SIRENS OF CAPRICE ... Move over, Crown Victoria. The familiar "cop car," a longtime fixture on the streets of Palo Alto and just about everywhere else, is about to make way for the Chevrolet Caprice. The City Council on Monday gave the Police Department the green light to spend $287,786 on six new Caprice vehicles, each of which would replace a Ford Crown Victoria with mileage ranging between 91,000 and 105,000. The switch was prompted by Ford's decision to discontinue the popular (at least among officers) police vehicle. The new Caprice bears little resemblance to the long and stylish gas-guzzler that made its debut during the low-rider days of the mid-1960s. Now, six generations later, it is sold exclusively to police departments and includes custom features to accommodate officers' equipment belts and other accessories. The city will purchase the six Caprice vehicles from Priority One Public Safety, a firm that had supplied police cars to other Bay Area agencies, according to a report from the Department of Public Works, which oversees the citywide vehicle fleet.
FOOD FOUL ... These are trying times for those concerned with food safety. Reports of contaminated chicken swirl about, and some fingers poke toward the federal government shutdown of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service for missing the outbreak. Luckily for the germ-conscious, local government is stepping up its food-safety efforts even as the feds flounder, and it's taking a lesson from soccer referees. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors directed its staff to create a series of placards that could be displayed at restaurants that would tell patrons whether their favorite greasy spoon has been cited for a major code violation recently. These include employees not washing their hands, employees working while ill, inadequate food storage or cooking temperatures and sewage, animal or insect contamination. Yuck. A green placard would mean the business had one major violation that was corrected or mitigated during the inspection and a yellow would indicate two or more violations and that a second inspection would take place within three days, according to county staff. A red sign would tell the public that the health department had ordered the business closed as a danger to public health and safety. The board also asked the health department to prepare a way to assign a more-precise numerical score rating for each restaurant inspected that would be posted on the department's website.
A DEPARTURE FROM THE NORM ... Just in time for its 150th birthday this year, Caltrain is joining the 21st century. The commuter rail service finally launched a real-time departure system on its website this week. There's now a red "Real-time Departures" box on the right-hand side of Caltrain's home page, where riders can select a station and view when the next three southbound and northbound trains will be leaving. Impending departures auto-refresh every minute and of course, and there's also a mobile-friendly version for smartphones and tablets. Here's to at least being able to check online how late you're going to be to work today.