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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Report urges changes in county fire department

The vast majority of calls the Santa Clara County Fire Department receives are for medical emergencies, but firefighters “over-deploy” costly resources and respond with equipment and personnel better suited for battling a blaze, according to a county civil grand jury report released last week.

Los Altos, with fire stations on Almond and Fremont avenues, has contracted with the Santa Clara County Fire Department since 1996.

The 12-member civil grand jury, a watchdog group, claims that ambulance personnel, who respond after fire engines if necessary, could more effectively and inexpensively handle the “overwhelming” number of medical calls currently served by $500,000 engines. Now, one EMT-trained firefighter rides with three to four other non-EMTs on a call.

“Taxpayers can no longer afford to fund the status quo,” the report asserted. “Given that approximately 70 percent of calls to the department are reporting medical emergencies rather than fire … there appears to be a mismatch between services needed and services provided.”

The civil grand jury report suggests that firefighters began obtaining paramedic certification in the 1970s to remain relevant when building codes started to require flame-retardant materials. According to the report, approximately 4 percent of the department’s calls are for actual fires.

County fire chief Ken Kehmna, appointed to the top spot in May, has 90 days to formally respond to the report’s findings. He said in an interview last week that he looks forward to exploring opportunities to increase efficiency.

“This gives us an opportunity to open dialogue and talk about various things, which is good,” he said, declining to say whether or not he agreed with the grand jury’s findings. “We’re always looking for opportunities to improve our operational model.”

Los Altos spends approximately $5 million of its $28 million annual budget on its contract with the county fire department, according to Los Altos Assistant City Manager J. Logan.

“Having worked very closely with county fire … they provide a gold-plate service to the community,” she said. “But it’s very costly – it’s a very rigid business model and does not give us the ability to control costs. … That’s what we’re concerned about.”

The civil grand jury report agrees that maintaining response times amid any protocol changes is crucial, but it insisted that the current situation could force cities’ departments to close altogether. Spreading resources more broadly, it says, would prevent shuttering doors.

But standing in the way of change, the report noted, is the politically powerful firefighters’ union, which the grand jury said focuses on “sustaining old models, entrenched expectations and ongoing entitlements at the expense of better-performing, more efficient fire departments.”

Kehmna, who isn’t part of the union, said he preferred to issue a response in writing, saying only that the agency has an “outstanding relationship with its union.”

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