Around Town | December 14, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 14, 2012

Around Town

A PERFECT MATCH? ... The intricate courtship between Palo Alto and Yangpu, a district within Shanghai, started to get serious in September, with the Bay Area Council playing the role of a matchmaker. The two entered into municipal matrimony in September, when leaders from each side signed an "intention agreement" pledging to explore "mutual economic interactions to enhance the economic health and betterment of their respective communities and enterprises." This was followed by a November honeymoon that sent City Manager James Keene, Mayor Yiaway Yeh, Councilwoman Nancy Shepherd, soon-to-be Councilman Marc Berman and Economic Development Manager Thomas Fehrenbach to Yangpu for a frenetic, highly structured tour of Yangpu, a district of about 1 million people that is now transitioning from its traditional role as a hub of manufacturing to high-tech innovation. As part of the trip, Palo Alto's elected leaders and top staffers visited Yangpu's main businesses and universities, mingled with their Yangpu counterparts, sampled local cuisine and wowed their hosts with their mastery of chopsticks. "It really was an adventure sometimes to dive into some of the graciousness that took the form of tentacles and other such things," Yeh said at the Dec. 3 council meeting, recalling the dining experience. They also got to ride China's high-speed-rail system, which Shepherd described as "very smooth and very fast" (though she also recalled an episode at a truck stop, when the group heard a high-speed trail go by, and recounted it as being "extremely noisy"). Now, officials are looking for ways to take the relationship to the next level. On Monday night, the City Council will watch a presentation of the recent China trip and consider various proposals for partnerships between Palo Alto and Yangpu. According to a new staff report, these could include a student exchange program, an internship program involving companies in each region and collaborations between companies in the Stanford Research Park and those in the Yangpu Digitization Park.

READY TO SERVE? ... Palo Alto's process for filling seats on local commissions is at times a tedious and unpredictable affair, with some boards attracting a huge number of applicants and others struggling to fill their openings. The City Council typically interviews every candidate that applies and votes at its meetings to fill vacancies shortly after they arise. This creates a problem when the field of applicants is too small for the council's tastes, or when potential volunteers don't have the qualifications sought by the council. Faced with this perennial quandary, the City Council is now considering overhauling its process for filling commission seats. The council's Policy and Services Committee considered various options for doing that at its Tuesday night meeting and while it didn't make any decisions, it came up with plenty of ideas for staff to explore. Councilman Larry Klein was among those who criticized the current interview process for commissioners, calling the meetings where the council interviews every candidate among "the least interesting council meetings we have to attend" ("We choose to interview people when we know they don't have a prayer," Klein said, in explaining the "very tedious" nature of the interview sessions). He and his colleagues considered whether it's time to limit commission recruitment to only once or twice a year. They also wondered whether it's time to stop paying for recruitment ads in the Weekly and to devote resources to something "a little more catchy," in the word of City Clerk Donna Grider ("We need to do something that grabs someone," Grider said). Councilman Sid Espinosa recommended improving the city's online application process for commission applicants. Councilmembers Karen Holman and Greg Schmid both voiced enthusiasm for holding a fair twice a year in which current commissioners would explain to potential volunteers what it takes to serve. Everyone agreed that commissioners play an important role in city life. "I'm absolutely delighted by the quality and diversity of people who we have to volunteer," Schmid said.

CLEANING IT UP ... Palo Alto's effort to purchase solar energy from local companies got off to an underwhelming start last year, when not a single applicant opted to participate in the newly created"Palo Alto CLEAN" (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now) program. Though a number of solar developers have expressed interest in the program, according to Utilities Department staff, not a single one had applied to date. Staff believes the price offered by the city — 14 cents per kilowatt for a 20-year contract — had something to do with this. This week, the council will consider whether to raise its offer to solar developers in hopes of sparking interest in this new "feed-in tariff" program. The City Council's Finance Committee recommended last month raising the price to 16.5 cents per kilowatt.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Oh, Lord, My God, I pray that these things never end,
The sand and the sea,
The rustle of the waters,
Lightning of the Heavens,
Klein on the Council...

(the potential commissioners who "don't have a prayer" can use this one if they are asked why they think they could be seated)

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2012 at 7:46 pm

And this cost the Palo Alto taxpayers how much????

Like this comment
Posted by Janet F
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm

This is a disgrace! We should not be having anything to do with China given that they poison our kids, and theirs, and don't even care. The violate human rights and commit atrocities on their own people, as well as Tibetans, every day.

This is why there are so many fresh off the boat Chinese here now, because their government steals the money of any successful small business and closes it down.
They have no freedom in their own country, so they escape to America.

We may as well have a partnership with Yemen or Syria, or even Nazi Germany, to be more accurate. A partnership with any Chinese city makes Palo Alto look bad.

What is Yiahwey Yeh, given his heritage, and who above others should know better, thinking??????????

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm

"This is why there are so many fresh off the boat Chinese here now"

Any numbers to back up your claims?

Like this comment
Posted by Janet F
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Look all around you, dear. Especially look at who is paying cash for houses here.

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