Victor Frost hopes to expand the city's budget deficit, tackle what he calls Palo Alto's "crackhead" problem and put homeless people to work growing gardens and cleaning up the duck pond in the Baylands.
But first, Palo Alto's most famous panhandler wants to get elected to the City Council.
Frost, 61, was born in Arkansas but has lived in Palo Alto since childhood. He currently lives in his car -- a blue 1988 Honda Accord. He also says he uses an apartment in Redwood City, run by the nonprofit group InnVision, to store things and to freshen up before campaign events ("I don't want to smell like a goat when I go to these forums," he explained).
His car, he said, is his house. His kitchen is a cooler with a portable stove, a knife and a bag of tea; his living room is the front passenger seat, which faces a small television on the dashboard ("It's high definition, and it gets 53 channels -- all free"); his bedroom is a back seat covered with a crumpled blanket; and his office is his car trunk, which houses an old printer, a laptop and some folding chairs.
Frost, a burly man with flowing white hair, a reddish complexion and a sign that asks passersby for either "good food" or "26 cents," rejects arguments that he shouldn't run for council because his apartment is in Redwood City, not in Palo Alto. He lists as his residence a telephone pole near Page Mill Road and Park Avenue in Palo Alto and said he will be sitting near the pole when the results come in on Nov. 3 and his election to the City Council becomes a national story.
Frost has been seeking a council seat in every election over the past decade but has never come close to getting voted in. These days, he is battling Palo Alto over the city's sit-lie ordinance, which prohibits people from sitting on public sidewalks. Last month, a Superior Court judge said the ordinance might have been enforced in a discriminatory manner to target Frost (the case will be heard in late November).
He plans on getting a $1.5 million legal settlement from the city and to use that money to buy an Eichler fixer-upper. Then he could get himself a real office and spend his days handling city business (which includes bridging a budget deficit that, coincidentally, he would increase by $1.5 million).
Frost is also preparing to go to court over an arrest citation he received last month after he yelled racial epithets at another panhandler -- an African-American amputee. That case will also be heard in November.
But Frost doesn't expect his legal entanglements to bog down his campaign. In fact, he is more confident than ever about his City Council prospects.
"People say, 'He's a panhandler,' but guess what? I spend my days meeting and greeting people," Frost said during a recent interview at his Homer Street perch, across the street from Whole Foods Market. "It's all about being in touch with people."
If elected, Frost said his top priority would be getting tough on the aggressive "crackheads" who've been plaguing Palo Alto for the past half a decade or so. He defends his most recent arrest by arguing that the man at whom he was yelling racial epithets was one such crackhead and said the "victim" was trying to take money out of Frost's bowl.
"In India, they chop off your hand for that," Frost said at a recent candidate forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, defending his actions.
Frost also said he opposes the proposed business-license tax, Measure A, and said he would favor giving businesses tax breaks to encourage them to stay in town. He said he would push for the Opportunity Center -- an InnVision-run facility that provides apartments and drop-in services to homeless people -- to serve "hot, fresh, nutritious food" every day at 5 p.m.; to offer jobs to homeless people ($10 an hour, paid at the end of each day -- no vouchers); and to open two dormitories with 100 beds to shelter residents in need.
He also wants to revive the old Palo Alto Community Farm -- also known as the "Homeless Garden" -- which once trained homeless people in horticulture and paid them to grow vegetables. Frost hopes the garden could once again sprout at its former location, across from the downtown bus terminal, and that it would provide fresh vegetables to replace the "Dumpster food" that he says homeless people currently have to subsist on (his official campaign statement includes a request, "Please, no more Dumpster food").
Frost said he laments what he called the "silver-spoon" backgrounds of other council members and candidates and said he would defend the constitutional rights of all city residents, should they choose him to represent them.
"It is as clear as an Indian spotted pony on the lone prairie that there is something very wrong with the Palo Alto City Council and the Palo Alto Police Department," Frost wrote in his candidate statement. "We must work to change this and to resolve these problems to a comment level.
"This in turn will improve the quality of life hear (sic) in Palo Alto."