Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 5, 2007

Palo Altans meet council candidates at forums

Growth, infrastructure discussed in short-answer events

by Becky Trout

As the candidates for Palo Alto City Council answered — or dodged — questions at a forum on Wednesday, Channing House resident Judy Moss scribbled notes in her voters' guide.

The former mayor of Mountain View, who moved north six years ago, said the 90-minute short-answer forum provided her first introduction to many of the candidates.

"I know now which candidates I don't want, but I don't know which candidates I do want," Moss said.

Wednesday's forum was the second event in two days hosted by the League of Women Voters. About 110 Palo Altans attended Tuesday evening's forum at St. Andrew's United Methodist Church. Half as many voters came to Wednesday's midday panel at Lucie Stern Community Center.

Most attendees topped 40 years old, and several said it was their first exposure to this year's slate of candidates. Ten men and one woman are vying for four open council seats.

Fielding questions from the audience, the candidates demonstrated how familiar they were with Palo Alto issues and tried to communicate, in brief two-minute statements, why they were the man (or woman) for the job.

Attendees primarily asked how the candidates would address infrastructure funding, housing growth, business promotion, the proposed expansion of Stanford Medical Center and Shopping Center and the bond measures to finance improved libraries and a new public safety/emergency command building.

All candidates attended Tuesday evening; however, Yiaway Yeh and Stella Marinos were absent Wednesday. Victor Frost left both meetings after making a short statement, saying that he opposed the time limits at the forum.

Greenmeadow resident Nancy O'Keefe said she attended because she was "not too impressed with the City Council in the last few years."

After Tuesday's forum, she said she thought Yeh and Tim Gray had done well.

South Palo Alto resident Alma Phillips said she was looking for "a problem- solver and a cooperator."

Tuesday's event had helped her eliminate some candidates, but she still wasn't sure who would win her vote.

Her husband, Jim, said he would support candidates with "expertise and knowledge about how city government works."

Old Palo Alto resident Leslie Braun came Wednesday to see which candidate could "streamline operations so we can be run more efficiently."

"I don't know most of these folks," she said of the candidates.

At Tuesday's forum, candidates were asked how they would deal with the divide, and perceived government favoritism, between north and south Palo Alto.

Candidate Smokey Wallace believes the entire city has troubles, not concentrated solely in the north or south.

Sid Espinosa said he thought the under-representation of south Palo Alto was an opportunity for council members to encourage civic participation.

"I feel the interests of north and south Palo Alto are the same," candidate Pat Burt said, adding that south Palo Alto has needs such as a lack of parks that should be addressed.

Bill Ross said the divide boiled down to trust. "I will listen," he said.

"Each neighborhood has their own issues," Mark Nadim said, adding that he would try to ensure each neighborhood felt it was treated equally.

Dan Dykwel called for an "audit of fairness" to weigh whether the north and south have been treated differently.

Stella Marinos acknowledged the difference between north and south.

"I just want to try to be a representative of Midtown," where she lives, she said, adding that she would also try to represent the entire city.

Yeh said he learned in the Peace Corps that location affects an individual's perception and experience. It is a council member's job to ensure the interests of all neighborhoods are served.

Gray said he would encourage citizen participation and work to strengthen the community's "points of agreement."

Greg Schmid said the divide between north and south was real, and that the ends of town have different needs.

The forums will be rebroadcast Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, according to the League of Women Voters. Times can be found at www.communitymediacenter.net/program.

Staff Writer Becky Trout can be e-mailed at btrout@paweekly.com.

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