BLOWING IN THE WIND ... The autumn season in Palo Alto means a chilly breeze, colorful leaves and the roaring buzz of leaf blowers. For city officials, who banned gas-powered leaf blowers in residential neighborhoods in 2005 after a long and heated community debate, the lattermost feature of fall presents a problem. Though some residents use electric leaf blowers, which remain legal, others still prefer the more powerful — and noisier — gas-powered devices. Councilman Pat Burt noted Monday that over the past two weeks he witnessed two gardeners using electric leaf blowers. "That may sound like good news, but I actually saw 10 gardeners using leaf blowers," Burt said. "I think this is an issue we need to begin to readdress." Burt urged his colleagues to reconsider the issue at a future date.
NEW AUDIT-ION ... Palo Alto's new City Auditor James Pelletier made his first public appearance in the Council Chambers this week, just seconds after the City Council unanimously approved his contract at its Monday night meeting. Pelletier said he looks forward to supporting "accountability and transparency within the city by providing effective and efficient audit services." Councilwoman Karen Holman, who chaired the committee charged with appointing the new auditor, extended her welcome to Pelletier, who starts his Palo Alto duties in January. "One of the things that really impressed us during the interviewing process is how much energy, passion and compassion you have for your profession," Holman told him at the meeting.
FROM RUSSIA WITH QUESTIONS ... Palo Alto and neighboring cities received a special visit last week from a group of city officials seeking to learn about government accountability and best practices in legislation. The group came from Moscow and included several council members from the Moscow region, a handful of academics and an editor-in-chief of "Yarmarka," a weekly newspaper in Sergiev Posad, a city in the Moscow region. The group's ambitious itinerary included meetings with state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, former Assemblywoman Sally Lieber and the Los Altos City Council. Toward the end of their journey, the group paid a visit to the Palo Alto Weekly. After sampling locally sold kiwis, the delegates settled down to discuss journalism. Yekaterina Viktorovna Belyakova, the aforementioned editor, noted that Russian newspapers are required to get special certification before they can cover elections and must follow specific guidelines regarding how much space they can devote to each candidate. Despite these bureaucratic restrictions, her newspaper apparently doesn't pull its punches. The cover of its most recent issue lampoons the local mayor, who is depicted in the outfit of an Arab sheikh. The delegation from Moscow also included Denis Nokolayavich Iudin, speaker of the Kraznozavodsk City Council; Sergey Borisovich Kryzhov, vice speaker of the Sergiev Posad City Council; Yelena Mikhaylovna Malysheva, head of the Moscow Region division of the Federal Service for Registration, Cadaster and Cartography; and Anastasya Adolfovna Korniyanko, an international relations expert from the Rudomino Russian State Library of Foreign Literature. The visit was coordinated by the County of Santa Clara Moscow Sister County Commission and funded through a $7,000 grant from the "Open World Program" that was established by the U.S. Congress in 1999 to encourage exchanges of ideas.
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