Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 16, 2011

Around Town

OUR MAN IN SACRAMENTO ... Fresh off his freshmen year in Sacramento, Assemblyman Rich Gordon met with the Palo Alto City Council this week to discuss the latest happenings in the state Capitol. Gordon, a 13-year veteran of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, described his first year in the Assembly as a "very interesting experience" — and not necessarily in a good way. State politics, he said, are very different from those at the local and county levels. "The partisanship is unbelievable," said Gordon, for whom consensus-building was a major theme of last year's Assembly campaign. "It's a real challenge to tackle some of the big problems confronting the state when you can't even communicate sometimes." One problem, he said, is the sheer amount of legislation. Each legislator is allowed to introduce 40 bills, and while few actually reach that limit, the result is still a massive quantity of proposals. Consequently, there's "often not much quality," Gordon said. Another challenge is figuring out what Gov. Jerry Brown will do with the bills once they get to his desk. This includes a bill, co-authored by Gordon, that would strengthen lobbying and gift-giving policies pertaining to rail officials. Gordon said it's tough to pick out a pattern in Brown's vetoes. The governor said, for example, that he would veto any bill that would change the governance structure of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, a topic of great interest in Palo Alto. "Many of us who have spent time with Jerry Brown think that probably most of his decisions are made through some kind of a 'Zen moment' thing rather than some kind of consistent policy, but we'll see how it all plays out." He did have one bit of good news for the council — the Legislature's current interim recess means no surprises. "The good news is that at least for the next several months, you're safe from us. We can't pass any new legislation."

WE LOVE YOU, BUT ... Tickets for Gunn High School's wildly popular Night Rally are in such demand that the student government has struggled with how to allocate them. Students practice competitive dance routines for weeks and will perform them in the gym on Oct. 27. "The dilemma is that many parents want to see the kids perform," Gunn student representative Gurpal Virdi explained to the Board of Education this week. "However there isn't much space, and we'd like to give priority to students, not parents." The school's student government has proposed early ticket sales for students only and later limiting the number of tickets a student may buy for family members. This year's plans also include a likely live streaming of the event, so that "parents who aren't able to go to the Night Rally will be able to see it from the comfort of their own homes," Virdi said.

A CUP OF VIRTUE ... Palo Alto officials faced a strange conundrum this week as they debated a new café at the soon-to-be-built Mitchell Park Library and Community Center. The city has yet to choose a vendor, but residents have some ideas. More than a dozen of them attended the City Council's Monday night meeting and sent in letters lobbying the council to select Ada's Café, a nonprofit group known for hiring disabled adults and children. Speakers and writers lavished praise on the café's offerings and on its founder, Kathleen Foley-Hughes, a longtime volunteer at local schools. The council did not make any decisions on the new café, but members agreed that the vendor should do more than serve coffee and make sandwiches. It should also serve us "social responsibility." The council unanimously directed staff to submit a request for proposals to vendors that includes the "social" component, as well as traditional factors such as costs and whether food is sustainably grown. Councilman Pat Burt said having a "social responsibility" component would further a number of council priorities, including environmental sustainability and youth well-being. Councilman Larry Klein agreed. "Absolutely, social responsibility should be a factor in a decision like this," he said. The city is scheduled to choose a vendor by late November.

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