Thanks to City Council
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you fight climate change? One vote at a time.
Thank you to the Mountain View City Council for the decision last week to ban natural gas in all new homes and ramp up electric vehicle charging space requirements for new construction ("Council backs natural gas ban for all new homes," Nov. 1). And thank you to the residents of this fine city for electing leaders willing to take the first critical and necessary steps to transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
While our local leaders take action, our federal leaders appear to need more of a nudge. Please ask your national representatives to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would place a carbon fee on producers and distribute the revenue directly to American citizens.
Each of our voices, actions and votes matter. Let's eat this elephant.
Christine Marie Opitz
Issues with council's natural gas ban
I think the City Council may have made a poorly thought out noble gesture in banning natural gas use in new construction. I wouldn't be sure this even decreases greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
Currently, only about 32% of California electricity comes from renewables. The rest of the electricity, produced by fossil fuels, is generated at efficiencies of 40% to 50%, and there is an additional 6% loss in transmission, so a kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered to a home, produced by burning natural gas, takes the equivalent of 2.4 kWh in natural gas at the power plant. My current condensing natural gas furnace is 95% efficient, so it would take a very efficient heat pump furnace to improve on it, and there is also the issue of lifetime — heat pumps, especially since they are also used for air conditioning, have shorter lifetimes than gas furnaces, higher initial costs and higher maintenance costs, so the overall costs are likely to be higher than a gas furnace.
Another issue is natural gas for cooking, generally preferred by serious cooks, where electric is significantly more efficient in warm weather when you're not heating your home. But in winter, when you're heating your home, heat lost in natural gas range cooking just goes to heat your home. Switching to induction cooking, the next best choice, would require replacing all of my cookware, a huge investment for someone with a large set of good pots and pans.
A last issue is the reliability of our electrical grid, with PG&E turning off electricity for many for extended periods and Mountain View's extensive system of above-ground power lines, susceptible to high winds, squirrels and tree branches. No natural gas also means no natural gas-powered electrical generators, which can run for unlimited times during electrical outages — what is a hospital or an assisted living facility or a fire station going to do for power during an outage, let alone a homeowner who can only get a gasoline-fueled generator that will run eight to 16 hours on a tank of gas?
I think a far better alternative is the carbon tax: That accounts for the greenhouse emissions of all kinds of energy and would affect a shift to renewables and electric appliances running off renewable-produced electricity.
How can Bullis Charter School and the county school board claim "equality" when it is well known that they require a $5,000 per child "gift" to attend, even though they say it is "requested." And tax-deductible at that! So much for the underserved community at San Antonio coming up with that kind of cash.
It's a "private school" that we taxpayers are paying for. I am disgusted that they keep getting away with this.
Parcel tax or bond?
FHDA (Foothill De Anza College District) is asking residents in the district their views to decide whether to put a parcel tax or a bond measure (or both) on the ballot. Here are reasons to consider before simply supporting our higher education system.
•Student enrollment at both colleges is significantly down the past few years when jobs have been plentiful.
•Even the new buildings and classroom renovations added from Measure C (the 2006 bond program provided $490.8 million for buildings) have some empty classrooms.
•50% of every dollar going to education is not used for instruction and teaching, but administration and maintenance.
•Enrollment of international students is down 16%, though up at Mission and West Valley colleges.
•The state's ending of repeatability means that the community can take the classes they want for enrichment (art, music, physical education, dance, theater, photography, etc.) just once. We used to be able to repeat a course for a total of six times for greater education and exploration.
•The district is actively recruiting high school students and students of color from outside the district because the state pays more for these students. Essentially the communities that pay the bond or parcel taxes are being cut out of the college in favor of those living outside the district.
For over six years, fruit, almond, walnut and oak trees have been vandalized in the Cuesta Annex natural open space. But recently, the quantity of vandalism has escalated.
Each time it happened, I hoped it would be the last, and then my hopes are dashed again. Just today, I found almost 30% of a large white walnut tree has been torn down. The tree had been gradually vandalized since January of this year. Also, the rootstocks at the base of a 100-year-old almond tree (whose fragrant pink blossoms brighten visitors' days each spring) have had the bark chopped off at its base, effectively killing one-third of the tree's canopy. Someone "girdling" the tree trunks with a sharp tool has killed 5- to 10-year-old oak trees. More than 20 trees in the annex have had their tree trunk bark chopped away, limbs broken or both. Some people suspect the culprit damages trees late during moonlit nights — so does this person live nearby the annex? How can this vandalism be stopped?
I think the city should offer a $5,000 reward for the capture of this individual, with the money coming from fines levied on this urban vandal ($5,000 for each damaged tree trunk or limb with a diameter of 6 or more). This would be about 20 infractions, or $100,000 in fines. That's only a penalty of 2 cents per annex visit over a 10-year period (assuming 50 annex visitors a day over 10 years). This may be too small of a penalty for the person who diminishes annex visitors' visual and emotional experience during their daily walks.
My friend Mike Fischetti passed away last month. I am sad and yet so grateful for Mike. You'll undoubtedly hear of the many ways Mike has served our community through Hope's Corner, MayView Clinic, and by his tireless advocacy for students and those struggling to make it here in Silicon Valley.
Mike has been a sort of mentor for me. Mike taught me to love individuals and to advocate for those in need or crisis. I remember years ago being with Mike when someone returned to him a small amount of money. It has always stuck in mind that when Mike accepted the payment, he told us that he would be saving that money to pass on to someone else in need. It's a small memory, but one that has guided my actions as money and gift cards have passed through my hands.
Mike taught me to honor and include those I don't agree with. Mike taught me the value of making friends with those who think differently than I do. When I find myself in conflict, I often recall sitting with Mike in his backyard or on his living room couch working together to figure out the best way to advocate for those we care about. Invariably, I learned from him to lead and serve with love.
Mike, I'm so grateful that you have been my friend.
West Middlefield Road