|Deeming Palo Alto “robust and resilient,” Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto nonetheless said there are major environmental and economic challenges facing the city in the annual “State of the City” address Monday evening.
”Palo Alto today is a symbol of the future, and has the promise to continue to be the model of what our global democracy can evolve into,” Kishimoto said to a full-house City Council chambers. “We are at the center of the knowledge economy, a global center for innovation.”
The city’s commitment to slashing its greenhouse gas emissions and accommodating additional residents and workers without jamming already packed roadways poses a formidable challenge, Kishimoto said.
“The path I propose tonight is through partnerships and collaboration, and a focus on innovation.
“The path I propose is also a walking path,” Kishimoto said. “Let a ‘walkable community’ be one symbol of the next level of our green economy.”
Clad in a slightly shimmery purple suit and a sheer golden scarf, Kishimoto gave her remarks before a council chambers full of Palo Alto insiders and current and former elected leaders.
Many of her remarks addressed issues she and the council have previously discussed, including the need for an additional $3 million this year to support city buildings and roads, a focus on private-public partnerships, and her twin goals of protecting the environment while boosting the economy.
Kishimoto also emphasized her support for the creation of a high-speed broadband network, an increase in the tax charged on overnight hotel stays, and the need for a new police headquarters and Mitchell Park Library.
Those two large projects would be the first in the city since the construction of the Civic Center about 1970, she said.
She proposed a new permanent city “environmental commission” to follow-up on the work of the Green Ribbon Task Force, which produced a report and 250 recommendations on how Palo Alto can curb its contributions to global warming.
“Now is the time to institutionalize this effort by creating an environmental commission with a charter to create a plan for achieving our ambitious climate-protection goals and bring our economy into harmony with the environment,” Kishimoto said. She explained later that the commission would be akin to the city’s Art, Library and Human Relations commissions.
She also called for no-net-traffic increase as a result of the proposed expansion of Stanford Medical Center and Stanford Shopping Center and said Stanford and the city should collaborate more closely to achieve that zero-new-traffic goal.
Opponents of either Kishimoto or her ideas were hard to find Monday evening in City Hall.
“I think Mayor Kishimoto is awesome,” Councilman Peter Drekmeier said. “I think her values really represent the city well.”
“I really respect the new mayor,” Youth Council member Molly Kawahata, a junior at Gunn High School, said. “I love the fact she is considering the environment a new priority.”
Councilmen John Barton and Bern Beecham said they were interested in learning more about her proposal for an environmental commission, but would want to know its cost and specific duties before making a decision.
By expanding the source of traffic from just the new Stanford projects to the city as a whole may make it possible to ensure traffic doesn’t get worse, despite the massive development at the medical center and shopping center, Beecham said.
Stanford University is already a leader in transportation management, Drekmeier said.
“The low hanging fruit is in Palo Alto,” he said.
With the mayor’s leadership, Palo Alto can be the role model the nation is seeking to learn how to maintain a vibrant economy without shirking its duties to the environment, Drekmeier said.
Palo Alto’s “State of the City” tradition of being a speech delivered by the mayor was started in 1989 by then-Mayor Larry Klein. Earlier “State of the City” presentations were done primarily by city managers.
Klein said his speech focused on keeping Palo Alto young by promoting needed affordable housing and job creation. At that time, the city also recently had to cut its budget and search for new sources of revenue, he said.
(The full text of Kishimoto's comments is at www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=4734 .)
Are you receiving Express, our free daily e-mail edition? See a sample and sign-up for Express.