Other Voices: Black in Los Altos

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Marie Godderis/Town Crier Editorial Intern
Protesters take to the streets of Los Altos June 5 to protest police brutality and systemic racism.

By Noah Tesfaye

I’ve been a resident of Los Altos for seven years. And as a black resident and part of a race that makes up less than 150 people in our city, I have never felt particularly seen or heard.

The message is clear: Racism will no longer be tolerated


Note: Following is Los Altos Mayor Jan Pepper’s statement, read at the June 9 council meeting in the wake of the local Black Lives Matter protests.

The last couple weeks have been a tumultuous time in our country and in our community. It highlights how very far we still have to go to fight racism in this country. I want to make it clear that I firmly support Black Lives Matter. I am engaged. And I am enraged.
There is systemic racism toward the black community in this country. I honor the memories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, and the too many others who have been killed or harmed by the racism that persists in this country and continues to divide our society. Growing up as a child of the ’60s, we thought we were making progress. As the Rev. Martin Luther King said in December of 1967, “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.” There still is not justice, there still is not peace. Rampant racism still exists.
The color of our skin should not matter – we are all humans – we share a common humanity and a desire to live a meaningful life. We are born into this world as equals, with no say as to who our parents are or what color skin we have. None of this should matter – we should all have the same opportunities to make the best of our lives. But unfortunately, that is still not the reality in this country. Black citizens are not treated the same as others, and that is wrong. The peaceful protest march that was held in Los Altos last Friday made it clear that thousands of us here in Los Altos agree: Black Lives Matter. Racism has no place in this community and will not be tolerated. We must promote and continue to fight for freedom and justice.
This also applies to how the police treat citizens, which I will discuss in a moment. This applies to the words we use in expressing ourselves. There is no place for racist speech, particularly among our elected officials, and this will not be tolerated in Los Altos.
I have received hundreds of emails from residents regarding the inappropriate words that have a racist history recently used by council member Jeannie Bruins at one of our council meetings in May. I do not condone such language. Hundreds of residents have further demanded that I, as the mayor, take action to remove Ms. Bruins from office.
State election law does not provide for the mayor to remove any council member, nor for the council as a whole to remove any council member. I checked with our city attorney and she said, “There is no process and/or action the city council can take to remove an elected official.”
The brutal police killing of George Floyd and so many other black citizens is wrong and unjust. We cannot sit idly by when this kind of action continues to take place across our country. We have received hundreds of emails from residents and others urging Los Altos to adopt the 8 Can’t Wait policies and to defund the Los Altos Police Department.
Tonight I propose that Vice Mayor Neysa Fligor and I form an ad hoc committee to work diligently with Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea, members of our community, and other city staff to ensure that our training, policies and practices reflect the values of our community. I propose that this subcommittee be in line with the call issued by President Barack Obama to mayors and other city council officials to introduce common-sense limits on police use of force. The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is calling on mayors to commit to the following actions:
1. Review your police use of force policies.
2. Engage your communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences and stories in your review.
3. Report the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback.
4. Reform your community’s police use of force policies.
The vice mayor and I will be coming back to the council at our next meeting on June 23 with a specific agenda item and a resolution outlining the goals and processes of this subcommittee’s work. I hope that the council will fully support this proposal so that we can quickly get to work. This can start the process without delay.
As your mayor, I will do all that I can to promote justice in Los Altos – to fight for equality, to respect each other’s humanity, and particularly to recognize that Black Lives Matter.

Letters to the Editor: Conflict of interest, racism, development

Mayor Pepper has conflict of interest

Los Altos is considering reach codes to ban natural gas in all new homes. The codes were written by Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Peninsula Clean Energy.

Mayor Jan Pepper is the CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy. Her position presents a clear conflict of interest, which is why I filed complaints with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Letters to the Editor: Reach codes, small business, Kiwanis thanks

GreenTown Los Altos supports reach codes

Blue skies and clean air. The pandemic is a terrible price to pay, but clean air is wonderful.

GreenTown Los Altos strives to be the environmental face of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills with creek cleanups, tree plantings, bike rides, and more. We also want to encourage everyone to stop burning fossil fuels in their homes and in their cars, a leading contribution to climate change – and that brings us to reach codes. Reach codes “reach” beyond the Title 24 codes that require energy efficiency in building construction.

Haugh About That?: Living in COVID isolation – the sacrifice you ask of me


As I sat on the phone with each of my four adult children, I became pissy with what felt like overblown concerns about my safety. I’m not an invalid, I’m perfectly healthy with no compromised immune system, and I’m not “that” old. Then, they reminded me of my true age (67), and the targeted group for this coronavirus to wipe me out. My scheduled trip to Austin, Texas, to be present for the birth of my second grandchild was now, in their opinion, out of the question.

Editorial: They don’t care about small businesses

Last Thursday, the Los Altos Hills City Council showed its disdain and lack of concern for the small businesses in Los Altos that are struggling through this pandemic.

They voted unanimously to contribute $5,000 to the Los Altos Small Business Relief Fund. The city of Los Altos started the fund with $250,000 and asked Los Altos Hills to match it.

Other Voices: Hidden treasures right outside our front doors

My stupid New Year’s resolution for 2019 was to run every trail in the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s preserves – all 260 miles of them. I have been a trail runner ever since I accidentally discovered Rancho San Antonio was only a quarter-mile from my house when I moved to south Los Altos 29 years ago. When we moved to Los Altos Hills 11 years ago, I got very familiar with the town’s pathways.

My stupid New Year’s resolution got put on hold when I got injured running in the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve in March 2019. As a result, my plan changed to finish in 2020. I only have about 11 miles left before I complete the project.

Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com. Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

You can also have your say right here at losaltosonline.com – scroll to the bottom of any story to add a comment. 


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