Around Town | June 17, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 17, 2011

Around Town

TOWNIES IN GOWNS ... Marching in Stanford University's "Pomp and Circumstance" procession Sunday were a handful of townies. Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa, City Council members Pat Burt, Greg Scharff and Nancy Shepherd, school district Superintendent Kevin Skelly and U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, along with elected officials from Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Redwood City and Mountain View. Stanford has a long, neighborly tradition of inviting local officials to share the commencement stage, said the university's Director of Community Relations Jean McCown, herself a former mayor of Palo Alto. Officials gathered at the Sunken Diamond to put on their robes and sip coffee when Mexico President Felipe Calderon came over to say hello to everybody, McCown said. "Everybody got to meet him; he was very gracious," McCown said. Such are the perks of local public service — some reward, perhaps, for reading hundreds of pages of City Council packets each week and debating the mind-numbing nuances of municipal waste, street repair and utility budgets into the wee hours.

CHASING VIRGINIA ... Palo Alto officials have no shortage of reasons for equipping the City Council with iPads. There's the green argument (fewer paper reports), the other green argument (less money spent on paper reports), and now there's the pride argument. City Manager James Keene told the City Council's Policy and Services Committee on Tuesday night that he was a bit disturbed when he met with the city manager of Williamsburg, Va., about a year ago and learned that Williamsburg's council members all have iPads. "I was a little bit, obviously, competitively disturbed that Williamsburg, Va., which was a colonial town, is ahead of Palo Alto." The committee apparently shared his anxiety and voted unanimously to support Keene's proposal to equip every council member with an iPad and to purchase data plans for every member rather than have them depend on the free Wi-Fi in the Council Chambers. City Clerk Donna Grider, who used her iPad as part of her presentation to the committee, said many cities have already embraced the devices, though some council members still have questions about adjusting to the new format. Keene said the transition is easier if members are "willing to be adaptive." As an example, he said he doesn't get a newspaper delivered to his house anymore, even though he has traditionally enjoyed going to his driveway and getting the paper. "I'm fine with it," he said, in describing his adjustment from the newspaper. "But it depends upon your attitude."

TEEN WISDOM ... Held on an aircraft carrier in the bay, Palo Alto High School's grad night party featured a motion-simulator ride and a machine that produced fresh doughnuts for party-goers, graduate Pierre Bourbonnais reported to the Board of Education Tuesday. Tidbits such as those are among the facts gleaned by school board members from their non-voting student representatives, which Bourbonnais has been for the past year. The Berkeley-bound Bourbonnais and his Gunn High School counterpart, American University-bound Sophie Keller, said their goodbyes Tuesday, with gifts and accolades from board members for contributing the student perspective in evening meetings. Asked what she's been doing since Gunn's graduation festivities, Keller undoubtedly spoke for many classmates when she responded: "I've slept a lot, just trying to recuperate."

DUMPED ... It's been a long and difficult slog, filled with policy shifts, community schisms and big, smelly loads of garbage, but Palo Alto's park lovers will finally have something to cheer about later this summer, probably by the end of July. That's when the city's landfill will be full and the operation in the Baylands is scheduled to shut down after more than 70 years of existence. To mark the occasion, the city will be gradually opening sections of the park to the public, starting with a 36-acre portion on July 1. Another 10 acres are slated to become public parkland in December. The rest will be opened in 2013. The landfill site has been marred in controversy for the past two years, with factions of environmentalists at odds over whether the city should install a waste-to-energy facility at Byxbee Park (the impacts of such a facility are still being studied). But the debate focuses on a small portion — about 10 acres — of the sprawling park and will not keep the city from planting native grasses and building trails at the newly opened sections, a process that's slated to begin this fall.