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Los Altos mentioned in Obama’s speech to children

September 8, 2009

If you heard President Obama’s speech to kids today, you might have done an auditory double take to hear Los Altos, California mentioned.

The student mentioned this morning was, Andoni Schultz, who graduated Homestead this past June despite having brain cancer since age 3. Here is a profile by the Merc .


The summer of our non-content: Part II

September 6, 2009

One of my chief regrets about studying for the bar exam is that I didn’t have time to properly address the staff turnover at the Town Crier this summer.  Say what you will about Best Of Mountain View; at least when the Voice gives people free advertising, it writes the material itself.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention at this point that I once applied for a job with the Town Crier.  For my audition, I was assigned to write a profile of a gimmicky barber for children called Just Kids.  Despite writing what I considered to be some topnotch fluff, and being told I had a “winning attitude,” I did not get the job.  I was later told that the publisher had decreed that I would be too controversial).

This summer, the Town Crier was once again hiring.  I unfortunately was unable to apply.  But the paper still had to fill its news pages while being short-staffed.  The Daily News-esque “Discover Los Altos” campaign was enough to fill the editorial pages.  Press releases from the publisher’s South Peninsula Area Republican Coalition again helped fill the inside news pages.  And, in the coup-de-grace, the paper ran a front-page story about the police department from none other than the police department itself.  It’s hard to imagine what a newspaper could do to better caricature itself, but I’m sure the Town Crier will think of something

The summer of our non-content: Part I

September 6, 2009

After the second move in less than a month, blog headquarters have semi-permanently relocated to San Francisco.  I didn’t post much over the summer, given the fact that “I was blogging” is just about the worst excuse I can think of for failing the bar exam.

The Voice did some great work this summer, and it gets points for admitting its mistake in giving free advertising to a violent pyramid scheme.  On the other hand, it also just came out with its “Best Of Mountain View.”  Best Ofs are like a less useful version of Yelp, much as classified ads are to Craigslist.  However, unlike classifieds, local papers everywhere continue to run these contests as an annual paean to advertisers.  It’s patently unfair to pick on the Voice for this, since so many papers do these things.  But a lot of businesses are about to start promoting themselves as if the award means something, so here we go….

Often, categories in these contests are created specifically for an individual business, like “best small (non-chain) grocery store” (Congratulations, Milk Pail).  But even if it weren’t such an outdated and untrustworthy process, it would still be somewhat of a silly concept, as few customers visit enough, say, dentists in a given year to vote knowledgeably as to which is best.

Ballot-stuffing campaigns characterize these competitions, as businesses seek out free advertising.  The results can be rather amusing.  I once voted in the SF Bay Guardian reader poll to help my cousin’s t-shirt company win the competition to be named San Francisco’s “best art collective,” despite the fact that I lived in LA at the time and had never patronized a single art collective in SF.  This year the “best yoga studio” in Mountain View is actually a bookshop, the “best new business” is an old one, and the best new restaurant in Mountain View is an existing one in Los Altos.

It was this last feature that really set off some commenters on the Voice website.  Non-Mountain View businesses Chef Chu’s, the Linden Tree, Armadillo Willy’s, Watercourse Way, and Esther’s German Bakery were all named as best Mountain View businesses.  Not everybody appreciated that.  A sampling of readers’ comments:

  • “The paper should be called the Los Alto[s] Voice if they can’t find anything more to print about Mtn. View”
  • “MV Voice is too often promoting Palo Alto, Los Altos etc.”
  • “makes no sense”
  • “How pathetic!!!!!Looks like NO ONE PROOFREAD. Pretty unprofessional.”
  • (And, my favorite, from the same reader, after finding out it wasn’t a mistake). “ARE YOU SERIOUS?????????? … This contest doesn’t mean anything to me now.”

Don has once again been valiantly trying to calm the commenting rabble, but to no avail.  (“Don’t try to twist this back to me,” writes one).  Unfortunately, things are only going to get worse in the near future.

Admittedly, this is all “pretty minor stuff” (as my girlfriend told me).  And in Part II, we’ll see once again that anything the Voice can do wrong, the Town Crier can do wronger.

Look South, Obama

August 21, 2009

So, Mexico has beaten us in the common sense game as it looks to decriminalize posession of small amounts of drugs. When is this Great Administration of “Change” going to wake up and come to the same realization?  Hopefully, we won’t have to experience the brutality that Mexico has to come to the same common sense conclusion. Check out the entire story here.

A “revelation” about downtown Los Altos parking policy

August 12, 2009

I’m quite glad I didn’t think too hard about the local news this summer while I was studying for the bar exam.  Something like this might have made my head explode.

Free parking: At what cost?: Rethinking use of downtown could reverse economic fortunes

I know what you’re thinking: “Finally.”

The article buries the lead, waiting until the eleventh paragraph to mention the supposed “revelation” that “free parking is a problem that thwarts economic growth.”  I’m not sure how revelatory it is when Donald Shoup has been saying this for decades (and I’ve been echoing him for years).  What is revelatory, however, is that such a rational idea might get any traction at all in Los Altos.  Kudos to the Sorensen brothers and Bruce Barton for raising the issue.

Shoup (pronounced like the common and wrong pronunciation of the park) argues that cities that require business to provide free parking force those businesses to make up the price by raising the prices of their goods and services.  This means that customers, including those of us who walk, bike, or take transit, subsidize solo drivers.  These requirements generate more and more parking spaces, making driving convenient and walking and biking unpleasant and less safe.

Shoup describes the requirements as “a fertility drug for cars.”  He advocates investing the revenue from the parking into beautification of the surrounding area.  Neighborhoods such as Old Pasadena have tried this and met with great success.  Redwood City has been experimenting with it, but too tentatively to draw any conclusions one way or another.  San Francisco is about to embrace it.  In contrast, Mountain View is still doing stuff like this.

Opponents, unsurprisingly including Council member Ron Packard, respond that … well, it’s not really clear that it’s actually a response, but he doesn’t like it.

“I think it’s a very bad idea,” said Los Altos City Councilman Ron Packard, a member of the downtown development committee. “Our two major competitors are Stanford Shopping Center and Santana Row, and they have free parking. (Meters) would draw people away from Los Altos.”

Los Altos and Mountain View both levy taxes on businesses according to the parking “formulas” (junk science originally propagated by the American Planning Association completely oblivious to what the demand curve for a free good typically looks like).  Those taxes cause the price of goods to increase and makes the atmosphere less enjoyable because of all the cars.  If Packard or anyone else can explain why that makes us more competitive with Stanford and Santana Row, I’m all ears.

Nine reasons to support our village’s surveillance system

June 9, 2009

In an effort to take a bite out of crime, the Los Altos City Council, as reported by the Merc, was scheduled to vote tonight on a video surveillance system consisting of 10-20 cameras throughout downtown Los Altos.  As of press time, the proposal looked likely to fail, with a crestfallen Ron Packard predicting the city council would not advance his dystopian police state.

This would be tragic.

Here are the nine reasons that I support our village’s surveillance system:

9. Someone has to challenge Town Tube’s monopoly on incredibly boring Los Altos video
8. They will add hours of footage for future “best of” Jon and Kevin Buurma clip reel
7. No more gay pride parades, because gays hate being on camera
6. This wasteful expenditure will distract residents from the $100 million the city’s planning to waste on the new civic center
4. Our 40-foot swath of lawn chairs on State Street will be safe from vandals this fall
3. Happy will no longer need to bring his shiv when cutting through Consignment Center alley during 2am Safeway runs.
2. There are acres of possibilities: a lot can go wrong.
1. Upskirts

Notable LAHS alumni who have yet to make the school’s Wikipedia page

June 3, 2009

Did you know that both NBC11 sports anchor Raj Mathai and Christian rocker Billy Rush Masters are Los Altos High grads?  If not, I have some news for you: they are.

But what is Scott Levin-Gesundheit, “2007 U.S. Presidential Scholar,” doing next to them on the Wikipedia list of notable LAHS alumni?  No offense to my sister, who won one in 1995, but is there a single reader not related to the Wiener family who even knows what that means?  Surely we can come up with some more notable alumni than that.  I’ll get us started:

  • Matt Pear, former Mountain View City Council member
  • Oscar Garcia, CEO, Mountain View Chamber of Commerce and founder, Mesa de la Comunidad
  • Erik Buurma, Eagle Egg award winner, 1998
  • Matthew “Bubba” Wiener, President, Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, UCLA chapter
  • Smiley, crazy homeless veteran
  • David Grewal, author
  • Drew Grewal, international textile and burrito merchant
  • Mischa Djordevic, this guy

I’m sure I’m leaving some people out, so please chip in with your own suggestions.