WALKING THE LINE ... While bicycle improvements and parking garages have been getting the bulk of attention in Palo Alto in recent months, the City Council shifted its focus this week to the most primitive form of transportation of all: walking. The city is now preparing a master plan for parks and recreation, its first such endeavor since 1965. The plan will consider the city's recreational needs and suggest various short- and long-term improvements (spoiler alert: dog parks and athletic fields will surely be in the mix). It will also consider a thorny philosophical question relating to pedestrians: Should residents be forced to walk to recreational opportunities? Or is walking itself a recreational opportunity? The city's consultant on the project, Lauren Schmidt of the firm MIG, said the effort will include extensive outreach at local parks (surveys during your next picnic?) and mapping technology that shows which parts of the city are more than half a mile from a park. Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, a prolific walker and a regular Stanford Dish hiker, was somewhat put off by the criteria and suggested that it might do residents some good to have to walk more than half a mile to get to a park. She noted that during her morning walks, she routinely passes seven or eight parks. "In our quest for walking and health and so forth, it might seem like it might be a good idea to walk more than half a mile to get to a park." Councilman Pat Burt had another thought when it comes to walking: It's not just the distance that matters. It's also barriers, whether train tracks or large boulevards with fast-moving cars (Alma Street and El Camino Real, for instance). "We do have some neighborhoods in the community that don't have any park at all within their neighborhood without having to cross major dangerous arterials," Burt said. The city, he said, should plan for "pedestrian arterials," an effort akin to what it's long been doing for local bicyclists through its Safe Routes to School program.
WHERE IS TAKLAMAKAN? ... Five students from Palo Alto schools head to Fresno April 4 to compete against 95 other students from around the state in the California State National Geographic Bee. They are Challenger School fifth-grader Alan Liu, Jordan Middle School eighth-grader Paarth Sharma, Terman Middle School seventh-grader Arjun Prabhakar, Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School eighth-grader Benjamin Darnell and JLS Middle School seventh-grader Mihir Borkar The state winner will receive $100 and a trip to Washington, D.C., to represent California in the national finals in May. To get this far, students had to win their school geography bee and then take a follow-up written qualifying exam. A sample winning question: The Taklamakan Desert, home to the Uyghur people, is located north of the Kunlun Mountains in which Asian country? The answer is China.
GOVERNMENTAL LEAPFROG ... Silicon Valley tech giants are backing a bid by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo to become ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee,whose current ranking Democrat, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman is retiring, the Washington Post reports. To do so, Eshoo would have to jump over the more senior Democrat, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey. But she already has the backing of her close friend, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. Guardino, who is circulating a letter expressing strong support for Eshoo's bid, told the Post he is getting signatures of major players in the tech industry.