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By Diana Diamond

Are we losing our common sense?

Uploaded: Apr 20, 2020

In our collective concern about coronavirus, some decisions are being made that defy common sense.

Our roads are emptier the past couple of weeks, since everyone is staying at home under a lockdown because of COVID-19. But officials in our area are coming up with some perplexing (unique?) solutions to solving some perceived problems.

For example, three Palo Alto City Council members have complained that because the roads are emptier, some motorists speed by their house, as, Councilmember Alison Cormack said -- and before she can even raise her arm to get them to slow down. Mayor Adrian Fine and Councilmember Liz Kniss echoed these concerns. So last week Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhl came up with a solution: Close down all these streets where drivers speed, so people and bicyclists can walk and ride in the middle of them.

Close down the roads. What a simple solution to a problem! Why didn’t I think of it? Maybe because the streets are so empty now it didn’t dawn on me that we had a new problem?

It got me to thinking: This simplistic strategy can be applied to lots of other problems we have:
• Too much traffic in town? Ban cars from entering Palo Alto. Problem solved.
• City budget deficits? Forget about providing services like libraries and parks, and that will easily balance a budget.
• Fear of coronavirus settling on library books when returned? Burn the books!
• Too much airplane noise? Prohibit planes flying over Palo Alto into SFO or SJC. The feds will understand during these coronavirus crisis times.
• No available face masks? You don’t have to wear one if you never take a step outside your doorway.

Such simple solutions to so many prior problems, I facetiously suggest.

But one Mountain View man who sent a letter-to-the-editor at the Palo Alto Post complained that solving grade-crossing problems when more electric trains are coming is taking much too long. The easier and inexpensive way, he said, is just to put big concrete barriers in front of the crossings, so motorists would have to find an underpass to get to the other side of the tracks. Only problem? There aren’t many underpasses around. But at least the big crossing issue got answered.

And it wasn’t too long ago that to solve one of the grade crossing problem areas – Churchill Avenue – the Palo Alto council was seriously considering closing down Churchill, which is the street kids use daily to get to Paly High School.


On another subject, Santa Clara County has recently banned gardeners from working at private residences, declaring these “non-essential” jobs.

My gardener, who comes every two weeks, recently was given a warning twice by the city, and told that if he gets a third warning, both he and I will be fined. Ah, yes, our police department hard at work. But some of these same gardeners have been using gas-driven leaf blowers, which are noisy, but the police didn’t have time to handle that problem.

I don’t understand the ban on gardeners. The two of them come, work outside the whole time, never see me, wear masks, and don’t talk to anyone. How can that be a coronavirus concern?

But both men have families, one with a disabled child, and both have no other income. Now they are afraid to come – they don’t want to be fined. How does this ban help them? Or me? How can the one dad pay for needed medical care for his kid? How can their families pay for groceries? What kind of common sense approach is this to a problem?

And while I am talking about gardening and essential services, Summer Winds is open for pick-up only and you have to place an order in advance. Evidently they are swamped – I called 24 times and the line was always busy. I put my name on a call-back list, but never got a response. I tried to send an email but the Internet wouldn’t let me do it.

Summer Winds and other small local nurseries are declared non-essential businesses, and therefore no customers are allowed inside Yet if this forces Sumer Winds to shut down, as has been rumored, where do we get our garden plants? What happens to the people employed there for years?

Frustratingly, as Weekly blogger Doug Moran mentioned the other day, two local big box stores – Home Depot in East Palo Alto and Ace Hardware in Mountain View – have nurseries (and lots of other hardware things). The county (or whatever authority) declared these stores’ nurseries “essential to business.” Neither store is going to shut down because they don’t sell flowers. But our locally operated nurseries could.

Where is the common sense in this official decision?


BTW, late last week, Palo Alto City Manager Ed Shikada said he is presenting a 2020-21 budget to the council. People have complained about the number of employees the city has. So in his budget he has a proposed employee reduction of ONE person – to 1,034 full-time employees for our 65,000 residents.