In this week's Around Town column, read about the new police chief's City Hall debut, a pilot gas program at Stanford Shopping Center and information on the Weekly's middle class project.
DEFINING MIDDLE CLASS ... What does it mean to be middle class in Palo Alto? That's a question the Weekly is looking to answer with help from residents across different zip codes, regardless of their income, through a survey. Answers from the simple, eight-question form will be used for an upcoming story that will incorporate data from the U.S. Census. The informal, qualitative survey isn't intended to be comprehensive and participants can remain anonymous. Residents interested in being interviewed for the article can provide their contact information at the end of the survey. Responses will be accepted through Jan. 5. To fill out the survey, visit bit.ly/2Bcc0cI.
HAIL TO THE NEW CHIEF ... Palo Alto's new police chief, Robert A. Jonsen, won't officially start his new position until Jan. 9, but he didn't wait long to make his City Hall debut. Jonsen, who was the Menlo Park police chief at the time of his hiring, introduced himself to the community at the Dec. 11 City Council meeting, where he pledged to do his best to "provide leadership and stability for a department full of amazing men and women who truly give their all and who truly want to serve this community every year with professionalism, integrity and respect." Jonsen also noted the obvious contrast between himself and retired Police Chief Dennis Burns, who concluded his department career a year ago. "To state the obvious, I lack his height and I clearly lack his full head of hair," said Jonsen, his gleaming scalp unblemished by strands. "But what I can assure you is that I have a heart of equal size and I will engage with you, as my predecessors have set a standard and an expectation that I know all of you have in this great community." The council swiftly approved Jonsen's contract, which includes a $260,000 salary along with a $3,000-per-month housing stipend for 18 months. The idea behind the stipend is to support Jonsen's transition "by allowing him to live and fully immerse himself in Palo Alto over his first year and a half in the job," according to a report from Human Resources Department. "This will be conducive to building necessary relationships with members of our community as quickly and completely as possible." City Manager James Keene, who made the decision to hire Jonsen, said the choice was made after an "extremely competitive process" with an "outstanding pool of candidates." The vetting process included numerous panels of residents, City Hall staff, former police chiefs and other experts within the criminal justice system. Jonsen will take over for Ron Watson, who has been serving as interim chief since Burns' retirement.
SHOP TILL YOU DROP ... Stanford Shopping Center is pulling out all the stops to ease the holiday shopping experience this season for customers and employees as Christmas Day fast approaches. The mall is piloting a program with Filld, a Mountain View-based company that delivers gas through an app available on the Apple store and Google Play. While tackling their shopping lists, users can request a fill-up for their parked vehicle. Once a shopper shares his/her car's location, schedules a time and releases the car's gas flap, the company sends a small truck to finish the job. Customers, who don't need to be present for the fill-up, are charged the lowest rate among the three closest gas stations in the area, plus a small delivery fee. The service will be available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The company uses double-filtered gasoline at 87 and 91 octanes. "This first-of-its kind alliance recognizes the simple fact that there's never a good time to stop for gas," Filld CEO Michael Buhr said in a press release.