SPEAKING OF WASTE ... Beauty, it is often said, is in the eye of the beholder. So, apparently, is waste. The City Council on Monday approved the creation of a new "fraud, waste and abuse" hotline for employees, but only after a lengthy debate over whether "waste" should be included in the hotline's title. Council members Pat Burt and Greg Scharff both argued that unlike fraud and abuse, which are fairly easy to define because they entail illegal activity, defining "waste" is a tricky, highly subjective process. City Auditor Michael Edmonds said "waste" generally would mean excessive and careless purchases and "poor use of city resources." But Burt and Scharff both wondered if the city's newly created anonymous hotline should focus on waste. City Manager James Keene also expressed some concern about potential "waste" complaints. "If we waste a lot of resources looking at waste complaints, that may be a factor we need to bring to the council," Keene said. The council ultimately decided (with Burt and Scharff dissenting), that "waste" should remain part of the hotline's title. The new line will be instituted for 18 months on a trial basis. Though the council approved by a 7-1 vote, with Scharff voting no, some city officials had expressed anxieties about the fact that workers can now issue complaints behind the mask of anonymity. "I would hope that the majority of complaints that we get do not require an anonymous hotline for them to come forward," Keene said Monday. "If they do, we have a very big cultural problem in this organization."
DEFYING GRAVITY ... San Francisco residents could be forgiven if they mistook Palo Alto police and fire Chief Dennis Burns for Spider-Man last Saturday. Burns was one of about 70 people who raised money for Special Olympics by rappelling from the 38-story Grand Hyatt hotel in Union Square. On Monday, he received major kudos from City Manager James Keene and Mayor Sid Espinosa for raising close to $4,000 in the event. But there was one thing that the chief refused to do, Keene said. "We did, as staff, put together a spandex superhero suit for him to wear, which he declined to wear," Keene said.
FOUR-WHEEL HOMES ... Palo Alto's plan to ban living in vehicles was put on hold this week, after a chorus of protests from homeless residents and advocates. But the council's decision to delay the discussion until September didn't stop about 15 people from addressing the City Council on the topic. Given that item's postponement, the council took the rare step of voting to give each speaker only one minute to say his or her piece (speakers typically get three minutes). Councilman Larry Klein said that because the issue will be discussed in detail by the council's Policy and Services Committee at a future date, it would be a "waste of council's time or public's time for any meaningful discussion to be had on the merits or demerits of the problem" at Monday's meeting. Most speakers used their minute to thank the council for delaying its decision. In the meantime, concerned residents and homeless advocates plan to hold meetings and come up with an alternative plan.