PA City Council should not be politically partisan Diana Diamond's Blog, posted by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Feb 1, 2008 at 6:22 pm Diana Diamond is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
Seven of the nine Palo Alto City Council members have this weekpublicly endorsed Sen. Barack Obama as their choice for president of the United States. Why? I thought we had nonpartisan elections in Palo Alto — and partisan politics were a no-no.
When the Palo Alto City Council election occurred, a mere three months ago, I had no idea who of the candidates were Republicans or Democrats, or who they, as candidates, were endorsing for president. It was not, and should not have been, an issue.
That is why I am upset that on Monday night Mayor Larry Klein issued a statement that said, Obama, D-Ill., offers the best possibility for transforming "the toxic, partisan bickering in Washington.
"We believe that Barack Obama has the vision, passion and ability to change this unhealthy Washington atmosphere," said the statement signed by Klein, Vice Mayor Peter Drekmeier and council members John Barton, Pat Burt, Yoriko Kishimoto, Greg Schmid and Yiaway Yeh.
Councilmember Sid Espinosa said he was supporting Hillary Clinton; Councilmember Jack Morton said his constituents are "more than capable of making up their own mind" without his endorsement.
Hooray for Morton!
I think most of us have made up our minds who we are going to support on Super Tuesday, and we don’t need the help of the Palo Alto City Council.
Which brings me to the larger question that frequents council discussions. Should the council vote on national issues?
Some are purists, saying never. Others are enthusiasts, saying always.
I would say occasionally, with cautious consideration. Yes, when this country is about to get involved in a war in Iraq. Yes, because maybe the president needs some feedback from constituencies like Palo Alto and other cities on major events affecting our country – like wars.
But no for most other issues.
And I go back to my original theme – we did not elect our city council members on a partisan slate. We elected them as individuals, without knowing their political points of view. They should remain nonpartisan.
Posted by Pam, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2008 at 10:50 pm
Talk about about the "glass ceiling" effect. I wonder where we would be if Hillary was a man, and Obama was white. Hillary's command of the issues is unmatched. Obama's command of oratory is unmatched. I want more than a speech maker; inspiration doesn't put bread on the table.
Mayor Klein, when has Washington not engaged in toxic bickering? About toxic bickering; I suggest we start at home.
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2008 at 4:39 am
It is unethical to use a legally non-partisan office for partisan advantage.The elegant folk of Palo Alto, eager to stick it to the rednecks, continually hand the City's megaphone over to DNC cheerleaders and cadets.
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2008 at 7:07 am
The previous council could barely tend to civic business, going off on all sorts of 'tangents' while streets deterioriate, many of the auditor's recommendations went unmet, and the city gained a reputation of unable to 'govern' especially under the reign of the last mayor. It's been ten years tomorrow that we had the Flood of '98 and the CREEK STILL ISN'T FIXED.
We've just had an election, and already THIS council does not know why it was elected. It is not too soon to start a recall movement for the November election. Council - either take care of city business or the residents may tell you to hit the road. It's been done before. How DARE you use your non-partisan office to collectively endorse anyone - or for that matter have any opinions on any issue other than city business. What you do on your own nickel is your business but this time you went too far.
Posted by what a joke, a resident of another community, on Feb 2, 2008 at 7:32 am
Palo Alto: Continues to vie with Berkeley and San Francisco for "most laughable city in the USA". The rest of the nation laughs as we watch your three cities think they matter in national and international politics, while not paying attention to your own city, the job you were elected to do.
Posted by Disinfranchised Resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2008 at 11:03 am
Just to point out another example of what goes on in our city while our elected leaders write memos supporting national issues. The pavement on the first two blocks of Hamilton east of Middlefield has been in terrible shape for several years. Just recently, a public works crew put a few small patches on the pavement near Middlefield. However, in the middle of the block, less tha 100 feet from the new patches, a large pothole exists, but no patch was put there. Public works will soon have to come back. The public works crews spend a good portion of the day just driving back and forth between the yard on East Bayshore and their work location. They are not being managed very well. No wonder many of our roads are in such poor condition. Our City Council spends too much of its time taking care of national business instead of Palo Alto's business.
Posted by time-for-a-recall, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2008 at 11:08 am
When the Cops beat the hell out of a citizen .. this council can't find the time to even yawn about it .. and certainly when the utilities scandal put this town on the map for municipal fraud and corruption the council wasn't even remotely interested.
Posted by focus on us, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2008 at 11:23 am
I also plan to vote for Obama but I am pretty sick and tired of our council posturing on national issues ("I am greener than you!") while ignoring the basic needs of the city and our residents, like sidewalks you can walk on without tripping, storm drains that work in a storm and such.
Politicians love to be associated with something popular. The environment is popular. Obama is popular. It's just sickening, though, wathing these folks trying to "get into the picture" to prove that they are cool and right -- I wish they'd spend that time fixing up our city -- now THAT would give them something to talk about.
Meanwhile, though, I'm sure we'll see more posturing, particularly on the environment. It's the "apple pie" issue of the day -- no penalty for being "for the environment" until, that is, someone asks them, "so, what have you actually done?"
Posted by Not so fast, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2008 at 12:28 pm
Our council is continuing on the path that they have been on for years, especially highlighted by the past year's fiasco--ignoring important city issues while chasing pipe dream pet projects both here and outside the city. If they are getting involved in national politics they are travelling far and wide, extolling the "Palo Alto Way" while dancing the night away.
It is early in the year, so let us see what this council accomplishes or does not.
Posted by James, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Feb 2, 2008 at 8:33 pm
Cry me a river, they are certainly entitled to make their opinions public. Whether or not people want to agree is an entirely different matter.
They don't have to decide between endorsing a candidate and working on making the city a better place. Ideally, we shouldn't be crying foul over actually expressing political views (hello, it's PALO ALTO people). Instead, we should be saying that, along with making such statements, they ALSO need to focus on the issues within our town.
"I want more than a speech maker; inspiration doesn't put bread on the table."
Agreed! But many of his supporters like me agree that he has an economical plan to "but bread on the table", but if you think a $600 check will sustain that notion while not increasing job employment, I wish you the best of luck.
I would recommend as well not to discount the power of rhetorics in motivating people to be their neighbor's keeper and to do good work within the community and our nation. Thus I offer Caroline Kennedy's OpEd from the NYT:
A President Like My Father
By CAROLINE KENNEDY
OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.
My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.
Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.
We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.
Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.
Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.
I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.
Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.
I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.
I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.
Caroline Kennedy is the author of “A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love.”
Posted by Gary, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2008 at 8:53 pm
"Thus I offer Caroline Kennedy's OpEd from the NYT:
A President Like My Father"
James, were you even a glint your father's eye when JFK was president? History never, really, changes...it just goes around.
JFK was wildly popular with the youth, minorities and women. He was for change. Sound familiar? He was elected, then brought us the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis (as a result of his weakness at the Bay of Pigs), the Peace Corps and the Green Berets and Vietnam. He made good speeches, but he accomplished little while he was alive. His death by an assasin's bullet carved his name in stone, similar to Garfield and McKinley (but not Lincoln, who actually earned it).
What, exactly, does "change" mean? Does it mean cut-and-run in Iraq? Does it mean more tax-the-rich? Does it mean rejecting the fact of the global economy? Does it mean accepting nuclear energy? Does it mean a military draft? Does it mean a free lunch?
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2008 at 9:54 am
I agree with those that believe that City Council was voted into office without regard to their political affiliation and it should remain that way. Start working on the real infrastructure problems here in Palo Alto and stop the rest of the nonsense. I don't care what you think about any Presidential candidate on either side of the aisle.
Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2008 at 4:12 pm
Given how openly partisan this Council seems to be, it certainly sends a message to any potential City Manager candidates that if you are a Republican or an Independent--you probably won't be given much consideration for the job.
Posted by Stop The Circus, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2008 at 10:44 pm
The Palo Alto City Council, with the exception of Mr. Morton, is showing itself to be arrogant, divisive, undisciplined, irresponsible, and lacking in both common sense AND good manners. Sounds like business as usual.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2008 at 9:01 am
I am glad that the city council have opinions about national politics and I am glad that they will be using their right as individuals to vote. However, I do not need to know who they think they should vote for. I do not really need to know who anybody in any public office or of any celebrity status for that matter, feels should win. I certainly do not think it should take up time and space at city council meetings being discussed. And, I do not want, yes want, PA to be considered a city with a certain political image.
Individual opinions are just that, individual opinions. It's fine by me if individuals wish to discuss this with each other over their yard fence, or even in town square, but do not take up productive time either at work or on committee discussing this.
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2008 at 11:39 am
"Given how openly partisan this Council seems to be, it certainly sends a message to any potential City Manager candidates that if you are a Republican or an Independent--you probably won't be given much consideration for the job."
If we actually got a Republican city manager, our streets would probably get fixed, along with the storm drains. He/she would probably also fight the ABAG deal. We could also expect some hard bargaining with the unions, and no expectation of a free lunch for anybody on city staff. Don't forget that he/she would probably aslo expect the staff to work ten days every two weeks, not nine.
Posted by Greg, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2008 at 1:59 pm
Remember we get two for the price of one with Hiil. Bill needs lots of $$ for his library and foundation, so don't count out Hill on nukes.
I think it is looking quite hopeful for nukes. Not only is the need and the science there, but we now have the two possible Democratic candidates willing to cut a deal. BTW, S. Cal will overwhelm N. Cal, if it comes to a vote. Think about all those Latinos who are unwilling to live in poverty to assuage N. Cal luddites. Hill and Bill and Obama are already thinking that way. Makes me warm all over.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2008 at 3:25 pm
Greg, In your ignorance of the latino vote, what latinos want for their families, and what latino political organizations are lobbying for, you make laughable assumptions. Your desperate projection of the impending doom of your nuke dream to my state of mind gave me a good belly laugh. Thanks!
Posted by Greg, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2008 at 3:49 pm
Skrocketing utility bills is not a laughable thing to a poor Latino family. You may think so, but that only shows where you are coming from. Nuclear power offers a real chance to keep those utility bills low, and it promises a rosy economic future. Luddites, from the Sierra Club (of whatever ethnic persuation), cannot avoid the inevitalbe blossoming of nuclear. They are even opposed to the use of BLM land for large scale solar projects.
Posted by What a Laugh !, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2008 at 5:01 pm
The last few posts have gone of track. The City council has no business endorsing candidates. Really, given their poor track record for being on the ball, we should vote for their least favorite candidate!
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 11:54 am
Awhile back, after living in LA for a few years, and then doing business there often up to the present, I have realized that LA is a pretty good predictor of traffic volume and problems for the Bay Area, but 10 years in advance of us here.
The same may well hold true for Berkeley as a glimpse at what Palo Alto could become in 10 years. Our government certainly seems headed that direction. I have watched radical change of focus, effectiveness and bias over my 25 years in Palo Alto.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 12:26 pm
Mike, You're right about LA - that's why we need to work hard to stop further suburban sprawl. That challenge is one that we are about to face.
As for Palo Alto becoming like Berkeley, there are some similarities, because our demographic is highly educated, and decidedly upper-middle income. Also, we are located adjacent to a university. You'll find that many university towns have a similar approach to policy and community demeanor.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2008 at 10:08 pm
re looking forward to Berkeley-ism: not me! I fear it. But it looks like our direction at the present time. By the way, Berkeley is very demographically different than PA. Education perhaps, but probably not that even. There is a blue collar radical element or old hippie population that drives a lot of the direction.
We have some (more than enough)old hippies reliving the 60s in PA-look at the crowd periodically protesting at Lytton Plaza, but less of the other groups. But our council is starting to look like Greenpeace is a growing influncing factor. Genuine local issues don't seem to matter compared to their other expanded views.
We have local, state and federal government for a reason. If you are attempting to do someone else's job, the one you accepted is probably not getting done.
Regarding endorsement of Obama-JFK was not a really a great president, but he had great marketing!..Mike
Posted by maria, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2008 at 3:49 pm
Why do they think it is their business to voice their opinion on the candidates? That's not the job they were elected to do. They should be spending their time on council matters. What enormous egos thse people have.
Not that they will influence my vote, but I do resent their using the council as a platform to assuage their "white man's guilt" by patronising a black man.
Posted by Maria, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 18, 2008 at 4:23 pm
Why does the council think it is their business to voice a public opinion on the candidates? That's not the job they were elected to do. They should be spending their time on council matters. What enormous egos these people have.
Not that they will influence my vote, but I do resent their using the council as a platform to assuage their "white man's guilt" by patronising a black man.
Posted by Amy, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Feb 19, 2008 at 8:17 am
Once again someone has suggested a council recall. We went through this many years ago. It was awful, mean, and nasty. I am pretty sure that nobody wants to go through this again. It was a mess, and didn't even really solve the problems facing Palo Alto at the time.
Posted by Recall-'em-All, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2008 at 9:55 am
> and didn't even really solve the problems
> facing Palo Alto at the time
The last recall was in 1967--during the Go-Go years of Palo Alto growth.
The Council was about 15 strong at that time. It was reported in the papers of the time that many of the Council members did not attend meetings, or got up an left before the meetings were over.
The main purpose of the Recall was to start of with new faces, and to reduce the size of the council. This was accomplished over a period of years--maybe seven--so that the Council now has nine players.
The Recall was called for by an editorial in the Palo Alto Times. With the ball rolling, it didn't take that much to get the job done.
With the almost complete control of the city government by special interests--a recall would be one way to undo their control.
Many cities the size of Palo Alto have only five elected officials. And Santa Clara County has only five elected supervisors. The need for nine Council Members in Palo Alto is not clear.