Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 11, 2013

Around town

POWER TO THE PEOPLE ... The City of Palo Alto's Utilities Department invites residents to rock out this month with a new video of singing utilities employees. The musical video was created by student intern Tyler Murphy and shows employees singing to the Beatles' song "Let It Be" but with their own utilities-related lyrics. "There We'll Be" features lines such as: ""When you find yourself with sewer trouble or smell gas that you can't see, all you do is call us — there we'll be." The video is part of a month-long celebration to bring attention to the benefits of community-owned utilities, including having local control, fairer rates and generating support for other city services such as libraries and public safety, utilities spokeswoman Debra Katz said. The celebration is part of national Public Power Week and Public Natural Gas Week. Palo Alto owns and operates its own gas and electric utility and provides its own water, sewer and fiber-optic services. Local control has resulted in decisions to have a 100 percent carbon-neutral electric supply; an upgraded emergency water-supply system; water, gas and sewer-main replacement programs; efficiency programs and personalized customer service, Katz said. Additional events for the month-long celebration include a Halloween hoopla at a Haunted EcoHome on Oct. 30. A full list of October events, with links to the video can be found by clicking on the Power to the People box at www.cityofpaloalto.org/utilities.

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.

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