Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 15, 2011

Around Town

UP, UP AND AWAY ... Palo Alto resident Todd Heapy had the chance of a lifetime last week, traveling to Florida as an official Weekly blogger to watch the final launch in NASA's Space Shuttle program. For Heapy, it was a 30-year-plus dream come true. It was not, however, a sure thing, as any number of factors, from weather to technology, could have scrapped the July 8 launch. Heapy woke up at 3 a.m. that day to be prepared to see the scheduled 8:26 a.m. take-off. "I scouted my photo spot and optimistically watched the Web feeds for weather and other progress reports," Heapy wrote in his blog, which is posted along with photos on the Town Square forum at www.PaloAltoOnline.com. "Launch was a go. Launch was not a go. It was, it wasn't. Back and forth it went for a few tense hours. Wait, is that a bit of blue sky I see? ... Anticipation builds. The countdown proceeds. Is this it? The countdown pauses. Oh no! More tension, but thankfully ... it's short lived. 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Main engine ignition! Blastoff!!" An exuberant Heapy managed to get entry to an employee barbecue following the launch, which he said "brought the launch experience full circle." The employees will no longer be employed due to the end of the shuttle program, but their successful contributions to America's space adventures gave them much to celebrate that day.

AUF WIEDERSEHEN ... Although his parents are members of the Lions Club, Philipp De Fries managed to snag a Rotary scholarship to study in Palo Alto this past year. The 16-year-old hails from the cutlery city of Solingen, Germany. On the eve of his departure for home after attending Palo Alto High School, De Fries mused on the year. Students here work harder and party less than their counterparts in Germany, he said. And Palo Alto is far more diverse than Solingen, where only about 3 percent of the students are from different cultures. De Fries wore a vest, issued by Rotary on his arrival here, on which he collected 60 or 70 pins from various Rotary clubs. On it he had added a few other mementos from his American tour: a pin from the Hard Rock Cafe, and his Paly varsity tennis letter.

GREEN LANES ... Palo Alto officials shook up the Chinese Zodiac this year when they declared 2011 the "Year of the Bike." This week, they showed they mean business. The city's planning staff held two public meetings to discuss projects that officials hope will make life easier for bicyclists and pedestrians (the verdict on drivers isn't out yet). The more significant of the two was the Arastradero Road re-striping project (see story on page 5). On Tuesday night, transportation officials hosted a smaller, more low-key meeting on proposed changes to Channing Avenue, between Newell Road and Lincoln Avenue. The goal, according to Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez, is to create an "enhanced bicycle way" on Channing Avenue with green bike lanes, speed tables and road markings to encourage cars to slow down. Other local neighborhoods will probably see similar changes in the coming months and years. The city plans to release on July 25 a draft of its new Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan — an ambitious document that will propose a long list of road modifications aimed at making Palo Alto a top-tier city for bicyclists.

BITS OF TRASH ... Palo Alto officials have grand plans for reforming the city's troubled garbage operation. In the next year, city officials will consider whether to close the Recycling Center at Byxbee Park; whether the city should start charging customers for recycling; and whether a local composting facility is worth pursuing. The first change customers will likely notice is a bump in their trash bills this fall. Under a new proposal from the Public Works Department, all customers will see a new $4.62 fee added to their trash bills starting Oct. 1. The City Council's Finance Committee will weigh the proposal Tuesday night. The goal of the new fee is to close the $3.7 million hole in the Refuse Fund, which has been bleeding cash as customers went "green" and switched to smaller trash cans, thereby slashing their bills and creating a revenue crisis in the Refuse Fund.

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