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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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Tip-top Toyotas


courtesy of Toyota
The Toyota RAV4, completely redesigned for 2013, offers good handling for a crossover.

In terms of global automobile production, Toyota is the largest manufacturer in the world, challenged only by Volkswagen and GM.

This volume comprises cars at all price points – from Scion to Lexus. Within these products, Toyota produces a wide range of fuel-efficient, gasoline-powered engines, including the first mass-marketed gas-electric hybrid, the Prius.

Late in the summer we drove three Toyota products – the Camry, the RAV4 and the Scion tC – which collectively explain the company’s position in the marketplace. None of them is rated as the top model in its category, but each is an excellent value at its price point.

Camry

This is the most basic car in the Toyota lineup – the medium-priced, four-door family sedan.

No one would ever call the Toyota Camry an “aspirational” automobile. Does a junior-higher put posters of a Camry on his bedroom wall or doodle pictures of it in the back of a school notebook? Of course not, but nevertheless, this model has been America’s best-selling automobile 13 times since 1989.

How? Simple. The Camry does exactly what its customers expect it to do: get them to and from work, shopping and recreational destinations reliably and at a reasonable cost in terms of purchase price and operating expenses. For most automobile purchasers, that’s all they expect and all they need from a vehicle.

It had been a while since we last drove a Camry, but it reminded us what automotive transportation is all about for many buyers in the marketplace. There’s nothing much to catch the eye on the outside of this automobile, but it screams functional. The trunk opening is large relative to the trunk space, allowing sizable items to be stowed quickly and without a struggle. Similarly, the front and rear doors and the roofline don’t sacrifice anything to design – the doors allow easy entry and exit, and rear seating is not at all claustrophobic.

Similarly, it’s clear that the designers and engineers were more concerned with ergonomics than style when they designed the controls. There aren’t any fancy touch screens or multifunction knobs to control the audio system or the heating and ventilation – just switches and rotating knobs allowing a driver to use them while keeping eyes on the road.

Underway, the Camry is smooth and quiet, an equal to automobiles of higher prices. We drove the more powerful V6, with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to get the car up to highway speeds easily and maneuver through traffic confidently, though no one will cast a Camry in the next “Fast and Furious” film.

The only fault we would lay at Toyota’s feet with this car is that the combined fuel efficiency of 25 mpg might not keep buyers trading their old Camry for a new one.

Bottom line: The Camry is a solid, reliable car for the family more interested in comfort, convenience and reliability than style and excitement. It’s a reasonably priced vehicle that they can drive and depend on for many years to come.

RAV4

The four-door sedan, for all of its high-volume market popularity, may not be the vehicle that some parents want to drive.

Perhaps dad wants a car for weekend family camping adventures or mom wants a car that gives her a commanding position in traffic or in the school pickup line.

As with the Camry, families choosing the RAV4 are perfectly happy to trade a little trendiness for reliability and a reasonable price.

Completely redesigned for 2013 (the model year we drove), the RAV4 has never deviated from the concepts that inspired its original design as one of the first compact SUVs. These vehicles are now termed “crossovers” because they represent a crossover between the comfortable ride and handling of standard automobiles and the height, clearance and access offered by sport-utility vehicles.

Like the Camry, the RAV4 isn’t trying to be anything it’s not – nor is it building in and pricing for equipment and trim that the sensible family doesn’t really need or want. The RAV4’s styling is a bit edgier than in previous years, though not enough to be controversial, and interior equipment is more functional than fashionable.

The RAV4 has good handling for a crossover with average speed and acceleration, and is competent to handle snow and mud conditions and moderately challenging off-road conditions.

Like the Camry, its fuel efficiency is in the middle of the pack. Similarly, the interior is easy to access through the doors and hatchback, and it boasts excellent capacity for its size.

Perhaps most important to the potential customer for this car, the top-of-the-line XLE model we drove is affordable, with full equipment including a nice audio system, navigation and a backup camera, but still selling for well under $30,000.

Bottom line: Toyota is delivering everything the buyer really needs in a multifunction vehicle, and charging no more than the buyer should have to pay.

Scion tC

A car company doesn’t reach the sales volume of Toyota by marketing only to customers who value function over fun.

For that younger driver who doesn’t yet have the responsibilities that come with a family, there is the Scion brand, and for sportiness, there is the Scion tC – a two-door coupe with a hatchback for weekend practicality. It’s the all-purpose vehicle for the person who has the budget and space for just one car.

At just under $21,000, the tC is within the reach of many first-car buyers who want the confidence and reliability of a new car backed by a Toyota warranty, with the excellent dealer service for which the brand is known.

But just like the other two Toyotas in this batch, the company isn’t building in, or pricing for, anything the buyer doesn’t really need.

While speed and acceleration are fine for city traffic and occasional highway trips, this isn’t a car that is going to tempt the driver to jackrabbit away from stoplights or pretend to be a race-car driver in city traffic.

With the recent redesign, the car does have a more aggressive front-end styling, and there are some nice sporting touches on the interior – such as a steering wheel that is flat on the bottom like racing steering wheels.

Fuel efficiency is probably the only drawback – a little below average for this market segment at 26 mpg combined. But that isn’t so low, given the stylish functionality of the car, to be a deal-breaker for the younger, sportier buyer.

Bottom line: The Scion tC offers trendy sportiness and reasonable performance at a reasonable price point.

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