Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 26, 2011

Around Town

THE POWER OF A SCULPTURE ... Palo Alto's newest public artwork stands 10-feet tall, is shaped like the letter "M" and is made largely of wood frames and glass bottles. The sculpture by artist Mildred Howard was installed in the Civic Center in front of City Hall last week and will be in place for up to a year, City Manager James Keene told the City Council earlier this month. The angular little house was inspired by bottle houses from Western Africa and the American South, but it also has some local flavor. Keene said the bottle house also drew inspiration from the famously glassy Eichler houses visible throughout Palo Alto.

TAKING SIDES ... As Palo Alto's two green camps prepare for an Election Day showdown over Byxbee Park and composting, the city's past and present leaders are joining the fray and lending their voices to the respective arguments. Voters will be asked whether the city should "undedicate" a 10-acre parcel of parkland at Byxbee Park and make the land available for a waste-to-energy facility that would convert yard scraps and food waste into either electricity or natural gas. Some, including Councilman Pat Burt and former MayorPeter Drekmeier, urge voters to pass Measure E and give the city a local, environmentally sustainable option for disposing of its waste. The current plan, which calls for shipping organic waste to Gilroy and burning sewage sludge, "no longer makes sense," proponents wrote in the official argument. "Today's need for clean energy and the threats of climate change are the great issues of our era, demanding fiscally responsible action," the argument states. Former Vice MayorEllen Fletcher and school board member Dana Tom have added their signatures to the "Yes on E" argument. Opponents, led by conservationist and former Councilwoman Emily Renzel, counter that the city shouldn't "sacrifice parkland" and "take huge financial risks" by building a new plant. The official "No on E" argument was also endorsed by Mayor Sid Espinosa, Councilman Greg Schmid, former Mayors Judith Kleinberg and Gary Fazzino and former Vice Mayor Enid Pearson. "When the government looks to our parks for public works projects, and voters allow it, NO park will ever be safe from such land grabs," opponents wrote in their argument. "Once irreplaceable parkland is gone, it's gone forever."

HEADS OF THE CLASS ... Palo Alto's most powerful commission now has a new leader. The Planning and Transportation Commission on Wednesday elected architect Eduardo Martinez as its chair. Martinez, whose softly spoken witticisms, Comprehensive Plan allusions and insights into community values have become a staple during his two years on the board, was praised by previous Chair Samir Tuma and other commissioners, who voted unanimously to make him the new chair. "He has worked to become one of the most thoughtful and thorough commissioners that we have, who really comes to the commission with a slightly different perspective from others," Tuma said. Tuma's colleague (and predecessor in the chair's chair) Daniel Garber agreed and called Martinez "very thoughtful," "very strong" and "compassionate." The commission also unanimously elected veteran Commissioner Susan Fineberg as its vice chair. Fineberg, best known for her encyclopedic knowledge of the Municipal Code, her commitment to keeping local schools from growing out of control and her frequent opposition to large, new developments, was recognized by other commissioners on Wednesday for her rigor and intellect. "With respect to all other commissioners, I think she's the smartest one among us," said Martinez, who is scheduled to run his first meeting next week. Martinez thanked his colleagues for their vote of confidence and said it "takes a village" to perform the commission's work. "I'm pleased to have these Village People," he said, referring to his colleagues.

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