Dan Dykwel is a businessman who supports a new business tax; a school volunteer who doesn't have children in the school system; and a real-estate broker who wants to protect the city from too much housing.
Dykwel, 57, ran for City Council in 2007 but didn't get the votes needed to win. The problem, he thinks, was residents' anxiety about dense developments encroaching into their neighborhoods. Some associated real-estate agents such as Dykwel with developers, a linkage that in Dykwel's opinion isn't accurate.
"They falsely associate Realtors with developments, but that's not what we do," Dykwel said. "We help people get into existing homes.
"We really understand that the value of the home is based on the quality of life and the schools."
Dykwel has spent years as a volunteer in the school district. He recently completed his second term as president of the Palo Alto Council of PTAs. He and his wife, Sunny, have organized the city's Black and White Ball, an annual fundraiser for school recreation programs.
But while Dykwel is among the most sociable and talkative candidates on the November ballot, his campaign is focusing on serious, tedious bedrock issues such as roads and public-safety infrastructure.
"We must do a better job of taking care of the essentials of running the city," he said in a response to a Palo Alto Neighborhoods questionnaire. This means continuing the city's quest for a new public-safety building and addressing the city's growing backlog of infrastructure projects, he says.
Dykwel acknowledged that "infrastructure" isn't the most engaging word for the public, but that doesn't make the city's potholes and sidewalk cracks any less irksome.
"I have to decide which bicycle to ride, depending on where I'm going," Dykwel told the Weekly. "The fact that we're approaching a $450 million backlog is to me problematic."
But the current economic slump presents both a challenge and an opportunity, Dykwel said, noting that the cost of local capital projects has dropped by about a third in the past year.
"Now is a great time to spend money on infrastructure because it's so much cheaper to do things," Dykwel said.
Dykwel is particularly passionate about the need to build a new public-safety building -- a project that was stalled by the economic downturn. He served on a blue-ribbon task force that evaluated the need for a new police headquarters, and he says the city will be "shortsighted" if it doesn't give the project a higher priority.
"We need to go back and make the case to the community that this is as important a project as the library is," Dykwel said.
Dykwel also believes that his years of involvement in the business community give him insights into the best ways to raise revenues and trim expenses. He speaks fluently about Palo Alto's messy application process for new developments and about the need to both support current business owners and bring new ones to the city. In the PAN questionnaire, he proposed assigning an "ombudsman" role to a city employee and having that person "help new businesses navigate the complexity of obtaining permits."
He also hasn't been bashful about disagreeing with other local business owners. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, he worked on a task force that considered the city's proposed business-license tax.
Dykwel said the committee members were essentially trying to figure out how they would oppose the new tax. But a funny thing happened during the dialogue -- Dykwel realized that he actually supports the new tax.
"As we got the proposal from the city, I came to a conclusion that there was more benefit than cost," Dykwel said. "It didn't appear to be onerous."
For Dykwel, the key to a better Palo Alto is having the various segments of the community -- including the City Council, school officials and business owners -- work together to solve the pressing problems. And Dykwel, a man with experience in all three realms, believes he can help facilitate that kind of cooperation.