Letters to the Editor | May 9, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - May 9, 2014

Letters to the Editor

Density: not sustainable


Last week I heard Palo Alto's new sustainability officer, Gil Friend, present our City Council with his thoughts on making Palo Alto a sustainable community. He talked about our successful programs for green energy, recycling and composting, encouraging more bicycling and walking, and other such programs, as Palo Altans are familiar with. But when it came time for Council to ask questions, it became clear that to most of our Council members, sustainability means high-density development. The only exceptions were Greg Schmid, Karen Holman and maybe Pat Burt.

Gil said he wants to be "transformative" in how Palo Alto moves to sustainability — as such he should explore how to improve prosperity without continuous land development, increased density and the resultant population growth that follows. An economy based on land development is not sustainable. And he should resist pressure from City Council to use his office to "green wash" their plans for a high-density future, even though that seems to be why he was hired.

Palo Alto's leaders like to talk up high-density development as the key to environmental sustainability. It isn't and isn't intended to be. It is intended as a full-employment program for real-estate developers. I hope Gil sees through this and focuses on keeping and improving Palo Alto as a sustainable, low-density, family-friendly community.

Ben Lerner

Janice Way, Palo Alto

Preserve the parkland


Palo Alto must rethink its plan to use 10 acres of parkland to build a compost plant when that land cannot be replaced.

Proponents want to treat 10 acres as "free" since the city already owns it. That would be a deliberate robbery of the citizens.

The fact is that 10 acres are near priceless, and it seems unlikely that any financial study would justify using such valuable and irreplaceable land to manufacture gas.

Let's be real. Our carbon footprint is not just carbon released in Palo Alto. So perhaps a little trucking to a lower-cost place might pollute; however, a small portion of the savings could be used to preserve a few more acres of trees in the foothills (or in another state for that matter) and yield a better environmental benefit than trying to fit a digester here.

While many people accuse Palo Altans of living in a bubble, the fact is that we do not. Our efforts must be based on the greater good of the planet — not some environmental trophy that feeds a false pride of being "green."

Let's truly be "green," take a larger view of the carbon equation and preserve our parklands. Viewed in the light of day, the proposals have been another commercial development hiding behind a green flag.

Clarity gained from this larger global view dictates that the land must be returned to the citizens for recreational use. Let's put aside self-interests and restore our bayfront park for the community good.

Timothy Gray

Park Boulevard, Palo Alto

Modeling bad behavior


I appreciate the Palo Alto Weekly's reporting on the harassment charges against Phil Winston — I have a child in one of Mr. Winston's current classrooms.

We can argue about the seriousness of the charges against Phil Winston all day, but one thing is certain: My trust in PAUSD leadership has been shaken because every person who spoke about the transfer from Kevin Skelly down to Winston himself emphasized that it was due solely to his health. A sizable number of Jordan's seventh graders this year (he is a special education teacher, but teaches in mainstreamed classes) have been used as guinea pigs to test if Winston was able to work in the classroom without incident. Furthermore, his team teacher — the person who would be most closely able to monitor his behavior — was a young woman teaching her first year in Palo Alto, who I'm given to understand wasn't made aware of the charges.

How can that possibly be considered a good match for proper oversight? PAUSD leadership does have some limitations on what they can say and do if they want to avoid a lawsuit from Mr. Winston or the union that represents him, but secrecy and shuffling around of problem employees, while telling half-truths in order to protect the institution, reminds me of the recent tactics of the Catholic Church.

For the kids, it's a tough situation because they are reading and hearing things that the adults at school pretend aren't happening. This entire incident so far models the wrong behavior if we as a community are trying to teach our children to be honest, ethical and forthcoming.

Rayme Waters

Pine Street, Palo Alto

'No' on Measure AA


So we have another bond measure on the June ballot. Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District wants more money from us. We are already funding the district, but, like a heroin addict, they want more. Do they realize that all these bond measures are just draining us dry? What are they going to do with the $300 million? They are going to make improvements. Looking at the list in the voter pamphlet, almost all the improvements appear to be in locations far from the urban areas. $300 million is going to benefit only a select number of hikers and bikers.

Most things can be improved with more money, but in this case, the cost/benefit ratio is definitely not right. Most taxpayers don't have an unlimited supply of money. They would rather spend the money on things that improve their quality of life.

Like it or not, most of us have to learn to live within our means. It is time MROSD learns to do the same. If they had managed their money wisely, they wouldn't have to come begging now.

Warren Storkman

Mackay Drive, Palo Alto


Posted by WellStated, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 13, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Rayme - very well stated. Your letter speaks volumes to the issue of bad management. The students, parents and co-workers should not have been the experiment for Mr. Winston. The district has mishandled this issue because they DO NOT consider the perspective of the children. When the district starts making the children the center of their strategy, they will soon realize that there is no place for this kind of behavior, and they will understand that such a cover-up and placement of Mr. Winston in the classroom is completely inappropriate.

Posted by Professor Smarty Pants, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2014 at 8:39 am

If we're going to talk about modeling bad behavior, another good place to start might be right here on the Town Square Forums, where any number of people are perfectly happy to trash talk, rumor-monger, gossip, and bully others from the safety of complete anonymity, with absolutely no accountability for their behavior.

Posted by Skung, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2014 at 4:31 am

When did the district focus on kids during Kevin Skelly's seven-year reign? I would argue that I have seen Skelly cheer on Skelly and the board cheer on each other at board meetings and this year through Tabitha Hurley's superficial press releases. The last seven years were very profitable for Skelly, not so much for our neediest kids or the PAUSD brand.

Posted by It is about Lying, a resident of Barron Park
on May 16, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Oops! Skelly did it Again, only this time, I would say that his mistake was to tell us,the community, lies about why Mr. Winston was leaving Gunn. He should had just spoken the truth and said: Mr. Winston has been investigated for sexual harassment towards students and staff at Paly. And because of that he is going to be a teacher of special education on Jordan. Then when parents find out that their students had been assigned to Mr. Winston class, they could decide if they wanted him to teach their students or not. Unfortunately he teachers the minority groups whose parents might not speak English. Skelly is about to leave and he never learned to be truthful. What a shame.

Posted by Professor Smarty Pants, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2014 at 9:38 am

@It is about Lying: >"Unfortunately he teachers the minority groups whose parents might not speak English."

Well, you are either completely ignorant of the facts or you are lying yourself, since Winston teaches in a mainstream classroom.

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