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March 09, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Letters Letters (March 09, 2005)

Winning design


While problems in Palo Alto often make news, it is really our creative solutions that set us apart. Such a solution is the Palo Alto Golf Course redesign proposal.

The proposal before council still maintains an 18-hole golf course, but by good design and use of space it creates a much better and more interesting course. It also opens up space for much-needed new playing fields.

Many children in Palo Alto cannot play a sport of their choosing because there are not enough fields for enough teams. And almost any child who is on a team these days has had practices, and sometimes games, canceled for lack of space.

Better golf and more playing space -- this is a winning solution for the whole community.
Janice Hough
Bryant Street
Palo Alto

'Awesome' park


The Palo Alto Skateboard Park at Greer Park is awesome. The park is not just a frill but a necessity. Kids need a safe place where they can gather without adult supervision. Anyone that has doubts about the usefulness of the skateboard park should take the time to visit.

I am a mom with a teenager. I once had a bad attitude toward skateboarding and BMX biking. I thought that either activity was a waste of time; these kids should be home practicing music or doing homework.

Then one day I visited the park to try to catch some action with my camera. I was amazed. For one, the park is situated in an open, sunny location. The kids are outside enjoying the fresh air and getting exercise. It is not an activity organized and supervised by adults. The kids have made it their place. The graffiti is colorful, reflects the artistic expression of the bikers and provides a sense of ownership.

I found the kids to be respectful of each other with a sense of camaraderie. I did not see any teasing, bullying, anger or drugs. Just clean fun.

Should stunt bicyclists be allowed use of the bowl? Absolutely. The kids have decided this on their own, without meetings or discussion. The transition evolved.

I only wish that more kids would take the opportunity to visit the park, if only to hang out. Taking away the skateboard park would be a travesty.
Mary Jane Wolf
San Carlos Court
Palo Alto

Foothills fiasco


The proposal to allow non-residents in Foothills Park in exchange for state and county money to buy the property across the street from the Arastradero Preserve parking lot creates the conditions that will lead to unrestricted entry of non-resident cars at the Foothills Park main entrance, bicyclists and equestrians using Foothills Park trails and fire roads, excessive use of both Foothills Park and the Arastradero Preserve that will damage the fragile foothills ecology, and building a parking lot on the purchased property.

The agreement with the county requires Palo Alto to "open Foothills Park to non-resident pedestrian access on all of the trails within the park."

Most of the non-residents would use trails and facilities within Foothills Park, instead of using the park as a connection between the adjacent nature preserves.

Although the agreement does not require entry at the main gate entrance off of Page Mill Road, once Los Altos Hills residents and Stanford faculty who live on campus are permitted equal access to a regional trail in Foothills Park through a separate entrance, it will be easy for them to finance a lawsuit by someone claiming that the separate-but-equal entrances for residents and non-residents to a state- and county-funded regional trail are unconstitutional.

Now that Palo Alto is unable to staff the main entrance to enforce the limit of 1,000 visitors at one time in Foothills Park, how can they keep track of the number of visitors at two new entrances?
Herb Borock
Colorado Avenue
Palo Alto

Key to conflict


My wife and daughter spent a few hours this Sunday afternoon shopping at the Stanford Mall. The parking, as always, was tight. Where my wife had the opportunity to park, the preceding cars had parked askew, forcing her to match their direction.

When she returned, some individual had taken offense at how she had parked, leaving her a note on her window suggesting she learn how to park. The scrap of paper was one thing, keying the side of her car was a second.

There was one vertical scratch down the light blue Mercedes SUV passenger-side door and two horizontal scratches along the passenger-side rear door.

I would like to ask the parking vigilante what justified their vandalism.

Well, cheers here is to the idea that the keyer well get karmic retribution or have to answer to his or her creator. If it was you (speaking to the readers, I doubt it was the editor), how do you propose to make amends for your unnecessary and unwarranted destruction?
Stephen Meier
Mayfield Court

Value of education


Governor Schwarzenegger has come out in favor of merit pay for teachers based on standardized test scores and apparently is taking it to the voters in the near future. Merit pay plans historically have not worked. They exacerbate existing inequalities and are divisive, difficult to implement and expensive.

A 1986 study published in the Harvard Educational Review noted that the majority of districts that have tried merit pay plans dropped them. This had nothing to do with unions since most of the plans were tried either in districts that had no unions or before unions existed.

Guy Puglisi, schools superintendent in New York's Brooklyn-Queens archdiocese where the teachers are not unionized, is quoted in the American School Board Journal: "I don't think merit pay is that great an idea .... We have many schools where the test scores are low .... The teachers may be working doubly hard, but the scores are low because of the social conditions they face."

How could a low-income district hope to attract highly qualified teachers to a school where there is so little hope of salary advancement? Such a district would be condemned forever to hire poorly prepared teachers.

The schools face huge problems. They are the same problems faced by society at large. Merit pay will not help teachers or students. We know what will make positive differences in the schools. Smaller class size and parent education are among the methods that work.

The governor needs to support a free, equal education for every child.
Triona Gogarty
Arbor Road
Menlo Park

Time for change


Our governor is bringing less money back from Washington than he requested on his recent trip to see President Bush. Our state alone will see Bush budget cuts of $84.6 million in homeland security, $4.7 billion in Medicare, $1.7 billion for education (while leaving 420,086 children behind) and $26.7 million for clean-water programs.

This is both cruel and unsafe.

Meanwhile, because of Bush's tax cuts to the rich and the war in Iraq, interest charges on our national debt are $1 billion a day.

Clearly we need a change in priorities and leadership.
Elizabeth Lasensky
Fremont Street
Menlo Park

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