Vol. XXXII, Number 49ÊUÊ-i«ÌiLiÀÊ]ÊÓä££ÊN xäZ
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Palo Altans work through the lessons they’ve learned from 9/11 Page 22
Eating Out 20
N Arts Windy Hill: young, traditional bluegrass band
N Sports Stanford hosts NCAA champions
N Home Garden club cultivates friendships, service
Packard Pediatric Weight Control Program
Packard Children’s Hospital
Center for Healthy Weight
Parents & Families
Stanford School of Medicine
TOGETHER WE HELP KIDS CHANGE THE WAY THEY SEE THEMSELVES, ONE POUND AT A TIME.
Sam Feldman got healthier working with the internationally recognized pediatric weight loss program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. By taking the best science about weight loss in children and making it work with real-world families, we help kids change the way they look, feel and think. As Sam’s weight and body mass index declined, his self-conﬁdence skyrocketed. And the number he’s most proud of isn’t on the scale: it’s the seven-minute mile he ran in gym – half his previous time. With healthy habits and everyday strategies, Sam is on the right track for life. To learn more about the Packard Pediatric Weight Control Program, visit pediatricweightcontrol.lpch.org or call 650 -725- 4424.
Local news, information and analysis
Legalized marijuana wafts toward Palo Alto ballot Ballot initiative to allow three pot dispensaries gathers needed signatures, heads to City Council by Gennady Sheyner arijuana dispensaries could sprout at up to three Palo Alto locations, if the City Council or voters were to approve an ordinance legalizing medical marijuana within city limits. A citizens group has gathered
more than enough signatures to put the issue on the city ballot, City Clerk Donna Grider told the Weekly. The success of the signature drive means the council must either adopt the proposed ordinance or bring it to the voters some
time next year. Initiative supporters argue in the petition that legalizing and taxing marijuana dispensaries would be both humane and financially lucrative. The proposed ordinance would “allow our neighbors, who are seriously or terminally ill, to legally and safely obtain marijuana near their home, if they have the approval of their physician,” the petition states. “Terminally ill patients, many of
whom are elderly, are faced with a Hobson’s choice of buying marijuana illegally or traveling many miles to a city that has a dispensary,” the petition reads. The drive is led by former Ronald Reagan adviser Thomas Gale Moore and Cassandra Chrones Moore, a policy analyst at the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute. Under the proposed ordinance, operators of marijuana dispensa-
ries would pay $10,000 for their permits and pay a 4 percent tax for every dollar of their gross receipts. The dispensaries would also have to pay $10,000 every year to have their permits renewed. Proponents note in their petition that San Jose’s medical-marijuana ordinance brought the city $290,000 in revenues in its first month and urge Palo Alto officials to pass a (continued on page 8)
From fear to friendship ‘National Invite Your Neighbors to Dinner Day’ aims to foster understanding by Sue Dremann or 10 years since the Sept. 11 attacks, Samina Faheem Sundas has opened her Palo Alto home and her heart to her fellow Americans with the goal of building “a beloved community.” A Pakistani immigrant, naturalized American citizen and Sunni Muslim, Sundas said she saw her fellow Americans — people she did not know — express hatred toward her as a result of Sept. 11. “It was just a very rude awakening for me. I realized at that moment the place I call home, the nation I adopted, the people I think of as my own, have just kicked me out. That day, I became ‘the other,’” she said. But Sundas, 57, found her life’s work in the rubble of the disaster. Sundas started holding dinners in her home to help her neighbors and people of faith overcome the fear of “the other.” Her efforts have neither gone unnoticed nor unrewarded. She received the 2007 Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith peace organization, for her open houses and for founding American Muslim Voice, a nonprofit that brings people of different backgrounds together to learn about each other. On Oct. 2, Sundas, together with American Muslim Voice and dozens of interfaith groups, will host “National Invite Your Neighbors to Dinner Day.” The event encourages Americans to lessen religious and cultural tensions by inviting someone of a different background over for dinner, she said. The event, part of the “From Fear to Friendship” campaign, was announced at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on March 28. It was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (D-
A fine romance Seated on a new bench carved out of a felled, century-old eucalyptus tree at the College Terrace Library, Mark Mueller reads a fairy tale to his wife, Sarah Griffin Mueller. Mueller hand-wrote the book, “Princess and the Mule,” a year ago based on the couple’s own story — and used it to propose. The Muellers celebrated their anniversary by rereading the story.
Fire union reignites battle against ballot measure Firefighters reopen their ‘unfair labor practice’ charge against city; seek to block labor-reform measure by Gennady Sheyner fter a brief respite, Palo Alto’s firefighters union on Wednesday renewed its legal battle against the city and resurrected its quest to keep a labor-reform measure off the November ballot. The union, International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1319, last month filed an “unfair labor
practices” charge against the city with the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), arguing that the council acted unlawfully in not conferring with the union before deciding to place a repeal of binding arbitration before city voters. Measure D, which the council approved in July by a 5-4 vote, seeks to repeal
a 33-year-old law that empowers a panel of arbitrators to settle labor disputes between the city and its public-safety workers. The union had also requested on Aug. 1 an injunction that would keep Measure D from the ballot. Days after filing the complaint and requesting the injunction, union leaders agreed to shelve both in hopes that the council would reopen negotiations with the unions and consider less drastic reforms to the binding-arbitration process. But this past Tuesday night, before the council retreated into a closed session to discuss the union’s legal challenge, union President Tony Spitaleri urged the council to consider a settlement proposal from the labor board, a proposal that he declined to discuss in detail but that he said
would postpone the election until June 2012 and give the city and the union a chance to draft an ordinance that would be acceptable to all. On Wednesday, when it became clear that the council would not reschedule the election, the union resumed its legal challenge and asked the court once again to consider its request for an injunction. The labor board is expected to consider the request for injunction immediately and issue a response within a few days of the request, City Attorney Molly Stump said. Spitaleri on Wednesday criticized the city’s decision to place the binding-arbitration repeal on the November ballot, saying in a statement that the “City Council has thrown fair(continued on page 7)
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
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We should not wait for a disaster to come to find out whoâ€™s who. â€” Samina Faheem Sundas, a Sunni Muslim and U.S. citizen, on why she created â€˜National Invite Your Neighbors to Dinner Day.â€™ See story on page 3.
Around Town BRAIN DRAIN ... Palo Alto likes its retired city workers â€” so much so, that it rehires them at a higher rate than any other city in Santa Clara County. According to a recent report from the county, 5.7 percent of the cityâ€™s employees are people who retired and were then rehired (for other cities in the county, the average was 1.6 percent). The practice of rehiring retired workers faced some scrutiny after newspaper reports found some instances of employees â€œdouble dippingâ€? by retiring, cashing out all their vacations and bonuses, and then returning to work while continuing to collect their pension. But the countyâ€™s Civil Grand Jury recently issued a report on the matter and found that in most cases, rehiring retirees â€œappears to be a prudent way to secure highly skilled talent for short-term tasks at a relatively low cost to economically strapped municipalities and does not in itself appear to be a barrier to hiring new workers.â€? In Palo Alto, the rehiring of retirees is particularly popular for several reasons. With revenues falling, the city has been shaving away at workersâ€™ benefits and instituting new requirements for employees to share medical and pension costs. These factors led many employees to retire over the past two years, leaving â€œa rapid and unprecedented municipal â€˜brain drainâ€™,â€? according to a report from Human Resources Assistant Michele Dallara. The cityâ€™s plummeting tax revenues also threw a wrench into the cityâ€™s â€œsuccession planningâ€? by forcing the council to trim positions instead of creating training plans. The city, according to Dallaraâ€™s report, faced a â€œsignificant exodus of workers with expertise and institutional knowledgeâ€? and ended up rehiring retirees for such positions as deputy fire chief, police investigators and managers in Public Works, Planning and Community Environment, and Human Resources. The City Council is scheduled to approve the staff response to the grand jury report on Monday night. BEYOND THE BORDERS ... When Borders Books announced in July its plans to close all stores by September, Palo Altoâ€™s theater lovers saw the local storeâ€™s impending departure as a perfect opportu-
nity to restore the building to the theater it once was. These hopes were dealt a blow last week, when representatives of the building owner, Charles â€œChopâ€? Keenan, submitted plans to convert most of the building to office space. According to Thomas Fehrenbach, the cityâ€™s economic-development manager, the plan calls for offices on the second floor and on 25 percent of the ground floor of the prominent two-story building on University Avenue and Waverley Street. Fehrenbach wrote in a letter to the City Council that his office has put together a brochure about the property at 456 University Ave. and has reached out to various people in the theater and performing arts communities. The new brochure calls the building â€œideal for theater useâ€? and lauds its â€œhigh foot trafficâ€? and proximity to Caltrain and Stanford. So far, he said, there have been no formal proposals from the theater community. HANDS OFF ... A proposal by State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, to add penalties for drivers who text behind the wheel hit a legislative wall this week when Gov. Jerry Brown decided to veto it. The proposal, Senate Bill 29, would have raised fines and added a â€œpointâ€? on the driving records of motorists who text while driving or who talk on their cell pones without hands-free devices. The bill would have raised fines for those who text while driving to $50 for first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses. When court fees and other penalties are entered into the equation, repeat offenders would have to pay more than $500. Though Simitian asserted that the new bill would reduce collisions and save lives, Brown vetoed the bill, saying the current laws suffice. Simitian, who authored three previous laws targeting distracted drivers, called the veto a â€œlost opportunity to save more lives.â€? He said he would review Brownâ€™s veto message to see if thereâ€™s any room for compromise. â€œIâ€™m disappointed, but the Governor gets the last word,â€? Simitian said in a statement. â€œI understand and accept that. My job now is to figure out where do we go from here.â€? N
Foundation aims for longer school day New Ravenswood director links classroom hours, higher scores by Chris Kenrick tight focus on academics has slowly but surely boosted test scores in East Palo Alto schools. The kids and teachers have worked hard â€” but Renu Nanda thinks outside volunteers deserve some small credit as well. Nanda, a lawyer and resident of Menlo Park, is the new executive director of the Ravenswood Education Foundation, which has raised more than $3 million in its four-year history and brokered outside assistance for the hardscrabble Ravenswood City School District. The district serves 3,800 K-8 children from East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park. Longer school days and summer academies have been top funding priorities for the foundation â€” â€œincreased learning time is one of those things that we know works,â€? Nanda said. The Ravenswood district celebrated a 79-point gain â€” from 636 to 715 â€” over three years in its Academic Performance Index (API), released last week. That may not compare to Palo Altoâ€™s 926, but itâ€™s progress for a district where 80 percent of children are considered low-income; about twothirds are still learning English; and 30 percent every year are brand-new enrollees. Four schools â€” Brentwood, Cesar Chavez, Costano and Willow Oaks â€” exceeded the median API score for other California schools with similar demographics. One school, James Flood, precisely hit the median. Three others â€” Belle Haven, Green Oaks and McNair â€” came in below the median API score for similar schools. â€œHaving great schools is an incre-
mental process, and it takes a long time,â€? Nanda said in an interview in her small office at Ravenswood district headquarters. â€œWeâ€™re showing that we can do it, but itâ€™s still a community of high need. Less than half the parents are high school graduates in this district â€” compared to the three-quarters in surrounding communities that have graduate degrees.â€? Nanda first came to the foundation as a board member more than two years ago and has chaired the development committee and served as board vice-president. She previously worked at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Low Income Investment Fund in San Francisco. In August she took over the Ravenswood foundationâ€™s executive post from founding director Charley Scandlyn, formerly a pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, who has returned to the church staff. The Menlo Park Presbyterian congregation has generated major financial and volunteer power for Ravenswood schools, particularly during the churchâ€™s â€œCompassion Weekendâ€? each spring, which brings out thousands. â€œWeâ€™ve had volunteers in the classroom, volunteers adopting classrooms, a whole teacher-appreciation initiative. Thereâ€™s a lot of community support,â€? Nanda said. The foundationâ€™s website lists additional broad-based support from local corporations and foundations, as well as from 700 individual donors. â€œWeâ€™re trying to bridge the desire of the community to help â€” with all the resources it can bring to bear â€” with the needs of the district,â€? Nanda said. â€œThe district staff is busy educating, teaching, leading, running schools.
When you have an outside company that says, â€˜Hey, weâ€™d like to do something,â€™ itâ€™s good to make it easy for them.â€? Besides adding class- Renu Nanda room hours for Ravenswood students, top foundation goals are promoting parent involvement and helping eighth-graders transition to high school. The foundation last year hired a â€œparent-outreach coordinatorâ€? for the district, and more than 500 district parents have donated to the foundation, Nanda said. The eighth-grade transition project is still in the planning stages. Since the closure of Ravenswood High School 35 years ago, Ravenswood students have had to split up for high school, fanning out to MenloAtherton, Woodside and Carlmont. Rumors of high dropout rates abound, but reliable data is hard to come by since the high school district does not track the scattered Ravenswood students as a group. â€œOur next frontier is how our children are doing in high school, and whether theyâ€™re succeeding in high school and beyond,â€? Nanda said. â€œWeâ€™ve supported good teachers, excellent administrators and engaged parents, and Iâ€™m confident our (standardized test) scores will continue to go up.â€? N Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly. com.