Around Town | May 21, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 21, 2010

Around Town

UNDER FIRE ... Tension between the Palo Alto City Council and local firefighters flared up Tuesday night, when the council's Finance Committee was reviewing the department's proposed budget for fiscal year 2011. The review came just minutes after the committee recommended approval of the Police Department's budget, which eliminates two financial-crime investigators, a member of the traffic-enforcement team and the crime analyst responsible for gathering traffic-stop demographic information. The Police Department identified further cuts in order to help the city meet its projected $7.3 million budget gap, but the committee agreed that the department has sacrificed enough and voted to restore some of its boldest proposed cuts. The committee had a harsher assessment of the Fire Department's proposed budget, which would raise department expenditures by more than $750,000. Tony Spitaleri, president of Palo Alto Firefighters union, told the committee that the department's command staff has already been "torn apart" by past cuts. The committee was not impressed. "I don't think the Fire Department is stepping up to the plate like all other departments," Councilman Larry Klein said. The committee then ordered staff to "redo" the Fire Department budget and assume in its new proposal a 4 percent reduction in employee compensation. Vice Mayor Sid Espinosa, the lone dissenter, argued that making assumptions about the firefighter contracts while the city is negotiating with the firefighters union over these contracts is a "bad way to do budget."

THAT BUZZ ALL AROUND US! ... If you've ever doubted the ability of small people, or things, to make a difference, well, you've never been in bed with a mosquito, author and Web entrepreneur Arianna Huffington told a mostly female crowd of tech executives last week. Huffington addressed an awards gathering of the Palo Alto-based Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, a group aimed at promoting technical women at all levels. Honorees included Lila Ibrahim of Palo Alto, general manager of Intel's Emerging Markets Platform Group, and U.S. Undersecretary of Energy Kristina M. Johnson, who earned her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Musing on leadership, "fearlessness" and the state of the world, Huffington warned that lack of sleep and too much multi-tasking have led us astray. "Do not plug in your devices near where you're sleeping," she advised. "When you wake up in the middle of the night, the temptation to look at your Blackberry or your iPhone is overwhelming. You might go back to sleep, but it's not the same."

'BETTY MELTZER HIGHWAY' SIGN UNVEILING FRIDAY ... A ceremony marking the official renaming of El Camino Real in Palo Alto the "Betty Meltzer Memorial Highway" will be held Friday, May 28, at noon at the entrance to El Camino Park. The renaming is to honor her work on behalf of planting trees along the state highway, prior to her death last year. The unveiling of the new sign will complete the dedication process, which will be commemorated by several speakers.

FUMIGATION ... Next year, the Main Library on Newell Road will receive a long-awaited facelift, thanks to a $76 million bond voters approved in 2008. But first, city officials will tackle a more pressing need: killing the termites infesting the popular library. This Memorial Day, a Terminix crew will set up a tent around the library and fumigate the building. The library will be closed May 28-30 and reopen June 1, following the holiday weekend. Library staff discovered the termite problem earlier this year, when they found "termite debris" falling from the ceiling in one of the library's staff areas. In February, Terminix inspected the building and found the wood-chewing pests. During the fumigation, the library's book drops, including the one in the parking lot, will be closed. No items will be due until after the library reopens. "Although the library will be closed for a few days, we will minimize the impact to customers by extending holds on books, adjusting due dates and encouraging use of our online catalogue," Library Director Diane Jennings said in a news release.


Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on May 21, 2010 at 10:29 am

"we will minimize the impact to customers "
The library director calls the people use the library and who pay their salaries "customers"?

Like this comment
Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on May 21, 2010 at 10:50 am

CORRECTION: The ceremony honoring Betty Meltzer and the "Betty Meltzer Memorial Highway" will be from 11 am to noon at El Camino Park. I recall another gathering there that Betty organized to install a beautiful plaque honoring Trees for El Camino Project, which she prodigiously and enthusiastically coordinated with Susan Rosenberg. As I have said many times, "Betty was the ultimate lovely lady." Please remember to thank her when you see the magnificent sign "Betty Meltzer Memorial Highway" at Page Mill and in front of Stanford Shopping Center! I miss her.....

Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm

George. A commercial business must sell its products and make a profit to survive. A taxpayer supported library gives or loans its products for free. When an entity provides service or goods to those who patronize it, it is essentially a business.

In that sense a library is no different than a business - just the products are different.

Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Don, the analogy is far fetched and does not describe a taxpayer supported library system. Users are no more customers of a library than of their police department or their schools. We establish these institutions in order to have a civilized culture.
The citizens pay for both the product and the service. The library is not expected to make a profit, which as you say, is the reason businesses have customers.
We are customers at Macy's but we don't pay for Macy's buildings, administration or sales people. I think librarians have a higher motivation than that, namely community service. (That's what makes librarians such nice people.)
Thinking of everything as a business diminishes the possibilities for the variety and richness of our society.

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