Tasty choices from El Salvador to Mexico WEEKEND | P.17 NOVEMBER 12, 2010 VOLUME 18, NO. 45
INSIDE: MOVIES | PAGE 20
Council adopts strategies early for 2011 city budget CITY STAFF COULD LOSE AUTOMATIC RAISES, PAY MORE FOR BENEFITS By Daniel DeBolt
Los Altos High School Senior Jack Montgomery shows the interior of a donated hard drive.
Students boot up classmates By Nick Veronin
wo local high school seniors are taking old, unwanted computers donated by the community, repairing essential components and software, and giving the machines to fellow students in need. The project, called Silicon for Society, began in the summer of
2009 in an effort to provide less fortunate students with the tools they need to succeed in a world where computer literacy is essential, cofounder Jack Montgomery said. As a freshman at Los Altos High School, Montgomery read about Eastern and European cultures in his World Studies class. He was introduced to foreign customs and took in images and artwork
from places he had never been. However, even as Montgomery buried his nose in texts detailing the idiosyncrasies of faraway lands, he was astonished to learn of a community much closer to home — a community which lived in a manner entirely alien him. “I didn’t know that there was anybody who didn’t have a comSee LAPTOPS, page 8
Preschool parents oppose cell tower atop church By Daniel DeBolt
ountain View’s First Presbyterian Church has proposed putting a cell phone tower on its roof, but the parents of a preschool on the property aren’t happy about it. The zoning administrator is set to rule on the proposal on Wednesday at 4 p.m., after the Voice goes to press. The First Presbyterian Church at the corner of Miramonte and
Cuesta streets has proposed a slew of wireless antennae devices on its roof to be enclosed in a new steeple. Parents of the Little Acorn preschool, located next door on the church’s property, are concerned about exposing 70 or so children to what may be cancer-causing radiation. As of noon on Wednesday 57 people signed an online petition in opposition, and 15 others have signed the paper version.
Parents have only recently learned about the proposal and started circulating the petition two days ago, said parent W. Tsang. “People are concerned about radiation,” she said. “Does the community really want this or need this or can it be explored somewhere else?” While the church may make money from leasing the space to Clear Wireless LLC, Tsang said the See CELL TOWER, page 6
GOINGS ON 21 | MARKETPLACE 22 | REAL ESTATE 25 | VIEWPOINT 16
major issue in this year’s council election, the City Council touched on the issue of reining in the cost of city employee compensation Tuesday as the City Council unanimously adopted a set of mid- and long-term budget strategies. While the city’s tax revenues for its $88 million general fund have remained flat in recent years, the rising cost of employee pay raises, health care and pension costs have brought on new deficits every year as city employee salaries are 80 percent of the city budget. On Tuesday finance director Patty Kong said that a recent actuarial report showed the cost of giving pensions to retired employees would increase by $5 million over three years. Having the city’s pension costs increase by “$2 million, two years in a row, is a significant challenge,” said City Manager Kevin Duggan. With all of the city’s unions’ contracts expiring over the next two years, council members said that the automatic pay raises guaranteed in multi-year union contracts in better economic times would probably have to go. “In previous years automatic COLAs (cost of living adjustments) added $3 to $5 million to our annual budget,” said council member Laura Macias. “We need to be more careful about what we guarantee,” said council member Tom Means. As an economics professor at San Jose State University, Means said his union contract made pay raises dependent on state funding, implying that the city should give pay raises depending on whether or not tax revenues allow it. Other possibilities include asking the city’s unions to share more
of the cost of health insurance and pension benefits, something they already do to some extent. On top of re-examining employee compensation, other strategies adopted by the council to be implemented over the next year include an evaluation of alternative ways to operate the city’s moneylosing golf course, examining the possibility of sharing services with other cities such as animal control and emergency communications services, and a look at ways to save money with the city’s vehicle fleet. The city will also consider a maintenance district for Castro Street that would assess a tax on See CITY BUDGET, page 6
High school district plans WiFi upgrade By Nick Veronin
he local high school district is laying the groundwork for what it predicts to be an increasingly wireless future. Citing the burgeoning use of handheld electronics, such as smart phones and tablet computers like Apple’s iPad, Steve Hope of the Mountain ViewLos Altos Union High School District said he hopes to begin installing a next-generation WiFi network on all three district campuses as early as next month. “What I see happening, at See MVLA WIFI, page 6
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