Editorial: Espinosa, Burt, Yeh, Dykwel for City Council Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:39 am
Eleven candidates are in the race for four openings on Palo Alto's nine-member City Council in the Nov. 6 election — with no incumbents running. Bern Beecham, Dena Mossar and Judy Kleinberg are term-limited off this year and LaDoris Cordell has chosen not to seek reelection.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 10, 2007, 12:00 AM
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:39 am
I would hardly call the storm drain project a success. Also the success of the Mayfield soccer fields can be attributed mainly to Stanford, and their willingness once again to do something for the city.
My problem with the 4 candidates that the Weekly has recommended is the fact that they have been endorsed by past and present city council members (Burch, Mossar, Beecham, kishimoto etc.) who are responsible, due to their incompetence as city leaders, for the situation that our city is in.
Will electing these new council members be just a continuation of "business as usual" at city hall?
Posted by vote watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:56 am
All I can say is we are choosing more of the same. We always talk about change, yet we are worried about making a change. If the current, and past city council members were making the right decisions the city would not be in this state, yet we trust their endorsement of the candidates. Go figure.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 10:39 am
Marvin and vote watcher are right. The Weekly's four endorsed candidates hardly seem able to provide the changes the city needs to confront the challenges faced by the city.
For us voters who - in the Weekly's words - are among the increasing number of residents who have lost confidence in the council and the city's leadership, the fact that the Weekly's candidates are also endorsed by the departing incumbents is more of a condemnation than a recommendation. Do we really want more "business as usual" people in office confronting the challenges the Weekly details?
One has to question the objectivity (or even the sanity) of the Weekly Editorial writer who counts the storm drain projects among the city's successes. What were they thinking? Do the Weekly Editorialists even read their own paper?! Web Link
If the $200 million (and rising) worth of infrastructure projects the Weekly says we need are handled with the same competence as the storm drains, the council's finance committee meetings will provide interesting farce for us all.
I believe I'll cast my vote for the mostly inactive candidates like Smokey Wallace. This is one of those cases where the devils we don't know are likely better than the devils we know far too much about to be comfortable voting for.
Posted by Voter, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 11:50 am
If you like the status quo these are the candidates to vote for, nothing will change with these guys.
At least two of these four candidates will be using a seat on the PA City Council as a stepping stone to bigger and greater elected office. Is this a good thing, or should we vote against them? Haven't made up my mind!!
Posted by Adam, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 12:27 pm
I concur with the above writers. The four recommended by the Weekly are more of the same - business as usual. Wallace has the gravitas to make decisions for the community, not for special interests. Ross has experience in advocating pro and con positions before various government and business enterprises. He should be able to consider both sides of a question.
Yeh has over 70% of his dollars for his candidacy from outside Palo Alto. Where is the support of the citizens?
Gray is really green as far as local political knowledge is concerned. But this may be a blessing. And he can read a budget which many on the present council cannot - if the way they spend money on projects other than basic infrastructure is any criteria. Environmental director indeed.
Posted by Larry D, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 12:43 pm
Adam is quite right.
The fact that Yeh gets so much money from outside Palo Alto really concerns me. He's obviously got a bigger political appetite than Palo Alto City Council Member. Is he someone we can trust with our interests over the outsiders who are supporting him. Will his eye be on the out of town voters he needs for his next office rather than on the needs of Palo Alto?
We need some grounded people who aren't looking at City Council as a stepping stone to higher office or a platform to promote some political agenda like our current mayor. I like Adam's reasoning on Gray, Ross and Wallace. I think I'll vote for them.
Posted by Townsquare equals joke, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 1:43 pm
While I respect everyone's right to free speech, the previous posters have got to be kidding. I realize no candidate is perfect but the Weekly has clearly done their homework and picked the best of the bunch, anyone who has met all the candidates and has anything other than being pissed off on their mind would realize that. Smokey is a bright guy, as are the rest, but he is a one-policy candidate "I'm pissed off," and while that is part of what our country is founded on, it is not going to help move the council forward.
With regards to where Yeh's financing comes from I also disagree with the above posters, I think it is a bonus rather than a detriment to him. The guy is 29, he just graduated from Harvard's Public Policy schoo, if you ACTUALLY LOOK at who is contributing it is a bunch of 29 year olds that he went to school with. This is not some outside special interest campaign, it is friends and believers who like the man and respect him and even better: EXPECT NOTHING FROM HIM (they don't live in Palo Alto). Compare that to Mr. Espinosa who has $30k plus from the Fazzino machine campaign corporation that will expect A LOT of special treatment from him and I think you get to the real problem.
Palo Alto is a smart city, look below the veneer and find the real problems people, don't just make hay over the headlines.
Posted by James Willard, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:03 pm
I think townsquare makes a good point, the Weekly should be commended on their tough job of serving a very diverse and often divided city. I think generally their endorsements have been fair and their process exhaustive. I, for one, plan to take their advice.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:20 pm
James and Townsquare seem to misunderstand the complaints of us who will scorn the Weekly's endorsements. If you like the establishment and how it's running the city, it's natural you should vote for the establishment-endorsed candidates recommended by the Weekly.
But those of us who think the city isn't being run well are looking for something different. Whether that's Smokey Wallace is hard to say, but it's very clear that the Weekly-endorsed candidates are more business as usual. We don't need that.
The argument that political-climber Yeh's abundance of out of town contributions is a "bonus" to his campaign is about as tendentious as one can imagine - even for a political statement. One would think that someone truly interested in Palo Alto would have cultivated Palo Alto friends who are interested in contributing go his Palo Alto campaign rather than relying on his Harvard Public Policy schoolmates... most of whom are likely already involved in the same national and state political environment to which Yeh apparently aspires.
No doubt Yeh is a nice young man. No doubt he's smart. But anyone who imagines he'll govern with more of an eye to Palo Alto's future than his own is almost sure to be disappointed. We need more experience and more dedication to the many serious issues that face Palo Alto than demonstrated by Yeh.
Posted by Confounded, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:34 pm
I try not to post on here, but just got the endorsement link forwarded to me and couldn't help but read the comments. I have one recommendation to the group here: meet these people. They are all very accessible and have made personal emails and phone numbers available. I respect the Weekly and enjoy the paper most weeks, but some above are right, its endorsements are far from the final word.
I have attended two forums and had good discussions with nine of the candidates (even Victor down at Whole Foods the other day), and I must say that a personal conversation sorts the bunch out pretty quickly. They all are to be commended for stepping forward, but Burt, Yeh and Espinosa stand out within a minute of meeting them. All three have real government experience, and I mean that when I say it. All three can agree to disagree without letting emotions or egos get in the way, which to me is really the primary issue in this election.
Finally, though I clearly am voting for the man, if anyone is seeking higher office it is Espinosa. If you're connected in any way you know that Kniss is practically ready to endorse him for her seat and it is no coincidence that he is Fazzino's protege.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 2:41 pm
I am sure that everything Confounded says about the personal qualities of the candidates he supports and about their government experience is true.
Unfortunately, all the same things could have been said of the current crop of council members when they were running. We don't need people with all these admirable personal qualities and with real government experience if what they're going to do is take the city down the same road it's been on for the past couple of decades.
I'd much rather bet on a political novice with a bad temper who has a genuine commitment to changing the way things are done than be saddled with more of the kind of feckless leadership that's put us in our current straits.
It still boils down to this: if you like the way the city is being run, vote for the Weekly's candidates - they're more of the same.
If you think the city isn't being managed well, vote for someone - almost anyone - else.
Posted by Townsquare equals joke, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:03 pm
Alyssa - I definitely respect your last post, I can see where you are coming from and though that is not how I am deciding my votes, you do make a lot of sense. I may just be convinced to vote for Smokey after all.
Posted by vote watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:12 pm
I could not agree with you more.
Look at the profile of any of the current Council Member, it is impressive, and humbling, but look at what they have achieved over the years on the city council, more high density housing, minimal infrastructure improvements, bad deals resulting from negotiating with Stanford (soccer fields in return of 250 houses), and the unions (hefty wages and benefits that the city can not afford).
So what did we get out of impressive profiles and ivy league school graduates?
We need people who are not looking for higher elective offices, we need people who have not been involved with the city planning, we need people whose best interest is not in housing.
We have been giving people with impressive profiles chances for the past 30 years and look at where the city is at. Why not give someone else the chance to show us what they can do, how much damage can a novice do in 4 years taking into consideration we still have at least 5 with impressive profiles.
Posted by Frank, a resident of another community, on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:26 pm
Palo Alto deserves the best! I'm not one of the 70% outside contributors who donated to Yeh's campaign, but from what I can see, Palo Altans have a good choice in Yeh. It's incumbent on Palo Alto voters to see what these nonvoters are able to see. If they can learn more about Yeh, I'm sure that the 70% ratio will go down!
Posted by carried away, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:37 pm
Alyssa and vote watcher, while I get your frustration and it is in my Barron Park blood to detest downtown decision-making, please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think we need courage to challenge the status quo for sure, but courage and blind rage are different animals that achieve decidedly different results.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 6:29 pm
Who said anything about blind rage? This isn't a contest between Weekly endorsed statesmen and stateswomen on the one hand and pitch-fork wielding rabble on the other. Even the Weekly said the non-endorsed candidates were impressive and qualified to serve. What baby and bathwater is being referred to?
This is a contest between those candidates endorsed by those who proceeded them, who are likely to continue down the course we've been on for the past several decades, and those candidates who aren't part of the usual established order in town who just might - because they are not beholden to the usual interests in town - have the courage to make the decisions the city must make to right its listing financial ship.
Once more, if you like the way the city is being run, if you think the way the storm drain issue was handled is OK, if you think the negotiations with the city unions resulted in a sustainable contract, if you think what we're doing now on a variety of issues is the best we can do...then vote for the Weekly's incumbent endorsed recommendations.
If, however, you think we need a change, try one of the other less well known candidates. In the opinion of those of us who are distressed by what the powers that run this town are doing to our community, they might not be better, but they can't be much worse. But most of all they offer a hope of starting the big changes we need to make our city all it can be.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 7:34 pm
Book smarts, big degrees, and "innovative ideas" - this is what we have A LOT of on the PA Council today. Focus on the details and caring about the ditch-digging work of running a small city - that we have very little of.
Kennedy School degrees are all very nice - but we don't need "public policy" here, we need people who know the value of a dollar, the importance of basic honesty, and not a big concern of how their accomplishments will "play" in future campaigns. Plus they need the guts to stand up to the various unpleasant interest groups around town.
Posted by Adam, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 8:03 pm
While I'm sure Mr. Yeh is a fine fellow, his support from Palo Alto is minimal - 18% of his contributions. I can't comment on who contributed, but I note that the largest contributors were either retired, $1350 total, or government, $1225 total. This doesn't seem like a group of young classmates.
I agree with the person who noted that the Weekly had said all candidates "have impressive backgrounds and were qualified to serve". Alyssa correctly separates the comments about "blind rage" from a thoughtful examination of the person. I, too, have met and talked with all the candidates (except Marinos who is omitted from the Weekly's analysis!!!). All are articulate and seem to be intelligent. But it still comes down to "more of the same" versus a change in our representatives who may do a better job of representing us. They can't do worse.
Posted by A concerned voter, a resident of Stanford, on Oct 10, 2007 at 9:41 pm
If one actually takes the time to look at those who have contributed to Yeh's campaign, one will see that the majority of contributers are NOT from an older demographic or government officials. I do not know where people are pulling arbitrary statistics.
He is a young candidate with lots of support from friends who believe in what he has to offer Palo Alto. And these young professionals have no external interest that will make Yeh a "bought" candidate.
I encourage people to take the time to meet candidates before forming an opinion. From my conversations from Yeh, he is a genuine and sincere person who loves Palo Alto and is truly committed to public service and working in LOCAL government. He is not concerned about his ego and not looking to see how Palo Alto can be used as a stepping stone. And I'm convinced that Yeh, along with Pat Burt, are the best candidates for city council.
And for those who are fearful of getting more of the same, it seems a bit unreasonable to use Palo Alto Weekly's endorsement as the signal for more of the same. Who is to say that capable people who can provide good leadership for Palo Alto can't get the endorsement of a news paper?
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 10:23 pm
The Weekly did a story about our infrastructure needs, the library and police bonds, and the council candidates. Most of the Weekly endorsed(and incumbent recommended) candidates seemed to see the issue as one of convincing us uneducated voters of the merits of the bonds - not one of sound fiscal management.
Yeh's answer was particularly Machiavellian in that he seemingly sees the bond elections as timing problems: "Yiaway Yeh said he supports both bonds but believes the library measure is "riper" in terms of voter support."
The candidates whose answers indicated an understanding that a lot of voters expect to see actual changes in the way the city operates BEFORE selling us on the bond issues were Smokey Wallace and Tim Gray. No shock that they didn't get the Weekly's or any incumbent endorsements.
Among the Weekly recommended candidates, only Burt seemed to recognize that ACTUAL demonstration of ACTUAL fiscal responsibility and accountability are necessary preconditions to a favorable outcome on the bond issues.
We are in the state we are in in large part because recent city leaders have seen their job as marketing problems, with responsible management only a buzz phrase used to garner support when they want money. Recall that in the Storm Drain Election we had all kinds of Blue Ribbon Commissions full of city pooh-bahs and "citizen monitoring" groups telling us how essential these projects were and how careful they were going to be with our money. That all seems to have gone bye-the-bye now that they have our money and it's not enough to do all these 'essential' projects.
We've largely bought their marketing up until now. Now it's time to see real changes - not promises, and not alarmist pleas that the city will self-destruct unless we give them more money.
The bond issues won't be "ripe" until the city demonstrates responsibility and accountability. This isn't a marketing problem. It isn't a timing problem. It's a reality problem.
We should at a minimum insist on council candidates who see their job as making actual changes in the city's operation - not in leading us further down the path we're on by gaming the election campaigns.
Terry above says it well. We need people who are into the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of city management - not dreamy thinkers interested in making their mark on the world by selling us on a bond issue that will be a resume item in their next election.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 10, 2007 at 11:00 pm
Ben, I think you are spot on with your "marketing" observation. As the hired marketing guns told them, citizens are "cynical and unaware." Cynical, perhaps, but all too aware of the track record of poor performance and disregard for fixing real problems. It really does just seem like a game of "what do we need to tell them to get them to give us the money?"
Ever read the biography of Harry Truman? He started out as a local "presiding judge" (county commissioner) in Jackson County, MO...
In 1926 Truman [was elected to a] four-year term as presiding judge of the county with full authority over county roads, buildings, and taxes. [W]ith his characteristic bluntness, Truman [said] he would fire any man who failed to do an honest job. Finding the road system a shambles, the courthouse in ruins, and tax money in the pockets of [the local machine supporters], Truman began wholesale firings. He appointed an independent road commission, hired reputable workers, secured out-of-state bank loans at low interest rates, and ended graft in building contracts. He toured the country to find the best-designed courthouse. He found it in Shreveport, Louisiana, hired its architect, and floated a successful bond issue to pay for a similar building in Kansas City.
Any candidate what to stand up like Give 'em Hell Harry? Anybody ready to put "The Buck Stops Here" on his/her desk? Note what he did BEFORE floating any bond issues!
Posted by Voting this week, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 8:18 am
This has been a particularly good conversation by Town Square standards so far, I am excited to see what else gets posted. I agree completely that we need a shake up and that there are a few candidates who offer that in a clear fashion. I am surprised no one has mentioned Bill Ross (have they?), he is along the lines of Smokey Wallace but with much more practical experiences in high tension government environments. That being said I also like Smokey and think that those two would make great additions to the Council, not to mention exciting.
There are four votes available on my ballot, however, and this is where I think the difficult decisions must be made. I would love to support Tim Gray and I am sure he would be different, but he is utterly inexperienced and doesn't really assert himself in any impressive way. Same with Greg Schmid, he seems to focus heavily on saying we need to review our land use issues in Palo Alto, which is great, but he hasn't provided an interesting idea on that or any other issue so far, but maybe he has them and hasn't told us yet.
Because I am looking for some real change the next candidate that gets my vote is Yeh. I don't think there is any better way to bring excitement and innovation to the council than to bring in youth that has tremendous passion. I don't quite understand why a few above are saying he won't challenge the status quo on the basis of his endorsements and a few Weekly quotes, which to me don't even seem to indicate that. I see in him someone who has no higher aspirations, rather he is frustrated and hurt by how the debate in our city has devolved recently, just like the rest of us. You have four votes, give youth a chance for once, he has already bucked the status quo just by applying to run for this unwanted office.
My last vote would go to Bill Ross again if it could, but instead I think Greg Schmid may deserve it after all.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 8:44 am
Interesting comments. I called these very same endorsements just as the race began. These are the best qualified candidates.
Although I have a bone or two to pick with some of them, they will, as a coordinated group, continue somem ofo the new policy focus that the last Council worked so hard to accomplish.
Like it or not, Palo Alto and its neighbors continue to experience severe constraints - fiscal and otherwise - compared to years past (from about 1999, prior). We have got to get our hands and minds around these constraints, and look for solutions that will not gut our service sector. It's a huge challenge.
And, we have to approach all this in a *measured* way. We can no longer take the luxury to "listen ad infinitum", to a point where nothing gets done. This change has begun to take place (thus the frustrations voiced in these forums by those who have traditionally had the penchant, and ability, to drag things out forever, because past Councils had the luxury and fiscal ability to be able to please everyone (or, almost everyone - thus, the Palo Alto Process).
I've spoken to many of the candidates; clearly, the Weekly's (mirroring my) chosen group will help to move this city forward better than any other combination we can come up with at this time.
One of the candidates who was not chosen (I'll leave that person's name out) engaged me at a gathering last week. S/he was clearly not informed about public policy, and just didn't have the sense of "whole systems" that the otyher four have.
Last, the big challenge for the incumbents and new folks is going to be considerable. Along with all the well-known local challenges, they are going to *have* to find ways to make more things happen in the regional sphere.
This region is slowly losing its hegemony, relative to where it was a decade ago. I don't see anything - or anyone - on the horizon that seems to grasp that. If we don't find some way to pull lour neighboring municipalities together in more powerful ways than we have in the past, we are going to find Palo Alto and its neighbors re-inventing wheels, creating unnecessary duplication, and wasting the massive leverage we can muster for political and economic advantage.
All this will take new thinking; it will also take a new kind of leadership and vision, capable of staying focused "at home", but acting with one eye on macro-politics and economic of this region. If we fail in the latter, we're going to have a lot to answer for in a decade or two, but by then all we'll have is regrets, because the world isn't going to bounce back to our lap any more - we're going to have to execute successfully - as a region - for that.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:09 am
Mike--I agree with your comments about the PA Process and the need for change. I am not sure the city council has the guts to make that step and cut off discussion at the expense of upsetting those that thrive on delay.
However, i am concerned about your comment:
"Although I have a bone or two to pick with some of them, they will, as a coordinated group, continue somem ofo the new policy focus that the last Council worked so hard to accomplish."
What new policy focus? has the city council focused on any of the problems facing our city--the mayor is focused on climate change, the previous mayor was focused on emergency preparedness? What policy focus are your referring to.
That is why I, at this time, vote for those endorsed by the PA weekly--they are too heavily endorsed by the current city council and will be disappointments as have Cordell, Barton, Drekmeier and Klein been recently.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:30 am
Marvin, The focus I'm refering to is certain infrastructure choices (library, public safety, recreation, building retail tax base, building scalable housing that serves all). A lot of that focus gets watered down by those who want to just pick on one thing, and make *that* the imporatnt issue.
A few things: it doesn't matter much what any current mayor chooses as a focus. Why? Because the power of a nine-person, consensually-based, policy making body severely limits the real impact that someone *appointed* by that body can accomplish.
For instance, our last Mayor (Kleinberg), pointed out "security" as an important issue. All this did was to help create a focus on local security issues, with the result that it created a small cascade of events and actions that have actually made our city more secure in a time ofo emergency. (I know this because I am involved in some ofo the follow up community actions)
Our current Mayor's (Kishimoto) focus on the environment is also important, because we need to be paying attention to that as a community. Then, there's also the photo-op thing that's attached to these pet projects - and so what? That's what politicians do. I wouldn't begrudge that.
OK, what's the new policy focus? I see this as an attempt by a group of persons (our City Council) to come together and define certain priorities, and execute actions that lead to accomplishingn those priorities.
Our last City Council has been doing a fine job in that way. You may disagree on their choiced (I don't), but certain things are being done. Now, since much of this new focus will be decided at the polls (bonds), we will see if this past Council has chosen what the people want. I think they have.
That said, they have a lot of work to do in educating our public about why their current focus is the right one, and how other loomign problems fit into the bigger picture that the current (infrastructure) focus is a part of.
This gets discussed here, ad nauseum, but we clearly have to find a way to keep hat we have - in terms of service levels - and at the same time create business and institutions that will keep us sustainable into the future.
Regional cooperation, at a MUCH higher level than prior, will be necessary to make that happen (for us, and our neighbors). It IS a big deal for a 9 person body to create a focus. Thinkn about it.
My preference for municipal focus is an ELECTED-mayor-led, policy-making body, but that will not happen here anytime soon, if ever. So we have to find ways to get some continuity of vision and project execution at the policy level. So far, the candidates that I (and the Weekly) have endorsed are best able to accomplish that.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 9:57 am
I have been to the websites of the Weekly- endorsed candidates. There are no specifics in any of them indicating what they would do to solve the problems we have been discussing in this forum (ad nauseum as Mike says).
Here is what Mr. Yeh says about infrastructure:
"Palo Alto faces many necessary infrastructure decisions and it is essential we make them in a fiscally responsible manner. The financing of the projects that improve where we learn, live, and are healed will extend over several generations. That we engage these projects comprehensively and understand their benefits while addressing concerns will not be easy, but in realizing our goals, we can reinforce our belief in a community committed to its own progress." Does anyone know what this means?
Here is one of Pat Burt's "issues":
"INNOVATION NOW: Our city has long nurtured people and ideas that have improved the world. We need to reach out and listen. This kind of community cooperation makes economic and civic sense. I will encourage ways for Palo Alto’s community groups, businesses and agencies to work hand in hand efficiently and effectively." Wow. At least we know what Mr. Burt will do if elected. Lots of meetings it sounds like.
Dykwel's and Espinosa's sites seem to suggest that our problems will be solved by (re)educating the citizenry on the needs to pass a lot of bond issues, but there is no discussion of how that might be made to happen, or any recogintion at all of the issues concerning the bonds that have been the subject of robust debate on this Forum. Like all the candidates, they seem to take the current business as usual as a given and seem unwilling to rock the boat of city management.
Do any of these people see any way to lead the city out of its mess other than by convincing Palo Alto residents to fork over more money to the people now running the Storm Drain Projects?
If anyone can read the leading candidates' wesites and come to the conclusion that anything different will happen if they're elected, they are truly clairvoyant.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 10:16 am
Alyssa, Here's a challenge for you.
Write a candidate's statement that speaks to the infratructure issues and management problems that you point to, but do so in a way that will not turn off consituencies that you need to win the election.
That's your mission, should you decide to undertake it.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 10:43 am
Mike points to the primary deficiency of the cited council candidates in Palo Alto: they're unwilling to take a stand on principle for fear of offending some or other voter group, so we end up with palaver like that quoted above from their websites.
As a result, we end up with people on the council who have great resumes and lots of endorsements, but who apparently believe in absolutely nothing but their own goodness. No one has a mandate for anything, so it's not surprising that we end up with councils that don't do anything.
I don't know if a candidate who came out with specifics about how to deal with the ongoing financial and infrastructure crisis would win the election, but he or she would certainly stimulate a needed discussion in Palo Alto - along the lines of the ones that Mike has participated in vigorously on this forum. That alone would be a bigger contribution to the city than any of the incumbent-endorsed candidates who manages to win by running the most calculatedly inoffensive campaign possible.
And given the increasing interest in this Forum in seeing fundamental change in the city, and the recent focus group, I'm not totally sure a campaign based on specifics (Fire Frank Benest, renegotiate the union contract, lay off workers, cut some services, get rid of the environmental commissioner, double property taxes for bonds, hire 100 more employees to build infrastructure...you pick your poison) would be a loser. Sure, if you advocated some of these things, you'd lose a lot of special interest votes - but those are going to the business as usual crowd anyway. But you might pick up some of the cynical "VAST" minority too. In any event, the debate would be interesting.
I should note that Smokey Wallace has come out against the Library and Police Bonds citing the mismanagement that many of us have complained about on this board. I wish he were running a more active campaign to put the case for sound fiscal management as a campaign issue to a genuine test. But alas, he's not. No website even.
Posted by thanks Mike, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 10:44 am
Thanks for letting us know what your endorsements are. [Portion removed by Palo Alo Online staff.] This reinforces my original impression: the 4 endorsed by the Weekly are NOT the people to vote for, NOT the type of people we want to run the city of Palo Alto. Enough of the city hall status quo.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 12:25 pm
Alyssa, I understand your frustration; we all (including me want to "have things our way".
That said, one has to consider the realities of democratic representation that is carried on through certain collaborative bodies, like City Councils, Boards of Supervisors, BOE's, Assemblies, the Congress, etc.
Let's keep this local, and look at Palo Alto. How would any one maverick ever accomplish anything? A recent example is Hillary Freeman. Ms. Freeman was a stickler for enormous detail, and a more-often-than-not voter against the majority (often making lone "no" votes, just to make a statement). What did she accomplish?
The answer to the last question is that she accomplished a determination among other sitting members on the City Council not to let the likes of Ms. Freeman's style be permitted to grace Council chambers again.
Our City Council, structurally, is a *collaborative* body. You need five votes to take action on most things. How does someone who is standing outside the box, get in? And, if they do, what will they accomplish if they are lobbying against the grain of the majority.
Frankly, (as stated earlier), I prefer an elected Mayor/elected Council model, one that would gove the Mayor just enough separation of power to be able to tip the balance of power in the direction of the mandate that s/he was voted in on. But, we don't have that; thus, we see very middle-of-the-road (some would say "mundane") platforms that are skewed to the middle.
So, what are we left with? Good people, who have shown their mettle in a number of ways - usually through some kind of community involvement/public service. These residents (candidates, in this case) have studied the issues, and have a realistic, pragmatic, view of what they need to do to get elected to office, so that they can, in a *collaborative* way, use their powers of persuasion and logic to bring the majority of their peers to their side, in support of issues that they care about.
A "different" *group* of candidates might have a chance in a Palo Alto-like municipal election, but it would have to be a coordinated group. That group would have to speak to their concerns in a way that doesn't turn off traditional voters.
In all, we're challenged, and we're not going to have an easy time of it, going forward. It does remain to be seen whether Palo Alto (in fact, most California municipalities) continue on the paths that they learned in California's more halcion days, or that they embrace *truly* innovative ways of thinking, and acting. This IS possible, but it will take far more political will than we have seen to date.
In all, I'm encouraged, and expect a better performance from the next Council than we have hed from our most recent group (with praise for the latter's ability to hold the center, while prodding forward on a faster trajectory than past Councils have).
Here's hoping we can continue to adapt, and create sustainability.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 12:43 pm
It would be instructive if the financial contributions to each candidate were available to the general public on-line. I have been keying in this data as time allows, and stored the contribution data and some analysis on my Geocities WEB-page:
When the last two FPPC 460's are complete, this data will be uploaded to the same location.
The financial submittal for Mr. Yeh is particularly interesting, in that it would appear that about 75% of his contributions originate outside of Palo Alto. His WEB-site is almost devoid of any information about his knowledge of Palo Alto issues. Moreover, a questionnaire submitted to him by myself (which was developed by a number of Palo Alto voters) was ignored.
It would seem that the bulk of Mr. Yeh's constituency resides outside of Palo Alto. Voters should consider this fact when considering Candidate Yeh for a role as a City Council member.
Posted by Laura Druse, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:08 pm
The papers linked in Wayne Martin's posts present very interesting reading for anyone concerned about the upcoming council election.
It's hard to argue with Mr. Martin's conclusions. If anything he understates the problematical nature of the Yeh candidacy. When one combines the fact that Yeh solicited 3/4 of his contributions from out-of-town donors with the fact that his website yields absolutely nothing about his substantive views (or even knowledge) of Palo Alto specific issues, it's clear we're asked to buy a pig in a poke with him.
One has to ask what the incumbent and Weekly endorsements derive from. Is the fact that he appears to be a bright earnest young man enough to recommend him for a city council seat? What other than his thin resume and winning personality do we have to judge him on?
I too am looking for someone who will address the issues and not preen before the public without saying anything to vote for.
There is something very wrong with the political processes in Palo Alto.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:12 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
In prior posts I've pointed out the Catch 22 that our city finds itself in, when we let habitual opponents of revenue bonds or parcel tax spead their beliefs in a way that leads to the defeat of those bonds.
What happens is that Mr. Martin, and those who agree with him, continue to have a field day complaining about what a pathetic condition our city is in, while at the same time continuing to do their best to defeat any poll-based revenue measure that would solve the very problems they are complaining about. This leads to a self-reinforcing circle of belief that Mr. Martin and his supporters swim about in, surfacing every now and then to do what they can to continue their belief.
"question for Mike", sure, I pay taxes. Maybe you can explain to me why it's a good idea that we've cost ourselves $50M+ since 2002 in construction inflation for our library, and other necessary infrastructure repairs, because we let the VAST minority of citizens gain the upper hand.
Most Palo Altans are proud of their city; if only they could see it run the way they want.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:16 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
What kind of complaint is it to say that by participating in an election campaign and being on the winning side, you have "cost" the city money?
We can't make informed decisions about bonds, or anything else, if only one side is debating. IN the election Mike refers to, Wayne Martin's side was outspent by over 10 to 1. The fact that he won must say more about the quality of his argument = as well as that of the bond supporters - than anything else.
Thanks, Wayne Martin, for being a valuable part of Palo Alto's civic life!
Posted by Sissy Willits, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:21 pm
Ben W is right.
The simple fact is that we had an election. Both sides had their say, and Mike's side - the side that spent the most money, and the side that had all the movers and shakers in town on it - lost.
The voters believed Mr. Martin's arguments. They found the other side less convincing. If the losing side is unhappy with the result, perhaps it's democracy they have an issue with....they shouldn't attempt to shoot the messenger, especially two years later.
Posted by Bob Davis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:37 pm
We're not into the "VAST minority exercises mind control over Palo Alto" meme again, are we?
Whatever a "VAST minority" is, I find it hard to understand how it is possible that they are "imposing their beliefs" on a City Council they excoriate at every opportunity.
The people interested in passing the bond issues might do better explaining both why these bonds are necessary, and countering the "naysayer" argument that the city wastes too much money already to be trusted with more. I doubt that demonizing those who they disagree with is going to buy many votes for the bond fanatics.
I've read Mr. Martin's links. I wonder if those who think he's the devil incarnate have. If they do, they might comment on what he says, rather than who (they think) he is.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:37 pm
The fact is thata the last library bond, and the second last school bond, were voted on by a LARGE majority of Palo Altans. In a general election, thos emajorities would have been considered as "landslide" support (far surpassing 60% support).
What Mr. Martin and those who agree with him have going for them is that 67and 2/3%+1 is what's needed to pass a revenue bond. That's an extremely high hurdle, in any election.
It doesn't take much money, or tactical smarts, to pass out leaflets that highly skew the facts, and distort the *whole* municipal picture, to garner enough "no" votes to defeat these bonds.
So, municipalities in California findi themselves in the rather odd situation of having the VAST majority of their citizens wanting to invest their tax dollars in municipal improvement, but the VAST minority ends up ruling the day. I call that a strucural flaw in government. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Fed up with Personal Attacks, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:43 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Why don't we get back to the issue at hand. The council election is coming right up. I already have my absentee ballot. We can go back to attacking the good faith of one another after the election is over.
Posted by Bob Davis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 1:51 pm
Actually what Mike calls a "structural flaw" - the requirement of a super-majority in certain municipal bond elections was the result of proposition 13 which the voters of California passed overwhelmingly in 1978.
Despite numerous attempts by public spending lobbies like the unions, attempts to change this requirement have been voted down numerous times.
Once again, Mike's complaint seems to be with the democratic processes in our state and city.
Posted by Terry, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 3:46 pm
Never dull on this thread.
Mike's right that it is hard for one lone outsider to shake up the Council, which, by its nature, protects it own. On the other hand, one effective rebel might attract another, and then you have something interesting. So I like candidates who campaign on and vote their conscience, not just "say what it takes to get elected." It may be a more-than-one-election-cycle investment - but that's the long-term thinking that we are sorely lacking.
I do think a credible "shake 'em up" candidate would be great. Can you imagine someone who, like Mayor Menino in Boston, calls in every single pothole to the City Manager and Public Works and demands accountability? The Council would have a cow - the trick would be to elect a like-minded guy the next time.
BTW, I agree with Mike that a real structural solution is a full-time, 4 year elected Mayor. That would move the needle. But I also agree that charter reform of that magnitude is not happening soon.
Posted by Alyssa, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 11, 2007 at 6:30 pm
You're right Terry. But elections aren't supposed to be dull - though too many recent ones in Palo Alto have been.
I agree completely with your idea of a shake 'em up candidate. One articulate advocate of something new can persuade others to reconsider the groupthink that's been a part of Palo Alto politics for too long with the predictable result: stasis and corruption.
You're right also that it will take some time to change things. But the alternative of electing more of the same guys who got us into this mess, giving them a couple of hundred million dollars and bonds to play with, and hoping for the best really is no alternative at all to many of us.
I'm on board with you on Smokey Wallace. I hope he gets a little more active however. He has a strong (and most importantly a different) message that would play will with a lot of us looking for alterntives.
Posted by John Tipton, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 12:39 am
I notice that Yiaway Yeh’s highest contributors by occupation are the retirees, 14%, or $1,350. As one who is on the cusp of retiring I’d say that means the young’un is selling out to the old folks – or his message about “intergenerational exchange” and striking a balance in development has relevance for some folks.
Posted by Carly, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 7:20 am
What does "intergenerational exchange" have to do with the many real and immediate problems that Palo Alto has? Indeed what does it have to do with anything outside of graduate seminars at the Harvard Public Policy School?
Posted by Adam, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 9:56 am
Concerned Voter. I simply listed the largest demographic of those who had contributed to Yeh's campaign. I didn't say they were the majority. If you look at the list of $ contributors, the next highest percentage is bio-technology at 13%, then 6% finance, 8% education sector, and lower percentages for many other categories. The most telling statistic is that 76% are non-residents, 24% residents.
Mr. Yeh is a fine person, but will he be a one issue council member such as Burch and Drekmeier - and more recently Mrs. Kishimoto? I don't think we should pay to have a council person learn about our issues on the job.
Posted by Bill W, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 10:25 am
Interesting that Mr Martin is attacked because of "leaflets that highly skewed the facts". I read those leaflets, and I don't recall a single misstatement. That Mike disagreed with the election results does not make the leaflets incorrect. Apparently many voters agreed with the information presented.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 10:29 am
I can't help liking Mark Nadim. He is refreshingly different, appears to be hard working in his candidate attempts and wants to know the issues the people are interested in. I feel that someone like him would be a great person to give balance to the council and a complete change of outlook on city matters, for a change.
Posted by Carly, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 10:39 am
Since there is no information on Mr. Yeh's website indicating with any degree of specificity what policies he supports regarding the issues facing the city, can some of you Yeh supporters tell us what you think he will do for our city beyond your opinion that he's "best" for our city?
Here's what Mr. Yeh says about one of his issues:
"Environmental activism. Town and gown collaborations. Neighborhood get-togethers. Community service. Business, government, and neighborhood alliances. All are hallmarks of Palo Alto, some past, some present. We need to reinvigorate what we celebrate by conscientiously reaching out to our neighbors and colleagues in ways that strengthen the pride we have in being residents of Palo Alto"
If you can parse this vapidity and figure out that it means anything at all, can you tell us what "reinvigorating what we celebrate" will do to help us fill potholes, balance our budget and manage our fractious workforce?
Posted by Another ABC Vote, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 4:31 pm
I have a question for the Dykwel campaign. I am seeing an awful lot of Dykwel campaign signs in prominent locations. One friend was approached at home by the candidates wife and asked if she could post a sign on my friend's very visible property. My friend declined but I notice Dykwel signs on many corner lots and other visible places. I have a sign on my own lawn for a school board candidate, but that's because I actually support that candidate. So, knowing my friend's experience, I have to wonder how much support is actually behind those well placed Dykwek signs?
But here's my real concern. Most campaign signs are paper. The multiple Dkywel signs I see are some type of plastic. My question for the campaign is, can these signs be recycled or are we looking at a lot of landfill space?
Posted by question for Mike, a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 8:13 pm
You said: ""question for Mike", sure, I pay taxes."
Well, you did not answer my question with this answer. My question was whether 1) you pay PROPERTY taxes, and 2) if you pay them in Palo Alto.
So, unless you give a more precise answer, I'll have to assume you do NOT pay such property taxes, and I will thus discount your opinion on whether we property tax payers in Palo Alto should pay even more than the many thousands of dollars we already pay.
Posted by John Tipton, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 12, 2007 at 11:09 pm
Yeh has said in one of the forums that Palo Alto is facing many challenges, one of which is the changing demographics of the city as more new or young families are moving in, want to set down roots and as more older folks want to retire "in place", many of them long-time residents who want live out the rest of their lives here. These two demographics have needs and assets that should be addressed and utilized in harmony with each other, rather than in conflict. These populations have a lot to offer and a lot at stake in maintaining growth and the quality of life that Palo Alto has been cherished for. Now that seems to be a Palo Alto value if ever I heard one and Yiaway is the only candidate vowing to bring these populations together. You may not like the term intergenerational but it means working with everybody no matter what the stripe.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 13, 2007 at 12:03 am
Smokey Wallace is the only guy who has said he will shake things up, and that’s exactly what this city needs. We’ve had years of city council clones – all the same people with different names. As The Who sang, “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”
Smokey (and Schmid) are the only ones running on the issues: poor government, decaying infrastructure and business district.
The city has no vision for the future (“Security” and “Environment” are buzzwords, not visions). We have a city manager who runs things with no oversight from Council. We have too many employees, which supposedly means we get more services than surrounding cities – though no one can enumerate them.
For example: “We should perform a complete audit of City management and spending practices (i.e. efficiency). Secondly, We should launch a complete revitalization project for our business districts (i.e. increase revenue). The reality is there is never enough money to fund everything and Palo Alto needs to make some very difficult choices. In order to make these choices, Palo Alto needs a comprehensive vision, plan and process for determining community priorities.”
Smokey was a VP of engineering at Adobe Systems and VP and GM at Oracle, two major Silicon Valley successes. You don’t get – and keep – jobs like that without the ability to efficiently run major operations. Strategy, financial planning, management, priority-setting, budgeting are essential skills and we could sure use those down at city hall!
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 13, 2007 at 12:06 am
Resident says Mark Nadim “. . . is refreshingly different, . . . I feel that someone like him would be a great person to give balance to the council and a complete change of outlook on city matters, for a change.”
Nadim, referring to his change of heart on the library bond, says, “We can not always go by spreadsheets and numbers, we have to use our emotions and care when we make decisions.”
When an elected official is spending residents' tax dollars, I don’t want him using emotion over solid fiscal analysis. We already have too much of that on the city council.
Posted by 14k/yr, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Oct 13, 2007 at 5:28 pm
I believe that election not to pay the most recent school parcel tax by homeowners who can easily afford to do so as evidence of values
that are fundamentally different from my own.
Accordingly, I consider Mr. Wallace an unacceptable candidate.
I base my decision on information obtained by inserting parcel 120-14-025 into the search engine at www.scctax.org. Of course, I could be mistaken about Mr Wallace's personal finances, but he has asserted that is a very successful businessman.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Oct 14, 2007 at 12:39 am
I can't figure out the search engine, but 14K, you're saying that Smokey Wallace got a waiver on the school bond tax? If so, yes, he's lost my vote.
I've never been impressed by politicians who claim an audit's going to turn things around and reveal scads of waste. Unless you've got some serious corruption going on that doesn't tend to be the case.
I like the clarity and specifity of Yeh's answers. I'm surprised other people find him vague, he seems pretty clear to me. He wants to pass a couple of bonds and raise the hotel tax. He's aware of the two big demographic blocs--young families and seniors. I'm sure he has higher ambitions, but I don't see why that would make him a disaster on the council. I prefer that to someone whose in bed with developers. (Not saying anyone is, only that that's a common issue.)
But I admit I'm not well-informed re: the city council election, so carry on. I really am trying to figure for whom I'm voting.
Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 14, 2007 at 6:12 pm
This is Tim Gray, candidate for Palo Alto City Council,and I am not taking contributions and I am not seeking endorsements. I am urging the current City Council to declare Financial Discipline the most urgent need for Palo Alto. See my web site: Web Link
Financial responsibility must be demonstrated before we can earn the trust of the community to approve bond funding. It's easy to talk about infrastructure, but the citizens will not fund the needs if we can't demonstrate best practices. The City must triage financial discipline to the top of the agenda if we really want the bond measures to have any chance of approval.
Just look at the standards that the large charitable foundations have for supporting not-for-profit organizations -- i.e. "your own house has to be in order before funds will be provided."
Applying benchmarking to the budget and demonstrating best management practices must be achieved before the City can ask tax payers to chip in. What is standing in the way of the library and public safety facility bonds is the belief that the City has not demonstrated adequate financial care in daily operations. It is urgent that we address that concern head-on.
We can fund things like street improvements and underground utilities if we apply just a little fiscal discipline in City operations, and stop thinking that just because there is the appearance of a little surplus, we can just spend it.
Infrastructure needs that can be conveniently overlooked in any one budget year, but that is taking the politically expedient path of not having say no. I am not a not a name caller, but our current infrastructure deficit is an accumulation taking the easy path vs. taking a stand for the long-term health of the City.
I am not taking contributions and I am not seeking endorsements. I will take a stand for the long-term vs. the politically expedient. I know that my independence will offer a voice really needed by the City. See the "Budget" section of my web site: Web Link
Posted by I like Smokey, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 14, 2007 at 7:18 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I like Smokey because he thinks like a business man (he is one) he isn't in the pocket of the developers like Dykwel and probably Yeh.
Dykwell is a real estate agent and on the developer controlled Chamber of Commerce. According to his literature his major supporters are Klein, Beecham, Kleinberg, Mossar and Morton. The 5 who have been approving every oversized project that comes down the pike.
Yeh's top supporters are Barton, Beecham, Jim Burch,Peter Drekmeier, Walt Hays, Larry Klein, Judy Kleinberg, Dena Mossar. The big developer's paradise.
We have had enough of over-development. We need some attention to the city's operations. and Smokey might shed some intelligence on the infamous new web.
Posted by Burlington, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Oct 15, 2007 at 12:50 pm
"Dan has served on the Public Safety Commission Blue Ribbon Task Force; he has been a stalward supporter of our libraries, and been a key proponent of PAUSD's development."
Sounds like Dan is part of the business as usual crowd in town. If Mary is right, that's reason enough to find another candidate.
Tim Gray says some interesting things in his post above, and on his website. He's not accepting money donations, and he's not supported by ANY curent council members. Sounds like he's worth taking a chance on to me. I will vote for him and Smokey Wallace.
Posted by I like Smokey, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 15, 2007 at 4:44 pm
Pollster, it is spelled council.
He probably has money of his own, as do many of the people running, and he doesn't want to bow and scrape to people with money. I hope it works in his favor, and also for Gray. I hope for a little independence from the development crowd, it would be downright refreshing.
Posted by Terry Burnes, a resident of another community, on Oct 17, 2007 at 5:32 pm
There is much comment above about donations to Yiaway Yeh from outside Palo Alto. As I am one of those non-resident donors I thought it might be helpful to explain my donation.
I currently live in Gardnerville, Nevada, in the Carson Valley, just east of Lake Tahoe. I moved here about three years ago when I retired. Prior to that I was a Palo Alto resident for about 55 years. My parents and brother, and many friends, still live or work in Palo Alto. I care about Palo Alto even though I no longer live there and I keep up on the news "back home."
I got to know Yiaway very well, not as mutual residents of Palo Alto, but when we both worked for the County of San Mateo. I found him to be a person of high integrity, very committed to public service, intelligent, thoughtful, creative, polite, considerate, constructive and highly professional.
So, when I learned Yiaway was back in Palo Alto and running for Council I decided to support him with my donation. It's as simple as that.
I think most financial support in elections comes from two sources. The first is from people who want access to government. The second is from people who know a candidate well (personally or by reputation) and want him or her to succeed. I'm in the latter group with regard to Yiaway. I think it would be good for him. And for Palo Alto.
I don't find it surprising that much of Yiaway's support would come from people elsewhere. He has strong roots in Palo Alto (student body president at Gunn, for example) and I believe his family has resided there throughout his "wanderings." But he is sort of at the end of that period of life when we expect intelligent, capable people to be out and about in the world, gaining education and experience. In Yiaway's case that has included college in Washington, D.C., a stint in the Peace Corps, work for a neighboring local government to Palo Alto, graduate school at Harvard, work for Morgan Stanley in NYC learning the ins and outs of public finance and probably a few other experiences I don't know about. My take is that he's made a strong impression everywhere he's gone and that people he's met want to see him succeed, just as I do. So they are supporting him with donations. Surely that's not bad.
There is also a strong current of dissatisfaction with past leadership in the above discussion and a desire for what I can only call some revolution. I often found watching Palo Alto leadership frustrating too. It's a tough city to run. But I think you need to be careful about what you wish for. Council members must work with eight other peers, the members of numerous City commissions and committees, a broad spectrum of management and line staff, neighboring communities, numerous other agencies, the business community and, of course, a cantankerous citizenry. After a 30 year career in local government I can tell you that the ability to work constructively with others is key to getting anything worthwhile accomplished. I know Yiaway Yeh has that ability in addition to the other qualities we want in our leaders that are demonstrated by his experience.
Finally, there is discussion above that implies it is somehow bad if candidates might have aspirations beyond City Council. I don't know that to be true in Yiaway's case but he certainly has the potential to do other things. And wouldn't we expect that of someone his age? Or are we looking for folks to serve for life? When I hired people I found we were better off to have a few years service from someone extraordinary who was obviously headed on to bigger things than many years of service from someone who'd maybe found in our position the limits of his or her ability.
Anyway, FWIW, that's this "outsiders" perspective. And for those of you who hoped to find in my donation, say, a plot by the Nevada gaming industry to take over Palo Alto, I apologize for simply supporting a young man that I like and admire for Palo Alto City Council. And no, no one put me up to this and it's not made up and I'm really who I say I am.
Posted by enough, spend it better, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2007 at 8:01 am
I have to just shake my head at the "14k/year" poster who condemns those of us who say "no more property taxes"...if s/he is making 14k/year, I suspect s/he pays no taxes at all, or even is a reverse payer.
Posted by Tired-of-the-Hypocrisy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 21, 2007 at 9:53 am
Someone posted --
I believe that election not to pay the most recent school parcel tax by homeowners who can easily afford to do so as evidence of values that are fundamentally different from my own.
Sentiments like this one is why Palo Alto is quickly becoming a place that is no longer a good place in which to live. The finances of the school district have nothing to do with the governance of the municipal corporation. Objecting to the voracious consumption of money by the schools by legally voting NO against a ballot item and/or legally exempting one’s self from the tax should have no bearing on the qualifications of such a person as a candidate for city council. Unfortunately, there are people who do not seem to be able to separate the business of schools from the business of the city. Since about three thousand property owners have exempted themselves from this tax, it would be very interesting to see how many of these people voted for tax and then walked away from it.
Posted by Sue L., a resident of Stanford, on Oct 22, 2007 at 3:54 am
As a student I find myself continually amazed at our local politics. My family moved to Palo Alto 10 years ago. I am living the American Dream without "the cost of room and board" as my father would say. As a member of the new generation of residents who will eventually reside and raise families in Palo Alto I can honestly say that I am not impressed with most of these candidates.
I agree that the websites are lacking. We are a technological town and yet the websites are generic. There isn't any real stand on any issues.
Stating that you want more of the same is outrageous. Change is good. What I want to see is a council who is strong to stand up to the staff and more importantly the city manager. Who runs this town? In my research I see this more and more. People run for the wrong reasons such as lining their pockets or to boost the old ego.
With the decline in real estate, crime escalating, infrastructure needing attention and the need to boost the tax base isn't it time the city is run like a business? After all it needs to create some reserves after providing the cost of services and to the best of my knowledge that isn't happening. Without reserves we can't get some of these longstanding projects completed.
Employee morale is very bad, attrition is high, our safety personnel are working is unsafe and substandard conditions. This is due to poor management or lack thereof. Where is the accountability?
When conditions get like this it is time for change. We need candidates who are knowledgeable and experienced with all phases of city government. Not wannabe's. We cannot afford a learning curve. Our future both yours and mine depend on us making the right and most informed decision.
I have attended several forums. I also feel that we have a chance as a community to really make a difference with this election. It's about time and we are running out of it. I want a candidate who knows about city business, who recognizes the importance of managing employees and encouraging them to do their best. I want an elected to make intelligent and researched decisions when it affects my property not a paid staffer with reckless disregard for our public safety and the financial stability of our future.
This is why my family, neighbors, fellow students, co-workers and myself will be supporting council candidate Bill Ross definitely with the other three seats still to be determined if possible. They say one voice can make a difference and I believe his voice is the strongest for the people of Palo Alto.
If we can't decide on anybody else he will be the only vote we cast. Remember voting once is voting for him 4 times. Why you ask? It's simple because you don't vote against him with other candidates. Great strategy that really works! One vote will make people listen and give Palo Alto a real chance at success.
Posted by vote watcher, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2007 at 9:07 am
Sue L., what you wrote is partly correct, I agree with you that Bill Ross is a good candidate, and that we will need change, but we will need to fill 4 seats in this council. As you should have known by now, the council is a leaderless group, and it will depend on who will bring together four more votes to gain majority. So Bill by himself will be outnumbered, because he is an outsider. We should vote for change, and this will mean voting for candidates who are not an extension of the current council. Current council members endorsed candidates who will continue their legacy and the people of Palo Alto should realize that. The learning curve is not that steep, people in government try to convince us that no one will be able to do their jobs, so they stay in their jobs, we need to show the elected officials that if they do not perform, they will be replaced by others who will learn fast and will do a better job. How much worse can it be to have candidates with no government experience? I do not think it is going to be too much worse that what it is right now.
Posted by Cite Your Sources, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2007 at 11:52 am
In response to a number of points in a previous posting –
As to the “decline in real estate”, an advertisement in a local paper on 10.08.2007 had a graph of increasing home median prices. In 2003, the graph showed prices at/about $850K; in 2007 (YTD), the graph shows median housing prices at over $1.5M. This is hardly a “decline”. It is true that there has been a bit of a roller coaster going on in the commercial real estate market over the past few years. The DOT.COM property valuations were highly inflated; the lower property valuations are closer to realistic than was the case earlier in the decade.
As to “crime escalating”—Palo Alto’s general crime rate has declined for over twenty years. There are yearly ups and downs, but all of the towns in the Santa Clara County have very low crime rates, Palo Alto included.
As to “Employee morale is very bad, attrition is high” is proved by what metrics? The Palo Alto city employees are incredibly well compensated. Routinely the city manager often cites the cost-to-employ at/about $100K per employee. The public safety people will soon be averaging over $100K (base salary plus overtime). Many of the employees work only 9 days out of every ten, managers have 5+ weeks of vacation, and there is a very plush pension program in place for city workers.
It would pay to cite sources before laying out a litany of woes embraced by city employees that don’t really exist. Also keep in mind that attrition goes up and down based on the number of employees who retire early in order to other jobs while collecting their pensions at the same time.
The long term financial problems facing the city are the most pressing issues on the table. Increasing the tax base is one way to give an unaccountable city hall more money. Other ways to increase the funds available to the city exist, such as public-private partnerships and selling off some of the municipal assets(which is land rich).
Posted by 14k/yr, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Oct 23, 2007 at 9:32 pm
Yes OhlonePar, your are correct. 14k/yr is the amount of property tax I pay each year. I thought my reason for choosing the pseudonym would have been obvious to anyone reading what I wrote.
The comment that my reason not voting for Mr. Wallace is hypocritical is ridiculous. While there may be no connection between Mr. Wallace’s decision to exercise his option not to pay the latest round of school parcel tax and his ability function as city counsel member, his decision is indicative of his values and priorities. I see nothing wrong with basing my vote on a candidate’s priorities. While it the case that City Council does not control the school budget, decisions made by the city council can have profound effects on the schools. For example, housing policy affects the number of students going into the school system and the taxes collected. Similarly, favoring new construction (to increase real estate taxes) vs. increasing sales taxes affects the schools. Let us not forget about coordinating (or not coordinating) the timing of city bond votes with school bond votes.
Also, as I have said before, I based by conclusion that Mr. Wallace recently opted out of the school parcel taxes solely on plugging his address Web Link into the search engine at Web Link; it is possible that I could be wrong about my conclusion, but I don't see much room for a mistake
I stand by my position that I will not vote for any candidate who is financially very secure and makes the choice not to pay the school parcel tax.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:33 am
The problem with the fringe candidates like Wallance, Ross, and Marinos is that they are running *against* what they see as problems. I don't see any solutions, just promises that don't make any sense - given the way our city government is structured.
They are all talking like candidates who are running for mayor. They're not. And that's their essential problem. Palo Alto has a *collaborative*, consensus-driven model of governance. Where have these people been?
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:57 am
The problem for many of us is that the "collaborative consensus" in town seems to have led us in a direction we don't want to go.
While I will accept Mike's implicit point that the Council/Manager system model of governance does not lend itself ideally to insurgents, it is obvious that we won't have the changes we need without candidates willing to make waves.
We clearly won't do well with more of the "get-along, go-along business as usual" candidates we've been electing for decades. How could we do worse with the "fringe"?
Posted by jacquelin, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Oct 24, 2007 at 8:27 pm
And as for your comment about candidates “who are running against problems that have no solutions…given the way the government is structured” I think you missed the point.
Or perhaps you fail to buy into the problem-solving vision that Wallace enthusiastically advocate. In the meet-the-candidates forum, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Wallace specifically cited the management structure as an obstacle and he emphasized the need for restructuring. Wallace referred to examples in his executive leadership roles about doing just that. Yes, he speaks quite candidly and with unorthodox honesty, for someone running for political office, yet Smokey Wallace has my vote.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2007 at 12:57 pm
All good choices, except for Schmid, who is making the rounds - telling residents that he will "protect" them against "Stanford's intrusion into our community". I've heard this from four of my friends.
Schmid comes off in his presentations and the candidate forums as a measured guy, but look at the subtext of his arguments carefully. More importantly, look at who isi on his election committee. The latter group have all been involved in causing the most egregious housing and retail development holdups. Just look at the names, and check the record.
We don't need Schmid's retrograde influence now, as our city moves into a new stage of evolutionary process. We need policy makers who are looking ahead, and are able to negotiate from strength AND vision (something Schmid is lacking, in spades).
Posted by Smokey sounds OK, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2007 at 2:06 pm
The newspapers are all dependent on real estate advertising. Just look at any issue, especially the weekends. Lots of thousands of $$$ every day and every week. So it is reasonable to assume they will support those who are friendly to builders and developers.
If that's what you want, vote for their recommendations. Drive past Charleston and El Camino if you need a reminder.
Posted by Dewey, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2007 at 2:37 pm
On the other hand, if you want serious, continued delay - further decaying infrastructure, and mind-bending arguments from outsized egos on our next City Council, vote for Smokey, and a few other fringe candidates, who think running for office is a "fun" thing, and that they can "fix" Palo Alto all by themselves. Gimmie a break!
Posted by PA citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 5, 2007 at 12:00 am
I'd like to know who you are planning to vote for in the city council race. Having read your posts on school issues over the months, I have a great deal of respect for your judgment. I am caught without enough time to review the candidates as thoroughly as I usually do - I missed the forums, too. Your endorsement will hold a lot of weight in my household.
Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online, on Nov 5, 2007 at 9:35 pm Tyler Hanley is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
With election day upon us, we're going to lock the election forums, including this one. When the polls close, we will welcome your continued discussion on the election and what the results will mean for the community. Remember to vote!