In the latest Around Town column, former Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Aaron Persky found a new job, only to get fired this week; Palo Alto's "Blue Trees" project has no end date in sight and two Midpeninsula cities are getting international attention at a photo festival in France.
COURT DECISION ... Former Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Aaron Persky, who was recalled last summer after widespread outrage at his 2016 sentencing in the Brock Turner sexual assault case, got a new job — but it didn't last long. After media reports publicized that he was hired to coach the junior varsity girls tennis team at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, the school district swiftly fired him. On Tuesday, the district said that Persky met all of the district's hiring requirements and "was a qualified applicant for this position, having attended several tennis coaching clinics for youth, and holds a high rating from the United States Tennis Association." By Wednesday, facing backlash and an online petition calling for his removal, the district announced that his employment had ended "in the best interest of our students and school community." Persky told the Mercury News that Superintendent Polly Bove "was motivated by a desire to protect the players from the potentially intrusive media attention related to my hiring." The former judge's ousting was spurred by Persky's decision to sentence Turner to six months in county jail after a jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious and intoxicated young woman outside a Stanford University frat party. Last week, that young woman publicly identified herself as Chanel Miller, a Palo Alto native, in advance of a forthcoming memoir she wrote about the assault, trial and aftermath.
KIND OF BLUE ... In May 2018, Palo Alto invited local residents to help create a public art installation called "The Blue Trees." Prominently displayed at King Plaza in front of City Hall, the art consists of eight existing magnolia trees, each painted cobalt blue. At the time, the colorant was expected to stay on the tree trunks and branches for between nine months to a year before fading. But since then, 16 months has passed and the blue remains bright and distinct. Councilwoman Alison Cormack brought up "The Blue Trees," a brainchild of the artist Konstantin Dimopoulos, during the Sept. 9 meeting between the council and the city's Public Art Commission. Cormack wondered why the blue hasn't dissolved by now. "I love the blue trees — my favorite color. But as I recall they were supposed to sort of dissolve. Is it taking longer than expected? I'm not unhappy, just curious. ... Are they going to be there for a while?" she asked. Elise DeMarzo, director of the city's public art program, suggested the public's enthusiasm is to blame for the persistence of blue. "We had so many community volunteers who came out to help out with 'The Blue Trees' that layering was much thicker than it would normally be applied." She noted that the coloring is starting to pigment and that she expects the upcoming rain season will help the art exhibit make its exit.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES ... A slice of local life is on display for the world at the Visa Pour L'Image , an international festival of photojournalism in Perpignan, France . San Francisco-based photographer Laura Morton's "University Avenue" shows the stark differences between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. "On one side Palo Alto has the massive fortunes created by Silicon Valley's technology industry, while in East Palo Alto, mostly on the other side of Highway 101, the community has been squeezed out, away from these fortunes," Morton wrote on the festival website. "One street, University Avenue, runs through the heart of both communities." Morton produced the project through an over $8,000 grant than came with her 2018 Canon Female Photojournalist Award. The festival started on Aug. 31 and wraps up this weekend. "This is a documentary record of residents of both communities who are, in their own way, working and going about their daily lives while living in the shadow of the technology giants," Morton wrote in a description for the project.