In this week's Around Town column, read a firsthand account from a local executive in Mexico City during Tuesday's massive temblor and the city being recognized for its work in environmental conservation.
SHAKY GROUND ... An executive of a Menlo Park-based company was in Mexico City, Mexico when Tuesday's 7.1-magnitude earthquake shook the central region of the country. Janise Rodgers, chief operations officer at GeoHazards International, was attending a forum by the Mexican Society of Earthquake Engineering at National Autonomous University of Mexico, where she was invited to give a presentation when the temblor arrived, just two hours after a scheduled drill on the 32nd anniversary of the 8.0-magnitude earthquake centered in Michoacan, a state west of the capital. In a firsthand account provided by company President Brian Tucker, Rodgers described the calamity. "Power poles were swaying back and forth; fewer people stood under them this time. People poured into the street. Cars stopped. Everyone was on the phone trying to (call) loved ones," Rodgers said. The university is located on a hilly section of the city far from soft lakebed sentiments that engineers at the forum said contributed to damage in the 1985 earthquake. Once the building was inspected and all-clear was given, people were allowed back inside. The forum continued, but the presenter was competing with activated sirens outside. Rodgers was particularly affected by news coming from Colegio Enrique Rebsamen elementary school, where at least 20 students were reportedly killed. "New schools in the city are designed to be earthquake resistant, but, ... a stock of existing vulnerable buildings needs to be addressed."
GOING PLATINUM ... Palo Alto is the first city nationwide to receive the Platinum Level Beacon Award from the Institute for Local Government for its work in addressing climate change. The city has reduced its greenhouse-gas emissions in the community and at city facilities by 20 percent and 53 percent, respectively; saved energy at its facilities and operations by 22 percent; and recorded 35 percent in natural gas savings. Mayor Greg Scharff received the award during the League of California Cities Annual Conference on Sept. 14. "Palo Alto strives to create a community where sustainability is a way of life," Scharff said in his acceptance speech. "As a city, we have set a new bar, for ourselves and for others, to continue to strive for excellence in how we operate our facilities and integrate green practices into our everyday lives." The city previously won a Silver-Level Beacon Award in 2014, the second city to ever earn the distinction. "This is an honor and a proud moment for Palo Alto, as we have achieved a level of accomplishment that no city has ever reached before," City Manager James Keene said in a press release. "To be recognized with a Platinum award is confirmation of our city's well deserved reputation as a sustainability leader, and emblematic of our community's efforts to reach this goal." The city is home to the first utility company ever to supply its customers with carbon neutral electricity and natural gas as a standard.