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About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

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Candidate Kickoff Events: Public, not just for supporters

Uploaded: Aug 20, 2016
Kickoff events for the campaigns for the candidates for Palo Alto City Council and the School Board begin next week and extend into mid-September. While there will be many more campaign events, these Kickoffs are different because of the range of politicians that attend: other candidates in these races, candidates in other races, plus our legislators and members of various boards and commissions. You can often have extended substantive discussions with these other politicians because most everyone else is focused on the candidate whose event it is.

Over the years, I have found these to be the best place to get the sense of new candidates, especially things that are unlikely to appear in print or in other public events. For the City Council race, the number of candidates (11) means that at a forum, each candidate will likely spend a total of only 4-7 minutes answering questions. It's not that hard for a campaign team to prepare a candidate for that. But when you have the ability to ask a follow-up question or two, you start to see what a candidate knows and how he thinks. For example, many years ago at one of these events, I was curious about how well a particular candidate could hide his weaknesses. I encouraged several of my friends to talk to him and then asked for their reactions—they independently said variations on "Charming airhead, but he's going to win." They were right on both counts.

Recognize that you yourself don't have to be that knowledgeable about particular issues to get a sense of the candidate. You can stand just outside the circle of people asking questions of the candidate, and listen and watch how the questioners react to the candidate's responses.

Press coverage: Much of what you learn at these events falls into the area of impressions and interpretations. Since this is not what the newspapers regard as "news", these events tend to be thinly covered. In previous campaigns, the Palo Alto Weekly has not sent a reporter to these events: too many of them and little likelihood of interesting news (Reminder: I am an independent blogger, not an employee of Palo Alto Weekly, and certainly not a spokesperson for them). I may publish a blog on my takeaways from the events I attend, and this could serve as a venue for you to add your impressions.

If you attend the event, what are your obligations? None. There will be a speech asking you to consider donating time and/or money, but I have never encountered even mild social pressure to donate. The typical event begins with mingling and refreshments. At the 45-60 minute mark, there are speeches, a number of introductions by "significant" people and then the speech by the candidate. The introductions are of varying quality—some are tedious, others are quite interesting. My practice is to stand to the side in the back so that I can wander away from the tedious one. Although the candidate's speech is the formal end of the event, it is routinely followed by more mingling. If you want to talk to the candidate, this is often the best time: All the important people talked to him/her before the speech, and with the pressure of the speech off, the candidate is often more chatty.

Below list will be updated: As I receive updates and corrections, I will update the below list. I suggest that you bookmark this page in your browser because it is given prominence on the site for only a few days.

Chronological listing for Kickoff Events for candidates for Palo Alto City Council (CC) and School Board (PAUSD)
Events in private homes may well be open to the public (they typically are), but unless I have confirmation I am not publishing the location here. If the candidate has a website, check under "Events".

Already held.

John Fredrich (CC)
Campaign already kicked off

Liz Kniss (CC - incumbent)
26 August (Friday), 5:30-7 pm, Location: 2815 South Court (home: public invited)

Arthur Keller (CC)
27 August (Saturday), 4-6 pm, Location: 433 Kingsley (home: public invited)

Todd Collins (PAUSD)
28 August (Sunday), 2-4 pm, Location: 610 Coleridge Ave, Palo Alto (home: public invited)

Greg Tanaka (CC)
28 August (Sunday), 3:30pm, Location: Werry Park (updated 2016-08-20)

Lydia Kou (CC)
28 August (Sunday), 4-6 pm, Location: 433 Kingsley (home: public invited) RSVP appreciated but not required

Greer Stone (CC)
9 September (Friday), 5:30-7:30 pm, Location: Hoover Park (updated 2016-09-08 for changed time)

Don McDougall (CC)
10 September (Saturday), 2:30-4 pm, Rinconada Library, public invited (updated 2016-08-24; updated 2016-08-25 when time was changed to avoid conflict with Melissa Baten Caswell event)

Melissa Baten Caswell (PAUSD - incumbent)
10 September (Saturday), 4-6 pm, location provided when you RSVP via the website (pending) (the original version had an erroneous time of 2-4pm)

Adrian Fine (CC)
11 September (Sunday), 12N - 2 pm, Peers Park, public invited (updated 2016-08-26)

Heidi Emberling (PAUSD - incumbent)
11 September (Sunday), 2-4 pm, Scott Street Mini Park (next to 350 Scott Street) (updated 2016-09-08)

Jennifer DiBrienza (PAUSD)
11 September (Sunday), 4-5:30 pm, 1985 Cowper, public invited, RSVP requested, but not required (updated 2016-08-27)



Partial/Unknown. I will move them to the above listing as I hear of them. I sent requests for this information to all candidates except the few for which I couldn't find contact information.

Stewart Carl (CC)

Leonard Ely III (CC)

Danielle Martell (CC)

Srinivasan Subramanian (PAUSD)
Withdrew (news article) (2016-09-04)

Jay Blas Jacob Cabrera (PAUSD,...)
The website I found was for his (unsuccessful) participation in the primary for State Assembly--which he abused to use a platform to campaign for Bernie Sanders.

An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.

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Posted by sunshine, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 20, 2016 at 7:41 am

Thanks for doing this, Doug. It will help to keep the information all in one place instead of scattered around in my inbox. It will also include others that I am certain I would never see otherwise.

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 20, 2016 at 8:15 pm

Wonderful opportunities to meet our candidates. Thanks Doug. I will try to visit some on both sides of the aisle as it were.

Posted by Doug Will you run?, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 22, 2016 at 9:36 pm

Thanks Doug. This is very useful! I was also wondering if you would run for office some time? I have always found your articles to show lots of thought, careful analysis, and good common sense. If you ran for office, I would not hesitate to vote for you!

Posted by sheri, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 23, 2016 at 7:37 pm

sheri is a registered user.

Please note that candidate information is also available on the Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN) website:

Posted by How were they?, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 29, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Doug, thanks for this blog. Could you tell us your impressions of the various kickoffs you attended and how they compared for those of us who did not make it to them.

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