Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Town Crier and the importance of editorial endorsements

Q: What was the largest newspaper in the state of California to endorse Proposition 8?
A: The Los Altos Town Crier

On October 22, our hometown paper joined the Paradise Post (circulation: 8,000) as only the second paper in the state of California to endorse Proposition 8.  The Town Crier's circulation of 16,500 made it the largest newspaper in the state in favor of the measure, a distinction it held through election day.

Given that the opposition of almost every other paper in the state opposed it yet the measure still passed, it seems that either newspapers don't have quite the influence they think they do, or that the Town Crier has a lot more influence than we thought.

My guess is that the truth is somewhere in between.  Blog-hero Nate Silver, as usual, probably got this one right:
When you're voting for Dog Commissioner, and you have no information about the candidates, you might well go with whomever your local paper decides to endorse.  In a race like Obama-McCain [or a 14-word measure like Prop. 8], on the other hand, you already have all the information you could ever want, and probably have established a fairly strong preference for yourself.
Precinct-by-precinct results are yet to come out, but the Town Crier's endorsement in local elections seems to be pretty crucial to a candidate's hopes: the five candidates they endorsed this year all won election.  At the same time, the electorate probably can make up its own mind about its feelings on things like children's hospitals and veterans' services.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

You stay classy, Mike Evanson

Tip to all police officers reading this blog: If you are going to sue your department for not treating its officers fairly, don't spend your off-duty time getting drunk and firing your gun.

San Francisco police are investigating Sgt. Mike Evanson after his weapon discharged at a Los Altos-area Halloween party for children and adults. Moments earlier, the host had asked Evanson not to micturate on the lawn.

Evanson, who was off-duty at the time, has previously made news for his role in a neither funny nor offensive Christmas video that tried to mock women, blacks, Asians, gays, the transgendered and the homeless. (Segments of the video are preserved in the CBS5 video library, dated Dec. 7, 2005). The department suspended Evanson and 19 other officers who participated in the video. They have since sued the city for its preferential treatment of the Asian officers involved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NOE Newsflash: Town Crier endorses Los Altos

LOS ALTOS, CA -- The editorial board of the Los Altos Town Crier has selected Los Altos as the area in which Los Altos residents should do most of their holiday shopping.

In a studious, point-by-point analysis, the board argued, "why not shop and spend downtown and in our other shopping districts? The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. For starters, there’s available parking."

"Shoppers may choose from 11 women’s clothing stores, eight jewelry stores, five children’s stores and a toy store," the Town Crier writes, "the downtown also has two shoe stores and two pet stores."

The decision of where the town's residents will shop may have impact on retailers from Stanford Shopping Center to as far as the Gilroy Premium Outlets.

"We're beyond humbled," said Phyllis Dreer, 78, of Main Street Antiques. "It would have been easy for the Los Altos Town Crier to have urged Los Altos to do most of its shopping outside of Los Altos."

Edward Landis, 82, quickly interjected, "Just like it would have been easy for Town Crier to have endorsed against Prop 8, like the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, San Diego Union Tribune, and even the Orange County Register did. But no, our paper has the courage to speak out against the unpleasant things outside Los Altos, like homo-marriage and stores larger than Draeger's."

The editorial also reiterated one of its long running themes: Los Altans have more money than some other people who live nearby. "Residents from our communities will be shopping and spending more than other areas," writes the editorial.

After reading this, 36-year-old Mountain View resident Miguel Sanchez (pictured at right), an illegal immigrant living with 13 of his illegal immigrant relatives, could only cartoonishly shrug as he pulled out the insides of his pant pockets to reveal that they were completely empty.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"The new bar"

Although its exact name and precise location have yet to be determined, the new bar in downtown Los Altos is already generating buzz. Its first true test will be in eight days, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when the sons and daughters of Los Altos (including those who consider themselves "prodigal") return home for the holiday and immediately look for somewhere to drink. A current resident (and former teammate) sends along this preview, edited for length but not for political correctness:

The new bar is cool. I definitely like the layout and the fact that there are a bunch of tables. There also are back rooms for when we go there with groups and aren't feeling like mingling with other people. The price of beer is good too; if I remember correctly, Sierra Nevada's were only $4 — maybe $4.50, but still less than the $6 you pay at Bandera’s [Los Altos Grill]. So that's a plus.
Right now it is the new thing and everybody in Los Altos wants to go there, so it's a little crowded, and unfortunately the crowds are old people trying to be young again. I'm all for partying with adults, but, at least when I was there, it seemed like there were a lot of people with a "I'm too young for Bandera's" attitude, when in reality they fit right in at Bandera's. Hopefully it will be nice when the crowds die down and it becomes a quieter place, not as crazy as it is now.
The food is good too. I tried the wings, a classic bar food, and they were good. The Boardwalk has better, and these wings were a little smaller than usual, but overall I enjoyed them. I also had a burger there, which was good as well. The garlic fries were delicious, not like at a Giant’s game, but still really good. Our waitress was pretty retarded and one of our meals came out later than the rest, not even to the point of any of us complaining, but still later. She ended up taking it off the check without us saying anything at all. So that was really nice.
Overall, I give it my approval. I think it's a really fun place to go and obviously it's great because we can walk to and from. I will be spending many a night there in the future. I talked to the owner that night, just real quick, and asked him what time they close and he said that it's usually between 12-1 AM, but that's only because people are leaving. If people stay and are partying, they will stay open until 2 AM, which is really nice. I don't know what it's like after midnight; had a late dinner there and hung out for a bit afterwards, but didn't stay late to close the place down. I really want to do that and see what it's like, but that most likely won't be until the night before Thanksgiving.

It is worth noting that our contributor's approval is essentially a necessary and sufficient condition for success as a Los Altos watering hole.

Monday, November 17, 2008

We may need to lower our expectations slightly

Contrary to the normal spirit of this blog, I thought I would use my inaugural post to deliver original news from a high level source.  

While certain elements of NOE's readership believe the Obama election is a precursor to our city's ascendency to national prominence, and perhaps will yield a key foreign policy role for the LAHS water polo team, a member of future White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's team put an end to such optimism in an exclusive interview with your correspondent.

"It is safe to say that BO [Barack Obama] has no special plans for Los Altos," says the source, a veteran staffer in Emanuel's congressional office.  "At the moment, I don't think his diplomatic efforts center around the deployment of the high school polo team, either."  The source is familiar with the Swamp Dogs, and has assured concerned parties that attempts will be made to bring their capabilities to the attention of the White House.

When pressed on the indifference the President-elect apparently feels towards Los Altos, the Emanuel staffer elaborated on the possibility that the Town Crier's endorsement of Proposition 8 may be to blame.

"What assholes.  But, no, I don't believe that has anything to do with it." 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Palo Alto still has a long way to go to be as racist as Los Altos

"At last, my hometown outdoes yours," writes a Palo Alto native, referring to Police Chief Lynne Johnson's instruction that officers who see black people in certain neighborhoods stop them and "find out who they are," especially those wearing bandannas.

Johnson quickly backtracked from what was most likely a verbal misstep. She was, after all, referring to suspects described by witnesses as bandanna-wearing black men and thought to be responsible for a rash of localized robberies. But that failed to stem the outcry against her. East Palo Alto residents organized a protest march. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Mayor Larry Klein condemned the remarks. The Weekly called for her to resign.

Does anybody seriously think this backlash would have happened in Los Altos?

On the ridealong I did in high school, the police officer made no secret that he was tailing people based on their race, nobody raised an eyebrow. When the city banned day workers from standing on the street, there weren't exactly a large number of people wearing paper bags over their heads. (It was a standing-room-only crowd, though, as perhaps a hundred people turned out to stop a pool from being built in their neighborhood).

If you're interested in reading more about this overblown story (or kerfuffle, if you prefer), I highly recommend the Town Square threads on Palo Alto Online. My favorite comment suggests that racial profiling would be unnecessary if black people were more like Will Smith, or perhaps his character in "The Pursuit of Happyness." It tops even the recent comment from "PA Resident" on the Voice website suggesting that Proposition 8 was justified because "the gay person I know" is happy with the way things are.

Monday, November 10, 2008

NOE 2008 Election Special

Four years ago, the day after John Kerry conceded the 2004 election -- a day so depressing I spent it staring at birds in an effort to console myself, only to make myself more upset when I realized the birds were bound to suffer worst of all -- my paper ran a banner front-page headline declaring that Matt Pear, Nick Galiotto, Laura Macias and The Professor had won election to Mountain View's four open city council seats. The story's "Klemke Wins!" quality notwithstanding, this wasn't so bad in itself. But we found out the very next day that though 100% of precincts had reported, the county had yet to count the paper votes, about 1/4 of the total cast. This led to an embarrassing headline the following week when we had to backtrack from our original story. If there was a saving grace, it was that every other paper made the same mistake in interpreting the county's data, and that none of the results actually changed.

This is a long way of saying that I have at least a plausible excuse for waiting so long to post an election recap. With the possible exception of Measure B (more on that later), the local elections finally appear set. Based on results posted as of 11:00 a.m. Monday morning, it seems safe to say that all incumbents won. But why stop there? This is local politics, after all, and therefore calls for some snide analysis.

Los Altos Hills "Town" Council: Beating John Vidovich
Complete Precincts 9 of 9


Three-time mayor Casey, whom some observers have compared Saruman, returned to the local political scene (over the polite objection of the Town Crier) to complete her downfall. The strict property rights, anti-Barn (but, she stressed, pro-Little League) agenda on which she and Abraham ran carried the endorsement of the Palo Alto Daily News but not, to its credit, the Town Crier. She called for an unenforceable moratorium on campaign signs, as they are out of keeping with the city's character. (That character, the Town Crier immediately reminded readers, is "pleasant"). She also claimed the endorsement of both a deceased resident and, less impressively, the organization of which she is president. And, as the Town Crier accurately predicted, her organization attacked Mayor Mordo with last-minute mailers that wrongly accused him of breaking the law and labeled him as arrogant after he publicly apologized for false statements he had made.

She finished behind every other candidate except for Vidovich, who didn't spend a dime on his campaign despite the million dollars in unwanted federal subsidies he had lying around. It's refreshing to see not even Los Altos Hills is conservative enough that affiliation with the Bush Administration is a winning platform. Perhaps the town is becoming an ideopolis.

Mountain View City Council: Read NOE, win a seat
Completed Precincts 43 of 43


Maybe it's an infinitesimally small sample size (I'm still waiting for new correspondent Happy to run the appropriate regression analysis), but if there's one trend that jumped out at me from the Mountain View returns, it's that the winners tend to read NOE, at least occasionally. The Professor, a regular commenter, and Macias, who once called this post "smarmy" (which I still choose to take as a compliment), cruised to reelection. Kasperzak finished third, returning to the council as a Democrat. I don't have any evidence that fourth-place finisher John Inks is a NOE reader, but I also don't have any evidence that he isn't.

The surprise, according to both the Voice's analysis and this theory, is that Miz Crank did not fare better. This is somewhat of a shame for the city. Perhaps her emphasis on public safety resonated less as economic shocks and other big news made the six homicides earlier this year fade from the collective conscience. As it happens, it's beginning to look like that spike in the murder rate was more statistical noise than some kind of violent crime wave. I can't say I'm sorry about that, but it might have been better for Miz Crank's campaign had that not been the case.

Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District Board: Forgiving Phil Fallaice
Completed Precincts 76 of 76


Sweeley ran away with the board's first contested election in years, overcoming an unfortunate paraphrasing about the achievement gap in a Voice profile. I'd like to think that the difference in support between Sweeley and fellow incumbent Faillace is a result of people remembering the latter's effort to ruin the science curriculum at the high school back in 1997 (an effort which in turn forced me to give a speech to the student body in protest, taking off my shirt only when the closing lines didn't go over as well as I had hoped). I think a much more likely explanation is that the district has 6,000 voters who vote like my mom.

Santa Clara County Measure B: Not forgiving BART-to-San-Jose
Completed Precincts 1,142 of 1,142


BART-to-San-Jose looks headed to defeat, again, no thanks to the local papers. The most mystifying twist this election was that so many of them finally caved in and endorsed this misguided project. It seemed almost like they were sick of having to argue against it. Or perhaps they were adhering to Koland's stance on high-speed rail: 'We waste billions of dollars on a lot of these, and we usually don't get anything cool in return.'

The only thing about this proposal that has changed since local papers and county voters rejected it in 2006 is that BART boosters had the decency not to hold hospitals and social services hostage this time. It's not as if tunneling under downtown San Jose to pick up a small fraction of riders at a huge portion of the cost suddenly became a good idea. Of course, defeat at the polls hasn't stopped the project before, and it probably won't stop the project this time. But that's no reason to endorse it.

Loretta Sanchez is my new favorite Congresswoman

The fighting Congressional Sanchez sisters came to UCLA Law today to talk about their childhoods and hawk their book, Dream in Color.

Loretta, who last appeared on the blog two years en route to her crushing defeat of Tan "Rusty Shackleford" Nguyen, provided my favorite moments of the lecture:
  • Justifying her decision to interrupt herself mid-sentence and get up from her seat to step on a cricket: "I thought it was a cockroach"
  • Describing her parents' impression of her childhood intellect compared to her older brother's: "The retard."
  • Recounting her decision to run against "B-1 Bob Dornan" in 1996 after he refused to meet with her: "Screw you."

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Suck it, Paly

12-1, Los Altos water polo repeats as De Anza Division champs, claiming the sixth title for the Forces of Good in the last 10 years.

Somebody put the highlights up on TownTube.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Change comes to Los Altos!!!!

I love the postal service as much as anyone, except maybe my college friend Addorio. I mean, just think how mind-blowing it is that you can put a letter in a box in Los Altos and for 42 cents have it probably show up in a box you've chosen 3,000 miles away. (And nevermind the fact that you could do the same thing much faster for free via e-mail). But: really? Still no mention anywhere on the site of the fact that Obama won?

The Town Crier isn't ignoring the election entirely. It has the results of the high school board election, although for some reason not the Los Altos Hills City Council race. (More on both races in a later post). Also, this:
This year’s presidential race and state propositions have engendered hurt feelings that go beyond the election results.
Also, with help from the Town Crier, they've engendered hurt feelings that are directly attributable to the election results. Of course, it hurts more to lose a campaign sign than to lose a fundamental right.

So Much for "Change"

Barack Obama's "change" is starting to look a lot like Clinton redux. Someone might want to tell him that reassembling the Clinton administration and appointing the same, old Democratic party faithfuls isn't "change."

In fact, its quite the opposite.

Good to see that Lawrence Summers hasn't lost any respect from the people in power after his humiliating, forced resignation from his post as president of Harvard in the wake of ignorant, sexist comments.

I bring out the worst in people

An election recap is coming soon, but first: The high school teammate responsible for talking me into starting a blog does his first bit of correspondent work today, reporting from the scene outside the Westwood Mormon temple -- which happens to be built, I believe, by the grandfather of a fellow teammate and friend of the blog. The correspondent sent two drafts of his report. One was mature and informative. The other is below. Pictures will be uploaded tomorrow.
Throngs of queers, queens, and quacks queued up on the streets of Los Angeles today to collectively piss on the outcome of Tuesday's election. Angelenos who had forgotten about the political predispositions of Orange County and most of Central California gathered outside the three-hundred foot Mormon Temple, made of white Utah cement by men in ordained undergarments, to protest the decision to amend the Golden State's constitution to prevent these crudes and creeps from slipping rings onto each others fingers for a change. The irony of exercising their constitutionally-protected right to free assembly was indeed lost on this crowd, as they were more concerned with displaying their wit and verve with signs like Shame on You, Joseph Smith: Prophet Polygamist Pedophile, and You Have Five Wives I Want One.

The party soon began sauntering up Westwood Boulevard in search of more impressionable citizens to molest and riot police to dance in front of. It wasn't long before the honking horns and gawking onlookers weren't enough attention and the whole gaggle decided to sit in the road and pout, flashing a red pair of ass-less chaps at the shield-and-jack boot bulls. Unfortunately for those of us looking for simple, animal entertainment, once the Freedom-Protector-in-Charge bellowed for everyone to move along, the crowd responded as if someone had muttered the safe word through a ball gag. Once it became clear that the leaders of the protest weren't going to spill any precious bodily fluids in the name of civil disobedience, the whole scene took on the flavor of a Gay Pride parade, but without the clever outfits. And that's when the author and his male coed compatriot got the balls out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congrats to the Bastards at the LATC

Bruce Barton and other Freedom Haters look as if they have scored a victory for the forces of darkness in an otherwise bright day. Proposition 8 looks to have passed with the full support of out-of-staters, the Mormon Church (which donated 40% of Yes on Prop 8 funds), ignorant LATC directors and the very slim support of California voters.

Its a sad thing when 1) there is a vote to deny rights to a certain sector of the population and 2) when it passes.

At least Toni Casey lost.