Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Electing East Palo Alto's new mayor

After a spirited series of discussions that took place over several months, the East Palo Alto City Council modified Resolution 738 which specified how the mayor of East Palo Alto should be selected.

Some thought the resolution stipulated that the position of mayor would rotate annually and go to the next city council member who had not previously served as mayor. If this interpretation had prevailed, then City Council Member Peter Evans would have automatically become mayor. But, at its meeting on Tuesday, November 20, the East Palo Alto City Council ended the debate. By a 4 to 1 vote, the council took away any confusion about the resolution by modifying it to state that the new mayor would be elected by the majority vote of the council.

So, at its last meeting on Tuesday, December 4, the East Palo Alto City Council elected by a 3 to 2 vote Vice Mayor Patricia Foster as East Palo Alto's new mayor. City Council Member Donna Rutherford was elected as the city's new vice mayor.

Given the long debate over the issue, do you approve of the changes the East Palo Alto City Council made to Resolution 738? Do you believe that the vice mayor or the council member who has not served as mayor should automatically become mayor or do you think the city council should elect as mayor the council member who gets the most votes?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Is a civilian review board necessary?

On Tuesday, October 2, a recommendation was made during the East Palo Alto City Council meeting to create a civilian review board in East Palo Alto. It was said that a board composed of East Palo Alto residents who had civilian oversight of the police department would give the department greater transparency, would create a safer environment for residents and police officers who file complaints against the police and would foster more trust for the police. This body would be appropriate for the city, it was said, since a similar body existed in East Palo Alto previously.

Given the “Chat with the Chief” meetings that East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis holds in the city, the monthly community beat meetings that take place throughout the city, the recent policies and programs designed to improve the East Palo Alto Police Department’s relations with the community, and the reduced crime rate within the city, do you think a civilian review board is necessary? Would civilian oversight of the police department improve the police’s effectiveness and lead to more trust and cooperation between the residents and the police? Tell us what you think.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

On July 3, the East Palo Alto City Council voted to allocate $45,000 to the East Palo Alto Boxing Club, a nonprofit organization within the city that teaches boxing skills to the city’s youth. The organization also encourages its young participants to set personal goals, maintain high standards and stay out of trouble.

When the city council agreed to allocate the money to the boxing club, it requested that the city’s staff provide the council with potential funding sources from which to take the money. At the council's evening meeting on July 17, the staff suggested three city funded areas: the fund for children and seniors, the technology fund and the council’s budget allocation fund.

One resident remarked, during a community forum after the suggestions were made, that if the council followed through on the suggestions, then it would be robbing Peter to pay Paul, since the boxing club’s funding would be taken from other city programs.

So, we’d like to know whether you think the council should take the money that it plans to give to the boxing program from other funded programs. If the council does what the staff suggested, would it, in fact, be robbing Peter to pay Paul?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Making Community Improvements

Is it hard to make major community improvements? The Hewlett Foundation recently released a report that said it is. The report covers the foundations' 10 year, $20 million effort, through its Neighborhood Improvement Initiative (NII), to bring substantial improvements to three local low-income communities: West Oakland, East Palo Alto and the Mayfair area of East San Jose.

The NII was "an ambitious effort" that was designed to bring community change by reducing poverty and developing new leaders, better services, more capable organizations, and stronger connections to resources. One of the report's conclusions is that the effort to bring community change is not for everyone or for every foundation. The report stated, "Some will find the work too messy, politically charged an/or hard to assess."

Do you agree with the report's findings? Is it hard to bring lasting community changes without a lot of strife and political infighting?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The East Palo Alto Levee is fixed!

photo by Mike Alexander, MPact News 2003

It has been a project that has been underway for years. Now the East Palo Alto Levee has been repaired. After last year’s winter storms left a 37 foot crack in the levee, the East Palo Alto City Council declared a local emergency and called upon the Governor of California and the U.S. Government to provide financial and technological assistance to get the levee repaired. Officials feared that further breaks in the levee during a major storm would put one third of East Palo
under water.

In announcing that the levee repairs are now complete, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo said, "I'm thrilled that the repairs are finished and that the residents of East Palo Alto are now better protected from catastrophic flooding."

Are you relieved to hear that the levee has been repaired? Did the break in the levee and the state of emergency that was declared worry you in anyway? Did you fear that the worst would happen? Or, do you think the work should have been done sooner?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Do poverty programs cause more poverty?

In the East Palo Alto City Council meeting held on May 1, City Council member Peter Evans said that he did not support the existence of nonprofit programs in East Palo Alto that feed the hungry and help the poor. He said that these programs cause the people who use them to become dependent upon them.

In Mr. Evans' words, " As long as we support nonprofits saving us, we will never be saved." Do you agree with Council member Evans? Do you think poverty programs lead people into poverty by creating the very problems that they are designed to solve?

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Bible as literature in local schools

Some people support introducing the Bible in English classes as required reading. They think it should be taught as a part of the Bible Literacy Project. The Project has created a text called, “The Bible and Its Influence,” which looks at the Bible within an historical context. Some of the project's supporters, like Chester Palesoo, who is a member of the Ravenswood City School Board in East Palo Alto, say that if the Bible is taught in the classroom, then students would be taught morals and such teachings would cut down on violence within the community

Others fear that bringing the Bible into the classroom would encourage some teachers to use it as part of a Christian agenda. Still others think the Bible as literature can be taught without a religious agenda behind it.

What do you think? Do you think the Bible should be taught as literature? Do you think, if the Bible is taught as literature, then the Holy Books from other religions should also be taught?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Will Imus' firing make a difference?

Talk show host Don Imus was denounced for his demeaning comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team and fired by CBS. Will his firing serve notice to others that sexist and racist statements will not be tolerated in the media?

Since his firing, more attention is being focused on rap artists for similar comments that they make? Should the public now express the same kind of outrage, that was expressed toward Imus, at music studios for producing and distributing lyrics that are just as insulting and demeaning to women, in general, and to black women, in particular?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Were you concerned?

Redwood City’s scrap yard fire Saturday sent a plume of smoke into the air that could be smelled up and down the Peninsula from Millbrae to South San Jose. A telephone alert sent out to 16,000 area residents from several city police and fire departments warned people who were susceptible to breathing problems to stay indoors until the smoke from the fire dissipated. Were you concerned by all of the smoke? Do you think more should have been done by local emergency services?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Friday Nights: " At the Movies"

Tonight it is Friday Nights: "At the Movies." Next Friday there will be a TV taping at the Media Center in Palo Alto called, "How to Get Out of the Game," which was a very popular workshop during the Teen Summit this past March.

The Friday night events are the idea of the Peace and Unity Coalition to give the youth in East Palo Alto something to do. Marina Latu, one of the Peace March organizers said that several students showed up at one of their coalition meetings with a suggested list of things that they would like to see for young people in the community. “We chose Friday nights,” Marina said, “because the youth said that there are a lot of programs during the day, but nothing on Friday nights. We, definitely, want to get the kids off of the streets.”

We think the Friday night events are a good idea. What do you think? Can you think of other events and activities that you would like to add for the youth in the community?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Would you like to be a community journalist?

Are you interested in writing? Would you like to attend meetings and submit a written or videotaped report? Do you take pictures of events in the community? If your answer is yes to any of the above, then we’d like to talk with you. East Palo Alto Today is interested in training and working with more community journalists.

You can be a community journalist if you have an idea for a story. For example, if there is an issue in your neighborhood, in a community organization or in your place of employment, and you’d like to see the idea written as an article in EPA Today, then contact us. You probably know of someone in the community who has a new job, is being promoted, celebrating a special birthday or a special anniversary. We’d like to hear about that, too.

There is even another option. You might know someone who may be interested in being a community journalist for the paper. It could be a relative or friend who takes pictures and has a good eye for capturing people and places. Ask them to send us their pictures. We’ll print them in East Palo Alto Today and/or put them on the newspaper’s web site. We’re even interested in people who have web skills and are looking for ways to donate their skills to help the community. So, think about it. You probably have much more to offer than you realize and we’d like to hear from you. Call us at (650)327-5846, ext.311 or contact us by email at epatoday@aol.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The East Palo Alto City Council was not convinced

After submitting 1,200 petitions to the East Palo Alto City Council, members of Youth United for Community Action (YUCA), an East Palo Alto youth group, failed to convince the city council to allow community members to be a part of upcoming negotiations with the developers bringing a supermarket to the city.

YUCA wants to have residents sit in on the negotiations between city staff and the developers in order to obtain a Community Benefits Agreement from the developers. YUCA believes this agreement would provide residents with good paying job opportunities, affordable housing, youth programs and other services when the supermarket project was completed.

While the city council agreed with the concept of community benefits, council members said that there were enough existing structures in the city process through which the community could give input to the council. They also said that there were city regulations in place to support the type of benefits YUCA wanted from the developers. So given these reasons and similar ones, the East Palo Alto City Council said that it was not, at this time, in favor of changing the current city process to give residents a seat at the table during actual negotiations.

With whom do you agree? Do you support YUCA or do you agree with the city council?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Local immigration raids

Many people and organizations are expressing outrage over the wave of immigration raids taking place locally. Members of many families are being separated from each other. You can see from a recent video excerpt some of the problems the raids are creating and how some of the children in these families are being affected. To see the video excerpt, click on the second video picture on the left and watch the video play at the top of this column.

Do you know families affected by the raids? Do you think there should be changes in the way the raids are carried out and the way people are being deported from this country? Are you disturbed by what is taking place?

Friday, March 30, 2007

A video excerpt: "What Can We Expect Next?"

The picture above comes from the latest video excerpt that discusses what some community activists in East Palo Alto have done and are currently doing. The complete one hour video,"What Can We Expect Next?" can be seen locally on Channel 27 from now until April 15. To see the excerpt, click on the appropriate picture in the video list to the left under the "Welcome" message and watch the video play at the top of this column. You can also copy the following link into your browser http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56QpP88HLes

After you've seen the excerpt, let me know what you think about it by posting your comments below. For more information about the one hour TV shows from which the video excerpts were taken, click on the television link on the left side of this page.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Taking on leadership roles

On March 15 of this year, East Palo Alto lost one of its prominent citizens, Mrs. Barbara Mouton. During her funeral celebration, she was described by community resident and activist William Webster as the architect of East Palo Alto's incorporation in 1983. Webster said that the notion of East Palo Alto becoming a city was Mrs. Mouton's idea.

Do you think in East Palo Alto now there are others who are of the caliber of Mrs. Mouton who are rising out of the city's younger generation? Have you seen younger people among you who are doing things that would inspire you to think of them as the future leaders of East Palo Alto?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Will there be visible improvements?

In many ways, a new year usually inspires high hopes and expectations. It is a time when people make resolutions and outline the changes that they'd like to make in their life. In some respects, cities and communities can do the same thing. We see this when city mayors make their State of the City address or a state's governor makes a State of the State address.
Within the first three months of this year, the East Palo Alto community declared that it was on a new path. We wrote about this new path in our From the Editor's Desk column on page 7 in the February-March 2007 issue of East Palo Alto Today.
We wonder if you agree with us? Do you think, now that the city's Peace March and Rally and the Teen Summit are over, that the quality of life in the City of East Palo Alto will remain the same or will residents see visible improvements? Are there more positive changes to come?