Last updateTue, 30 May 2017 5pm

County pursues federal National Heritage designation

With the number of audience members equaling the representatives behind the dais, Rod Diridon was reluctant to let a potential speaker slip away – even if he happened to be attending the wrong meeting Thursday night.

“That’s the Human Relations Commission, but you’re welcome to make a comment here before you leave,” Diridon said to the confused man behind the lectern. “How do you feel about the heritage in the area?”

Annual public meeting on Lehigh draws sizable crowd

Megan V. WInslow/Town Crier
Santa Clara County Department of Planning and Development Planning Manager Rob Eastwood, second from right, answers audience questions during the annual Lehigh Public Information meeting Nov. 16 in Cupertino.

Approximately 100 people attended Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian’s recent public information meeting on Cupertino’s Lehigh Southwest Cement Co., operator of a factory and quarry in the foothills near Los Altos.

The Nov. 16 meeting at the Cupertino Community Center wasSimitian’s annual effort to bring transparency to operations at Lehigh, which has drawn the ire of nearby residents for its air, water and noise pollution.

Water district set to begin work on flood basins

The Santa Clara Valley Water District held a public meeting last week to discuss new water detention basins along Permanente Creek.

The basins – one at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve on the Los Altos-Cupertino border and the other in McKelvey Park in Mountain View – are planned to protect 2,200 parcels along the creek from flood damage.

Lehigh plant meeting scheduled tonight

Local, regional, state and federal officials are scheduled to provide an update on oversight of the Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. facility 7 p.m. today (Nov. 16) at Cupertino Community Hall, 10350 Torre Ave.

Committee on airplane noise looks to land final recommendations

Those interested in attending the final ad hoc committee meeting on airplane noise should prepare for a long night.

The U.S. Congress-appointed Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals is slated to finalize its set of recommendations to Congress at the end of the meeting scheduled 1 p.m. Thursday at Palo Alto City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.

A jet soars above Los Altos

At issue is the peace and quiet of approximately 2.2 million people on the Peninsula, many of them – including Los Altos residents – leading noisier lives after recent Federal Aviation Administration changes to flight paths.

Implementing a NextGen system in the name of efficiency and safety, the FAA neglected to accurately gauge the impact of noise on the ground. As a result, greater concentrations of planes, flying at lower altitudes, are arriving at San Francisco International Airport and generating more noise at more frequent intervals than residents had previously experienced.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who leads the 12-member committee of leaders from the affected communities, said Friday that members have agreed on two-thirds of the more than 20 recommendations in a draft report. The recommendations range from raising altitudes and flying more planes over water to changing Class B airspace for smoother descent and less vectoring and installation of air deflections that mitigate the whistling noise off the wings of frequently used Airbus planes.

Tough decisions

Simitian acknowledged that one of the toughest decisions will be whether to recommend a change from the current ground track over Palo Alto, 3-4 miles west of where it is now.

The debate over implementing such a track has pitted “neighbor against neighbor,” Simitian said. Those in favor claim that moving the track back to where it was before NextGen is the simplest and best solution. Opponents contend that the unchanged higher concentrations and lower altitudes of planes ensure that the change merely “moves the noise.”

Simitian said all recommendations must meet the same criteria: “What works and what’s fair? And how can we minimize noise to the greatest degree possible?” He indicated that local reps’ work may not end with the submission of recommendations to Congress. Simitian said some committee members are interested in continuing a dialogue with the FAA, SFO and local congressional officials like Anna Eshoo, who represents the 18th Congressional District, which includes Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View, to identify longer-term solutions. This could include changing an outdated mode in which the FAA measures noise impacts.

If the seven-hour length of the committee’s Nov. 3 meeting is any indication, participants can expect another marathon Thursday.

For more information, visit eshoo.house.gov/constituent-services/airplane-noise-in-the-18th-congressional-district.

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MVHS teacher returns to classroom after Trump comments draw attention

Mountain View High School placed history teacher Frank Navarro on leave Thursday after a parent emailed the school over comments Navarro made about President-elect Donald Trump. While the story generated international headlines over the weekend, Navarro returned to the classroom and taught his class Monday.

“They said come in as soon as possible,” Navarro said. “Superintendent (Jeff Harding) said it would be a good idea to come back right away.”

NEWS Navarro
A photograph taken in Navarro's class

Investigating claims

The Mountain View High School Oracle, the student newspaper, reported that a student was upset by Navarro’s statements equating Trump with Adolf Hitler. Navarro said Eric Goddard, associate superintendent for the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, told him that he would be placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation reviewed whether he quoted Trump’s “grabbing women” comment and whether he compared Trump to Hitler.

In an email to Mountain View High parents Friday, Principal Dave Grissom revealed that the school was conducting an “investigation of alleged inappropriate behavior.”

“The paid leave process is an opportunity for a ‘time-out’ while we gather information to determine the basis of any allegation,” Grissom wrote.

A Mountain View parent supported Grissom’s decision.

“Grissom is an outstanding principal,” said Mike Johnson, a Mountain View resident and real estate broker. “He is a friend of mine. He was shocked by it and in disbelief and was disappointed.”

Johnson said he was frustrated with what he called “propaganda” from teachers like Navarro.

“I am very frustrated with it, because it is my tax dollars going to that school. There are other issues going on at MVHS right now,” he said. “They are having therapy sessions for kids who have to cope with the election. Really? Cope with the election? Did they have those when Obama won the election?”


Classroom discussion

Navarro, a Mandel Fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum who has taught at Mountain View High for 40 years, told the Town Crier that “the issue of grabbing women came out,” but that he did not use obscene language to describe assaulting women.

Navarro said he told his classroom that “there are many parallels” between Trump and Hitler.

“I naturally talked about Trump and Clinton,” Navarro said. “I look for factual evidence to claims. Kids followed that line.”

Navarro, who grew up in Oakland and is of Mexican descent, said Hispanic students (who make up approximately 20 percent of Mountain View High’s student body) have approached him with their fears of Trump’s promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants during his first 100 days in office.

“History is important. It moves our lives,” Navarro said. “I’ve never seen a principal demand less education rather than more.”

Navarro said he received a phone call Sunday night to return to work the next morning. Over the weekend, a Change.org petition demanding Navarro’s return gathered nearly 30,000 signatures, and the incident received attention from The Washington Post and London Telegraph.

Monday morning, Harding sent an email to Mountain View parents.

“The teacher’s paid leave was not for teaching a lesson comparing Trump to Hitler,” he wrote. “The administrators involved were responding to a specific parent and student complaint of a serious nature. It is our duty to investigate such a complaint to ensure the emotional safety of all of our students. … (Navarro) was reinstated as soon as we were confident that the environment was safe for students and is back in class this morning.”

According to Navarro, union representatives and school administrators held a meeting Monday to discuss how Mountain View High will move forward after the incident.

“I could have retired five years ago,” he said. “I am here because I think it is important, both for me and the community I serve.”

Update: Mike Johnson, who is quoted in this article, no longer lives in the state of California.

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