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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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Dialogue continues as decision on Westwind Barn management looms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The future of programs at Westwind Community Barn in Los Altos Hills remains uncertain as councilmembers consider their options.

It’s been an unsettling few months for equestrians and boarders at Westwind Community Barn, who anxiously await the Los Altos Hills City Council’s decision on the future of the barn’s management.

After the resignation of the barn’s Year-Round Riding Program director in June, the facility needs new leadership and a more sustainable operations plan. The council conducted a four-hour study session Oct. 24 and was scheduled to render a decision on the future direction of Westwind at Tuesday’s council meeting, after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

The council last summer issued a call for proposals from independent concessionaires interested in assuming control of the barn from the town. By the application deadline, only two concessionaires submitted proposals, both of which required subsidies to operate – $68,550 in the first year of operations from one applicant and $178,300 from the other.

The prospect of contracting with either concessionaire made some councilmembers uneasy and prompted town staff to recommend a model that would end horse-boarding operations but continue community programs via a vendor that would provide services and horses for the Year-Round Riding Program and the Pacific Ridge Pony Club.

“The town did a fabulous job with the restoration. However, they’ve done a fairly poor job managing the barn,” said Val Metcalfe, a member of the West- wind Barn Task Force.

For the 2012-2013 budget year, the town subsidized Westwind to the tune of $154,000, 54 percent more than the $100,000 budget cap recommended by the Finance and Investment Committee.

“We like the idea of parks and recreation programming, and nobody wants to see (Westwind Barn) go away, but nobody wants to spend $200,000 as well,” Mayor Gary Waldeck told the Town Crier after the study session.

Recommendations

So the challenge remains: How does Los Altos Hills maintain the Westwind Community Barn programs it deems important, such as 4-H Riding for the Handicapped and the Pacific Ridge Pony Club, while reducing public funds needed to meet operating expenses?

The council discussed three possible solutions during the study session: (1) a model that continues operations as is, (2) a community equestrian facility model that eliminates boarding or (3) a concessionaire model that requires a $100,000 to $200,000 subsidy.

Because of its lower short- and long-term financial risk, town staff recommended adopting option (2), the community equestrian facility model.

Metcalfe objected to the plan, claiming that no longer boarding horses at the barn would be “disastrous,” draining not only “synergy and good will,” but also hampering a viable pathway for eventual barn recovery.

Instead, Metcalfe encouraged councilmembers to reconsider option (3), the subsidized concessionaire model. With cost-cutting measures, she said, vendors might work cooperatively with the town to reduce subsidies.

Mixed opinions

Opinions remain mixed about the best approach for ensuring the barn’s future.

“This is a lot like a Rubik’s Cube, but with 10 sides,” Waldeck said. “By the time you get all these ‘buts’ in here, you don’t have a bucket, you have a tubful.”

A town ordinance requiring full-time supervision at any commercial stable in Los Altos Hills adds extra expense to options (1) and (3). Waldeck noted that the council would review the proposals on the table as well as others that could mitigate the town’s financial burden.

Rather than allocating approximately $140,000 annually for two paid attendants, for example, Waldeck said the town could install security cameras and other cost-cutting technology.

Metcalfe added that there are ways to slash expenses so that a concessionaire model is viable. Buying hay and feed in bulk during off-peak seasons and storing it in the barn’s attic, for example, could enable vendors to reduce subsidies.

Waldeck said the council is employing a “thorough” and “thoughtful” process in making a management decision for the barn. Even so, he allowed, some stakeholders may not be satisfied with the outcome.

“Not everybody agrees,” he said. “If everybody agrees, it’s probably not the right response.”

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