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OMVNA Newsletter

July-August 2008
Volume 20, Number 5

The OMVNA Newsletter is distributed to 1900 households and 175 downtown businesses by dedicated volunteers.  The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the OMVNA Steering Committee. Let us know what you think!

Editor: Velva Rowell
E-mail: editor@omvna.org

IN THIS ISSUE:
From the Chair
OMVNA Ice Cream Social: August 24th
A Few Minutes With...Aaron Grossman
How to Deal With Rising Rents
What Happens if the Water Stops?
It’s Just Mountain View’s Cup of Tea
Socially Responsible Investing for the Long Term
Have More Fun, Use Less Gas
Critter Column: Big Bird
Steering Commitee Update
Our Newsletter Sponsors


From the Chair
by Noam Livnat

This is my second year with the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association (yeah, it’s a mouthful). I had never been involved in community work and when I joined I figured this would be a good way to start since, despite my and my wife’s wunderlust, we seem to be putting down roots in this unique community.

It’s been an eyeopening experience.

Beneath the quiet, leisurely moving surface of OMVNA there’s constant activity. Take our newsletter for example: People need to write the articles. Somebody needs to sell the newsletter ads which sponsor most of our activities, including our upcoming ice cream social. Thousands of copies need to be printed. Prints need to be divided into packages, which need to be delivered to a small army of vol-unteers who then tenderly deposit the newsletter at your door-step, rain or shine. No mean task.

In fact, OMVNA has its tentacles in many other activities. We play an important role with our neighborhood CERT (community emergency response team) and help fund some of its work. We have a person serving as a community liaison with the City to ensure that we can keep you informed of any important developments. We serve as a voice for the community when new development projects are considered and when charities or organizations can use our support – as was the case in bringing the Soap Box Derby to Mountain View.
We do all this as part of our mission to encourage our sense of community, help residents obtain important information, and improve our quality of life here in Old Mountain View.

OMVNA enjoys a unique status with the City, which makes it easier for us to keep everybody informed and to look after our interests. This special position was achieved over time, and is based on the continuous commitment that OMVNA has shown to its goals over the 16 years since it was established, willed into being by a few people (one of whom lives a few doors down from me) who took the initiative and made it happen.

And in truth, this is what it is all about – initiative. There’s a lot more that we can do for our-selves, and all it takes is a little initiative. Want to organize agrouppurchasing of hybrid cars? Feel like helping raise money for our local schools? Have some time to teach a new immigrant better English or how to deal with banks? Whatever it is you want to do, you can do it, and OMVNA can probably help. As a community focal point, we can help you reach out to the community and find resources. We might even be able to help with funding.

Each of us can make a difference, even in small ways, by getting involved. When you feel the urge, you should also consider taking an active role in OMVNA to find out for yourself. We’d love to see you at our next meeting.

OMVNA Ice Cream Social: August 24th

It’s that time again! For the third year, the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association is proud to host our summer Ice Cream Social. In each of the past two years, OMVNA has served over 400 people who have come to enjoy beautiful weather, the company of their neighbors, and of course, quality ice cream.

This year the OMVNA Steering Committee decided to change things up by serving Ice Cream Sundaes! Marble Slab Ice Cream will be serv-ing four flavors of homemade ice cream in a cup, and you get to add up to six toppings yourself. The kids will love it!

Speaking of kids, there will be plenty for them to do. In addition to games and “balloon art”, the Lyons Club is bringing out a Soap Box Derby cart for your little tikes to ride! And of course, Charlie the Post-man will be doing the best Elvis impersonation this side of El Camino!

August 24 from 13 at MercyBush park. Bring the whole family!

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A Few Minutes With...Aaron Grossman
by Velva Rowell

This month I spoke to fellow OMVNA Steering Committee member Aaron Grossman. Aaron Grossman has served OMVNA as Treasurer since 1999 and CERT CoChair since around 2000. I was very interested in sitting down with him to talk about his experiences volunteering in this community.

Aaron and Anita Grossman first moved to the Bay Area in 1987, and they settled in Mountain View in 1992. They finally purchased a home in Old Mountain View in 1995. He recently downsized to a townhouse just south of Calderon. When I asked Aaron how he first became involved with OMVNA, he responded the “It was Anita’s fault.” She became the Newsletter Editor in 1997, and she recruited Aaron to fill an open spot in the Steering Committee. He has been part of the OMVNA Steering Committee ever since.

Aaron’s main two community activities are OMVNA CERT and the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail.

Leadership Mountain View training (he’s from the class of 2000) is what first led him to the Friends. According to Aaron, the mission of the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail is to extend the trail from the bay to the mountains as a continuous, multiuse trail. The proposed path of the trail goes through the cities of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and Cupertino, however the Friends cannot build the trail, they can only encourage the cities involved to build the trail themselves. As he says “We cre-ate the political will and voice for that to happen.” Aaron first joined the board of this group in 2000, and has been the Executive Director of this group for three years now.

CERT, the Community Emergency Response Team, provides a way to get local peo-ple involved in disaster preparedness both to prepare them-selves and to help their neighbors prepare. The group, which was founded in around 2000, currently has 50 members, most of whom are local coordinators. Aaron serves as CoChair of the group and as their voice to the OMVNA Steering Committee.

“The idea is to make it fun and help people get to know their neighbors now so we can count on each other in an emergency.” says Aaron. “It’s a great way to build community.”

Aaron believes that the thing that makes OMVNA special is our sense of community. “One of my biggest goals is building community – building connec-tions between people.” He finds that OMVNA brings people together because they are encouraged by the number of people who are willing to volunteer and get involved. “Some of us, myself included, fall into the trap of trying to do everything ourselves. It’s so much better when we include others and widen the circle.”

To learn more about the Friends of the Stevens Creek Trail, go to www.stevenscreektrail.org. For information about OMVNA Cert, go to www.omvna.org and follow the links to CERT. You can also learn about upcoming CERT events by watching the omvnatalk email list.

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How to Deal with Rising Rents
by Shelly King

Another odd twist to the already pretzellike housing problem is more people are moving out of their houses and into rentals. That creates more demand which creates higher rents for those of us happily renting all along. Hardly seems fair, but it’s not hopeless.

Most landlords are much more willing to work with a tenant they know and are happy with than to take a chance on someone new. So if you’ve been a good tenant, you’ve got a lot of leverage. Here are tips to talking to your landlord.

1. Choose one person to be the negotiator, if you’re signing the lease with your roommate. You don’t want multiple people chiming in with points that contradict each other.

2. Know basic information about the landlord and try to understand the landlord’s position. Is your apartment owned by real estate management company with thousands of units or a family renting out a room or their second home? Will a $25 reduction in rent be a big deal to them? Knowing the landlord’s concerns will help the two of you come to an understanding.

3. Be polite. Don’t get angry or hostile. This discussion can be very emotional. This is your home afterall! But being polite will help you stay there.

4. Do not make ultimatums. “Go back to the previous rent or I won’t stay!” Unless, of course, you mean it. Most times, the costs of moving outweigh a moderate rent increase, so be careful.

5. Do your research. Check Craigslist and other online sites to compare your rent with similar places in the area.

6. Do your talking in person or on the phone. It’s good to have a paper record of the agreement, but do your negotiating by actually talking with your landlord. It’s too easy for wording in letters and emails to be misconstrued and negatively affect your negotiation.

After it’s over, treat yourself to something you enjoy. Regardless of the outcome, you stood up for what you wanted and you should be rewarded for that.

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What Happens if the Water Stops?
by Aaron Grossman

The most important goal of CERT (Community Emergency Respose Team) here in Old Mountain View is to get people to prepare in advance for a regional disaster. While it could be from terrorism or an industrial accident, the most likely scenario is a major earthquake, and we’re due for one soon.

Preparation includes setting aside food, water, warm clothes, and any special medication or supplies that your family members will need. Water may not be a problem if the new Mountain View emergency reservoir holds up, the pumping system still works, and there are no water line breaks leading to your home. If any of that fails, you’ll need drinking water first. One gallon per person per day is suggested, although you can get away with less if not exerting yourself.

What we tend to forget and just take for granted is the role water plays in removing personal waste pee and poop, to be polite. Public and private sanitation, and the good health that results from that, depends on running water to carry away our waste. If that stops, the risk of disease jumps way up if people do not properly dispose of their waste.

If the water stops, there is one flush left per toilet, assuming the sewer lines still work. Then what? You probably do not have enough spare water to keep flushing the toilet, but heavy duty garbage bags are a good solution. Tuck one into each toilet while the toilet is still clean for a safe and sanitary way to collect and hold waste until proper collection can be arranged. It’s probably best to use these bags for solid waste only, and to pee in a shallow hole in the back yard if possible.

There are also recreational camping toilets you can buy, ranging from deluxe flushing models with storage tanks to simple toilet seats on folding legs with a set of matching sanitary bags. I bought two simple camping portajohns at Mountain View Surplus for $10 each. They fold flat and take up very little space in the garage, and are ready when needed.

Try to minimize other waste such as food leftovers. Use planning to avoid creating much waste or make it a treat for the local cats and dogs. Don’t leave it out unprotected or raccoons will be visiting.

There are good online resources available on disaster preparation and camping supplies check them out. Just don’t wait until after a disaster hits to try to get ready for it.

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It’s Just Mountain View’s Cup of Tea
by Sharlene Gee

People continue to discover Mountain View Reads Together, now in its third year. This No-vember, our city comes together as a community around one book and its themes through a variety of activities. The 2008 book is the very popular “Three Cups of Tea – one man’s mission to promote peace… one school at a time” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book recounts the unlikely journey that begins with Mortenson’s failed attempt to climb Pakistan’s K2 (the world’s second highest mountain). Recuperating in a remote Afghan village, Mortenson finds his passion, helping villagers in isolated regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan to realize their own dreams of building schools for their girls. Planned November activities center around individuals following their dreams to make a difference at home and in the world, nonprofits, K2, and Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Our featured speaker will be awardwinning author and filmmaker Jennifer Jordan, one of the world’s leading experts on K2 and women mountaineers. She’ll share tales of amazing courage and achievement, in an arena where decisions can mean life or death. Jordan’s film, Women of K2, will be one of several films to be screened in November.

Family activities include a Pakistani cultural event and one where local heroes relate their stories of how they turned their dreams into reality.

After reading this book, many are inspired to do something … anything … about causes they care about. To help make it easy for you to learn what you can do here, there will be activities that showcase local nonprofits. Come find out how a little of your volunteer time can really make a difference. Or create a short film inspired by this book and be eligible to win $500 and a new Flip Ultra video camera.

Mark your calendars for No-vember, and check the website for the most up to date information: www.mvreads.org, info@mvreads.org, 9036337.

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Socially Responsible Investing for the Long Term
by Ken Rosenberg, CFP™

The past few years have hammered home the importance of corporate integrity, as inves-tors watched former Wall Street darlings collapse in the aftermath of corporate scandal. In fact, a majority of investors now be-lieve that companies that operate with higher levels of social responsibility carry less risk (55%) and deliver better returns (52%).1 And 71% of investors contend that knowing that companies are rated higher in terms of their social performance would make them more likely to invest in such companies.

But how do you go about in-vesting in companies with higher levels of integrity? An investment strategy called socially responsible investing (SRI) pro-vides an option. SRI is based on the principle of investing in wellmanaged companies that act responsibly towards shareholders, communities, employees, consumers, and the environment.

Socially Responsible Investing

So, what exactly is SRI? SRI is an investment strategy that integrates social or environmental criteria into financial analysis. Although the term has a contemporary ring to it, socially responsible investing is hardly new. SRI was first formally practiced by religious investors who, nearly 100 years ago, avoided companies involved in tobacco, alcohol, and gambling. During the 1980s, there was a resurgence of interest in SRI as investors shunned companies operating in apartheid South Africa.

Now many investors are con-cerned about a broader range of issues, including environmental protection, workers’ rights, product safety, and business eth-ics. In fact, SRI represents nearly one out of every 10 dollars under professional management (or $2.29 trillion), up 258% from 1995 ($639 billion).

How SRI Works

Of course, most investment managers look for companies with strong balance sheets, sound management, and viable products. But socially responsible investments add another layer of analysis on top of traditional financial analysis that seeks to identify companies that meet specific social and environmental criteria. Many social investors believe that this social research process can identify companies with lower risk and better quality management, thus helping to contribute to better longterm financial performance.

In addition, many socially responsible investors also actively use their position as owners to push companies to improve. For example, Calvert, one of the nation’s largest families of SRI funds, often works with companies to encourage them to address issues of social and environmental concern. In 2007, Calvert has filed or cofiled 36 shareholder resolutions on a variety of issues. Shareholder resolutions are formal requests that can come to a vote in front of all shareholders asking companies to take specific actions, such as working to diversify their boards, enhancing their corporate governance practices, and improving their environmental policies. Everyday shareholders can have an impact by simply voting in support of such social resolutions, much like you might cast a political vote.

Lastly, many social investors direct some of their assets to promote community investment projects in the U.S. and around the world. In addition to earning competitive returns, these assets contribute to ending poverty by increasing affordable housing, community development, access to capital, and more.

Millions of Americans are looking to integrate their financial goals with their concerns about the environment, safe products, fair labor practices, and other qualityoflife issues. SRI offers investors the opportunity to build sound portfolios for their financial futures, while helping to build a better future for the world.

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Have More Fun, Use Less Gas

Sunnyvale, CA…60 years of making music. That’s the ongoing legacy of The Peninsulaires, the Palo Alto Mountain View Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society. This 40man chorus is one of the best kept musical secrets on the Peninsula. They rehearse every Tuesday evening from 7:30 to 10:30 PM at a venue that is open to the public. In the past month, visitors from as far away as Minnesota, Norway and Israel have stopped in to enjoy this unique style of a cappella music. You can visit them free of charge at the Multi Purpose Room of the First United Methodist Church at 535 Old San Francisco Road in Sunnyvale.

“When most people think of barbershop singing, they think of a quartet,” said Steve Sammonds, Chorus Director. “When we show up they are surprised to find forty guys instead of four. But the music is the same. We sing four part harmony arranged for men’s voices. These arrangements generate a sound quality that’s different from other styles of vocal music.”

Sammonds explained that every man in the group is an amateur singer. “Most of the guys didn’t read music when they joined,” said Sammonds. “But our Society, in general, and this Chapter in particular, are very good at teaching things like music fundamentals and how to sing properly. A lot of untrained singers will be horse after they’ve sung for only an hour. Not our guys. We teach them how to use that wonderful instrument called the human voice without strain. That’s one of the reasons we all have so much fun.”

The Peninsulaires invite you to join them any Tuesday evening at their rehearsal venue. You can also hire the full chorus or just a quartet for parties, fund raisers, corporate events or community activities. For more information and to view their public performance schedule, visit their web site at www.thepeninsulaires.org or email info@thepeninsulaires.org.

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Critter Column: Big Bird
by Jack Perkins

The Great Blue Heron (or in birdwatcher fieldspeak, GBH), frequents our neighborhood. This bird stands perfectly still and is nearly five feet tall with a wingspan of six feet.

To their prey Great Blue Herons are the embodiment of stealth. They stand motionless until wham! Their long, slender pointy beaks grab the next meal.

We think of them as wading birds (which they are), but they also “wade” through grasslands and pluck up mice, gophers, snakes and lizards. Basically anything that moves that they can get down their throat.

I watched one in that big field along Sand Hill Road pluck up a gopher and then slap it on the ground about ten times in order to stop the wiggling and make it eas-ier to swallow.

That big field is now covered with student housing.

They are commuters. Sometimes you can catch them flying overhead in our neighborhood towards the Bay’s marshlands in the morning and back home at dusk. Home can be a very tall tree in the foothills. There they roost as well as build huge nests at great heights and raise their big chicks.

They know every backyard pond and clean out the local pond owners regularly. My friend George, an OMVNer, uses a slingshot to move them out. He doesn’t actually shoot at the GBH but merely shows the bird that he has a slingshot, and the bird leaves. They know what mankind is capable of.

Others including myself have been robbed of our fish by this lanky culprit. So we buy cheaper goldfish and maybe put a screen over the pond, which kills the aesthetics. I got out of the pond business altogether.

The Great Blue Heron is doing pretty well Their numbers are strong and they aren’t on any threatened lists. However, it is always such a surprise to see one. You’d think they are rare and endangered because they are so odd looking, but I am happy to say things are OK for the GBH.

Keep buying those goldfish.

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Steering Committee Update

We neglected to mention last month that our Webmaster, Shelly King, has stepped up to full the At-Large position that was formerly held by Secretary Hugh Donagher.

Plans are underway for the annual ice cream social. We are hoping that you and your family plan to attend.

The Steering Committee is seeking someone who is not a member to chair our Nominating Committee this year. If you are interested, please contact Velva Rowell at editor@omvna.org.

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Asante


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