HEROES ... On Nov. 5, 2012, Palo Alto's fire officials received a call about an 11-year-old bicyclist who was lying on the roadway near the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Park Boulevard. He had been riding his bike to school when a vehicle struck him. When the fire crew got to the boy, he was unconscious, unresponsive and critically injured. A crew consisting of Fire Capt. Mark vonAppen and firefighters Jesse Aguilar, Daniel Fortino, Adam King, and Jesse Wooton arrived immediately to treat the boy and to prepare him for transportation to Stanford Hospital, a response operation that took them seven minutes. This week, as the crew received the "Heroism" award from the Peninsula Council of Lion's Club, Fire Chief Eric Nickel credited the firefighters' fast, professional and compassionate assistance for saving the boy's life and called their on-scene time "incredible." "If it wasn't for this crew being in the right place at the right time, we would've had a young juvenile fatality here in this community," Nickel said. The organization also handed out two "Community Service" awards to firefighters whose contributions to Palo Alto went beyond emergency response. Capt. Carter French was honored for raising $4,700 for Project Safety Net, the city's effort to promote youth well-being, with a pancake breakfast that attracted more than 800 guests. Firefighter Jon Matsumoto, a former employee of the U.S. Postal Service, was honored for spearheading the "Letters from Santa" program, which provides families with letters, gifts and meals during the holiday season.
ELECTIONEERING ... Palo Alto officials are still a long way from deciding whether to abolish the City Council's term limits and reduce the number of council seats. But they are already taking some steps to keep their options open. Last week, Palo Alto came out against a proposed Senate bill that would limit votes on City Charter changes to the two-year election cycle. The bill by Sen. Alex Padilla aims to limit votes on charter change to regular statewide elections, when voter turnout is highest. If Senate Bill 311 becomes law, Palo Alto would not be able to hold a vote on extending the council's term limits from two to three or reducing the number of seats from nine to seven until at least November 2014. According to a letter from Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff, the bill "risks creating unintended but negative consequences for us." In cases where charters need to be changed to "avoid litigation, solve important issues or generate revenue, delays of up to two years could result in lawsuits or financial distress," Scharff wrote. "The constitution gives charter cities authority over municipal affairs so that important local decisions remain in the hands of local voters." The council's decision to explore longer terms is based on a belief that longer tenures will boost members' chances to advance to higher levels at influential regional boards dealing with issues such as transportation, water quality and housing mandates. The proposal to extend term limits from two to three four-year terms was made in a memo last month by Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd and councilwomen Liz Kniss and Gail Price. At its June 3 discussion, the council directed the Office of the City Attorney to draft ballot language for two potential charter amendments, one that would allow members to run for a third term and another than would scrap term limits entirely.