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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

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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Local firefighters join Rim Fire strike teams


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Firefighters practice their wildland fire skills earlier this year at the El Monte Station in Los Altos Hills. Although there have been no major local fires in 2013, crew members dispatched to the Rim Fire and fires in Southern California over the summer.

As the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park raged out of control last month, firefighters from Los Altos Hills’ El Monte and Loyola fire stations were deployed to the field to assist.

“We had a totally different frame of mind for this fire,” said El Monte Station Battalion Chief Ron Vega, who served as a strike team leader trainee alongside other Santa Clara County Fire Department firefighters on Route 108, just west of the 385-square-mile fire. “The Stanislaus National Forest fire was moving so fast and was so large that we needed Type 1 (the best-equipped) fire engines.”

Vega is a member of one of several predesignated teams in Santa Clara County ready to respond to large emergencies “wherever and whenever.” There have not been any major local fires this year, Vega said, but a team from the county was mobilized to a wildland fire in Southern California in May, which prepared them for their role in fighting the Rim Fire, California’s third largest fire on record.

When his strike team, a collection of five engines under one leader, was called into action in the communities of Pinecrest and Tuolumne, they mobilized as they would for a fire in Los Altos or Los Altos Hills.

Although his team is trained and equipped with the tools to battle on the fire line, they were assigned the role of securing the safety of communities in the path of the expanding fire.

“When we arrived, (the fire) was two ridges over from the community,” Vega said of the threat the hovering fires posed to Tuolumne and other communities. “We had a boss to report to with basic objectives, and my job as strike team leader trainee was to put the plan in place.”

Instilling peace of mind

Working 24-hour cycles – one day on, one day off – his team quickly acclimated to local conditions, including the geography, topography, water systems and area roads, to assess the risk and determine the best procedures to protect structures and preempt fire growth. Prepared to defend the community should the fire reach them, Vega said his team also served as “peacekeepers” and “information keepers” in the communities.

“A lot of that was keeping the public informed, being out there and being seen,” he said.

While enforcing evacuation orders, his team often engaged concerned property owners and attempted to instill peace of mind during the stressful situation.

After one week, the fire risk diminished and Vega’s strike team was removed from the field. Vega is back on duty at the El Monte Station, but four team members from local stations with specialized skills in communications, map making, documentation and resource management are still assigned to the Rim Fire containment efforts.

As of Monday, the cost of fighting the Rim Fire, which burned more than 250,000 acres and injured six, was $84.8 million.

Vega said the experience would better prepare local teams to handle future fires closer to home.

“It’s an opportunity for some on the team to get experience where they might not have been on this type of assignment before,” he said. “It’s different when you have to mobilize in an unknown community, move on the fly and put together a plan to keep a community safe.”

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