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February 23, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Letters Letters (February 23, 2005)

Top-notch article


I read with interest the Weekly's article "Climbing to the Top" (Feb. 9) about college admissions. I have a daughter who is a senior at Castilleja School and currently going through "the college process."

My daughter and I visited a number of schools, mostly selective private colleges in the east, for which she is well qualified. At each institution we heard the same refrain: "We are looking for students who have taken the most challenging courses at their respective high schools," and inevitably when asked if a B in an AP class is better than an A in a non-AP class, the admissions officer responds only half in jest, "Take the AP class and get an A."

Frankly, the emphasis on taking numerous AP classes is out of control, and both high schools and colleges participate in promoting the madness while simultaneously lamenting about stressed-out students.

If we are really looking to give our high-school students the kind of relatively stress-free high-school lives we all lived, at least stress free in comparison to what our kids undergo now, we need our educational institutions to place an emphasis on learning for learning's sake, on teaching interesting classes that spark a student's passions and to jettison the AP mentality.

Sadly, in all of the college-information sessions I attended, I never heard anyone suggest that they were looking for the student who took a class just because it was an interesting topic or something that the student wanted to learn more about.
Elizabeth Grover
La Donna Avenue
Palo Alto

'Uncivil' criticism?


It seems that Palo Alto Mayor Jim Burch considers public criticism of the City Council or staff "uncivil." And the city manager considers many critics to be "hypercritical."

Both terms are left undefined. But both officials are attacking those who are passionate and persistent about needed changes in the city. This is name-calling by officialdom. Who next will be labeled?

Public officials should not attack their constituents. This does have a chilling effect on those who wish to speak out and have not yet done so. You criticize at your own risk in this town, it seems.

As for Aram James, who spoke at oral communications last Monday (Feb. 14), he was perhaps not diplomatic but he was civil, in my opinion. All he did was criticize the city manager's management of the council "retreat" the previous Saturday, when the mayor interrupted him and accused him of "attacking" the city manager.

Aram did not attack anyone. What he did was criticize the city manager, and the mayor would not permit that.

I can't imagine anyone in the room feeling threatened by Aram James. I cannot understand why the police were called before he could make his comments after the break called by the city manager.

Is the mayor disallowing public criticism of officials in the council chambers? Is he so timid that he feels the need for protection against someone speaking passionately?

I am very disappointed in the mayor's behavior that night and in the city manager's labeling of critics.
Natalie Fisher
Ellsworth Place
Palo Alto

Bye bye brothel


I would like to publicly thank the Palo Alto Police Department for its work in shutting down the brothel on University Avenue.

After receiving a call from a concerned neighbor, the police responded swiftly and conducted a thorough investigation, and they took the time to meet with the neighbors to let us know what they did and found and what to expect.

Thanks to the alert neighbor and the effective police work, the brothel didn't last long. The police were professional in every manner and I appreciate all their efforts.
Eugenia McCauley
University Avenue
Palo Alto

Feasting on generosity


I enjoy Daryl Savage's "ShopTalk" column. Thanks very much.

John Garcia at JJ&F grocery store in College Terrace recently donated an enormous "best darn fruit tray" to Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto for a staff breakfast. Diana, the manager at Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels on California Avenue, donated fresh, healthy bagels and several varieties of their delicious "shmear." And Phil at Harmony Bakery got up even earlier than usual and specially baked extra of their fabulous whole-wheat raisin-and-walnut cinnamon rolls.

I would like to thank John, Diana and Phil for their generosity to the clinic. In the face of limited funding for the health care of the poor and uninsured, Ravenswood relies on the kindness and support of our marvelous community-spirited local merchants as we provide services to our patients, many of whom work in and around Palo Alto.
Margaret Allen
Family Practice Physician Assistant, Ravenswood Family Health Center
Bay Road
East Palo Alto

Give chief a chance


I have been reading with much displeasure the weekly letters of complaints about the Palo Alto Police Department. My husband and I have reared our four children here and we love Palo Alto because it is so community oriented.

Palo Alto has always prided itself as a sophisticated, intellectual, and progressive city that is able to resolve problems through discussion. Recently, there have been a couple of major incidents involving minorities that have angered residents.

Rather than going before the Human Relations Commission (HRC) to express their complaints in a rational manner, people have chosen to do so blatantly through the media.

I do not feel that a Public Safety Commission or a Citizen's Oversight Committee is needed. The HRC is doing a fine job monitoring police behavior on behalf of Palo Alto citizens and the public. Being a member of a minority group myself, I can understand the concerns about racial profiling, but I can also understand the difficulties a police officer faces when performing his or her duties.

It has not even been two years since the City Council selected Lynne Johnson to lead our police force. Why don't we respect their decision and give Chief Johnson a chance to show her leadership?

Please remember that there are two sides to every situation (refer to Chief Johnson's Guest Opinion in the Weekly, Feb. 2), not just what we read or hear through the media.
Shirley Lee
Dake Avenue
Palo Alto

Behind the troops


"The devastation that is created by these random acts to cut the budget, and at the same time asking for $88 billion to fund a war, is just idiocy," Palo Alto Mayor Jim Burch said (Weekly, Feb. 16). "Plain and simple idiocy."

Please ask "His Honor" just which weapon, what armor, what element of rations my grandson, with Marines in Fallujah, should be denied just so another class in flower decoration or another city color-appreciation walk can be funded?

Shall my nephew, clearing mines in Kosovo, make do with a divining rod instead of the latest electronics in order to fund another whimsy of pubic "art"? Shall my other nephew, aerial refueling out of Turkey, be asked to extend the life of KC-130s already older than him into the next decade just to fund another tea party?

Or shall we just apologize to Saddam, put him back on his throne and come home until Jihad is ready again for us?

Please remind the mayor that he is only the mayor of a small city that has to hire flatterers, with at least four levels of government between him and the issue he has applied himself to.

I suggest that if he wants to make national decisions, he first prove himself at the city level, then run after Boxer or Pelosi's jobs on his own dime. Heck, if there were any justice, there would be an opening at the United Nations appropriate to one of Jim's métier.

OK, officer, I'll go quietly.
Walter E. Wallis
Waverley Street
Palo Alto

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