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Sidewalk Interview Which activity do you avoid during the summer? (Asked in downtown Los Altos)

No food on the table, so bite the bullet

By Mary Beth Hislop


all me jaded, but I find it curious that one branch of the U.S. government last week managed to pull the food of hope from the table of more than 1 million Americans while another branch replaced it with a bowl of bullets by reiterating our right to possess handguns. Before recessing for summer break, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate rejected a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits for those whose regular 26 weeks of state-paid benefits have expired – benefits that would have provided weekly payments of $335 through November to people struggling in a nation that has lost more than 8 million jobs. Instead, 200,000 people each week will lose already-extended benefits – a paycheck that doesn’t quite pay the rent but at least puts food on the table. Citing concern over the ballooning budget deficit, Republicans blocked the extension’s passage in both houses of Congress. House Democrats estimated that more than 1 million unemployed people have exhausted benefits altogether, and recent data from the Department of Labor reveal that new jobless claims are higher for the third week in a row. But, hey, in a 5-4 decision divided along the conservative and liberal ideologies of the Supreme Court, justices upheld an individual’s right to possess handguns under the Second Amendment, striking down several cities’ laws that banned them. In their arguments before the court, lawyers for petitioners Otis McDonald, Adam Orlov, Colleen Larson and David Larson – all Chicago residents – argued that a city law enacted in 2009 mandating firearms’ registration effectively banned handguns, and was therefore unconstitutional.

“If I see innocent and law-abiding citizens on the streets with guns, I’ll be safe,” McDonald told a reporter. “I’ll feel safe because they’re not going out there breaking the law.” Personally, I’d much rather see anyone on the street carrying a bag of groceries than a loaded gun. Never mind that “a gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense,” according to a 1998 report in the Journal of Trauma. Never mind that in spite of gun controls, 40 percent of American households with children had firearms, according to the American Journal of Public Health in April 2004. And ignore the numbers that indicate that children under 15 commit suicide at 11 times the rate of children in other countries when guns are in the home. Equally grievous are the statistics that correlate unemployment and monetary issues with suicide. The unemployed are two to four times more likely to kill themselves, according to the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of Suicidology. Losing a home, too, is associated with an individual’s risk for suicide. If people lose their homes and possessions to unemployment, what is left for them to protect? If a person cannot find employment to provide food and shelter for self and family, what life is left to value and protect? If a nation cannot provide for the citizens who support it, what need for government? The conclusion is clear yet clouded. The people we elect to represent us don’t value the basic needs of the people. And the people they appoint and confirm to oversee the judicial system uphold a skewed set of values. Mary Beth Hislop is a Town Crier staff writer. E-mail her at

All of the Above

Schoolwork. I have to read a book for a history class and I’m not too excited about it. Savanna Thompson Cupertino

I feel like I’m avoiding my college applications. I have a few on my computer I haven’t even looked at. I’d rather be at the beach or swimming. Susannah More Los Altos

I avoid waking up early. If I can, I’ll sleep until 11:30 a.m. because I don’t have to get up for school. Julia Mandeberg Los Altos

I avoid worrying about anything I’ll do tomorrow. Katie Halliday Los Altos

I can’t think of anything. It’s a time to get out and play soccer and cook out. I’m from New York and we get a lot of snow. We take full advantage of the sun. Aubri Myers Patterson, N.Y.

I avoid being outside in the direct sunlight. When California gets those warm days, I just don’t like the heat. Geneva Smith Sunnyvale

Interviews and photos by Mary Beth Hislop

LETTERS From Page 8

again, money and greed take control. The brilliant bean counters figured out a way to destroy our noble efforts and make a profit. If you have the bucks, you can use the special money lane. If you don’t have the bucks, you drive with the slow traffic in the poor people’s lane. How fair is this? Is this discrimination or what? What does this do for pollution? What does this say for our values and priorities? I am very disappointed in our decision makers. Myra Orta Los Altos

Highlander owner reports apparent flaw I was involved in a horrifying incident last week when I could not stop my Toyota Highlander. I have had my car for eight years and it is not one of the recalled models. My car is still parked here and it is not in driving condition. It is only safe to turn it on when it is in

park, because the engine races out of control and the gas pedal seems to be stuck down. I have contacted the dealership but seem to be getting the runaround. I firmly believe that the public needs to know about the risk of driving these cars. Since I am here to tell about it, I think it is my duty to do so. Zahra Emami Los Altos

Undergrounding costs less than PG&E estimates In response to the recent letter by Bob Johnson, (“Free to underground, but who will pay?,” Town Crier, June 16), we would like to clarify the costs associated with the new policy framework adopted by the Los Altos Hills City Council at the May 20 meeting. By now you may have noticed the lack of overhead wires at the Little League Fields on Purissima and along Byrne Preserve on Altamont. Having completed our two 20A pilot projects, the town now has hard data on the cost of undergrounding in our rural area, and the figures have come in far

below PG&E estimates, which varied considerably but averaged approximately $400 per linear foot. Based on the results of the pilot project, we believe a more accurate cost estimate for Los Altos Hills undergrounding projects is $170 per linear foot. This includes burying electrical, cable and phone lines. Additionally, we recently learned from a PG&E representative that all resident-funded undergrounding projects longer than 600 feet would qualify for a special rebate from PG&E equal to the cost of a new overhead system. This would lower the net cost to approximately $100 per linear foot. The Undergrounding Committee recently completed a procedural guide to help residents form their own undergrounding districts and obtain attractive financing. Please check with Karen Jost, city clerk, to obtain a copy of the new guidelines. Let’s start getting rid of those wires. Dean Warshawsky, Los Altos Hills City Councilman

July 7, 2010 / Los Altos Town Crier / Page 9


CNPA Better Newspapers Contest 2010 Columns (2 columns-same person) July 7, 2010

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