or contacting electrical conductors — most causes beyond anyone's control.

Our extensive fiber optic system is even more resilient than our electric system with only two outages in more than a decade that impacted a small section of the fiber system.

The City's Utilities workers are proud to serve this community and are committed to providing the safest and most reliable services possible.


Valerie Fong

Director, City of Palo Alto Utilities

Yellow-light cameras


In Mayor Pat Burt's "State of the City" address he enthused about all the money Palo Alto can make from so-called red-light cameras. Actually they're "yellow light" cameras because they're only profitable when yellow lights are short-timed (usually three seconds). When they're timed properly (around four seconds) the number of infractions plummets permanently, making the cameras lose money, as both the Texas and Virginia departments of transportation discovered (see www.highwayrobbery.net).

As for public safety, those horrendous crashes we read about aren't caused by people trying to beat a yellow light by milliseconds (the norm for red-light camera tickets). They're caused by people completely ignoring the stoplight, roaring through intersections an average of five seconds after the light turned red. Which means the purpose of these cameras is overwhelmingly revenue, not safety. And it's easy to prove. Just install the cameras with four-second yellow lights and see what happens.

But even if they were profitable, it subverts the very idea of justice to treat our police department as a profit center. That's like Third World countries where cops routinely shake down civilians. Such practices ruin public respect for the law. And those whopping fines come out of citizens' discretionary spending. Yellow-light cameras redistribute income from citizens and local retailers to city employees and an Australian company.

Mayor Burt doesn't seem to grasp how wrong his statements are. Our deficit stems from paying city employees vastly more than comparable private-sector workers. Fix that first.

Lee Thé

San Antonio Road

Palo Alto

Pro-anaerobic process


I have been following the discussion around the future of Palo Alto's composting facility with keen interest.

I believe that the anaerobic-digesting process is worth pursuing wholeheartedly. It promises to earn the city money, produce biofuels or electricity to power vehicles or buildings, reduce trucking of compost and municipal and dried effluent waste, and conserve the currently used gas burned for sewage-sludge incineration.

I understand that siting seems to be an issue, but fully agree with Walter Hays' remarks (published recently in two local papers) that the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest run would be to have the parkland be a tad smaller or even include the green roof of the building as part of the park, with the added benefit of being able to emphasize Palo Alto's contribution to a livable future through interpretive signs and the wonder of standing atop a hidden facility.

If Palo Alto pursues this sensible solution, we could be at the cutting edge of sustainable waste and energy management and poised to lend our experience and leadership to communities worldwide.

I hope we keep these thoughts under consideration as we go forward in discussing the future of our composting operations.

Lawrence Garwin

College Terrace

Palo Alto

Class size


Even in modern education we are taught that the ideal school class size is about a dozen, and never more than two dozen at the most.

Even the teachers whose business is education have discovered this through years of experience and we should be able to take a tip from their common sense.

Enormous high schools and mammoth universities have become heartless machines, producing unguided students.

There was more individual attention — much more than in the school.

You just can't produce that kind of product with the massive machinery, mass production and rapid, hasty, impersonal assembly-line type of an operation of our present educational systems. It's impossible.

They have come out in identical molds of dead, lifeless, mindless, leaden robots.

Ted Rudow III,MA

Encina Ave

Palo Alto

Banish 'vulture' funds


In a world of sinking morality, a group of vulture funds have successfully diverted millions of dollars of write-off loans to Third-World countries into their pockets.

These funds purchase Third-World debt for pennies on the dollar and sue debtor countries for massive profits. For example, an impoverished Liberia, where 80 percent of the people survive on an average of $1, recently lost more than $20 million of aid money to two vulture funds.

This outraged British lawmakers who have recently crafted a bill — the Debt Relief Bill — that would prohibit unscrupulous investors from robbing debtor countries.

The U.S. should follow Britain's example by outlawing such funds. We should heed the words of the president of Liberia — the first woman president in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — that vulture funds "are so unfair to poor countries; have a conscience, and give this country a break."

Please write to your lawmakers and urge them to support Representative Maxine Waters' bill to outlaw these funds.

Tejinder Uberoi

Stuart Court

Los Altos


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