Tidbits collected by the Weekly staff on people, events and other happenings.
SHAKY START ... Palo Alto officials know all too well by now that setting up a new residential parking permit isn't for the faint of heart. With residents and workers sparring over issues like permit allocations, zone boundaries and special exemptions for health care providers, designing a system that pleases everyone is a delicate -- if not impossible -- task. Implementing the system is no picnic either. Last week, the City Council received a fresh report about the city's latest efforts to sell permits for its two Residential Preferential Parking programs -- the brand new one in Evergreen Park-Mayfield and the evolving one downtown. As of Sunday night, the city had sold more than 3,000 residential permits downtown and 325 permits for the two neighborhoods around California Avenue, City Manager James Keene told the council. Employees in the California Avenue area recently became eligible to buy permits as well, with preference given to those on the garage waiting list and to low-income workers. On April 9, all other employees will become eligible for purchasing permits to park in the residential areas. So far, not everything has gone according to plan. Keene said the city's contractors have been struggling with the number of calls they've been receiving. Keene said staff has asked the company to fix the problem. The city also plans to provide additional support in the City Hall lobby. The city plans to begin enforcement in downtown on April 17 and in the Evergreen Park area on April 24, though there will be a few weeks of warnings before citations are handed out.
IT'S NOT GQ, BUT STILL ... Palo Alto City Manager James Keene earned kudos from the City Council this week after he was named as one of the "Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers" by the magazine, Government Technology. So why was Keene, a folksy fellow known to quote Bob Dylan and Emily Dickinson, singled out as one of the nation's top IT drivers? The magazine praised him for his "fresh and thoughtful" ideas and cites an article he co-wrote with the city's Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental identifying top problems (including bureaucratic centralization and lots of hardware) and offering solutions (moving to the cloud, partnering with private companies). Mayor Greg Scharff announced Keene's award on Monday night, though he had some reservations about the name. "I was a little concerned that you were named one of the top drivers," Scharff said. "You need to ride your bike some more." Keene said his wife was more concerned about the "dreamer" part of the designation. "My wife over the years has said that she should've married a handyman, rather than a dreamer," he said.
WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE ... A speaker series on "Understanding Islam" that kicked off in Palo Alto on April 3, offered real-life examples of what it's like to be a Muslim-American. The sold-out event at the Lucie Stern Theatre was moderated by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali shared parts of her childhood growing up in Southern California, where she recalled a high school memory during Ramadan, when Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days, and still had to run a mile for the Presidential Fitness Test. "I sucked it up," she said. Jihad Turk, president of the Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School, shed some light on how finding a place for the ritual five daily prayers can lead to strange encounters. As a college student in the early '90s when he attended a San Francisco Giants game, the time came around for the ritual and he and some friends found a quiet hallway to bow and prostrate as they usually did when an intoxicated lady came up to them and asked "Are you guys all right?" Islam Networks Group executive director Maha Elgenaidi honed it in when she explained how culture and religion interact with one another. She'll eat all sorts of food like Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisine, but won't eat pork or consume alcohol. She'll also still shop at Macy's or Nordstrom, but purchases modest apparel. "I don't have to buy my clothes or eat food from Muslim-majority countries. Culturally, I'm an American."