What it takes to be effective on the council
Election season is upon us and it is easy to think – find a council candidate who supports your issue or issues and vote for them.
I would urge people to consider what is required of an effective council member:
1. Consume vast quantities of information: the council packet, public input, laws, etc.
2. Think on their feet: absorb, assess and assimilate as needed information provided during a public meeting.
3. Make a decision that is legal and in the best interest of the community based on all the available information when the item is before them.
4. Effectively communicate that decision to colleagues and craft a motion that will receive a majority vote, even if that means compromising.
When a council member cannot do all four, then that council member is either not able to use all the information; makes bad or even illegal decisions; decisions drag out, taking time away from other items; and/or they cannot convince colleagues to agree even in part on what they want to have happen. The result is the same – an ineffective council member.
Good luck with your assessment, and please, don’t forget to vote.
Firefighters Union using ‘misleading’ audit
I read with surprise the recent story by KTVU.com titled “Santa Clara County firefighters call for consolidation of Los Altos Hills County Fire District,” based on a Firefighters Union 1165 press release.
I had hoped for a balanced news coverage that would include both sides, but it was not there.
The real issue is money – where the tax dollars collected from Los Altos Hills and unincorporated Los Altos Hills may be managed too well and should be reallocated to other communities.
The union firefighters and Kadah are using the misleading, poorly conducted Management Audit by the county’s Harvey M. Rose Associates, which has been rebutted by the Los Altos Hills County Fire District, to justify taking Los Altos Hills tax dollars and redistributing them elsewhere.
In this time while we are covered by a smoke haze, how can anyone argue that the goal of the Los Altos Hills County Fire District should not be spending money to reduce fire hazards by removing dead trees or contracting with water purveyors to ensure water flow to fight fires?
Importantly, the fire district submits a budget to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors every year, which they approve. Every check that is written is written by the county. There is no spending that the Board of Supervisors should not have been aware of.
All contracts entered by the fire district are reviewed by its legal counsel, and since the audit, they have been re-reviewed by others. The county counsel is re-reviewing these expenditures and was scheduled to make a report to the Board of Supervisors at their Sept. 5 meeting. There is no reason to make accusations before the reviews are completed.
Los Altos Hills
Let residents vote on bocce ball courts
During this critical time, a discussion about whether or not to allow a bocce ball court seems superfluous.
However, sometimes we need a distraction, and I suggest we vote on whether or not we should allow a bocce ball court at Grant Park.
Two generous community donations would cover most of the cost; there are no strings attached, and the donors do not even play bocce ball.
The only requests by the donors are that the gift be accepted before the end of this year and that they be allowed to display a plaque recognizing the donors.
These are reasonable requests, not to be confused with “strings attached.” Outdoor physical activities for seniors are essential. Bocce ball satisfies this need for many of our residents.
We could ask people to vote, for example: Press 1 to accept the gift, press 2 to reject the gift, press 3 if undecided, press 4 if you want to study the issues again or press 5 if you do not care.
We cannot wait for the Parks and Recreation Commission to vote, because by the time they decide, the deadline for acceptance would be long past.
Please let your city council members know your opinion. Perhaps they will be more decisive than Parks and Rec, but I would not bet on that.
Column on reach codes needs correction
Andy Staatz’s “Other Voices column misses a critical point and arrives at the wrong conclusion (“Breaking down the data reveals some surprises,” Aug. 26). Rather than being much less efficient, today’s electric water heaters and HVAC systems are more than twice as efficient as gas systems in their overall use of fossil fuels.
Missing in the article is that newer electric water-heating systems incorporate heat pumps which transfer heat from the ambient air. This technology results in remarkable efficiency, with one unit of electric energy creating three or more units of heat. By comparison, traditional electric resistance systems create less than one unit of heat, by running electric current through a heating element – similar to a toaster.
Using the same grid assumptions made by Staatz, electric heat pump water heaters and HVAC systems require less than 1/2 the fossil fuels used by gas water heaters or furnaces. This compares with the “2-2 1/2 times more” referenced in the article, which compares only to the outdated “toaster”/resistance systems.
Heat pump systems are game-changers. This will become even more true as the use of renewables increases. Hence, reach codes for all-electric heating are far-sighted, and will reflect highly on Los Altos.
Water heaters offer cost, energy savings
In his Aug. 26 “Other Voices” column, Andy Staatz correctly identified that electric “resistance” water heaters are around 95% efficient.
But he failed to mention that this obsolete technology has been replaced by newer electric “heat pump” water heaters (see energy.gov/energysaver/water-heating/heat-pump-water-heaters), which are over 350% efficient.
These new water heaters are more cost effective and produce far fewer greenhouse gas pollutants than their natural gas equivalents right now, with the current grid.
Los Altos Hills
‘Draconian’ rules won’t solve blackouts
No one is denying that climate change is real, but we should question policies that fail to solve the problem.
The week of Aug. 17, millions of Californians experienced a man-made crisis of rolling blackouts during a heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees. California’s Green New Deal policies mandate that 60% of electricity be from renewable sources by 2030 – but these sources are unreliable.
When the grid and renewable sources can’t handle demand, these policies lead to great hardship for many. According to a recent New York Times headline, “For the Most Vulnerable, California Blackouts ‘Can Be Life or Death’” for sick and older residents and those who rely on medical equipment.
And now reach code advocates in Los Altos want to mandate a ban on natural gas in new construction and scrape remodels. It is misguided to think that adding more electric demand onto the electric grid, that can’t handle the current loads, has any merit. It defies common sense.
The proposed reach codes will also greatly increase utility bills. The cost of electricity is three times higher than using natural gas to heat our homes and hot water.
What I found hopeful was that when the California Independent System Operators, which manages the state’s power grid, put out the word and asked people to voluntarily cut back on their use of electricity, people did cut back and the rolling blackouts were suspended early. We need to trust the residents, and not mandate draconian rules.