Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 13, 2012

Liz Kniss to run for Palo Alto City Council

Former mayor and current Santa Clara supervisor touts her policy experience, local background

by Gennady Sheyner

After a decade-long hiatus, Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss launched her quest to return to Palo Alto politics Monday (Jan. 9) when she announced that she will be running for the City Council this year.

Though she won't be running as an incumbent, Kniss won't have to worry about name recognition or steep learning curves. A veteran of both the school board and the City Council, she served as Palo Alto mayor twice, in 1994 and in 2000, and already has three successful council elections under her belt.

"I'm excited to announce this and very pleased at the possibility of serving in Palo Alto again," Kniss said in an email announcing her candidacy. "I have missed the local contacts and connections that exist in our city politics."

Kniss told the Weekly that she decided to run for council about three days ago. She said she was weighing a run for state Senate, where another former Palo Alto Mayor Joe Simitian will reach his term limit this year. But she ultimately decided that she doesn't want to move to Sacramento.

"Palo Alto is far more, frankly, interesting," Kniss said, adding that she feels she can make a greater difference on the local level than in the Capitol.

Though her latest term on the council ended in 2000, Kniss has been a familiar presence at City Hall, routinely attending council meetings to recognize community volunteers, welcome new mayors and thank outgoing elected leaders for their service. Her visits have gone beyond the ceremonial. A Caltrain board member, she hosted a meeting in Palo Alto last year to update city officials and community members about Caltrain's financial state and its electrification plans.

Her resume also includes memberships on the board of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, the Association of Bay Area Governments, and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. She has twice served as president of the Board of Supervisors, most recently in 2010, and serves on boards of both the state and national organization of county supervisors.

Kniss was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2000. She was re-elected in 2004 and 2008.

She has chaired health and land-use committees on the Board of Supervisors and, in August, was reappointed to chair the Health Steering Committee at the National Association of Counties. She also chairs the Health and Human Services Policy Committee at the California State Association of Counties.

With her announcement, Kniss became the first person to enter the council race. Mayor Yiaway Yeh and Councilmen Pat Burt, Sid Espinosa and Greg Schmid are all concluding their first terms on the council this year and none have indicated thus far whether they plan to run for reelection.

The council race will be one of many issues voters will be asked to decide on in November. In addition to voting for United States president, Palo Alto residents will also consider whether Palo Alto should allow marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in the city. They may also be asked to approve a bond to pay for a new public-safety building and for major renovations to two local fire stations.

If elected, Kniss would be the second sitting council member to have two framed photos of her hanging in the Council Chambers (Larry Klein, a three-time mayor, also holds that distinction).

Kniss was also a leading driver behind 2010's Measure E, a ballot measure that moved the city's local elections from odd years to even years. The change, which voters approved by a two-to-one margin, was pitched as a move to both save the city about $200,000 every two years and to increase the number of voters (because local elections, after the change, coincide with state and national elections).

"Voters are much more engaged, especially in a presidential year, and the buzz of running is always a bigger buzz," she told the council in June 2010.

Kniss said that if elected she would emphasize three areas: infrastructure, including a "Health and Wellness" element in the Comprehensive Plan (the city's land-use bible), and sustainability.

"An over-worked word, but a message we need to continually push for in this very aware and responsible community," Kniss said of "sustainability."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by George, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Not impressed by Ms. Kniss's top three priorities. There's no "Health and Wellness" Element in the City's Comprehensive Plan. It's a guide for land use, not a feel-good sound bite. The Chapters are: land use, transportation, natural environment, community services, and business/economics.

Shouldn't an elected official know whether something exists before naming it as one of the three top priorities?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm

What are her views on bringing better retail to Palo Alto? How will she view infrastructure maintenance? How about some specifics on keeping within the budget? What are her views on traffic efficiency?
What are her views on housing?


Posted by Not happy, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Developers Rejoice!

Her alliance with Jim Baer during her last election period was all over the news.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 6:04 am

Let us not forget her actions during the Eruv issue when she was mayor. AT first she gushed about it, but then when opposition to the eruv arose she beat a hasty retreat--afraid to jeopardize her political career. In the end she suggested a solution which was throughly ridiculous and an insult to the eruv supporters and would not even bring the matter to a vote by the city council (probably afraid to have to go on record with her choice).
It should be noted that a number of years later, when Liz was off the council, the matter was resolved with a minimum of rancor. Not only does one have to question her general lack of courage to vote on a controversial matter, but one ha sto wonder if she does not hold some grudge against the people that would benefit from the eruv.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2012 at 6:06 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Another career politician.


Posted by Send-Liz-Kniss-Packing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2012 at 6:50 am

Having Liz Kniss back on the scene is nothing for Palo Alto to look forward to. Maybe it's time to change the Charter to restrict election to the Council to two terms--total!

> Let us not forget her actions during the Eruv issue
> when she was mayor.

You have to be kidding! That matter should never have been before the Council to begin with. There were people in this town that wanted the Council to proclaim (in essence) that Palo Alto was a "Jewish town" (or enclave), by incorporating everyone's home, and property, into a "spiritual house" so that Orthodox Jews could avoid the harsh proscriptions of their religion.

The matter was resolved "without rancor" by having the "string" that encloses/defines the Eruv located almost exclusively on private property, with the approval, and possibly compensation, of the property owners. The "string" does cross over some public property, but only minimally so. The "proclamation" that the original promoters claimed they "had to have" was not a part of the resolution, and the folks pushing the Eruv incorporated--presumably to reduce any possibility of personal lawsuits that might originate in the future.

Had the original promoters not tried to push their religion down the throats of everyone in town, this matter might not have boiled over like it did. Not every one is religions in Palo Alto, and having to subjugate our views to people whose religious views are as strict as those of Orthodox Jews was a bit much.

Kniss was wrong to have "gushed over" when this proposal first came before the Council, and she was right to retreat. Palo Alto is not a "Jewish town" any more than it is a "Lutheran town". The whole idea of Eruvs has been controversial since their inceptions--back in the time of King Solomon (if you are a believer).

Having Kniss back in the Palo Alto political area is a disaster for good government. She was a part of the Council that effectively lied to the public about the exit of the Auditor (who sort of left under a cloud). It later came out that he had not voluntarily resigned, but was paid to leave. Kniss did not mention this .. effectively misrepresenting the truth, and/or lying to the public.

Kniss is another of the "inner circle" that just won't go away.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2012 at 7:07 am

Kniss is a county supervisor representing the North Santa Clara County & on the board of Caltrain. She never spoke out against High Speed Rail, and did nothing to represent her constiuents - a career politician representing special interests.

Kniss is the one who pushed the council to change the election cycle, so that Palo Alto wouldn't hold elections in the "odd" number years. So far, it didn't save any money, as Palo Alto held a "special" election in 2011 on two ballot measures. Kniss, as a career politician knows that it's more expensive to campaign in the "even" years when there are presidential/governor, congressional/state races going on - all which favor a career politician who leverages special interest money.

Budget should be one of the top three items of any candidate this election cycle. Kniss doesn't want to address having to "prioritize" as that would expose her agenda.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 7:10 am

Send-Liz-Kniss-Packing--am not going to re-open the whole discussion of the eruv and what it means and why it came before the council (twice). Hundreds of cities in the US and around the world have eruvs and those were accomplished without any problems. There is an eruv now in Palo Alto--bet that it does not affect you at all-and you do not have to subjugate any of your views in the process now. Kniss should have brought the issue to a vote--she did not. However I do think that it is amusing that Kniss, with her grandiose political dreams, is ending up having to run for our city council, since it is clear that she would be trounced in an election for legislature. Of course the real question is why do these career politicians like her and Simitian feel that there has to be a new political post available for them when they are termed out of their old jobs?
I will agree with you that having Kniss back on the council will be a disaster for our city.


Posted by Send-Liz-Kniss-Packing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2012 at 7:28 am

> There is an eruv now in Palo Alto--bet that it does not affect you
> at all-and you do not have to subjugate any of your views in the
> process

Yes .. and as pointed out earlier--it was put in place without the City Council's using something akin to "eminent domain" to include all of the public and private property of the residents of the town into the this clearly religious "structure". The fact that the Eruv was put into place without the Council's having to vote on it was WHY it should not have been before the Council in the first place.

The Council's endorsing the Eruv was (and is) a clear violation of the First Amendment. There were many issues about endorsement that opened a kettle of worms that no City government should be involved with in the US. We don't need that kind of grief in this town.

Religion and Politics DO NOT MIX! There simply is no sense in expending political "coinage" here in Palo Alto relearning what the Founding Fathers knew well--and warned us against when the country was founded.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2012 at 8:19 am

Yes, the Eruv doesn't bother me in the slightest. Neither should any religious art or religious festival display on any public property. We should also be able to have a Christmas tree and nativity scene, a mennorah, a buddha, and anything else that celebrates the religious diversity of our town displayed on public property.

If we can have an eruv without bothering anyone, it proves that we can have any religious symbol in our town without bothering anyone.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 8:33 am

"Kniss is the one who pushed the council to change the election cycle, so that Palo Alto wouldn't hold elections in the "odd" number years."
So her support for this was entirely self-serving? (What a surprise). Since she knew that she could not run in 2010, she pushed to put off the election to 2011, which would fit perfectly with her being termed out of her current position. ]It would also be interesting to hear from her which council member she should replace on the council;. Come on, Liz, let's here it--Denice Dade is no longer around to tell you what to say.


Posted by PA Neighbor, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 9:55 am

I am a Liz Kniss fan and I'll vote for her any day over Greg Schmitt. I think the City missed a great opportunity when they declined to sell their 8 acres of Cubberley to Foothill College, and Liss Kniss agrees with me.

What do we have at Cubberley now, a bunch of vehicle dwellers taking over the parking lots; that would never have happened if a spanking new Foothill College had been built there, they never would have allowed it.

Liz Kniss is a strong, disciplined and devoted public servant - we need her back on Palo Alto's City Council.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Jan 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

Greg Schmid's campaign committee's Honorary Co-Chairs were Kniss, Jack Morton, and Lanie Wheelter; his campaign committee co-chair was Mike Cobb; and his campaign committee included Sandy Eakins. Are all of these former Council Members going to abandon Schmid and support Kniss if all four incumbents decide to seek re-election? Probably.


Posted by Oust career politicians, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 10, 2012 at 10:48 am

I support Greg Schmid. He seems like an honorable man, and a deep thinker that asks good questions. IMO Schmid is under-appreciated.

Liz has the "CYA method" mastered. That mentality is not for the benefit of constituents, and being "too Palo Alto" is often not a good thing, even in Palo Alto.


Posted by Jane, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Liz Kniss has a long, long record of being self serving.
She pushed for a change in the local election schedule - amazing that the term now coincides with her ending her term as Supervisor.
And the change in election schedule does not save us money - when there's a need to put a question to the voters, we need to pay for a special election. And with the focus on national elections, we have less attention to local candidates.


Posted by a long-time observer, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Liz cultivates friends and supporters.
Those whom she doesn't tend to, and who know her well, have seen many a twist of truth and integrity.


Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Enough with characterizing this as the _move_ of a career politician: Compensation of City Council members is a fraction of minimum wage, so it can hardly be characterized as part of a "career".

However, her political record certainly needs to be considered. The 1990s - when she was on Council - are widely regarded as a time when Palo Alto went badly astray. A major criteria in the hiring of a new City Manager circa 2000 was to have one who could provide the strong leadership and discipline that Council had persistently failed at (Frank Benest was the one hired). What do the intervening years say about the relevance of that period to her candidacy?


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Enough of the career politicians catering to a multitude of special interests. Time for a change. No more retreads.


Posted by Send-Liz-Kniss-Packing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2012 at 7:24 am

> Enough with characterizing this as the _move_ of a career
> politician: Compensation of City Council members is a
> fraction of minimum wage,
> so it can hardly be characterized as part of a "career

While true, this statement misses the core sentiment of "career politician"--which is the American system works best when there is a fair amount of rotation in the elected officials. Without rotation, there is little "access" to the elected official, other than for a small group of "friends", contributors, lobbyists, etc. Over time, the interests of this group seems to be the main concern of the elected official/"politician".

In Kniss's case, she is well off, financially. So, the matter of compensation is not an issue to be considered. The matter of her being a "decision maker" for such a long time makes her a "career politician"--just as if she were being highly compensated, like Members of Congress.

> look at her record.

This is, of course, good advice. It might be a little difficult to reconstruct her record, given how badly the City Clerk's Office managed records. However, there are a number of sources of information that might be tapped to recreate her "persona", from the time she was on the Council.

The point about the hiring of Frank Benest is on that definitely needs review. Benest was hired without a lot of public "vetting". If there had been more public exposure, and investigation of his tenure as Brea City Manager, there is a possibility that he might not have been hired.

There is little hope that the local papers will do any research into her past, leaving it up to the residents to make certain that the voters remember Kniss clearly.

The point about her being on the Council about the time things started to go "awry" is not all wrong, but probably a well-researched history of local government might put that date closer to 1980.


Posted by Zelda, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 11, 2012 at 8:05 am

No new repeats. Term limits needed.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

More change is needed. New ideas and a new perspective. No more business as usual. No more career politicians and retreads.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 11, 2012 at 10:39 am

She *is* a career politician. Who cares what the salary is? She has made a career of running and holding office.

Do not want her back.


Posted by good grief!, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Why? Ms. Kniss wants to "keep herself busy"; that's why. Welcome to insider politics.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Exactly, just another retread with allegiance to insiders, cronies, and special interests. Time for a change.


Posted by long time observer, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm

To repeat:

Liz cultivates friends and supporters who help her.

Those whom she doesn't tend to, and who know her well, have seen many a twist of truth and integrity. It's the twisting of truth and integrity that we don't need again.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Good observation Long Time Observer, and one vivid example of what we get with career politicians. No more retreads!


Posted by McHappy, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Wasn't she behind the "ban the happy meal" ordinance at the SC County level?
If so, what sort of nanny state measures is she likely to try and push here?


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 11, 2012 at 11:57 pm

To McHappy et al:

This is a quote from the news story above re: Kniss's goals for Palo Alto:

"Kniss said that if elected she would emphasize three areas: infrastructure, including a "Health and Wellness" element in the Comprehensive Plan (the city's land-use bible), and sustainability."

That says it all. Man the barricades. We 'll have "Liz-Care" added on to "Obama Care"


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

I agree Kate. The last thing that Palo Alto needs is a recycled, career politician trying to stay in the game. The only problem is that her game is filled with special interest groups, cronies, and a business as usual approach. It's time that we voters send a clear message that it's time for innovation, new ideas, and a fresh approach. Kniss had her opportunity at many different levels. Enough already. No more retreads!


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2012 at 2:38 am

Here's an article about Kniss's tie's to Jim Baer, a well known serial property developer - Web Link


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 12, 2012 at 8:35 am

Didn't Kniss also support the Land Grab Amendment (Historic Ordinance) when she was on the council. I also remember her early years on the County Board she was the puppet of Denice Dade (COmmittee for the Green Foothills)--constantly bashing Stanford to gain favor with others that do not respect private property rights. Put that together with her disgraceful actions during the eruv discussion and that makes her unfit for further public office. Though it is funny that someone who had aspirations to serve in the House of representatives is now reduced to begging for a seat on the PA City council.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2012 at 9:23 am

Unfit for public office is right Svatoid. Say NO to career politicians. Palo Alto does not need anymore insider politics.


Posted by Send-Liz-Kniss-Packing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

> Historic Preservation Ordinance ..

Yes .. Kniss was a part of that travesty. She also was involved with the City Attorney's "sequestering" the Ordinance under a loophole in the City Charter than disallows a referendum on a City Ordinance if the Ordinance involved "health and welfare" of the City. What a scam!

By the way .. let's know forget the names of all of those on the Council at the time:

Andersen, Fazzino, Huber, Kniss, McCown, Rosenbaum, Wheeler, Schneider, Simitian

But more recently, Kniss voted to take the County out of the Secure Communities Initiative that is intended to identify illegal aliens who have been arrested by local law authorities to the Federals tasked with dealing with Immigration Enforcement.

As to the Eruv .. that's past history .. she did what was right .. and anyone who believes otherwise has no respect for the Constitution.

SAN JOSE, CA (KGO) -- The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to opt out of the federal government's Secure Communities Program known as SCOMM.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm

"As to the Eruv .. that's past history .. she did what was right .. and anyone who believes otherwise has no respect for the Constitution."
If you say that, then the Historic Ordinance is past history also. The question of whether she did what was "right" about the eruv is a personal opinion--my point is that she initially supported it, then when the backlash began she refused to bring it to a vote--I do not think that "constitutionality" played a role in it (clearly it is not an issue, since we have an eruv now).
Anyway, I think we can agree that Kniss is unfit for public office.


Posted by Send-Liz-Kniss-Packing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

> Anyway, I think we can agree that Kniss is unfit for public office.

Yes.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Will her election campaign platform for adding a Health and Wellness element to the Comprehensive Plan have anything to say about the November 2012 ballot measure for up to three marijuana dispensaries in Palo Alto?


Posted by J.Meoff, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm

What does one do when they possess no usable skills and contribute nothing to society as a whole, they become career politicians. What a pity! This politician has bilked the system dry and has overstayed her welcome.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Well stated J. Meoff!


Posted by Not happy, a resident of Southgate
on Jan 12, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Actually it's a statement that suggests he knows nothing about her or her political history. To say she has no skills is just displaying ignorance.
Rush Limbaugh would be proud of your disdain for the political process.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Well, I know that she is a career politician with a track record littered with back room deals, cronies, and business as usual. Time for change. No more retreads.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 13, 2012 at 5:45 am

ABK - anyone but Kniss.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 14, 2012 at 9:31 am

" But she ultimately decided that she doesn't want to move to Sacramento."
Oh, I think that there is another reason.
A few months ago I got a phone call for a survey regarding the choice of Jerry Hill, Sally Leiber and Kniss for State Senate. It was a long survey--about 20 minutes. If other's answered the way I did regarding Kniss, then she probably realized that she had a snowball's chances in hell of winning a Senate seat. So not wanting to move to Sacramento is another one of her half-truths and deceptions that she is famous for


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