Don't blame Palo Alto and Stanford voters for that defeat or the ending of affirmative action programs. Board of Contributors: Notes and comments from 1996
Publication Date: Wednesday Jan 1, 1997

Board of Contributors: Notes and comments from 1996

Wealth, poverty and affirmative action for athletes

by Alan Henderson

A few notes from here and there as another year becomes history . . .

After losing former mayors Jack Sutorius and Stan Norton early in 1996, Palo Alto lost another community leader in November. Preston Cutler served on the Palo Alto Unified School District Board, including a term as chairman, during the hectic anti-Vietnam War demonstration days. He was an intelligent, calming influence, always polite and fair to anyone who spoke before the board. He maintained harmony on a board whose members ranged philosophically from dedicated liberal to staunch conservative. He earned the respect of every person who worked with him and every citizen who spoke with him.

Talk about multiple success stories! Twenty years ago, three recent college graduates set up housekeeping in a rented home on Rhodes Drive in Palo Alto. Now in their mid-40s, all three have gained prominence. Joe Simitian, who still lives there, is beginning his term as a county supervisor after serving on the Palo Alto City Council, including a term as Mayor. Gary Fazzino was 24 years old when he was first elected to the City Council, and he has now completed four terms. Also, he is an unofficial city historian and a walking sports encyclopedia. Jay Gellert, the effervescent guy of the group, is CEO of the Health Net HMO and two related health organizations.

A rumor has been circulating that at least some members of the City Council want to place the Stanford Sand Hill Road Projects proposal on the ballot. I hope this is not true. After a few hundred hours of reading reports, reviewing Planning Commission recommendations and hearing public testimony, Council members are far better informed than the general public and they have the power to make changes in any of the elements of the projects. It is the Council's responsibility to make decisions like this one. Voters who disagree with the decision have the power to circulate petitions to place the matter on the ballot.

Will someone please explain why California voters defeated Proposition 217? We complain about the growing disparity between upper and lower income groups, yet we failed to renew the existing tax rate for the highest income people. In other words, the voters approved a tax cut only for our wealthiest citizens!

Don't blame Palo Alto and Stanford voters for that defeat or the ending of affirmative action programs. Once again, this community voted 100 percent correctly on all the propositions, at least in the eyes of this observer.

Speaking of elections, congratulations to all the people in San Mateo County who worked so hard and so successfully in gaining overwhelming approval for the tunnel alternative to bypass the Devil's Slide area.

It is amazing how quickly we respond to some safety problems and ignore others. For instance, in the past 10 years automobile air bags have killed 52 people. Over that same period, not even counting thousands of murders and suicides, handguns have accidentally killed over 10,000 persons. Of course actions were needed to reduce the risk from air bags. However, as Cynthia Tucker pointed out in a recent Atlanta Constitution article, guns are subject to fewer safety regulations than automobiles, baby cribs and bicycles. Toy guns are more strictly regulated than real guns.

The University of California Regents have eliminated all affirmative action programs--all but one, that is. A large majority of the varsity athletes on the prestigious Berkeley campus did not meet even the minimum standards for acceptance to the university.

According to a recent study at Tufts University, about 12 million American children go hungry or are threatened with hunger. Also, over 41 million Americans still have no health insurance. The welfare "reform" bill devised by Congress and signed by President Clinton is certain to push more kids into poverty. Assuming that a single parent on welfare can even find a job paying $5 an hour, how does she (or sometimes he) make a monthly income of $850 before taxes cover $600 in child care plus food and rent? Obviously, we need to provide funds for job training and child care and then reduce such support as the worker's income rises.

Where do we find the $100 billion needed to tackle housing, education, job training and day care? Columnist Molly Ivins has three possible sources: (1) use all or part of the $167 billion we spend each year on corporate welfare, (2) return the corporate income tax rate from the current 15 percent to 31 percent as it was in the 1950s, (3) reject the Pentagon's request to spend $1 trillion for a new generation of jet fighters when we already have the best in the world.

Does it fill you with pride to learn that America's top export item is tobacco products?

Alan Henderson, a Palo Alto resident, is a former Palo Alto mayor and City Council member who serves on the boards of several community organizations. He is a member of the Weekly's Board of Contributors.

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