Council campaign off to slow start
With four seats open, only Burt has begun bid
Six months before the election, with four spots on the Palo Alto City Council up for grabs, only Planning Commissioner Pat Burt has officially launched a campaign.
Longtime councilman and Palo Alto political historian Gary Fazzino, who is also considering another bid, called the dearth of formal candidates "extraordinary."
"This is a very strange environment," said Fazzino, who served about 17 years on the council. "I cannot recall any other year based upon my experience and what I know about history in the last 50 years when candidates have been so late getting in the race."
Fazzino, who is in his early 50s, said he is waiting for the birth of his twins, expected at the end of the month, before he decides.
"Obviously (the twins) take priority over everything else," Fazzino said.
One of Fazzino's colleagues at Hewlett-Packard Company, Sid Espinosa, is also "strongly considering" running for a seat.
Espinosa, 34, is HP's director of philanthropy. He also serves on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation and has been active in many other local efforts.
"I have lots of people contacting me unsolicited, both elected officials and community leaders, asking if I would consider it," Espinosa said.
Espinosa said he'd like to serve on the council, but he wants to wants to make sure he'll have enough time before he formally commits.
"I don't do anything unless I put 100 percent (into it)," he said.
Espinosa said the dearth of candidates is partially attributable to demographics. Having a high-powered career and delaying starting a family means that most younger folks don't have the dozens of hours a week the council demands.
"There is also a feeling that public servants get picked on," Espinosa said, adding that politicians have always born the brunt of public discontent.
Several other locals have also acknowledged they are considering a campaign.
Arthur Keller, a first-term planning commissioner, is also considering a run.
"I think I would be a positive influence on the City Council," Keller said. He just isn't sure he has enough time for his position with Minerva Consulting, a tech and sustainability firm he runs with his wife, and the council.
Realtor Dan Dykwel — who organized the Black and White Ball with his wife, Sunny, and served on the Blue Ribbon Task Force on police headquarters — said he will know within a week whether he will form a committee to run for council.
Dykwel said he is also a member of the facilities-review committee for the Palo Alto Unified School District.
Skip Justman, a real estate attorney and 40-year Palo Alto resident, said he will make a decision by the end of July. Justman ran for the City Council in 1979, 2003 and 2005, he said.
Karen Holman, chair of the Planning and Transportation Commission and a council candidate in 2005, said her planning consulting business is too busy to allow her to run for the council this year. She might be interested in the future, however.
"Never say never," Holman said.
Other names that are being mentioned by insiders include Debbie Mytels, Midtown resident and environmental activist; Rick Ferguson, an engineer, attorney and former member of the Utilities Advisory Commission; and Jon Foster, a co-leader of the schools' Measure A campaign who is also involved in the Alma Plaza debate.
But Burt, 55, is the only one who has formed a committee and kicked off fundraising efforts.
He's starting with a powerful committee with honorary members Supervisor Liz Kniss, Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto and Councilwoman Judy Kleinberg.
He's lived in Palo Alto for 27 years and served on the Planning and Transportation Commission, including two stints as chair, for nine years.
Burt said he's eager to explore ways of streamlining Palo Alto's management structure while boosting its infrastructure and commitment to the youth and seniors.
"I've been very interested in how we can do a better job with limited resources," Burt said.
Burt said he advocates for "sensible land use" that reconciles the interests of disparate groups in the community.
Burt is a Santa Clara Valley native whose grandparents rented the same Harriet Street house he now lives in. He graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara with a degree in English and is married to Sally Bemus and has two children in local schools, Jordan, 13, and Riley, 10.
Burt is the president of Acteron Corporation, a San Carlos high-tech company, and has served on various boards to promote corporate environmental responsibility, he said.
Burt said he expects to decline contributions from organizations or businesses "who have a strong personal financial interest in decisions of the City Council."
The period to file for candidacy extends from July 16 through August 10, City Clerk Donna Rogers said.
Candidates must pay a $25 filing fee and collect signatures of 25 Palo Alto voters or collect 100 signatures and pay nothing. Running a personal statement on the ballot costs about $1,940, however.
Staff Writer Becky Trout can be e-mailed at email@example.com.