Palo Alto Free Press is on international assignment

Death Valley National Park

We will be back January 2014. Palo Alto Free Press and staff will be reporting periodically as time permits. Don’t be discouraged…Please check back with us on our whereabouts as our adventure continues on to Central America and beyond……

Special thanks to parts manager Paul Barsanti Land Rover Redwood City for sending power steering pump two day delivery and of course his parts side kick Stanish…

Field repairs Death Valley Power steering pump

Sonora, Mexico
Sonora, Mexico








Caret era Mazatlan-Culiacan
Carretera Mazatlan-Culiacan
















Aquila, San Blas and Campo Acosta, Mexico
Aquila, San Blas and Campo Acosta, Mexico






Playa linda
Playa linda

This is a test of the Palo Alto emergency breakfast system!

Palo Alto fire department pancakes.jpgThe Palo Alto Fire Department raised eyebrows when it used a countywide emergency alerts system to send residents information about a charity pancake breakfast.

AlertSCC, send messages to 27,000 people in Santa Clara County about Saturday’s charity event at park in Palo Alto.

The event was intended to raise money for a city effort to prevent teen suicides. It drew attendees including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer and her son.

Fire Chief Eric Nickel said he did not intend to advertise the breakfast but authorized the alert because he was concerned residents might inundate the city’s emergency dispatch center with calls related to one of the activities at the event: a rescue [pancake] simulation by a helicopter.

The alert included a sentence about the rescue simulation.

Nickel said that the city did not receive any 911 calls about the helicopter and that he has received fewer than 10 complaints about the alert.

Still, he said a discussion he is warranted between public safety officials and the city manager about use of the system.

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City of Palo Alto on high alert! Have you seen this FBI agent?

Fake FBI agent.jpgA Palo Alto woman in her 40s was scammed out of nearly $4,000 by a man who said he was a member of the FBI and threatened to arrest her if she didn’t pay him, police said yesterday.

Police said they were still looking for the man who called again on Oct. 4 and demand more money, again threatening to arrest her.

The man identified himself as an FBI employee. Following the man’s instructions, the woman purchased Green Dot MoneyPak cards worth more than $3,000, called the man and gave him the code he need to access the money.

Green Dot MoneyPack cards are reloadable debit cards, available everywhere, that you can use to pay your phone, cable, credit card bill.

They’re typically for people who don’t have, or want, bank accounts. The woman was about to purchase more reloadable debit cards for the man after he called her back. But, luckily, one of the woman’s family members walked into the room and heard what was going on.

When the family member got on the phone with the man, he hung up. Then the woman’s relative called the police. Police said they are passing the [buck] case to a federal fraud agency in the hopes that they will have more luck catching the culprit.

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Palo Alto police need your help in seeking out tongue lasher assault

Tongue assult.jpgA woman told Palo Alto police that after she fell asleep during a late night cab ride, the cabbie pulled over and French-kissed her.

Police are looking for the driver, who is accused of sexual battery.

Police said the woman had been out with friends before grabbing a downtown cab at 1:15 a.m. Saturday in downtown Palo Alto.

The woman told police she got into the back of the cab, and fell asleep. When the woman woke up, the cab driver had pulled over, got into the backseat and was kissing her with his tongue in her mouth, police said.

The woman jumped out of the taxi and wandered for about 45 minutes before she found her way back to her friends, called the police at 2:47 [and 10 seconds to be precise] a.m.

Police said that the taxi driver was described as a man between 60 and 70 with a beard and a turban [on his tongue for protection.]

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Palo Alto artwork some may find unpalatable

Newspaper RacksThere always seems to be this fear among Palo Alto’s leaders that if were not on the cutting edge of the latest city government trends, we’ve got to catch up.

Whether it’s electric cars or banning plastic bags, recycling food scraps or adding green bike lanes, Palo Alto can’t fall behind the hip cities in the U.S.

So here’s the new trend: forcing developers to add public art to any new buildings they put up. The art would have to be worth 1% of the building’s value.

Go-MamaA memo from City Manager Jim Keene to City Council points out that 48 California cities require public art from private developers. They include Sunnyvale, San Mateo, Alameda, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Livermore, Walnut Creek and San Francisco.

The unsaid implication is that Palo Alto has got to jump on the bandwagon. Who wants to be left in the dust by Sunnyvale!

The memo goes on to compare public art program’s in different cities with an eye toward what Palo Alto might do.

City wants control

Of course the city wants to approve whatever art a developer adds to a building.

The city has often forced developers to add art, and the result hasn’t always been good.  As evidence of that, above is a picture of a sculpture of a Greek goddess holding a washing machine over her head at the Sheridan Plaza outside of Caffe Riace.

Body of Urban MythWhen developer Harold Hohbach was trying to get approval of the 30-luxury apartment development at 200 Sheraton Ave. in 1997, the city required him to provide public art. Hohbach chose to statues of Greek warriors, each 10 feet tall.

The city’s Public Arts Commission said that wasn’t enough, and the board held a competition for an additional piece of work.

The winner was Brian Goggin, the sculptor who attracted national attention in the 1990s for his work called “Defenestration,” in which tables, chairs, couches and appliances would be popping up out of the dilapidated four-story building at sixth and Howard Street in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Goggin created the woman with a washing machine sculpture that is entitled “body of urban myth.” The panel of judges the city set up to approve the art loved it.

Everyone except for Hohbach, who voted against it. Even though it was his property, he couldn’t stop this odd sculpture from being added. And, to add insult to injury he had to pay $40,000 for it.

Bad choices

Digital EggThe city doesn’t do a good job picking art the public finds pleasing. Evidence of that includes the “Go Mama” sculpture on California Avenue and the 7 foot tall “Digital DNA” egg in Lytton Plaza at University Avenue and Emerson Street.

And these mistakes are long-lasting. These sculptures aren’t going anywhere – an eyesore for those who pass by them every day.

I have a couple of suggestions:

The city should replace public art every few years. This prevents a bad choice from becoming permanent. I’ll bet that the bad art on Cal Ave has reduced property values there.

The city should survey the community to find out what residents like, and then commission more of the art people prefer. After all, the city calls it “Public” art, so why not let the public have to say?

Don’t force developers to add art if the city is going to make the final decision about the artwork. The city doesn’t have a good track record in picking appealing public art. And don’t require a property owner to display a piece of art they personally dislike. That strikes me as a free speech violation.

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$250,000 To buy new shopping cart homes and other services for the homeless

Shopping cart home.jpgOn Monday, Palo Alto city Council will decide whether to spend $250,000 to house 20 of the cities estimated 157 homeless. But how will caseworkers pick [and chose] which 20 get new homes?

It won’t be based on good [up standing] behavior. In fact it’s just the opposite.

A report by [homeless “de facto” expert and] City Manager Jim Keene to council says those who will get priority in the selection process are those who had had the most run-ins with the law and are at risk of being repeat offenders.

In addition to the $250,000 from the city Santa Clara County will provide $100,000 from a state grant under the [pension] prison [reform] realignment bill, which sends state prisoners to county jails to relieve [themselves plus] overcrowding.

And state money is earmarked for helping those who have been arrested, have a high chance of being arrested again, who “significantly impact county, state, or local resources,” and who are “homeless or at risk of being or becoming homeless.”

‘Chronically homeless’

According to a report, the “chronically [acute] homeless” individuals can use the assistance to get themselves into a [new cart] home and, with the help of a [mental basket without wheels] caseworker, will apply for government programs, get help for substance abuse and receive medical care.

“These will be prioritized for individuals who face significant barriers to achieving economic self sufficiency,” the report states.

The program was recommended by a city task force [be with you] comprised of [toothless] homeless advocates [without a bite who will gum you to death], which formed in August shortly after the [technically advanced city] council voted to ban car camping and camping at Cubberley Community Center [along with taking away their ability to shower themselves.]

The task force considered other options such as creating a “homeless outreach [‘and put the touch on someone’ team,” which has already been successfully implemented in the San Mateo County cities of San Mateo, [our] East Palo Alto [brothers from the hood] and Redwood City, and bears some resemblance to the proposed Palo Alto program.

Helping biggest troublemakers

Mila Zelkah, strategic relations fellow for InVision Shelter Network, which manages the apartments at Palo Alto’s Opportunity Center, told the post in August that the outreach team program focuses on helping the people who cause of the most problems and are the source of repeat calls to police.

During its first year, the program helped 40% of the people on the police [hit] list of troublemakers to either get a job, find housing, enroll in a substance abuse program or a mental health program.

In it’s second year and the years after that, the program successfully helped about 25% of it’s homeless clients Zelkha said, adding that San Mateo County recently set aside more money to bring the program to Pacifica and South San Francisco.

When council members on the Policy and Services Committee voted to recommend dedicating $250,000 to help the homeless, they asked the homelessness task force to decide how the money could be best spent.

But the [helpless] task force was only given about a month to organize and come up with the plan that’s going to the full [circle marry-go-round] council on Monday.

Zilkha said that the force [be with you] had planned ask for more [spatial] time at a Sept. 26 meeting with City Manager James Keene, but wasn’t able to after he [dodged and] canceled the meeting.

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Local man sues over mosquito accident related injuries

San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control.jpgA San Francisco man is suing the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District, demanding it here his claim that one of its employees caused a car accident in which the man was injured.

The mosquito district said Brandon Low failed to file the claim within the allotted amount of time and is refusing to hear it.

Low claims his attorney submitted a claim to the district within the six-month statute of limitation but that it was filed in the wrong place. He appealed to the district, asking for an extension of time to file, since the district said it never received Lowe’s claim, but that was denied.

Mistake made

Low said his attorney, Lawrence Ma, mistakenly submitted the claim to the vector [mission] control joint powers [of the FBI, CIA, CDC, FAA, NSA] agency[‘s].

“Prior to the expiration of the six month period, [Ma] was mistaken in his belief that he vector control joint power agency employed the adverse driver,” Low said in the court documents.

Low said that because the letters were sent before the six-month window had closed, he was still entitled to file a claim.

Low claims he was driving southbound on Highway 101 when a car driven by a mosquito district worker worker crashed into him causing injuries to his neck and back, [and head].

Medical costs sought

Court documents filed Monday in San Mateo County Superior Court claims lose medical bills were more than $4,900. He is asking the court to grant him a hearing with the Mosquito and Vector Control District.

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