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Around Town: Yamamoto Park?; a taxing effort

Tidbits on Palo Alto people, places and more

In this week's Around Town column, residents shift their efforts to name a park after World War II veteran Fred Yamamoto and the City Council prepares to formally oppose a state tax initiative.

YAMAMOTO PARK? ... Palo Alto residents who wanted to see a local middle school named after Fred Yamamoto lost their battle last week, when the school board opted not to do so. But they may yet claim a victory. This week, two members of the City Council said they would support a new proposal: naming a city park after Yamamoto, a Paly grad who fought and died in World War II. Their statements of support came after a group of residents, including a Human Relations Commission member, lobbied for a Yamamoto Park. Commissioner Steven Lee told the council on April 2 that he was disappointed by the school board's decision and said the city needs to make a "more concerted effort to listen more, to explain, correct and educate others within our community more." Naming a park after Yamamoto would go a long way to achieving this, he said. "This is a proposal supported by both sides of the recent debate and would go a long way in reaffirming the community's values and character, following last week's decision," Lee said. Sara Armstrong, who served on the committee that recommended naming a school after Yamamoto, concurred with Lee and called Yamamoto "an excellent role model and inspiring representative of the best of Palo Alto." Though the council wasn't scheduled to discuss the item, Councilmen Cory Wolbach and Greg Tanaka both said at the end of the meeting that they would support such an initiative. "It's something we can do to recognize a real hero, someone who was a hero and a leader in the community even before he was in the military," Wolbach said.

A TAXING EFFORT ... As Palo Alto officials continue to discuss a possible tax measure to place on the November ballot, they are also keeping a watchful eye on a California initiative that could scuttle their plans. Efforts are now underway to place on the ballot an initiative called "The Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018," which would require all new taxes to receive support from two-thirds of voters (currently, some taxes can be passed through a simple majority), reclassify some service fees as taxes and effectively nullify any local taxes that were passed in 2018 but fail to meet the new requirements, according to a new report from the office of City Manager James Keene. If the initiative is approved (signature-gathering efforts are still underway), the "measure would have significant fiscal impact in Palo Alto and require steep reductions in service levels," Keene wrote in the report. The council is set take a formal position against the initiative on April 16.

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2018 at 10:23 am

I had never heard of Fred Yamamoto until very recently.

I would prefer a park named after all heroes rather than just one. Who is to say that he is the only war hero we have and there is not someone else equally worthy and who equally deserves such an honor.

My own grandfather (no connection to Palo Alto) was a war hero in the eyes of his family. We knew the basics that he was a POW and severely wounded with the type of injury that left him disabled for the rest of his life. We didn't know too many details as he didn't like to talk about his service very much but we found out more in papers among his things after he died. He was very close to his war buddies and I doubt very much he would have liked to receive such an honor above those of his buddies who were just as heroic as himself. As far as we are concerned, we can remember him at his own graveside and at War Memorials in general.

I don't like the idea of honoring one war hero over that of another. There is no hierarchy of serving one's country, and someone who died for their country is a hero but at the same time no more of a hero than someone who was a POW for several years or someone who carried a disabling injury for the rest of their lives but still lived a productive life carrying out the requirements of a job and being able to raise and support a family.

Rather than honoring one particular war hero, we could dedicate some space in a library or City Hall to pictures and names of all Palo Altans who could be considered war heroes. This could then be somewhere all of us could go and reflect and that children could be taught about the realities of war. In fact, I think this would be a much better idea than naming a park or building because the purposeful visit would be educational and thought provoking rather than a visit to a park which would more likely be just a place to visit or have a sports game.

The name of a park is likely to become invisible other than a point on a map. A dedicated library wing or City Hall wing would be a place of reflection for all.


20 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Using words like "victory" in this report shows what the problem is with this effort. Are local residents really trying to defeat each other over the name of a school or park? The conflict was caused by poor outreach by the school board, perhaps caused by poor representation of local family groups in the board itself, causing it to misunderstand the need for outreach to begin with. We should strive for compromise on school issues like this, not warfare with victories and conquests.


Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Anyone know where we can sign the petition to put "The Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018" on the ballot ? It sounds like the best ballot initiative in a very long time.


2 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2018 at 6:10 pm

the article says "... reclassify some service fees as taxes and effectively nullify any local taxes that were passed in 2018 but fail to meet the new requirements, according to a new report from the office of City Manager James Keene. If the initiative is approved (signature-gathering efforts are still underway), the "measure would have significant fiscal impact in Palo Alto and require steep reductions in service levels," Keene wrote in the report."

City Manager Keene should specify which fees would be considered taxes; in addition, there have not been any taxes that were passed in 2018 yet, so how can there be a "significant fiscal impact"? City Manager Keene should provide detail on the amount of city budget at risk, and how he arrived at that amount.


2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 8, 2018 at 8:01 am

Online Name is a registered user.

PA has so many flavors of taxes, user fees, surcharges, tax on your cell phone use, on your cable tv use etc. -- just check your utility bills -- that it would be worth an article covering all of them so we cab understand how and why Mr. Keene wants to change things.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 8, 2018 at 12:57 pm

"I would prefer a park named after all heroes rather than just one."

For starters, I would prefer to have new parks named after each of our local heroes, beginning with those who missed the Terman-Jordan rename cut. We are way short of neighborhood parks and we will get much shorter if our orchestrated hysteria for new housing construction bears fruit.


6 people like this
Posted by Donster
a resident of University South
on Apr 8, 2018 at 2:59 pm

"Are local residents really trying to defeat each other over the name of a school or park?"

Unfortunately, yes.

"The conflict was caused by poor outreach by the school board, perhaps caused by poor representation of local family groups in the board itself, causing it to misunderstand the need for outreach to begin with."

The conflict was caused by prejudice. Those responsible owe the people of Palo Alto an apology.

This goes beyond the usual, constant, pretty Palo Alto squabbling. It is about who we are as a community and as civilized human beings. Prejudice is never civilized and needs to be rooted out before its poison spreads.

Given our recent failure, I think that the least we could do is to nane a park after Fred Yamamoto and stop coming up with a bunch of lame excuses for our actions - or inaction.


4 people like this
Posted by Thomas
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2018 at 10:58 am

I think naming a park in Fred Yamamoto's honor is historical and educational for those who have never been informed in American History concerning the plight of the Japanese-American community during World War II. This was the only instance in American history where a whole race of citizens had their property and Civil Liberties taken away by the stroke of a pen causing hardships and destroying their communities especially in California. Many sons of the Japanese American families decided to show their patriotism by enlisting in the war effort regardless of their families being detained in concentration camps. Fred was one of many who died for his country as a patriot. This is not meant to dishonor war veterans but to educate the public and inspire generations to make sure a calamity as this never happens again.


2 people like this
Posted by ODB
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2018 at 11:18 am

Had anyone reading this heard of Frank Greene before this push to rename the middle schools? I hadn't.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Is there a Mr. Mitchell, a Mr. Greer, a Mr. Bol, a Mr. Seale, a Mr. Foothills, a Mr. Rinconada?

In other words, the name of the park has nothing at all to do with education. It is to give it a defining name to find on a map.

If you want to educate then you need to find a place to have an exhibition of war heroes. Nobody will care who a park is named for after the initial naming.


4 people like this
Posted by what's my name
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 9, 2018 at 5:53 pm

the renaming charade continues. Don't we have other things to worry about in this community like traffic, crime and housing. Can't wait until my kids are out of PAUSD so i can move out of this crazy place. Bye bye


Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2018 at 7:05 pm

There most certainly was a Henry W. Seale, a major Palo Alto land owner at one time.

I'm surprised you are unaware of that.


4 people like this
Posted by In favor of Yamamoto Park
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 9, 2018 at 7:36 pm

In favor of Yamamoto Park is a registered user.

Yamamoto is the 4th (or so) most common surname in Japan. Think "Jones" or "Miller" in the States, and "Liu" or "Zhao" in China. There are going to be famous and infamous Jones' and Yamamotos and Lius. It does a disservice to the great ones to ban the use of their names on buildings. I don't think it's right that we banned the use of Yamamoto on a school. I'm for partially atoning for that by naming a park. But it's just a shame.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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