I believe the city council made a huge mistake in voting 6-1 to hire a consultant instead of a new city auditor. I was a senior performance auditor in the office of the city auditor for about seven years in the mid-2000s. I believe the debate about the future of the office over the last year has been a sham and an attempt to force out longtime employees because the most recent city auditor did not like them.
I have worked with two employees in the office and can vouch for their credibility and professionalism as auditors. They worked in the office many years, and there were no complaints about their competency. The suggestion on the Town Square (discussion forum) that staff caused prior city auditors to leave is simply false: No prior city auditor cited staff competency or efficiency as a problem.
A few days after I spoke at the finance committee in May, a City Council member asked me why the staff hadn't simply come to the City Council to complain. I explained that city staff members are told it is inappropriate and outside of protocol to speak directly to council members.
Why would employees disregard such warnings when they are not unionized and their jobs hang in the balance?
I left the auditing profession several years ago at my own choosing to pursue other interests. I am not interested in the city auditor position nor do I have any stake in this debate other than feeling compelled to defend an independent audit function and competent professionals who have been publicly maligned.
The biggest losers, ultimately, are Palo Alto residents who will no longer have the charter-mandated, in-house watchdog they voted to create.
Renata Khoshroo Louwers
Lombard Street, San Francisco
Standing with Jim Poppy
I have been following the conflicts between Castilleja School and the neighborhood as a Palo Alto resident interested in the future of our city. I am also a long time friend of Jim Poppy. The idea that Poppy could be a danger to anyone on the Castilleja campus is beyond ludicrous. It seems his only mistake is moving five signs in a moment of frustration, for which he has apologized and completed community service.
The situation has been blown far, far out of proportion. It seems this is because Poppy's is the only name Castilleja has. It also seems there is no believable reason to think Poppy is accountable for anything else.
Elsinore Drive, Palo Alto
Heat-pump water heaters explained
An article published on Feb.15 ("A new air-pollution solution") in the Palo Alto Weekly mentioned that Palo Alto Utilities is encouraging the use of heat-pump water heaters with a goal of minimizing greenhouse-gas emissions. The article quoted a utility program manager as stating that for every unit of energy input, you get three units of output.
The problem with this statement is the second law of thermodynamics: For an optimal heat pump — something not achievable in practice — this quantity is the hot-water temperature (measured from absolute zero) divided by the difference between the hot-water temperature and the temperature of the room in which the heater is located. As you increase that temperature difference, the performance drops. So, what makes sense in one home may not in another; some water heaters are located in unheated garages.
When Palo Alto Utilities sells you clean energy, what they really do is pay particular power plants. Less environmentally friendly plants contribute to the power grid too. Unfortunately, the atmosphere does not respond to whom you pay but rather to what goes into the air.
During the evening, the wind tends to die down and (obviously) there is no sunlight after sunset. If there are not enough geothermal and hydroelectric power plants or energy storage facilities (batteries, flywheels, etc.) to make up the difference, what is left will be ones that use fossil fuels. The efficiency of these is typically under 40 percent. As a result, you may end up dumping as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as you would if you used an efficient gas-powered water heater.
The best decision depends on the time of day during which these appliances are used and where these appliances would be located.
Clara Drive, Palo Alto
This story contains 722 words.
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