Around Town | June 8, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 8, 2012

Around Town

GETTING WIRED ... Palo Alto officials often bask in the city's worldwide reputation as a global trendsetter for new technology. But things are different inside City Hall, where employees rely on 25-year-old telephones, a voicemail system so old that the manufacturer no longer supports it and a crash-prone computer network that the city's Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental described as "expensive to maintain" and "highly risky." Mayor Yiaway Yeh recalled when he first used the mayor's phone at City Hall in January. "It really looked like a prop from 'Barney Miller,'" Yeh said, referring to the late 1970s sitcom centered around the New York Police Department. Chuck Vondra, CEO of the consulting firm Communications Strategies, surveyed the city's facilities and described the city's infrastructure as "moth-eaten" and "rat-eaten." Vondra said the phones currently in use at City Hall have a typical life expectancy of about 10 years. "The good news is that you've been able to triple the life expectancy of the system you've been using," Vondra told the council. The other good news is that this week the City Council approved $1.8 million to replace phones and install a new and improved data network.

MAKING JULES VERNE PROUD ... Rafael de Mestre, a Spanish-born entrepeneur and Tesla Roadster owner, pulled into Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto Monday morning, partway through what might be called an extended road trip. De Mestre is pursuing the Guinness Book of World Records title of "fastest around the world in an electric vehicle." In a nod to literary tradition, his goal is 80 days. Moving from charge station to charge station, he hopes to catch two Frenchmen who set out to take the title two months ago. The website may be used to track the race — or just to find out how to make it through Ukraine and Kazakhstan in an electric vehicle.

EASING TENSION ... Palo Alto's effort to revise its massage ordinance has been anything but relaxing, with critics complaining about proposals to require massage therapists to keep customer logs and to undergo more stringent training. The proposed ordinance has gone through a series of iterations in recent months, with one controversial provision after another quietly falling by the wayside. In April, the City Council's Policy and Services Committee asked the Police Department to drop the logbook requirement and to consider less rigid requirements for reflexologists — practitioners who focus on tension points on clients' hands and feet and who typically don't require clients to disrobe. The newest proposal to revise the massage ordinance does just that. It also exempts reflexologists (as well as chiropractors, nurses and barbers) altogether, provided they're "engaged in the performance of the duties of their respective professions." The council committee will consider the latest proposal Tuesday night.

THEY YEARN FOR YARN ... The prominent Lytton Plaza in downtown Palo Alto will be occupied Wednesday morning, though it won't be by grassroots protesters or Wall Street critics. Rather, it will feature members of Deborah's Palm Knitting Group and other needle-and-yarn enthusiasts. The knitters will be celebrating "Knitting in Public Day" at the University Avenue plaza between 10 a.m. and noon Wednesday.

THE COMPLAINTS DEPARTMENT ... City workers in Palo Alto have no shortage of options for reporting fraud, waste and abuse, including department heads, the Human Resources Department and the Office of the City Auditor. Next Tuesday, a City Council committee will discuss the newest tool for filing complaints: an anonymous hotline. Under the current proposal, the 24/7/365 hotline would be overseen by a vendor who would collect the complaints and issue incident reports. A newly formed "Hotline Review Committee," consisting of City Manager James Keene, City Auditor Jim Pelletier and City Attorney Molly Stump would meet regularly to consider these reports and, if needed, commission investigations (if complaints involve a committee member, that person would not be able to participate in the discussion). But if someone wants to use the hotline to make an anonymous complaint against a member of the City Council, they're out of luck. Keene, Pelletier and Stump are all council-appointed officers. As a result, the hotline "will not accept incidents involving members of the council." "Employees reporting these types of complaints will be referred to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the District Attorney's Office, or other appropriate outside agency, depending upon the nature of the complaint," the city's proposed policy for the new hotline states.


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Posted by Rafael de Mestre
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Rafael de Mestre is a registered user.

Concerning MAKING JULES VERNE PROUD ... the mentioned website is wrong. To follow the correct website is or
Rafael de Mestre started on 11.May 2012 - 3 months and not 2 months after the French, the French started on 11.February 2012 ;)

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Posted by Inaudible meetings
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 13, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Maybe part of this problem,maybe not.
The council Retreat in the Downtown Library Community room is INAUDIBLE.
I turned the TV on to watch and listen but it is hopeless. Is anyone responsible for the awful sound systems around town.
This new one is TERRIBLE! USELESS!

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm

There is one part of this upgrade that I hope Reichental understands.

The role of the existing IT staff in the continuation of the archaic and outdated systems. It's all they know, and that's why it's never been upgraded. They are not up on newer technology, indeed, most of the IT staff are people who couldn't find IT jobs back in the Dot Com boom of the early 90's.

It's not enough to modernize the technology, the staff needs to be modernized too.

I hope the new IT director Reichental realizes this, and I hope he is able to cut through the bureaucracy to get the staff he needs for the 21st century.

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Posted by Inaudible meetings
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2012 at 2:49 pm

I occasionally watch Menlo Park council meetings not because I have a particular interest in that city, but because the sound and visuals are so pleasant.
Even the angle at which they show public speakers is friendlier than the way we do it. Sound is clear, picture is clear,
(even the carpet is a calm nice light green, not a silly impractical white like ours, chosen as I recall by Liz Kniss.)