Letters | October 31, 2007 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - October 31, 2007


Partisan politics


Last night my husband and I sat down with our absentee ballots, piles of campaign literature that has come in the mail and the Palo Alto Weekly issues with information about the upcoming City Council and school board races.

As we read through the various letters and fliers we were disappointed to note that at least three of the candidates boasted endorsements by one or the other of the major political parties.

It was my understanding that City Council and school board are both nonpartisan offices. Palo Alto politics are divisive enough. Please don't add in the extra layer of partisanship to the mix.

Susan Allen

Grove Ave.

Palo Alto

A bad sign


Well, it's election season again and we see political campaign signs popping up in city-owned parking strips.

Sure, these yard signs are more visible, but it is illegal to put such signs on city property.

Just cruise around and see how many violations there are and which candidate's signs violate the law. City hall enforces the campaign-sign ordinance only on a complaint basis, so most illegally placed signs remain where they are placed. Thus, the candidates whose signs violate the law enjoy an unwarranted advantage.

Before each election, the city clerk should advise candidates of regulations governing placement of signs. At this point, perhaps the best solution is to suggest that political candidates whose political "vote for me" signs are illegally placed do not deserve public support.

I am choking back an urge to name those candidates. But check it out for yourself and vote accordingly. After all, do we want candidates whose signs are illegally placed and who thus ignore city ordinances on our school board or City Council?

Ellen Wyman

Washington Avenue

Palo Alto

Edgewood silence


As a longtime resident of Palo Alto I have enjoyed the many amenities of living in this city, which is always concerned to provide the best for its residents.

For instance, I read in the Weekly about a proposal to redesign Lytton Plaza. Town and Country Village just finished a refurbishing and a new Trader Joe's is being built. Housing is being built all over the city.

The modest Edgewood Plaza is the poor cousin of those places: Every year it becomes more and more decrepit. The few shops that operated there closed one after the other. The Albertson's supermarket has been vacant for quite some time.

There had been articles mentioning construction of some housing and the badly needed renovation of the center in general. However, nowadays there is complete silence about any envisaged project. This is unfortunate.

Michele Grundmann

Greer Road

Palo Alto

Endorsement failure


While the candidates you endorsed for school board are all good people, your failure to endorse Camille Townsend was both unfair and contrary to the best interests of the district.

Instead of being a basis for criticism, Townsend's refusal to rehash old disputes involving former superintendent Mary Frances Callan should be considered a prime qualification for reelection.

You also failed to note that under her leadership the board brought in a facilitator, listened to the complaints of principals and managers and adopted protocols that restored harmony.

You also criticize her on Mandarin immersion. That was a typical Palo Alto dispute, with intelligent, articulate people on both sides and anger in those whose views did not prevail as unavoidable as an act of nature. A fairer appraisal would give her credit for her early choice of the solution ultimately approved by the majority.

There is a learning curve to serving on the board. Townsend readily admits that her judgment is better now than it was when she was first elected four years ago. With that in mind, she notes that the two members not up for reelection each have only two years of experience and without her they will be joined by three with zero experience.

No one is more passionate than Townsend about maintaining excellence in our schools. As you concede, she led the campaign to save basic-aid funds, kept budget cuts out of the classrooms and strongly supported Measure A. With that passion and experience, she deserves the voters' support.

Walt Hays

Parkside Drive

Palo Alto

Painful tax


Measure M would raise the city's transient occupancy tax from 10 percent to 12 percent.

The wording is so compelling in the Weekly's editorial. "It is a painless tax." "The concern of some that it might steer hotel guests [elsewhere] seems groundless" So then, why not make the tax 25 percent? Why not 30 percent?

As the owner of a business that has to pay this sort of tax in Marin and Sonoma Counties, I would like to say that the owners of such facilities receive little or no benefit from their "silent partners."

In fact, we have to complete a lot of paperwork that must be submitted with checks made out to the city or county government every month or every quarter. It's another example of how our politicians and administrators have such an easy time making decisions about how to spend the money we raise for them.

It's no wonder that so many are attracted to the career of a politician. The decisions are all so easy to make with someone else's money. There is no downside risk to this sort of business if you are the politician or administrator.

Try being the owner of such businesses and experience the fact that your silent partners don't have to do a thing to receive their portion of the gross income.

Bruce N. Baker

Kipling Street

Palo Alto

Human relations


Thank you for publishing the column "A human relations problem" (Oct. 24), which addresses the allegations made by Jeff Blum, member of the Human Relations Commission, regarding the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center. Mr. Kazak's column points out that criticizing Israeli policies dealing with Palestinians is not the same as anti-Semitism. It also identifies the harm done to the commission. Encouraging open discussion of these sensitive topics is critical and I appreciate your efforts in this regard.

Mae Tinklenberg

Greer Road

Palo Alto


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2007 at 10:46 am

I disagree with Walt Hays who claims that we need Townsend on the Board of Education for experience sake.

It was DESPITE being under Townsend’s leadership that the board undertook the task of investigating the administrators’ complaints against the former Superintendent Callan. Townsend was a staunch supporter of Callan, and was dismissive of the complaints against Callan in board meetings. It was literally Dana Tom and Gail Price who took the leadership role in the investigation and organizational improvement recommendations.

Furthermore, regarding MI, Townsend’s support of the small special interest group that ultimately prevailed through threat tactics was detrimental to our district. That group prevailed NOT by convincing the board on the merits of the program, but through threats of harm to PAUSD. (The program was originally voted down by the board on merits, only to be reversed when they were presented with a specific charter threat letter from nine people. Tom read the letter allowed in the board meeting. He and Lowell cited that threat specifically as the reason for their reversal.)

Throughout the MI debate, Townsend displayed an alarming lack of interest in consequences and facts (such as enrollment growth impacts of the program, lack of feasible location, lack of supporting data in the feasibility study, literally no research into the feasibility of using an "Ohlone" method for MI, gaping holes in the articulation of full district costs, lack of alignment with strategic plan, lack of curricular equity for our elementary students, and more.)

As recently as this fall, Townsend asked no questions of the staff, and made no comments whatsoever in the board meeting discussion items regarding the 'strings' on a $750K Grant from the Department of Defense in support of MI. Proving again that she continues to support MI without regard to unintended consequences.

Townsend's brand of experience, we can do without. The faster we get three new board members, the sooner this district can heal from her leadership.

Posted by SickAndTiredOfMI, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 1, 2007 at 11:07 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by I Agree with Weekly's Endorsements, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Many people feel Townsends experience has done more harm than good to our district. PAUSD would be better off with three new board members who care about setting a sound strategy for the success of our high performing neighborhood schools, for the future.

Plus the remaining board members (Tom and Mitchell) DO have years of experience to help facilitate a transition. It is a false logic that says 4 years of combined experience is not enough or that more 'years' of incumbancy is necessarily better.

PAUSD needs a fresh start to heal from the bruising of the past year, and fresh thinking on the issues of importance in this community. I agree with the Weekly's recommendations.

Posted by Retail Supporter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:01 pm

Bruce Baker, I agree, I plan to vote against Measure M and I hope others do also. I think businesses in PA are taxed to the hilt and you're right you will not gain anything by this burdensome tax. Also, I don't think the residents of PA will gain anything by this tax either, it's just more money our City Council will have to waste.