News

Race for Palo Alto City Council expands

Three candidates from 2009 election re-join the quest

Perpetual Palo Alto City Council candidate and panhandler Victor Frost is again tossing his hat into the ring this year, bringing the number of unofficial candidates for November's race to six. Finance consultant Timothy Gray this week also filed his campaign-finance statement.

A seventh potential candidate, concert promoter Mark Weiss, has pulled election papers but has not yet filed them.

They join attorney Marc Berman, Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss and incumbent councilmen Greg Schmid and Pat Burt in their quest to fill four open seats on the nine-member council.

Frost, Gray and Weiss all made bids for the council in 2009.

Last year, Frost -- who often sits on sidewalks in the downtown and California Avenue districts -- lost a long legal tussle with the city over its sit-lie ordinance and was fined $50 for two infractions. His campaign flier this year lists "constitutional rights, homeless rights, civil rights and developing a new democracy" as his key issues.

In 2009, Gray focused his campaign on the city's finances and its infrastructure backlog. He identified himself as "independent voice" and also expressed concerns about the police department and high-speed rail.

Most recently, Weiss has advocated for the preservation of the old Varsity Theater in downtown Palo Alto, which formerly housed a Borders bookstore, as a concert venue. In 2009, Weiss told the Weekly he would eschew both campaign committees and financial contributions.

According to campaign-finance statements, covering the period from Jan. 1 to June 30, neither Frost nor Gray have received any contributions for their council bids.

With three months to go, most of the other candidates' campaigns are just starting to hit the ground. Marc Berman has received $22,105 in contributions, including $100 from current councilwoman Nancy Shepherd and $350 from the Rich Gordon for Assembly Committee.

Kniss has raised $5,800, including contributions from current councilwoman Gail Price and past council members Judy Kleinberg, Gary Fazzino and Peter Drekmeier.

Schmid has loaned his campaign $2,500. Burt has announced his candidacy but not officially entered the race.

Besides the council candidates' fundraising, the campaign to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Palo Alto has raised $2,500 and spent more than $70,000. The majority of that, $47,000, was spent on consultant DLA Piper, and pollster Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates was paid $16,000.

Related stories:

City Council to lose its two youngest members (July 20, 2012)

Berman rakes in contributions for City Council race (July 17, 2012)

Jocelyn Dong

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Registered Voter
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

How much money does it cost to enter a council race? Mr. Frost asks for money for food and to help other homeless people. I once gave money to him, until I wised up, long ago.

It looks like money he collects goes toward his hobby of running for council every election year, where he gets free publicity, and perhaps a raise in his take home pay. Other people fall for his act.

His car takes up a parking space, no matter where he chooses to sit all day, so while merchants and shoppers have to pay to stay in a district, Mr. Frost gets everything for free.

So is a run for council free of charge? Mr. Frost is a resident of Redwood City, living in a nice studio apartment there, at taxpayer's expense, last I heard. A Palo Alto resident challenged his run for office in 2008, if I remember correctly, but newspapers never report outcomes - except for races, doing so before the polls close.

Tim Gray is a good choice. He writes letters to the editor often that are on-target & his stated priorities are needed in Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Leon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Frost, Weiss and Gray run in every election. I don't know why the Weekly spared them the embarrassment of saying how few votes they got in previous elections. In 2007, Gray got 2127 (3%), Weiss got 732 (1%) and Frost 463 (0.7%). Frost was 14th in a 14 candidate field. Web Link

Why are they bothering to run again? Is it to feel important? To have people take them seriously for once in their lives? To be included in the League of Women Voters' forum as if they had a chance?

They create a distraction in the race by talking about irrelevant things or interrupting others during forums. I'd like to see some new, promising candidates in this election -- not the clowns who have run over and over again without any success.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm

If one meets the qualifications then they have every right to run for public office. As citizens we have every right to choose whom to vote for or not to vote for. That's an example of democracy at its intended finest. If you don't think a candidate should be elected then don't vote for them. To discourage someone from running based on their past record in elections or personal perception is the only injustice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just-Say-No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm

This is why we need "None of the Above" on our ballots.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Leon from Crescent Park - your percentages are incorrect. There were about 14,000 voters in the 2009 election, so Gray has around 15%, Weiss around 5%, and Frost around 3%.

In order to qualify to run, a certain number of voters need to sign the candidacy papers.

I do agree that the voter forums should be better coordinated and formatted to allow a more in depth discussion of various issues, and allow the voters to ask questions to help show the differences between the candidates. There are usually 3 - 4 forums, and each forum should focus on one topic: like budget, prioritization of services, zoning, traffic calming.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PA Voter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2012 at 6:30 pm

There is a huge problem with our ballot for CC as it stands right now, there are not nearly enough good people running for City Council.

We have two aging incumbents whose recent votes leave me seriously wondering about the decision making abilities of our CC. A third candidate whose termed out in her previous job so she thinks she'll get voted back onto Council again; it's time for her to retire!!

There will be a lot of empty spaces on my ballot, since I can only honestly vote for two presently declared candidates.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 1, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

An aside on votes for the candidates: Remember that there is a difference between the percentage of the votes a candidate got and the number of voters who voted for that candidate because the people can vote for multiple candidates (up to the number of seats - 5 in the election referenced), but a significant number of the voters choose not to use all of their votes. Both numbers are interesting in their way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just-Say-No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2012 at 7:55 am

It's amazing that Victor Frost has the time, and energy, to run for City Council, but not the time, or energy, to find a job.

Frost's message in previous elections has been extremely focused on himself, or perhaps more precisely--people like himself. He has no specific education, or achievements to speak of (other than being the subject of a number of police citations and subsequent court appearances dealing with the spin-off of these arrests). He hasn't even managed to focus on the "wrongness" of the ordinances that resulted in his being cited as a message.

Based on reporting previously in the Daily News, it's not even clear he is a Palo Alto resident. Given all of these facts, the City can not keep him off the ballot, but it does not seem reasonable for the coordinators of public events to continue to provide him exposure via the various meet-the-candidate fora.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "it does not seem reasonable for the coordinators of public events to continue to provide him exposure via the various meet-the-candidate fora".

I have been an organizer of candidate forums for the past 3-4 Council elections and have argued for the exclusion of non-serious candidates such as Victor Frost to give more time to audience to ask questions of the serious candidates. We even had an non-arbitrary scheme -- we the sponsors had given the candidates a questionnaire on the issues and I argued that any candidate that did not return a response should not be invited the forum.

We ultimately decided against this on a simple calculus. (1) We figured that more time would be lost to disruption by the excluded candidate(s) and those whose interpretation of "freedom of speech" includes the power to force people to listen. (2) The stories on the forum would be about that controversy, ignoring anything interesting that might have been said by the serious candidates.

While Frost is an easy call, deciding who to include can be difficult. For example, in the 2005 Council election, Norm Carroll would likely have been branded "non-serious" because he was a homeless person. However, he displayed more knowledge on a range of issue and clearer thinking than a range of the "serious" candidates, including some who were elected. What was easy to miss was that Carroll was a regular attendee at Council meetings -- he had better attendance at the Council meetings than most of the incumbents -- and he listened to what was being said. And his deep involvement in the Downtown Streets Team also gave him exposure to a variety of issues beyond those of the homeless.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Yeah Mr. Frost
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2012 at 5:39 pm

If I lived in Palo Alto, I would vote for Mr. Frost! He never gives up!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm

The way to have a serious forum is online, not the public theatre...a thing of the past. Serious candidates can agree to provide their views on serious issues, on websites run by private individuals. These private individuals can exclude whomever they consider to be not serious. The non-serious candidates can whip up their own website, and have at it.

The traditional public fora are like the newpapers...dead as a Dodo bird.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just-Say-No
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2012 at 9:24 am

> The stories on the forum would be about that controversy,
> ignoring anything interesting that might have been said by
> the serious candidates.

While there is reasonable logic to this position, the reality is that "serious candidates" don't really say anything. It's pretty well known campaign practice to say the least that you can, so that you don't have to demonstrate your lack of knowledge about a given topic.

Look at the campaign flyers that are sent to voters in the mail. Long lists of "endorsers", but nothing of substance from the candidate. Makes you wonder why the "endorsers" would line up to support people that don't have a concrete platform? No doubt they think that they will benefit from this candidate's votes, but even that idea wears a little thin, under examination. It you look at where the money comes from, some of the most successful candidates have gotten upwards (or more) than 50% of their campaign contributions from outside of Palo Alto. Campaign contributions, and "quid-pro-quos" never seem to enter the public discussions at these fora.

The City will spend over 650M in the next four years via its general fund, and who does how much it will spend via bond-financed public works projects. Who really believes that a homeless person understands the proper oversight/administration of these kinds of funds—even one who attends City Council meetings? Better to exclude people who are not "serious" and live with the disruption, is my conclusion.

(And by the way, if you happen to watch via the Internet, does that count as having attended the Council meeting?)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

"It's pretty well known campaign practice to say the least that you can, so that you don't have to demonstrate your lack of knowledge about a given topic."

Actually the candidates _do_ say lots of interesting things at a forum, but unfortunately most are things that newspapers refuse to include. If you listen closely to a candidate not answering a question, you can often tell if they are simply being evasive or are ignorant. And there are routinely comments by candidates that show that that have a basis or ideology that trumps the actual facts of a situation. In the 2009 election, my observations of these events provided me with enough material for a 8-page "Candidate Assessment".

"Who really believes that a homeless person understands the proper oversight/administration of these kinds of funds"
While I agree with this, what that candidate, Norm Carroll, showed was an ability to ask intelligent pointed questions, which is a critical first step in such oversight and something that many Council members seem unable to do. As to the forums, he was a positive addition because his responses highlighted the evasiveness and ignorance of the "serious" candidates and may have pushed them to be a bit more forthcoming.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm

What this country needs is a no-nonsense, take-charge kind of clown.


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