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Editorial: Shrinking the council

Original post made on Jun 20, 2014

With most City Council members expressing mixed feelings, a bare 5-4 majority decided Monday night that Palo Alto voters should get the chance this November to reduce the size of the council from nine to seven, beginning in 2018.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 20, 2014, 12:00 AM

Comments (31)

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Posted by Holman and the weekly should go
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 5:52 am

"With Price not running for re-election and Klein termed out, that leaves Scharff, Shepherd and Holman likely to be running for three of the available five seats. In the current political atmosphere, Scharff and Shepherd are the most vulnerable, notwithstanding the very ugly behind-the-scenes attempts by some members of the council to impugn Holman's integrity over her sloppy handling of a financial disclosure statement last year."

Well, we know thatbthe weekly will be completely supporting Holman no matter what. Perhaps the weekly would like to provide proof for their claims that council members were working behind the scenes to impugn holman's character. A bitnhocritical that the weekly is engaging in the same kind of behavior that theybare editorializing about!!! The fact is that Holman has been receiving finder fees/money from developers. According to reports she submitted a disclosure form for 2013 that claimed 10-100K dollars for that period. Then she claimed that she received nothing during that period. Isnt that document signed under oath? Perhaps the weekly should investigate if there was a violation ofthe law, instead of labeling it as " sloppy handling".
One does not expect balanced reporting when it comes to "friends" of the PA weekly. Perhaps one of the other local papers should look into the relationship of the weekly and certain elected officials and what it takes to earn an endorsement from the weekly.
This thread will soon be locked down, as any thread critical of Holman has been in thempast


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Posted by Ellie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 20, 2014 at 10:49 am

Good for the Weekly for calling a pig a pig by identifying the attack on Council Member Holman as politically motivated. Both Scharff's info and Kniss's input were cited in articles that attacking Holman. The hope among the current majority on Council is that they can scare Homan into not running. Why? Because likely she is the strongest incumbent and is a member of the current minority.

Given there are 5 open seats to be voted on in November, surely some "reform" candidates will win and probably tip the minority into being the new majority, and vice versa. Suddenly Kniss will be very lonely, especially if Scharff and/or Shepherd are not re-elected. With a new majority, Kniss may have to kiss her ambition to be Mayor, goodbye.

Look for Scharff and Shepherd to continue to gild themselves as born-again neighborhood advocates. But don't believe it for a second. And if you believe Holman, along with her proven integrity, is anything but a powerful and committed advocate for resident interests, you are mistaken.


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Posted by Jon Parsons
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2014 at 10:54 am

Smaller is almost always better unless that is some cogent reason for larger. Seven people take less time to talk, cost less in expenditures, and require two less copies of everything, than nine people. If seven warm bodies are enough for the California Supreme Court, seven should be enough for the Palo Alto City Council, notwithstanding how very special we all know we are.


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Posted by Holman and the weekly must go
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:11 am

Ellie-- on the contrary. I think the " finder fee" incident demonstrates a lack of integrity by Holman. The articles were not " attacking" Holman-- they were pointing g out her actions. Blaming Scharf and kniss is just shooting the messenger. The question is was her statement that she received 10-100k from a developer in 2013 made under some kind of oath. Since she now says she did not get any money, that statement is false. Did she break the law? Will the weekly look into that? I am surprised this has not been looked at by the relevant authorities. Why is the weekly trying to,protect Holman?
And, BTW, Ellie, Holman has a long history of being out of touch with residents. Remember her historic ordinance ( land grab) from over a decade ago? She forced it through the council and then when it came to a vote of the public, she received a hardy slap on the wrist when it was overwhelmingly rejected.


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:59 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

This is a power play or stunt to improve the odds, or so they think, of continuing the recent Real Estate rout.

Very similar, in my mind, to the vote to switch the election from 2011 to 2012.

Scharff and Shepherd will be scrutinized much more closely between now and November than they were in 2009. By us, We The People, if not by you, the Weekly, who after all let Scharff call himself "a country lawyer" when "real estate lawyer" or "real estate developer and landlord" and or "former head of acquisitions for Prometheus, a leading developer of rental property" (who incidentally are the ones trying to get upzoning and oust residents of Buena Vista). In Scharff's own propaganda, he quoted the Weekly verbatim, minus changing ""country lawyer" to "{private practice]".

Holman should run again, after checking in with her 20 most credible supporters, and distance herself from the ambiguity her recent statements represent.

But are there five or more quality people willing to step up here?

I texted a council person Monday and said "Good luck tonite. Keep Council at 9 not 7 in the name of Civic engagement and not an oligarchy. Mark W"


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Posted by Shrink the Council?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Hey, let's shrink the Council by electing only 3 people in the 2009 election rather than 5. They we wouldn't have gotten Nancy Shepherd (who came in fourth) nor Greg Scharff (who came in fifth). So why were both of them selected Mayor and not Karen Holman (who came in second, behind incumbent Larry Klein).

Web Link

By the way, more people voted NO in Measure D in that odd year election 2013 than voted for ANY of the candidates in the last odd year Council election in 2009. Web Link So how dare anyone elected on the Council in 2012 (with an overall larger turnout) denigrate the view of the electorate on Measure D by saying they were elected by more votes in 2012 than Measure D opponents got in 2013 (8,476). That's particularly so because Measure D was the only measure on that ballot for Palo Altans.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

"The articles were not " attacking" Holman..."

Yes they were. If we don't nip this now we'll see a rerun of the vicious smear campaign against councilmember Nancy Lytle a decade ago, after she had dared buck the develo0pment interests. She had especially angered Liz kniss.


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Posted by Ernest Cokrell
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 20, 2014 at 4:49 pm

" If we don't nip this now we'll see a rerun of the vicious smear campaign against councilmember Nancy Lytle a decade ago, after she had dared buck the develo0pment interests. She had especially angered Liz kniss."

Lytle had issues with council members and others in the city government. She was not the victim of a "smear" campaign.
But that is off topic. When you say "nip this in the bud", that means to me, sweeping it under the rug (which the weekly is doing). Not sure how you can say that Holman has "bucked" developer interest, when she has been getting money from a developer for more than 10 years and she voted for the Maybell development. The smoking gun in this case is her 2013 disclosure statement, which she now says is not true. Is she guilty of making a false statement? Will anyone look into this or will this be ignored like other examples of council malfesance over the years. Certainly we do not expect the PA Council Voice (i.e. the Weekly) to do any investigating.


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Posted by politico
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2014 at 2:45 am

"In the current political atmosphere, Scharff and Shepherd are the most vulnerable"

That actually really depends on whether people understand the way the incumbent advantage works especially in multi-person races, how many candidates there are, and if people are willing to vote only for the new people and leave the incumbents off their ballot, even if it means voting for fewer people than the number of slots available.

Let's say there are 4 people running for 3 seats, 2 of them incumbents. The two new people are likely to be facing off against each other for the third slot. Fewer voters will likely pick just the two newcomers, and many who do will also pick one of the incumbents, thinking they have to vote for 3.

So let's say 30,000 people vote, and all of them pick 3 candidates each and all choose the incumbents and the vote for the 3rd is split between the newcomers. That would be 30,000 votes for each of the incumbents, and 15,000 votes for each of the newcomers.

The way even the Weekly's analysis would (incorrectly) describe a situation like this would be that the two incumbents each got 33 percent of the vote and the newcomers each 15 percent. But that's ignoring the fact that there are up to 3 votes per voter. The accurate analysis is that the incumbents each got 100% of the vote each and the newcomers each got 50% of the eligible votes.

Compare that to what happened in the last school board race. Caswell got around 12,800 votes, Townsend around 12,300 votes, Emberling about 11,200 votes, and Dauber about 10,300 votes. The race was extremely close if one considers that it was also, as in the above example, 4 people running for 3 seats. It's difficult to say how the combinations of 3 panned out, but clearly many, many people voted for both of the newcomers and 1 incumbent, or the results would have been more similar to those in the paragraph above. In fact, only single digits percentage-wise fewer chose a combination with the lowest vote-getter, Dauber, than the highest. Yet people misunderstood the numbers and claimed he lost by a huge number.

If Dauber's supporters had understood what was at stake and how much more the incumbent advantage helps the incumbents in multi-person races, they would have probably voted only for him. But it's a very difficult thing to explain to people.

I will simplify it this way: if you want a new candidate to win, choose the candidate you wish to get onto the Council and vote only for that candidate. Refrain from holding your nose and voting for the lesser of evils for the remaining candidate, because if it's an incumbent, you will likely be knocking out your preferred newer candidate with your vote for the incumbent. In that school board race, if more Dauber supporters had simply voted only for Dauber, he would have won. I doubt many of Dauber supporters were nearly as enthusiastic for the incumbent they chose, but in casting the other 2 votes (probably just assuming that's the way to do it for 3 slots), they probably didn't realize they were essentially costing Dauber the election.

If you don't like Shephard of Scharff, don't vote for them, period, even if it means you cast fewer votes than the number of slots available, because you want to give the person you favor the best chance of knocking them out.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2014 at 3:29 am

Marie is a registered user.

When I asked for help in getting the city to enforce the Palo Alto fence ordinance, Karen Holman was the only one who responded and understood the issues. She has also voted most consistently in favor of the residents of Palo Alto rather than the developers. She is the only incumbent I will support. I also will vote only for those candidates I strongly support, not using all my possible votes, in order to maximise the impact of my vote, as described by Politico.


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Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

Why are so many threads being locked down lately

is this collusion?


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Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2014 at 10:59 am

Here are my responses to the two related issues in the responses to this article that have crept into this discussion.

Five candidates will be elected to the City Council in November. To get the most out of your vote you need to vote for five while excluding those candidates who you want to lose. If you vote for only one or two then somebody else will be electing the other winners.

This election is not about saving Holman or electing only two candidates to create a five person majority with Burt, Holman, and Schmid. It's about electing a slate of four new Council Members, plus a fifth new member if Holman chooses not to run. If Holman chooses to run, those who vote for the slate of four new candidates can figure out who their fifth candidate should be. Eleven years ago Nancy Lytle's supporters took over leadership of the campaign against 800 High Street as a way to help Lytle get re-elected. They couldn't save Lytle, and by tying the campaign organization against 800 High Street to Lytle's campaign (her husband was co-precinct chair for the campaign agaisnt 800 High Street) may have contributed to the failure of the campaign to defeat 800 High Street. New candidates have to be cautious about including members of Holman's campaign organization on their committees.


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Posted by More accuracy please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Your recollection about the defeat of the 800 High Referendum are off base, Deep Throat. Lytle had little to do with it.
The Referendum was NARROWLY defeated (just over 51%) by the corporate and development money interests downtown.
Supporters of 800 High included developers Roxy Rapp, Tony Carrasco, Jim Baer, Chop Keenan, J.Martignetti, and the PAHousing Corp.
Council members Larry Klein and Dena Mossar worked for it, as did Bern Beeham, Carol Jansen, Santana (Peninsula Creamery and investor). Other supporters were Judith Wasserman, Lee Lippert, Sally Probst (LWV), Bonnie Packer, Phyllis Kassel, and of course, the developer's attorney Jean McCown.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jill
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2014 at 10:28 pm

I'm voting with Holman and Schmid. If they voted against putting a smaller council on the ballot, I'll vote against it in November. Palo Alto would be a much better place today if we had more elected officials like Holman and Schmid. They are truly public servants.

I will also vote to re-elect Karen Holman in November.

I will not vote for Scharff or Shepherd who both vote to approve every development and fleece the tax payers. Just look at the recent Civil Grand Jury Report. I would support a recall of Kniss and Berman too if it happens. Thankfully Klein will be termed out. These five are a bad lot and voters need to not vote for any of them for any office.


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Posted by politico
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2014 at 11:48 pm

RE: High Street

Indeed, the 800 High Street election lost by a hair, and the reason was obvious to the Maybell neighbors: the City Attorney structured the ballot question and ballot analysis (indeed, the title of the ordinance with that in mind) with the same gross bias. (Do you want Restaurant A or to Restaurant B FOR FREE ICE CREAM?!) Maybell won by 56%, but in even more liberal San Francisco where they had a nearly identical measure with an impartial ballot committee that writes the ballot in a public process with both sides, the same side won by 70%, suggesting the City Attorney's bias can swing the race in the City's favor by as much as 15 percentage points, and that Maybell's election would have been closer to 70% against 30%, too, if we'd had a more impartial ballot like SF. Certainly the City Attorney's ballot bias can swing a race by more than enough to sink the High Street election and make the Council think they didn't have to listen to the Maybell neighbors.

Re: multi-person elections, the incumbent advantage, and accidentally voting in the less-preferred choice

You are wrong about your analysis of election strategy, though, Deep Throat. Everyone is familiar with how a third candidate in a two-party race for one position can split the vote for the favored candidate and cost them the election, but it gets more complicated with multiple person races where more than one vote is cast. It would be better if we instead had a ranked voting system for multiple persons, because in the current system, in theory everyone's second choice could easily end up with far more votes than the first choices.

Right now, we don't know who will run, and how many slots there will be. But when it comes down to it, I am only going to vote for the absolutely indispensible candidates and no one else. Clearly, nearly as many people included Heidi and Ken in their slate of 3 votes as the incumbents in the school board election, but by including a 3rd vote, they ensured the incumbents remained and the new person they also voted for didn't win. Everyone who voted for Dauber obviously wanted something different, and if only 10% of is supporters had JUST voted for him, he would have won.

The other two slots would have be taken by 2 of the other 3, almost certainly Caswell anyway, so whether it was Townsend or Emberling for the 3rd frankly didn't matter so long as we got a strong counter to Mitchell on the board in Dauber. It was very close, and IMO, Dauber's presence would have been the game changer. We need to be sure we have some game changers on the Council, and frankly, Karen Holman isn't one of them. If we get some strong candidates, I'll be voting only for the most essential ones and no one else, regardless of how many slots are available. (But my analysis will depend on how many spots and candidates are in the election.) So far, I am cautiously optimistic about one of the candidates, but not as much as if we had, say, Tim Gray running this time, with a slate of residentialists to exactly fill the number of slots available.


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Posted by Downtown resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2014 at 7:13 am

Shepherd would be vulnerable no matter what the political climate. She is the least impressive public official I have ever seen. Serving as Mayor has put her in the spotlight, and when I have gone down to watch the City Council meetings, I have found it embarrassing.


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Holman is the least impressive, DT resident. Claiming to be a residentialist, yet voting for Maybell, taking " Finder fees" from developers and filing ambiguous disclosure statements. Just as out of touch as she was with her historic ordinance law.


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Posted by politico
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm

"By the way, more people voted NO in Measure D in that odd year election 2013 than voted for ANY of the candidates in the last odd year Council election in 2009. Web Link So how dare anyone elected on the Council in 2012 (with an overall larger turnout) denigrate the view of the electorate on Measure D by saying they were elected by more votes in 2012 than Measure D opponents got in 2013 (8,476). "

And, of course, it's a non sequitur anyway. I voted for Berman and NO on Measure D, and because of his behavior in the lead up to Measure D (as well as that ridiculously insular reaction to it), I'd never make the mistake of voting for Berman again.


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Posted by Company Guy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2014 at 4:20 pm

totally agree with "Jill". Holman and Schmid are the only two on the Council who really listen to PA residents. Scharff, Shepherd and Kniss could not care less. let's get these power hungry people off our Council.


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Posted by politico
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2014 at 4:22 pm

@ Company Guy,
How do we clone Schmid? Maybe we should be asking him if he knows anyone like him who would run for Council?


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Schmid and Holman voted for the Maybell development. What makes them less power hungry than the other council members? You think it is a plus that Holman and Schmid wanted to have their cake and eat it too? Holman listens to residents? Think back on the historic home ordinance. Plus she has issues with how much money she received from developers-- she can't seem to accurately report how much she got recently.


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Posted by Troubled by Holman's actions
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Holman's actions are not just sloppy but troubling. She has had a long standing business relationship with a developer who has paid her on at least 4-5 occasions finders fees in the tens of thousands of dollars with one payment just under $50,000 according to her. Finders fees don't entail any work usually. At the very least it's unclear and Holman is not being transparent about what services she provided for these substantial sums of money. She then participates in two housing committee meetings where she forcefully advocates to include this developers property in the housing element at an RM 30 zoning rather than an RM-1 zoning which is its current zoning. This is a method to obtain a reasoning outside of public scrutiny. If a property is put in the housing element the city has a legal obligation to conform the zoning to the housing element. Holman's form 700 states that she received between 10,000 and 100,000 from this developer in 2013. If this is true their is no doubt she had a conflict. However Holman says she actually didn't receive any money from the developer in 2013 so she doesn't have a conflict. This strikes me as bizarre. Does it strike anyone else as bizarre? So assuming Holman didn't get any money in 2013 doesn't it trouble anyone else that she has an ongoing business relationship with this developer stretching Back 13 or 14 years with an expectation of future finders fees and other consulting work and she then tries to rezone his property from R-1 to R-30. Does anyone else find Holman's advocacy of rezoning R-1 property to RM-30 out of character. All in all this seems like more than being sloppy. It seems that Holman's business relationship with her developer friend influenced her decision making which is the essence of a conflict. At the very least it shows extremely poor judgement


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Posted by politico
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm

@ Rupert,
I think Schmid's input along the way in the Maybell situation set him apart from the rest. He also worked with residents in ways the others wouldn't. I think if there were a whole Council of people like him, we would have gotten a working group of citizens and the whole situation would have ended up more like the Terman development, and we never would have needed a Measure D, all sides would have benefitted.


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Posted by politico
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2014 at 5:25 pm

@ Troubled,
Even more troubling is the possibility that, given a choice, other properties were justified for upzoning as cover for these questionable practices.

I'm still trying to reconcile hearing from city staff that Palo Alto had already provided far more than ABAG had asked of us and that the Maybell upzoning wasn't even necessary, and yet the ABAG argument gets trotted out as an excuse for everything.

I doubt the problem stops at Holman, though....


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Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Politico-- how did Schmid vote on the Maybell issue? I rest my case

Troubled-- I think holman's actions are more than bizarre. Is the form 700 made under oath? If so, then what is being about her conflicting stories? Is the weekly looking into that ( I doubt it)?
Even if it is not taken under oath, it says plenty about her integrity and conflicts of interest. She showed poor judgement years ago with the historic home ordinance. Why would anyone think she ever exercises good judgement? I do not.


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Posted by Politico
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2014 at 12:53 am

@Rupert,
You were such a [portion removed] critic of the neighbors who didn't want their neighborhood upzoned [portion removed] during Measure D, it's very telling that you would now be trying to turn people against Greg Schmid. Unlike the rest of the Council, he behaved honorably, and his vote wasn't going to change anything.

But the information he provided and the questions he asked in chambers did make for a much better democratic process and were a breath of fresh air. If all of them were as thoughtful, we would gave gotten a working group. You forget, many people know a lot about what happened behind the scenes. Much more than you - or apparently the Councilmembers running again - seem to realize.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2014 at 5:24 am

[Portion removed.]

So how did Greg Schmid vote on the Maybell issue, politico?


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Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2014 at 8:55 am

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

Draft Karen Holman!

We need Karen to run - this election is critical and real opportunity to shift the balance to residents. The perfect candidate should not be the enemy of the good. So many votes on development projects were approved by a vote of 7-2 with Greg and Karen against, it's almost humorous that her opponents are trying to tar her as a friend of developers. She has been a brave, (nearly) lone voice on the council, continually speaking up on real issues and concerns, only to be ignored. Please Karen, announce you are running. And those that want to see residents concerns heard - vote only for those candidates, even if it's less that your five allowed votes. Scharf and Shepherd, both of whom took donations from developers and worked for developers, must be voted out.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Holman and the weekly should go
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 23, 2014 at 9:07 am

Guy Fawkes-- [Portion removed.] The points raised about Holman are valid. I did not think she was fit for the council when she ran in 2010 and I was right. Both Holman and Schmid voted for the maybell development. That is a fact as well. Does everyone that does not support Holman and Schmid have to be working for a developer? [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Politico
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2014 at 11:09 pm

[Post removed.]


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