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A reprehensible political ad

Uploaded: Nov 2, 2014
This is not so much about a particular set of lies at the core of one political ad, but more about Palo Alto's political environment. When very prominent people believe that they can get away with these sort of lies, it is indicative of the other behaviors that have created the current contentious environment. I find it troubling that so much of the political establishment seems untroubled by this ad.

Before you dismiss political ads as inherently deceptive, recognize that California has a voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices. This code is not to protect the politicians, but the electoral process. It is meant to serve the voters--to help them make informed choices. The Code commits candidates to open-ness and sincerity (pt 1), and to "immediately and publicly repudiate" "methods and tactics that I condemn" (pt 6). This code became an issue earlier in the campaign (article).

Although I would prefer to have fact-checking on the ads done by reporters, that hasn't happened. So here goes. The ad in question is one by a new group, "Palo Altans for Good Government" (PAGG), whose sole activity seems to have been this ad, and whose membership is dominated by prominent members of the campaign teams of the candidates being endorsed (see footnote). It has run since Monday 10/27 in another local (hardcopy) newspaper, and ran in the Palo Alto Weekly issue of 10/31 in the bottom half of page 19 (PDF). Advice: you may want to put this ad in a separate web browser tab or window for easy reference below.

---The basic lie----
The ad attacks candidates Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, Lydia Kou and possibly Karen Holman, although not by name but by the description "the Slate sponsored by Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning (PASZ)" (this is a pair of lesser lies that we will get to soon). The ad claims that those candidates "advocates for no growth." This is a false claim dating back to the beginning of the campaign and has been repeatedly refuted by statements by the candidates (in their campaign materials, in response to questions...). Those candidates have talked about managing and balancing growth, for example in relation to available infrastructure. At this stage, such a claim is a knowing falsehood and its use in a political ad is clearly intended to deceive. Those are the criteria for declaring a statement to be a lie.

Aside: If you are troubled by my calling out lies, please see my earlier blog entry In defense of incivility, especially the section "Civility run amok: Lies are bad ... so don't you dare point them out"

---The secondary lie----
The ad claims that these candidates are sponsored by PASZ, which is false. "Sponsored" is a very different word from "endorsed", and PAGG has both lawyers and politicians who well know the difference. Also, PASZ didn't endorse these candidates until surprisingly late into the campaign. Yes, three of the four endorsees are members of PASZ, but what is surprising about that?(foot#1) Searching through the financial reports, I find no monetary donations from PASZ to the endorsed candidates, and only minor non-monetary contributions typically associated with endorsements.(foot#2)

In case you haven't spotted the hypocrisy, PAGG has engaged in exactly the same behavior as PASZ: They have endorsed candidates and they have paid to promote those candidates (through the newspaper ads).

This lie seems intended to set up the claim in the PAGG ad that the candidates they endorse are "independent thinkers" and "NOT a Slate".

----The lesser secondary lie----
The four candidates endorsed by PASZ are described as a slate. This is an invention of newspaper reporters--they do such things to simplify their stories. The sponsors of this ad have more than enough experience with the press to be reflexively skeptical of anything they read.

In an election, a slate is a group of candidates that run on a common platform. It is much, much more than candidates who have similar positions and/or who may endorse each other. Long before the campaigns began (January 18), I blogged "Candidate Slates for City Council: Time to reconsider?" stepping through the various levels of cooperation and coordination of campaigns, both for candidates in the same race (Council) and related races (+School Board). This was basic politics.

Throughout this campaign, the candidates in the purported slate have repeatedly stated that they are not a slate. I can personally state, both authoritatively and unequivocally, that they are not a slate. As an adviser to one of the current candidates, I was a participant in the discussions with other campaigns about how they would interact. The option of a slate was immediately rejected (without any discussion) as were all the options that involved stronger versions of cooperation. Those candidates wanted to be able to differentiate themselves based upon their own strengths and priorities (although I suspect that much of that wasn't apparent to the typical voter).
Note: Comments stating that some cooperation is proof of a slate will be deleted as mendacious.

So ask why is PAGG lying by labeling the group of candidates they oppose as being a slate, while explicitly claiming that the group of candidates they endorse is "NOT a Slate", while putting forth what looks to be a three-point platform for them (characteristic of a slate)?

----The "moratorium" lie----
Early in the year (January?), PASZ called for a temporary moratorium on major development projects because City Hall seemed to inadequately track and respond to cumulative impacts (traffic, parking...). The City had a similar moratorium about a decade ago when the incoming Planning Director discovered that serious problems identified 10 years before that (in the mid-1990s) had been allowed to spiral out of control. PAGG removes two crucial pieces of context from that call for a moratorium: it was a temporary pause (for catch-up), and it applied to development projects and not projects such as the public safety building (PAGG's claim).

----The false invited inferences----
There are many invited inferences in this ad that are false, but if you haven't already dismissed the ad as lacking any credibility, further explanation is probably pointless.

---Aside: "there is no 'establishment'"----
The ad makes this claim. Details about membership in "The Establishment" are off-topic here. However, this term has been, and will continue to be, used and thus deserves a brief explanation. The classic definitions center on a dominant group whose membership is determined far more by social connections than by merit. This can be seen in the current Council election by some of the candidates and in the pattern of endorsements.(foot#3)

----Question for candidates Johnston, Scharff, Shepherd, Wolbach----
You are the candidates endorsed by PAGG. Many of the members of PAGG are not just generic supporters, but prominent members of your campaign teams.(foot#4) I have not seen a public repudiation of these supporters for their involvement in this ad. If this doesn't represents "methods and tactics" of which you approve, the Code calls for you to have done this.

----Question for City Council----
Two of your members--Klein and Price--are sponsors of this ad. City politics have become so contentious because so many residents have come to see City Hall as not to be trusted and as not treating them with respect. You say you want to remedy this situation. Does their conduct not rise to the level of deserving some form of official rebuke?

----Question for residents----
Is this something that you are going to dismiss as "politics as usual", or say "We're not going to take this anymore!" Or something in between?

My most vivid memory of the 2013 Measure D campaign (Maybell) came from a neighbor who had immigrated here from mainland China. She said that she came to America believing that it had an honest government, but had come to see Palo Alto's government as just as corrupt as back there. Very troubling. And I hope it isn't true.

A repeated theme in this blog (now over a year old) has been the importance of open, fair and honest decision-making. I have walked away, after a fight, from professional and civic organizations despite considerable investment in them because they tolerated, even rewarded, significant patterns of dishonesty.

On the other hand, I recognize that there is a non-trivial segment of our population that regards various forms of dishonesty--deception, false accusations...--as simply weapons in a modern form of the medieval Trial-by-Combat (just look at online forums). I hope that this segment is simply highly visible, and not becoming dominant.

One of the interesting contradictions of Silicon Valley is that our prominent companies are known for their insatiable appetite for data, but we still have a political class that resists letting facts get in the way of what they want to believe. Many of the current political battles in Palo Alto could be diagnosed as a "culture war" generated by this contradiction (earlier take on this: Analytics vs. Aspirationals).

Since I expect that most of you have already voted (by mail), I am encouraging commenters to suggest what could be done to repudiate the likes of Palo Altans for Good Government. To say "No. We are Palo Altans for better government."

---- Footnotes ----

1. It is hardly unusual or unexpected for organizations to favor their members when it is time for endorsements. For example, in this Council race, the Democratic Party of Santa Clara County refused to endorse one candidate, a Democrat, because he had endorsed another candidate who, although he is a Democrat, had voted in at least one Republican primary.

2. Non-monetary PASZ contribution: Identified as campaign literature. I don't know the details. However, it is common for endorsing organizations to reprint candidates' literature, often with customizations for their membership or audience. This has to be reported as a non-monetary contribution to the campaign.
If you want to look at the details of the contributions and expenditures for yourself, the campaign filings can be found by going directly to the NetFile Portal for Palo Alto--do not go to the City Clerk's Elections page because this link is hard to spot, and the links you are likely to select are blind alleys. Once there, you can download the raw data in a spreadsheet (.xlsx) which is useful if you are searching for specific types of donations or donors. The spreadsheet is very wide and you will need to delete/hide columns to make it vaguely readable. The button to download this spreadsheet is at the top of the NetFile Portal page. Note: The spreadsheet does not include data from candidates who submit hardcopy forms (Eric Filseth is the only one doing so in this contest).
To get data on individual candidates, go to the bottom of the NetFile Portal page and expand the "11/04/2014 General Election" to "Candidates" and then "Council Member". The Form 460 show the donations and expenditures for each reporting periods (and to-date totals). Form 497 (if any) document donations during the late phase of the campaign that require immediate reporting because of their size (threshold $1000).

3. The Establishment: As an example, consider candidate A. C. Johnston: He was recruited to run by his neighbor Liz Kniss (Council member, former mayor, former County Supervisor...) with no previous experience or interest in local issues. But look at his endorsements. Candidate Cory Wolbach is a lesser example. He too had little/no previous experience with local issues but is well-connected to the Democratic Party establishment.

4. Listed members of PAGG and some of their public/official roles in campaigns of candidates endorsed by PAGG (above the level of being endorsers listed on mailers and brochures):
Ray Bacchetti: highlighted endorser for Scharff.
Betsy Bechtel (Foothill-De Anza College Trustee): highlighted endorser for Johnston, Honorary Co-chair for Wolbach.
Note: The traditional role of an Honorary Co-chair is to raise money and secure prominent endorsements for the candidate, and to provide limited advice (supplementing the campaign manager).
Sid Espinosa (former Council member): highlighted endorser for Johnston, Scharff and Shepherd.
Walt Hays: Honorary Co-chair, kick-off event cosponsor and highlighted endorser for Johnston; highlighted endorser for Shepherd.
John Kelley: introductory speaker at kick-off event and highlighted endorser for Johnston.
Larry Klein (Council member): Honorary Co-chair for Johnston; introductory speaker at kick-off event for Scharff.
John Melton (Palo Alto Utilities Advisory Commission):
Gail Price (Council member):
Bill Reller (developer):
Steve Reller (developer):
Joe and Diane Rolfe:
Susan Rosenberg:
Alice Smith (Democratic Party activist/fund-raiser):
Roger Smith:
Bruce Swenson (Foothill-De Anza College Board President): highlighted endorser for Johnston.
Jackie Wheeler: host of kick-off events for both Johnston and Scharff; highlighted endorser for Johnston.
Lanie Wheeler (former Council member): highlighted endorser for Scharff; Honorary co-chair for Shepherd.

APPENDIX: Campaign Websites (alphabetically)
- Tom DuBois
- Eric Filseth
- John Fredrich
- Karen Holman
- A. C. Johnston
- Lydia Kou
- Seelam Reddy
- Greg Scharff
- Nancy Shepherd
- Cory Wolbach
- Mark Weiss (part of his general blogging site)

The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particular strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", don't be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


You make a number of good arguments about the ad, for which I would be interested to hear PAGG's rebuttal, but I believe the "secondary lie" distinction between sponsor and endorse needs fleshing out. My American Heritage dictionary doesn't help--endorse (v)-to give approval of or support to; sponsor-(n) one who vouches for the suitability of a candidate for admission, (v) to act as a sponsor for.

Is there an agreed upon technical definition in the elections field that makes the distinction you draw?

((Blogger: In the cited definition the key words are "admission" and "vouch". This definition is typically used when someone is applying for admission to a service or fraternal organization, social club... with the sponsor being a current member of the organization who typically serves first as a sort of pre-screener for applicants and then being the primary mentor for the new member, and finally taking the lead if the new member causes problems.
Sponsorship may come about from the existing member recruiting the applicant, or from someone seeking admission asking a member to be his/her sponsor.

A second notion of sponsorship applies to major and crucial financial backers and is reflected in the labels given to various membership levels of organizations and attendees at events -- for example, an entertainment event may have sponsors which does not include normal ticket buyers. TV still has some sponsors: advertisers with higher levels of commitment to particular shows.

PASZ fits none of the notions of sponsorship. Its financial contributions that I spotted were small (below the average donation by individuals). Even if it had had standing to vouch for candidates, its endorsements came so late in the campaign that it was moot in that regard. And I would like to think that election to public office is different from admission to a country club.

Posted by Guy_Fawkes, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 2, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

Hopefully Palo Altans will see through the big money being spent on this campaign and the shallow attacks by developers and the "establishment". Doug - thank you for pointing out the fallacies in this ad which were apparent to me. I just hope others in Palo Alto question why a new group would go to the effort of attacking candidates in this way - what's in it for them.

You question on some form of censure or rebuke for council candidates paying for ethically questionable ads is a good one.

Posted by Barnum, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on Nov 2, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Doug, you know I think you are right. One of the most astonishing things about this race is the belief on the part of the establishment that they can basically hand-pick people to run for city offices based almost solely on their social network ties and neighborhood proximity to Liz Kniss. In many ways this election is almost a perfect test of the extent to which the bulk of Palo Alto is willing to have its elected officials hand-selected from a very small group of highly-networked insiders. Will voters pass over highly qualified candidates such as Tom DuBois, Ken Dauber, Eric Filseth and Lydia Kou in favor of less-qualified but establishment selected nobodies like AC Johnston, Catherine Foster, and Cory Wolbach? It is interesting that both Johnston and Foster have the same story for how they came to be running: Liz Kniss asked them.

Yes, there is an "establishment" or a "400" or whatever you want to name it, centered in the Duveneck area. It is an insular group with social network ties within that group that rarely extend south of Oregon. It has resulted in south Palo Alto, including Gunn High School, receiving the super short straw for many years.

This group thinks that Palo Alto voters are dum-dums who will just keep voting for whomever Liz and Joe pick out for them, irrespective of whether their neighborhoods are filling up with condos while north Palo Alto stays "special" and irrespective of the thinness of the resume of whomever Liz sets up as a candidate. In this race, we have a guy who has never actually lived here endorsed by the entirety of the elite, along with a guy who lives with his mom and is 27, along with a woman who basically has never been involved in school board issues who is being run for school board. All seem nice. None seem qualified.

So is there one born every minute? Liz and Joe think so. I guess we'll find out on Tuesday.

Posted by Hanging Chad, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 2, 2014 at 11:01 pm

If you have concerns about County-connected Liz, voice them please to the state elections people so we get some oversight. If the order of the ballot names didnt put your concerns about their glibness into a different light...

Posted by Sea REDDY, a resident of College Terrace,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 2:25 am

Dear Palo Alto citizens

Please DEMAND INTEGRITY from you council candidates.

It is your opportunity to throw out the ones that do not meet your bar.

One lesson I learned is that 'these' special interest groups are loaded with a lot of 'financial resources'.

How can an ideas person with limited budget get your attention?

We are an alternate choice; fresh in the political arena; without baggage and proven experience and integrity. How can we prove it? Look at our track record.

Citizens, you have better options than what these big money interest groups.

Again, integrity is very important, just to put together 'smart' teams just to get elected is not integrity. Who are they misleading?

Please come out and vote for some of us that represent home owners, renters business alike.


Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 2:39 am

(Spelling errors corrected)

Dear Palo Alto citizens

Please DEMAND INTEGRITY from your council candidates.

1.It is your opportunity to throw out the ones that do not meet your integrity bar.

One lesson I learned is that 'these' special interest groups are loaded with a lot of 'financial resources'. Look at the advertising.

2. How can an ideas person with limited budget get your attention?

We are an alternate choice; fresh in the political arena; without baggage and proven experience and integrity. How can we prove it?

Look at our track record.

3. Citizens, you have better options than what these big money interest groups can offer you.

Again, integrity is very important, having put together 'smart' teams just to get elected is not integrity. Who are they misleading?

Please come out and vote for some of us that represent home owners, renters business alike.


Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 9:44 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


For months, anonymous posters in Town Square, presumably friends and supporters of PASZ, spoke of the need to have a slate of like-minded candidates to overthrow the powers that be. There was lots of speculation about what the composition of such a slate might be as candidates one by one entered the race. I think that lies behind the difficulty you are having in laying the slate issue to rest.

[[ Reply from blogger (positioned to simplify reference:
1. I am not having difficulty "in laying the slate issue to rest". This blog entry is about the serious dishonesty of a prominent group of Palo Altans, including two sitting Council members. "Slate" is simply a very clear-cut example of that dishonesty.

2. To my recollection (TSF is too voluminous to search to be authoritative), the "anonymous posters in Town Square..." advocating votes for those candidates predominantly talk of them as a list of names. There is a basic difference between a group/list/set of candidates and a slate. For example, in the School Board contest, I see a fair amount of people advocating for a pair of candidates without that being labeled a "slate".
My recollection is that virtually all the talk of a "slate" comes from the opposition to those candidates, not their supporters.

3. Since when are statements by anonymous posters on TSF basis for treating something as likely true? Based on the many negative things said on TSF about Underdal, he should be one of the last people using this rationalization.

Posted by Rob, a resident of Community Center,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 11:09 am

[[From the blogger:
This comment begins with outright lies. I am telling you (the reader) this so that you may skip this comment, or use that as context for his other claims.

Lie 1: That I "claim the the PASZ scorecard ads are 'data'...": I have not made *any* representation about the PASZ scorecard.

Lie 2: ditto for "the candidates supported by PASZ": This is not true of *all* four of those candidates: I was able to check with one of those candidates and she was not pushing it (the voting record of the current Council members is something she decided not to pursue). As to the other three candidates, I have not been to events where the Scorecard was discussed, so I don't know what they are saying about it.

Lie/falsehood 3: "boiling down city council votes to a category of 'anti-resident' is not pure data...": I just checked the Scorecard and it describes the substance of votes and what PASZ *interprets* as pro-/anti-resident, allowing the reader to make their own interpretations. This is so far from "boiling down" as to warrant being labeled a lie.

3 strikes (in the first three lines) and you are out.

Doug, On your topic of reprehensible political ads (your title not mine), it is worth noting that you and the candidates supported by PASZ claim that the PASZ scorecard ads are "data" rather than a false accusation, but boiling down city council votes to a category of "anti-resident" is not pure data, there is inherent judgment and opinion embedded in that sort of analysis, especially as it relates to many of the votes that were included. Not all people in Palo Alto agree that Edgewood Plaza is "anti-resident" and some people do believe that if a project comes forward that meets the code, City Council does not have grounds to uphold an appeal to block it, even if they might not like the style or scope of the project. City Council does have the right to review and update laws through a more extended process, but holding up a specific project that was submitted in good faith based on existing laws is a different issue than pursuing an update to the law. In what I consider the most egregious part of this scorecard, one of the votes characterized as "anti-resident" was one that related simply to supporting the Brown Act, since that motion as proposed was beyond the scope of what had been property noticed in the public agenda, and therefore something that the majority of Council determined it could not support. Generally, I am willing to let something like this scorecard slide as part of politics - where there are two sides who might disagree on a topic or a label, but they both try to promote their opinion. However, when you and other candidates have defended that scorecard as "data" and "fair campaigning" and then turned around and criticized ads and actions on the other side, none of which seem any different to me than what I have seen on all sides of this election, that seems to take the cake as being the "hypocrisy" that you decry in your post.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 2:32 pm

The "slate" term was carefully chosen by the establishment and their candidates because their position is indefensible in this political environment. The establishment candidates can't advocate for the status quo, so they need to paint the PASZ candidates as flaming radicals that can't be trusted. That's the message behind the advertisement.

Let's face it: the biggest problem with a "slate" is that the establishment candidates don't have one. On the outside, the establishment candidates seem like a cohesive group. On the inside, however, there's a lot of unhappiness. The former mayor botched Maybell and Measure D badly and set off a firestorm. The current mayor is deaf to the over-development outrage in Palo Alto's neighborhoods. Both are very good campaigners, but lousy politicians. The establishment elders picked two other candidates to draw votes from the residentialists. I'm pretty sure that the folks running this ad could care less what anyone think of their tactics.

Local council elections are mostly name recognition. Two months ago, the current and former mayor would have been easy winners with five open seats. The PASZ litmus test was a killer for the establishment and both of these candidates. Anyone can disagree with the PASZ scores. But all they really say about the establishment candidates is that "you're not with us" and that got a lot of press. The former mayor tried to play his residentialist credentials and got busted, taking the current mayor down with him. Now, both of the establishment incumbents are in a battle for fifth place.

The former county supervisor on the council made a mistake by moving the Palo Alto council elections. As the Daily Post said today,that move should have benefited establishment candidates. They have access to more money that would give them the name recognition needed to win in a busy election. But, Measure D failed and PASZ decided to support council candidates instead of running ballot referendums drawing a lot more interest to the council race. Now, everybody's hoping only their side turns out big in this election.

Posted by Roger Overnaut, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 2:47 pm

We know Liz Kniss pulls Johnston's strings. Who holds Kniss' strings? Here's a relevant fact: Web Link

Posted by Jerry Underdal, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[[Deleted by blogger: his usual mix of false and disingenuous statements, off-topic comments, and unresponsive comments.]]

Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 4:53 pm

John Melton -- Treasurer for Larry Klein's 2009 campaign.

Susan Rosenberg -- Co-chair for Larry Klein's 2009 campaign.

Posted by Reason, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Reason is a registered user.

[[Deleted by blogger as per announced policy in posting: mendacious.
Argued that cooperation that was common in previous elections and in other campaigns in this particular case constituted a "slate".

Posted by Reason, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Reason is a registered user.

i argued that cooperation in THIS campaign certainly made it look like a slate. These are public documents filed with the City for this campaign.

If you want to ignore this fact, then you are taking a very strange approach to public discourse.

[[From the blogger: He claimed that a roughly $750 expense in campaign budgets of $20,000-$41,000 showed that the campaigns were "joined at the hip."

This is partisan, malicious nonsense.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Reader: If you wish to argue that endorsement by PASZ creates a slate, you need to explain why endorsements by similar organizations don't, especially organizations with more members and more funding. Some example of the other endorsing organizations in this election (off the top of my head):

- Democratic Party of Santa Clara County
- DAWN (Democratic Activists for Women Now)
- various other caucuses of the Democratic Party
- Silicon Valley Association of Realtors
- Sierra Club
- League of Conservation Voters
- Palo Altans for Good Government
- ...

If you can't provide a reasoned, fact-based argument, your comment is mindless partisanship, which is off-topic here.

Posted by Rob, a resident of Community Center,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Wow. I will acknowledge that Doug is correct that I misspoke, so I will clarify my statement. At least one of the candidates supported by PASZ has defended the scorecard as "fair campaigning" (see Daily News article 10/25, among others) but I now understand that the other candidates, while not willing to repudiate the scorecard, may not be "pushing it" and that Doug does not make any claims about it either. I apologize to Doug, the other candidates, and any reader of this blog for that misunderstanding on my part.

The source of my misunderstanding is the subtle difference between those who call for repudiation of some things on the one hand, but whose own lack of repudiation in another situation is not considered tacit support. I guess the use of that word "interprets" allows PASZ wiggle room about what is opinion and what is the truth, but I will note that none of the four council candidates have repudiated any interpretations made in an advertisement on their behalf, so does that makes it fair to assume that they agree with all of the interpretations? I would not normally jump to that conclusion (I would consider it splitting hairs) but when one group makes claims of lies and calls for repudiation (which seems to be a newly common refrain in this election), it strikes me as arrogant not to hold themselves to that same standard of carefully repudiating anything that is inaccurate or even misleading.

As a political neophyte I am clearly not as carefully accurate in my logic and wording as Doug is. (The legalistic approach in his blogs sometimes leave me spinning, even though by some measures I would be considered reasonably intelligent) However, Doug seems a bit harsh in his characterization of my statement as "outright lies" rather than jumping in helpfully simply to clarify this misunderstanding about what constitutes "support." I find it disheartening that someone would jump to such strong terms so quickly. At the beginning of this election I had high hopes for some fresh ideas coming into our city. What I have seen instead is people using words like "lies" and even throwing around insinuations of "corruption" rather than giving someone with a question or a different opinion the benefit of the doubt as to their intentions.

Whatever the outcome of this election, I hope that our new City Councilors, whoever they may be, will move beyond splitting hairs of who is most correct or the least misleading and instead try to change the political tone in our city - because it has really hit a low point.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Rob has a serious problem with morality and ethics.

On my calling out his lies, he acknowledges that he failed to learn the facts before making serious public accusations. He seems to believe that the burden of getting the facts straight falls onto those he is attacking. Even when there may be hundreds of readers seeing his false accusation before he gets around to providing a less false version.

In calling for the repudiation of the PASZ Scorecard, he appears to have decided that his interpretation is fact and that other interpretations are illegitimate. The PASZ Scorecard is very mainstream for comparing voting records -- its approach and format is widely used and accepted as ethical campaigning.
I have seen no faintly reasonable complaint about problems with the scorecard -- the only complaints I have seen are from people who dislike that it puts candidates they support in a bad light.
That is no cause for repudiation.

Further notice that "Rob" draws a false equivalence between the PAGG ad and the PASZ Scorecard, but he doesn't provide evidence that what I identified as lies in the PAGG ad aren't, neither does he provide evidence of lies in the PASZ Scorecard. Me thinks that "Rob" is hardly the "political neophyte" he claims to be.

Posted by Reason, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Reason is a registered user.

You want something much more interesting - look at the funding for the 4 slate candidates, and the funding for Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge. You will see a few overlapping names: Emily Renzel and Enid Pearson.

Why does this matter? Because they are the same organization that has been lobbying behind the scenes to stall the San Francisquito Creek Flood Control project.

Do you really want to stall the flood control? Then elect the slate. They don't want to build anything, much less flood control. Hope you can swim.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 3, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

From the blogger:
Apologies. This topic has been locked down because it is being hit by repeated, rapid posts by "Reason" making absurd claims (which I deleted so that readers wouldn't be subjected to non-stop nonsense).

The final straw was the above. The two residents had contributed a mix of $50, $100 and $200 donations to the candidates (one to all four; one to a subset). Somehow in "Reason"'s fervid imagination, this is evidence of a slate, and these donations would put those four candidates in the pocket of those two residents in what he claims is their campaign against the interests of the city?


Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I have reopened comments. With the voting completed, I am hoping that there can be good-faith comments, and that thugs like "Reason" have moved on to other topics.

Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Nov 7, 2014 at 7:16 am

To Barnum:

The "establishment" is NOT centered in Duveneck - ZIP 94303. There may be a 'few'. The big huge majority is in Crescent Park and "Old" Palo Alto where Kniss lives. ZIP 94301. Also "Professorville" 94301 north of Embarcadero.

Posted by Bully pulpit, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Nov 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm

[[Deleted by blogger: ad hominem attack on multiple people and quote taken out of context.

Posted by tomjordan, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 7, 2014 at 3:30 pm

tomjordan is a registered user.

I have a suggestion which I hope that Doug has the authority to follow:

Have a separation among your responders between those who sign their real names (as I have) and those who refuse to sign their real names (such as Bully Pulpit). Put the signers group first in order and the non-signers after them. I am interested in hearing what identified citizens have to say. I have no interest at all in people who refuse to sign their names.

That will permit the identified people to have a dialog and you can give them more latitude if they will put their names to their words. I will not even look at the nameless ones, so, as far as I am concerned, they can say what they want. I hope that you can and will put this idea into operation.

I am a name registered person with Town Square, so I am assuming that this will show up with my name.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re Tom Jordan's suggestion:

There is no capability to prioritize "Registered User"s over unregistered ones. Readers who want this just have to look for that tag (or absence).

I do have the capability to *restrict* comments to "Registered User"s but this is of little help. All registering does is reserve a unique handle for that person. It can still be an alias, a person can register multiple aliases, and a person can post under a combination of registered and temporary aliases. There is some capability to detect comments on the same thread/topic by one person under multiple handles.

Posted by tomjordan, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm

tomjordan is a registered user.

I have read and understand Doug's response to my suggestion, and those are obviously the rules set by the Weekly. But the Weekly could implement what I request. For example, it seems clear that Letters to the Editor that come in by email carry enough ID that the Weekly can, and often does, verify that the sender is who he/she says that the sender is. If The Weekly can do this for Letters to the Editor why cannot The Weekly make certain that a Registered User is who they claim to be?

There can then be a Registered User edition of Doug's blog. Following immediately behind that can be the Open Edition of the same blog. Those who like to be nameless and deal with nameless people can be in the latter. Those who want to know who is talking to them can be in the former. I predict that there will be more activity total if my suggestion is followed. I certainly would engage more, because I do not like having a discussion with a phantom who often, not always, uses that hidden identity to say outrageous things with no fear of embarrassment.

To tThe Weekly: Why not give it a try?

Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 9:52 am

Tom, there have been discussions about anonymity on various threads over the years. Several people have pointed out valid reasons for being anonymous, e.g., not wanting their children hassled because of their parents? online views. IMHO, most people ? identified or anonymous ? post thoughtful and respectful comments. There are only a few who disrespect these forums.

I also think there are too many people who don?t like any comments that are made with passion or intensity or anger or frustration. Let?s face it, we all have reasons to be angry and frustrated with the political process at times.

If we prevented people from posting anonymously ? or treated them like second-class citizens ? we would all be poorer for it.

Posted by Discourse, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 11:49 am

Doug - you seem to have a habit of deleting posts you disagree with, and replacing the with paraphrases of the original the better suit your purpose.

Why not simply engage in discourse, and offer reasoned logical responses?

Web Link

You would appear more intellectually honest if you allow others to disagree politely.

Posted by RespectfullyAgree, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Dissent and sharing different opinions brings to light new facts. It is a cornerstone of democracy.

Web Link

Many of our greatest politicians and thinkers spoke on the importance of dissent.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re "Discourse"
The PAOnline software identifies "Discourse" of Barron Park as the same as "Reason" of Paly Alto High School (who engaged in substantial misconduct earlier). Using multiple aliases in the same topic/thread is a violation of PAOnline's terms of use, and I should simply delete it. However it is instructive of what I face as a moderator.

Discourse/Reason represents a class of Internet denizens who believe that bullying others into silence through ad hominem attacks, absurd accusations,lies... is free speech. Bullies like Discourse/Reason scream "suppression of dissent" when someone stands up to them.

Recognize that Discourse/Reason's first paragraph is a lie. The posts were not deleted because I disagreed with them but because they were a mix of ad hominem attacks and assertions based upon having his own definition of a key term that conflicted with its long-established use.

I deleted comments when the commenter establishes that he is not willing to participate in good faith. Throwing bad-faith postings onto a topic/thread and expecting others to deal with them is a common tactic for winning by exhausting those with other views. Consequently, I try to cut off bullies and other abusers as early as I can.

Posted by Scary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Discourse and respectfully agree- well said. Differing opinion shave no place on this blog

Posted by Reason, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Reason is a registered user.


You have deleted & re-phrased 5 different posts on this subject, not just mine.
[[Blogger: Lie. I rephrased no posts.

You deleted many more that leave no evidence. That is censorship.
[[Blogger: The posts I deleted violated the clearly stated terms of conduct. That is not censorship.

My original post was a statement of fact quoted verbatim from the candidates finance pages, IN THEIR OWN WORDS they were cooperating. I even provided reference links to certified documents that are legally binding. As for sources of fact, it does not get much better than thatA
[[Blogger: The original post stated: "Comments stating that some cooperation is proof of a slate will be deleted as mendacious."
That violation is what "Reason" did repeatedly.
One series of (deleted) posts misrepresented small non-monetary *contributions* from an endorsing organization as a joint *expense* by the recipients proving a "slate". If that had been the only "mistake" in the post, I would have annotated a correction, but the posts were filled with falsehoods, hence DELETE.
One post centered on the "literature drops" (brochures on doorsteps) that has occurred in *every* election campaign I have worked in over the years. Various groups of candidates pool their volunteers to be able to cover the whole city. Each group of candidates provides refreshments to the volunteers (coffee, snacks,...). "Reason" insists that that minor expense in this campaign creates a "slate".
If you accept "Reason"s position that one can radically redefine terms to suit one's arguments, one would be justified labeling him "A convicted child molester" where one chooses to have that term defined as someone who at some time had a child display what appeared to be discomfort in his presence.
Utter nonsense. And malicious.

You deleted my post, re-paraphrased it as something altogether different,
[[Blogger: repeating the lie.
and in that move transitioned from moderator to Censor.

Public discourse stopped at that moment. Everything since then has been an effort by you to justify your use of censorship to defend your thesis. It is much easier to simply defend your thesis with fact and rational counter-argument.
[[Blogger: The "arguments" that Reason offered were gross misrepresentations, and venom.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 8, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I have shut down comments again because "Reason" has demonstrated that he is intent on pursuing a campaign of harassment.

Unfortunately, the software doesn't give the ability to selectively block highly abusive users such as "Reason".

So "Reason" won his campaign of suppressing other points of view through harassment.

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