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A Pragmatist's Take

By Douglas Moran

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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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Council Candidate Forums

Uploaded: Oct 18, 2016
Three City Council candidate forums is a lot to plow through. These are what I regard as the most notable remarks and my significant impressions of the candidates. This is not meant to be a summary of the forums or of the individual candidates.(foot#1) When you are filtering resumes and conducting interviews for a job, you learn to look for the seemingly minor, even trivial, items that are indicative of major issues.

Although this is not intended to advocate for particular candidates, my priorities and assessments of the candidates will likely make it obvious who I am supporting, so
Disclosure: I am strongly supporting Arthur Keller and Lydia Kou. Stewart Carl has enough experience with the issues, the City and other organizations to be an effective Council member. I am supporting Greer Stone because of his stated position on issues and his values, but hesitantly because I wish he had more experience. I am also concerned that the aptitudes and attitudes that attract someone to serve on the Human Relations Commission can be a poor fit to what Council does. However, given the alternatives ...

Note: In the main text, the links into the videos of the forums are a mix of links to the beginning of that candidate's statement or to the beginning of the quote in question. Some links are repeated in several discussions below. Apologies, but I prioritized convenience for those who would follow only a few links.
Note: There are substantial differences in the sound levels of the videos, with the LWV video being very faint.
Note: If you listen to the forums, or segments, don't conflate being articulate with being thoughtful or having knowledge: There was a fair amount of well-spoken but empty statements. By their nature, forums are not a good representation of most of what Council members do: They have more time to think before speaking, and they are not expected to answer broad questions in a minute.
Note: The one minute limit on responses doesn't allow candidates to show how much they know or how they would approach problems--it only allows an indication of that. But it does allow you to see who doesn't have any depth.
Be aware: A lot of "evolving" goes on through the campaign. One of the frustrations of candidates is that they spend a lot of time figuring how to give an articulate, terse explanation of their position, and then at the next forum/event, one of the other candidates uses it before they get their turn to speak. And there is noticeable "evolution" in some candidates' positions as they see how the electorate is responding. Although this is an interesting topic, I have no interest in trying to untangle it.

- CF : Forum: Chamber of Commerce (CoC) (September 15): Video
- PF : Forum: Palo Alto Neighborhood (PAN) (September 29): Video
- LF : Forum: League of Women Voters (LWV) (October 5): Video
If you want to listen-for-yourself to portions of the forums, the Appendix provides rough notes on order of questions and speakers.

"Experience" is typically my first filter on candidates, and I listen carefully to what they say about their experience because it tells me a lot about how they view the job and what their priorities are. It also gives peeks at how they approach problems and decisions. I address the candidates in the order of experience with the primary issue in this campaign: growth/development.

----Liz Kniss----
Kniss is the candidate with the most time in office, and she is expected to cruise to victory simply on name-recognition, and Establishment endorsements. However, the Palo Alto Weekly endorsement "Collins, DiBrienza for Palo Alto school board" makes a strong case that incumbency should not be regarded as insurmountable.

Kniss emphasizes being the incumbent, not what she accomplished as the incumbent. The sole "accomplishment" that I found in my notes wasn't cited until the third forum, when she mentioned using her position as vice chair of the Air Resources Board to get funding for electric vehicle recharging stations (LF Q4). Two problems. First, Arthur Keller, as a Planning and Transportation Commissioner, was already successfully getting grants for those stations. Second, Kniss seemed confused: these stations were for public locations and would be used primarily by people at stops during trips (daytime) but she also described the stations as being needed for charging "at the end of the day".

Two of her forum answers indicated a strong bias for inaction. First, in response to a question about short-term rentals (Airbnb) (PF Q7) she talks about how it had come before Council about 2 years ago and she "was really shocked" to find 400-500 Palo Alto listings. In a subsequent response, Fine say that the number was now over 1200. Kniss cited a situation that had just arisen ("Neighbors resolve conflict over potential Airbnb rental: Crescent Park home was to be rented to up to 14 people, but owner has reconsidered") and concluded "We need to take that up again." Excuse me, but this has been a prominent issue around the country (SF, LA, NYC, ...) and I think we deserved an explanation not just for the inaction, but the lack of preparation for considering what sort of action might eventually be taken.

The second came during PF Q1 (Growth) She focused on commercial development and noted that since March no applications had been received for new office or R&D buildings in the area covered by the Downtown Office Cap. She concluded "that indicates that businesses themselves decided that they're not going to expand here." And followed up in PF Q2 (Office Cap and Performance Measures) with "I think we have sent a message. We may want performance measures for the future, but at the moment I don't think we are going to see any development for a while in the office space and R&D area." (Keller subsequently reminded people that there were other commercial areas, such as Stanford Research Park, that were outside the Downtown Office Cap). Many people would look at such a lull as an opportunity to develop policy without it being entangled in the details of a specified project proposal. Kniss instead wants to wait until there is an proposal, which would require policy to be made on-the-fly to meet mandated review deadlines. Aside: There is a legal maxim: "Hard cases make bad law".

On affordable housing, She said that the Palo Alto Housing Corp (PAHC) said that every place they had had a waiting list of 500 and they had to close the lists (PF Q4). For someone who has sat in as many meetings as Kniss has, there is no excuse for such a misleading statement--it grossly overstates the total numbers. A long running problem is the PA Housing has no interest in collecting or providing useful data for making policy on this issue: Each place has its own separate list and applicants routinely sign up on the lists for many places. And many on the lists are no longer seeking housing at the place (accepted at another place, died, moved away, ...): There is no checking until they get to the head of the list.

Raising the requirement for affordable housing units (technically "Below Market Rate" = BMR) from the current 15% to 25% has been advocated by the Residentialists candidates (Keller, Kou, Carl, Stone) since the beginning of the campaign, and it is being pushed in SF and other area cities. It wasn't until the third forum that Kniss responded that "I think we can go up to 20%, but that's probably what we can require." (LF Q1). Fine subsequently said that he had talked to developers, and they had told him the same.

Another example of a confusing statement: In response to a question on traffic (LF Q2), Kniss starts by saying that saying that studies show that 80% of the traffic in a city is passing through, but then switches to saying that most traffic in Palo Alto has its destination here. If someone has been working on an issue, you expected the repetitions of the basics to have developed over time into down pat statements. Disconnected statements set off alarm bells.

Hypocrisy: Kniss' assertions of the value of incumbency and experience is contradicted by her votes in November 2014 on appointments to the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) (Aside: her votes were later nullified on procedural grounds, but it is her decisions that are important here). She voted against re-appointing Arthur Keller to another term, despite, or rather because of, his reputation for knowledge, analysis, diligence ... Instead, she supported Kate Downing who had lived in Palo Alto for only 3 years and whose background in the issues seemed derived only from ideology. Her tenure, and the months since her resignation, were marked with vitriol and falsehoods (a mix of ignorance, deception and ideology). Kniss also supported Adrian Fine (below).(foot#2) When Kniss laments our being "a divided community" (example, LF Closing Statements), she doesn't seem to recognize her role in that.

----Arthur Keller----
Keller served with distinction for 8 years on the PTC before the 2014 "Revenge of the Lame Ducks" (above). He has also served on a variety of other government groups (see his website) and has political connections that come from long and deep involvement in Democratic Party activities. In Keller's responses during the forums, I heard not just knowledge and the ability to articulate positions, but intellectual engagement and intellectual integrity. And remember (from above) that he was not reappointed the PTC because he asked good questions of Staff and developers.

----Greg Tanaka----
Like Keller, Tanaka has 8 years on the PTC, but the forums didn't reveal the sort of awareness that would be expected. Quite the contrary. The biggest example came on questions about grade-separation for Caltrain where he said Palo Alto "is prosperous enough" to underground it (PF Q5) and "we have the financial capability...prosperity...need fiscal strength" (LF Q3). After the forum, I asked him how he would fund undergrounding, and he replied "bonds". First, bonds don't actually pay for anything: They are a mechanism for buy-now and pay over time. Second, undergrounding is tremendously expensive and we have had problems funding much smaller projects. And at the first forum, he had acknowledged the large infrastructure backlog/deficits and pension obligations (CF Q2).

Similar to Kniss, there were disconnects: He claimed that we need to build smaller units near transit because the average American house is getting bigger and families smaller (LF Q1). First, one of the persistent planning mistakes has been to apply inapplicable national averages to situations here. Second, houses wouldn't be getting bigger if that wasn't what people wanted and were willing to pay for. There is no excuse for someone who has been on the PTC for 8 years having sloppy thinking of this magnitude (we need to build smaller units because people want larger ones).

Then there was his statement "smaller units are by nature more affordable" (PF Q4). In a normal market, yes. But as been demonstrated in other expensive markets (SF, NYC, ...), the prices of smaller units quickly become not that far below larger units. In Palo Alto, there is a long history of families squeezing into smaller units than what national average would predict plus paying a premium of about 25% to get their children into Palo Alto schools.

In his discussion of VTA, he acknowledged the problem of dominance by San Jose (more details in my previous blog), but his response suggested an underappreciation of both history and the potential for changing the situation. (LF Q2).

To the question on climate change (LF Q4), Tanaka said that it was "not very high" as a priority. Really? Sustainability and climate change are major factors in most discussions of the Comprehensive Plan Update. There is the development of the Sustainability and Climate Action, the staff positions, starting with the Chief Sustainability Officer Gil Friend, the "hundreds of initiatives" that Friend brags about.

Tanaka also cites as relevant experience his time as President of the College Terrace Residents Association. However, if you listen carefully, he is talking about what happened while he was President, not what he was involved in. My recollection of those events is that he was not among those prominently involved.

----Adrian Fine----
Although he has been a member of the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) for almost two years, that badly overstates Fine's experience. This has been a particularly ineffective PTC, building up a large backlog because of canceled meetings (no quorum,...) and ineffective meetings (ideology, loss of focus,...). Consequently, I strongly considered moving him below Kou and Carl for experience.

The primary duty of City Council is higher-level decisions on allocating limited resources, through policy and budget. Fine shows neither aptitude nor inclination for this. For example, he ignores the limits on resources with variations on the belief that Palo Alto is obligated to provide housing for everyone who wants to live here. To PF Q17, he said that he was "born here and raised here ... have an opportunity in Palo Alto ... many of the people I speak to in my job when I travel around the country are very interested in Palo Alto and they're hard-working folks who want to come here and lay down roots and raise a family and do all the things that we have had the opportunity to do, and I think it is important for us to consider their future as well." To CF Q10, "We need to produce housing that suits all incomes, all backgrounds, all circumstances; make sure it is supportive of people with different abilities, or to support our veterans. We need imagine the Palo Alto we want and go out and grab it." But occasionally he does acknowledge the limits: "We have to admit that we cannot, and should not, accommodate all the businesses and residents that want to live here" (PF Q1).

This squishiness and shifting of positions is consistent with the rest of Fine's comments. He seems to never get much past the simple slogans, buzz words, dogma, ... All our problems can be solved with "innovation", "efficiency", "21st Century solutions", collaboration, regionalism, ... At no point did I note anything that indicated deeper thought than what would occur in casual conversations/texts/tweets between like-minded people. Then there were the vacuous motivational statements: "I believe, no actually I, you know, being raise here, I know we can solve these issues. That's Palo Alto. We're the center of innovation and creativity and we can solve our big problems, whether it is transportation, housing, effectiveness, dark fiber, all these things we are talking about. We have the solutions here. We just need the will to get it done." (PF Closing Statements).

I long ago learned to give candidates a lot of leeway in exaggerating what government could do, legally, politically and practically. But Fine goes way beyond that, with many of his statements seeming to be simply "aspirational", without having taken into account any of these limitations.

Appeals to regionalism--both regional agencies and ad hoc relationships with other cities and agencies--are so frequent in Fine's responses that it comes across as almost a panacea. Yet I could not detect if Fine was even aware of the history of such activities, including what has been tried, and what the successes, failures and problems had been.

In one of his responses on housing, Fine said "... allow for a number of housing choices -- whether it be small units, co-housing models, cottages or bungalows -- different housing types to take overall pressure off the market." (LF Q1). Really? Does he have any comprehension of how many such units it would take to cause even the slightest blip in the market?

In explaining his vote on the PTC against the Downtown Office Cap, Fine claimed it was because "it didn't address the underlying issues that this community is feeling, such as traffic impacts and the lack of parking downtown and the CalAve areas. It also didn't take into fact that we have many successful businesses where many Palo Altans and folks from out of town work that provide a lot of revenue for our services and our tax base. " (PF Q2) Notice the massive illogic. First, an interim measure to slow the increase in traffic and parking to allow time to develop a more comprehensive policy should be rejected because it isn't a comprehensive policy. If you take Fine at his word, you would need to believe that he is unfamiliar with the maxims "When you find yourself in a deep hole, stop digging" and "The perfect is the enemy of the good-enough". Second, notice the logical disconnect in the second part of this statement: The implication is that limiting annual office growth in a portion of the city to 50,000 sqft (roughly 500 new jobs) will lead to an exodus of existing jobs. This is part of the bizarre and delusional claims being pedaled by the Chamber of Commerce ("In a rare move, Chamber picks favorites in Palo Alto council race"). and Palo Alto Forward.

In his response on how much growth could be accommodated, he said "I don't think about it in terms of how much growth we can accommodate and how much we can push off onto other cities." (PF Q1). I find the phrasing of the second conjunct noteworthy.

Fine makes the standard claim about needing to listen to residents, but his record is the reverse. In his kickoff speech, he referenced the theme that equated limits on growth to building a wall, and that equated Mayor Pat Burt and candidate Lydia Kou to Donald Trump. Before the campaign, he was quite open in his hostility to a large portion of residents, those that took Slow Growth and Residentialists positions.(foot#3)

Apology: The remaining candidates are going to get shorter consideration because I did a poor job of budgeting my time.

----Lydia Kou----
Although Kou is on the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for the City's Comprehensive Plan Update, her defining experiences came from being a neighborhood leader and activist on development issues. Having been in that position myself, I know how the tyranny of the 2-minute comment to Council forces you to focus on what is absolutely essential and to sharpen it. Similarly for emails.

This emphasis on critiquing proposals was on display in the forums as skepticism (which was also noted in the Palo Alto Weekly profile of her). In the discussion of budget (CF Q2) she voiced concerns about the need to incorporate lessons-learned from recent infrastructure projects (e.g., Mitchell Park Library and Community Center) before embarking on the upcoming nine projects.

In the discussion of supporting retail (CF Q9), she focused on the Ground Floor Retail Ordinance, both preserving it and moving to a stronger enforcement of it. Other than a subsequent supporting response by Keller, the other candidates' response were for actions outside the powers of City Hall, such as individuals patronizing the stores.

To the question about support for the Measure B sales tax increase for VTA, Kou gave a response that was different from the other candidates, talking about some of the complexities and interrelationships, and expressing concerns about whether VTA would deliver on "good intent" (PF Q5).

Listen to her LF Closing Statement "... slogans will not solve our challenges ...".

One of the things that has annoyed me for years is Council candidates who talk as if the City builds housing, or can micro-manage what gets built. Kou reminded the audience of the reality: "the city is not into building housing. It is how we go about enabling our organizations that can have an impact in building such low-income housing." (PF Q4).

The large carbon footprint of redevelopment has been brought up repeatedly for at least a decade, and promptly disregarded. Kou, and then Carl, brought this up in their responses on what the City can do about climate change (LF Q4).(foot#4)
Aside: this is an instance of a larger problem that comes up repeatedly: incomplete accounting. For example, ignoring large capital costs incurred for small savings in operating costs.

To the question on seniors, Kou's response was decidedly different from that of the other candidates. They focused on housing units for seniors, and somewhat on facilities for seniors. Kou's talked about keeping seniors in their existing communities, both for the support those relationships provide to the seniors but also the support that seniors provide to the community, such as volunteering (CF Q11).

----Stewart Carl----
Carl's experience is as a neighborhood activist in College Terrace, where he has been involved in several significant development projects, leading to his assessment "The planning process is broken." Like Kou, his responses display healthy skepticism of policies. Also like Kou--who the Palo Alto Weekly labeled "The Organizer" in 2014--Carl has experience putting together a significant citizen effort to try to change government policy. In his case, it is Sky Posse Palo Alto (excessive noise from airliner routing).

An important attribute of an effective manager is identifying the real issue or problem, and avoid getting misdirected by symptoms and proxies. For example, he pointed out that "Cars don't cause traffic. Traffic is caused by too many cars coming to Palo Alto to work at the offices that we overbuilt in the last decade." (PF Q6) This may seem obvious, but it is missing from many discussions of traffic (for example, the advocates viewing driving as moral turpitude).

His analytical mindset is demonstrated in his reminder that "With the typical office worker now working in 75 sqft of space, that creates a demand for 750 sqft of living space. We cannot possibly build that much living space in Palo Alto without compromising our quality of life." (C Q1).
Note: Calling 75 sqft "typical" is an exaggeration: While there are many companies that are in the range of 75-95 sqft, there are also those with higher space allocations. However, Carl's 10-to-1 visualization is extremely useful in highlighting the issue.

His response to a question on transportation shows a manager thinking about how best to allocated limited resources: "I'm going to take a little bit broader perspective on this issue. I think that Palo Alto has spent the last decade pursuing an obsolete vision of our transportation future by focusing on transportation systems that handle less than 1 or 2 percent of our population. ..." (CF Q7)
Reminder: I am ignoring the details of candidates positions and solutions in order to focus on those aspects that arise from the forums and not available on the candidate websites (or from you watching that segment of the video).

Carl's CF Closing Statement also provides insights.

----Don McDougall----
McDougall is on the City's Library Advisory Commission, but I didn't hear him say anything relating experience there to the Council campaign. He has served for over a year on the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) for the Comprehensive Plan Update. However, he doesn't seem to have gotten past slogans and dogma, and his statements place him solidly in the camp of Palo Alto Forward and the Chamber of Commerce. For example, in his response about the Downtown Office Cap (PF Q2), I hear someone who seems likely to give undue deference to developers and their interests.

Another example: "The other thing we need to understand is the idea of density in a downtown area provides customers to keep the retail that was asked about..." (LF Q1). Reality check. Has anyone complained about downtown lacking customers? Have stores left because of lack or customers? Or was it because of high rents? I presume that McDougall's understanding of economics is not so minimal that he doesn't understand inflection points, that you can get to the point where the density of customers reduces the mix and types of retail present because certain categories of business can outbid the others for the fixed space available. So what is behind this claim?
Note: This particular chunk of economic illiteracy has been a staple of the Chamber and Palo Alto Forward.

In his LF Closing Statement, McDougall seemed about to criticize the Chamber's letter ("In a rare move, Chamber picks favorites in Palo Alto council race"), and then backed away, saying that "I'm not sure how many truths were in that" and similarly for the many criticisms of the claims in that letter. Come on. He has the benefit of the critiques and access to experts on those claims. If he can't call BS on at least some of them, how is he going to figure out who to believe if he is elected and has to deal with a complicated situation? On the other hand, the other three recipients of the non-endorsement endorsement (Fine, Kniss, Tanaka) said nothing.

His previous experience was as a CEO of data-analytic companies, but people should be aware of the many types and styles of CEO. McDougall comes across as a genial meeting facilitator, with frequent calls to "consider all options", "assess risks", ... He expanded the term "sustainability" to apply to economics, environment, housing, transportation, neighborhoods, retail, people, ... Consequently, it seem to mean little more than "Don't do bad things." I don't see him as someone who would ask pointed questions, or bring up inconvenient facts.

He made frequent calls for regional approaches, collaboration and partnership, but gave no indication of having gotten beyond the vague, general concept. For example, knowing even a little bit of history to understand where the actual opportunities might be.

----Greer Stone----
Stone's responses to the various questions were all high-level. This was not surprising given that he would have had little exposure to them while on the Human Relations Commission (HRC). He presents better than many of the other candidates, presumably from his training and experience as a trial lawyer (prosecutor). The problem for the audience is to separate style and substance. My impression is that he comes to his positions more thoughtfully and is open to argument and persuasion--as opposed to Fine and McDougall who I don't think could get beyond their dogma.

----Len Ely III----
Ely cites his relevant experience as being on boards of a variety of non-profits and charities. He acknowledges having little knowledge of the various issues being discussed, but he did make a few good commonsense contributions to the discussions.

----APPENDIX: rough index of forums----
Providing comprehensive links into the specific segments of the forums--the questions and each candidate's response--is a lot of tedious work. I have done this several times, hoping that the examples would encourage/inspire the sponsors to have some of their members do this themselves. Since that hasn't happened, I am going to give a rough notion of the questions and the order of the candidates' responses, and links where opportunity presented itself (double-checking my notes). If you want to listen-for-yourself, I offer recommendations.(foot#5)

Note: These lists were constructed from notes that I took during the forums and have not been carefully checked. If you find an error, send me an email (address in the header) or post a comment and I will update this listing.

--Chamber of Commerce Forum (CF) (video) --
The moderator (Simitian) read batches of questions at a time to the candidates, so the below gives only a general sense of the topic. The below gives the order in which candidates spoke.
Absent: Danielle Martell
Opening Statements: Tanaka, Kniss, Fredrich, Carl, Fine, Stone, Keller, Ely, McDougall, Kou
Q1: Workforce Housing (workforce = people who work in Palo Alto): Kou, McDougall, Ely, Keller, Stone, Fine, Carl, Fredrich, Kniss, Tanaka
Q2: Budget ... Enjoy a rich array of services ...: Stone, Keller, Ely, McDougall, Kou, Tanaka, Kniss, Fredrich, Carl, Fine
Q3: What is your favorite city in the Bay Area (other than Palo Alto): Fine, Carl, Fredrich, Kniss, Tanaka, Kou, McDougall, Ely, Keller, Stone
Q4: Quality or attribute that make you effective: Stone, Keller, Ely, McDougall, Kou, Tanaka, Kniss, Fredrich, Carl, Fine
Q5: How bad is traffic on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = best): Tanaka, Kniss, Fredrich, Carl, Fine, Stone, Keller, Ely, McDougall, Kou
Q6: ... Airport noise: Kou, McDougall, Ely, Keller, Stone, Fine, Carl, Fredrich, Kniss, Tanaka
Q7: VTA, Caltrain, Dumbarton Rail, Middlefield, RPP, Medical Offices: Tanaka, Kniss, Fredrich, Carl, Fine, Stone, Keller, Ely, McDougall, Kou
Q8: needs of young people in the community: Fine, Carl, Fredrich, Kniss, Tanaka, Kou, McDougall, Ely, Keller, Stone
Q9: Small retailer ... what are plans for business to thrive: McDougall, Kou, Tanaka, Kniss, Fredrich, Carl, Fine, Stone, Keller, Ely
Q10: Council reflects demographics: Kniss, Fredrich, Carl, Fine, Stone, Keller, Ely, McDougall, Kou, Tanaka
Q11: Seniors: Fine, Stone, Keller, Ely, McDougall, Kou, Tanaka, Kniss, Fredrich, Carl
Q12/Closing Statements: Improve City; Kate Downing/Mayor Pat Burt: Kou, McDougall, Ely, Keller, Stone, Fine, Carl, Fredrich, Kniss, Tanaka

--Palo Alto Neighborhoods Forum (PF) (video) --
Note: Many questions were directed to only some of the candidates.
Note: The questions from the audience start at Q9. Various of them felt to be partisan questions from candidates' supporters.
Absent: John Fredrich, Danielle Martell
Opening: Ely, Stone, Kniss, Kou, Keller, McDougall, Carl, Fine, Tanaka
Q1: Growth; Accommodate many businesses and people: McDougall, Keller, Tanaka, Fine, Kou, Ely, Kniss, Carl, Stone
Q2: Office Cap and Performance Measurements: Kniss, Tanaka, Fine, Ely, Keller, Stone, McDougall
Q3: 50-foot height limit: Stone, Carl, Kou, Ely, McDougall
Q4: How do you define affordability? How would you build it? Fine, Kou, Keller, Kniss, Tanaka, Carl
Q5: Transportation, Measure B (VTA): Tanaka, Kniss, Keller, Fine, Kou
Q6: Most promising solution to traffic: Ely, Stone, Carl, McDougall
Q7: Airbnb ...: Carl, Stone, Kniss, Keller, Fine, McDougall, Tanaka, Kou, Ely
Q8: Biggest problems facing Palo Alto? McDougall, Kou, Ely, Carl, Stone, Kniss, Keller, Tanaka, Fine
Q9: Expand our parks are population grows: Kou, Tanaka
Q10: Groundwater pumping: Carl, Fine
Q11: Role of schools in planning and long-term planning: Keller, Carl
Q12: Restrooms in parks: Kniss
Q13: How to get the FAA to listen? Stone
Q14: Was Quality-of-Life better in 2008? McDougall, Kou
Q15: Downtown: Should large companies remain? Stone, Keller
Q16: Dream of Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP formerly FTTH): Kniss, Kou
Q17: How connected are you to younger future residents of Palo Alto ...: Fine
Q18: How would you ease restrictions on accessory dwelling units, supporting Governor Brown: Stone
Q19: Disrupting the status quo: Keller
Q20: Climate change, water, ... : Kniss, Fine
Q21: Affordable housing; density bonuses downtown; Obama's toolkit: Kou
Q22: increase public transit; Samtrans bus that served all three terminals: Kniss
Q23: How would you ensure any new housing would serve people who work in Palo Alto: Keller
Q24: Employee retention when City is not meeting responsibilities to current and future employees (pensions?): Kniss
Q25: Castilleja School: Fine, Kou, Tanaka
Closing Statements: McDougall, Kniss, Carl, Tanaka, Keller, Fine, Kou , Ely, Stone

--League of Women Voters Forum (LF) (video) --
Absent: Danielle Martell
Opening Statements: Kniss, Fredrich, McDougall, Keller, Tanaka, Stone, Carl, Fine, Ely, Kou
Q1: housing: Fredrich, Stone, Keller, Fine, Ely, Carl, Kou, Kniss, McDougall, Tanaka
Q2: Traffic: collaborate with regional agencies: Fine, Carl, Stone, Kniss, Fredrich, Kou, McDougall, Ely, Tanaka, Keller
Q3: Future of High Speed Rail; at-grade crossings: Stone, Tanaka, Kniss, McDougall, Kou, Fredrich, Ely, Carl, Keller, Fine
Q4: What can Palo Alto do to influence climate change: Tanaka, McDougall, Fredrich, Stone, Keller, Fine, Kniss, Ely, Kou, Carl
Q5: Animal shelter: McDougall, Kniss, Ely, Fredrich, Tanaka, Keller, Fine, Kou, Carl, Stone
Closing Statements: Kou, Ely, Fine, Carl, Stone, Tanaka, Keller, McDougall, Fredrich, Kniss

1. A list of the candidates' websites can be found at Palo Alto Neighborhoods.
The 2016-10-14 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly has profiles of the candidates.

2. Keller not reappointed to PTC:
- "Residentialists lose out in commission shuffle: Palo Alto council chooses high-tech professionals over neighborhood preservationists in appointments to influential land-use board" (Palo Alto Online, 2014-11-11): "Keller routinely challenged developer's assumptions about traffic impacts..." and "he found himself on the losing side of the vote when all three lame-duck council members voted not to grant him another term--Marc Berman and Greg Scharff joined the three departing council members in each vote, as did Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, though her votes were later discarded because of a procedural violation."
- Recap in the candidate profile for Arthur Keller in the 2016-10-14 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly.

3. Examples of Fine's attitude toward residents favoring Slow Growth / Residentialists:
- He Liked the Facebook comment:
"I find many Residentialists/NIMBYs purchased their homes around 10-20 years ago. And a lot of people can be convinced to vote Residentialist/NIMBY by appeals to fear, combined with ignorance. Fear of change, and ignorance about what causes the most frightful changes. E.g. 'More housing means more traffic,' when, in reality, smart housing policies and better transit policies could reduce the need to drive." (emphasis added)
(part of discussion in earlier blog "The 'You're despicable' style of politics" of 2016-09-22).
- In a Twitter discussion, he disparaged concerns about "compatibility" and "community character" as "an evil amoeba".
- In a interview of Fine in "What it will take to make Silicon Valley affordable again" he said "These regulations are at fault. As is frankly the attitude of folks who have their single family homes. They're happy with them; they don't want more people. Some folks are talking about reducing and limiting jobs.
There are also folks who tell me to get out of town. That hurts. I was born and raised here. I pay a hell of a lot, and I work my butt off to live here."

In that same article, he stated "This is a story that's shared by a lot of American cities: In the 1950s and 1960s we built tract homes and suburbs. Then we ceased building and increased regulation." Is he ignorant of recent building of housing in Palo Alto, or does he not let facts get in the way of his ideology?

4. I didn't appreciate the magnitude of the carbon footprint of concrete--predominantly the cement component--until the discussions of High Speed Rail. I remember one assessment that took the optimal situation of HSR--that of being routed across flat, open prairie--and calculated that the payback period for the carbon footprint of its construction would be at least 25 years of operation. Ouch.

5. You may want to download the forum's video onto your local device because that allows skipping forward/back to be more responsive. However, the YouTube web interface has the advantage over various media players of offering a thumbnail preview as you move along the timeline slider. I recommend using a device with a large physical screen because that allows finer selection of times within the forum: The forums are each somewhat under 120 minutes long, so each minute on your media player's timeline/progress slider on a typical (1080p) display is less than 10 pixels, and thus the bigger the pixel the better. For downloading, there are multiple choices of format: I chose MP4 Medium (AAC 96K) with the forums being 300-420 MB each.

An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.

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I am particularly 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", do not 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.

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Posted by Mike, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Oct 18, 2016 at 11:48 pm

Informative and entertaining post. Thanks for footnote 3. Adrian Fine clearly exhibits disdain and hostility toward residents of Palo Alto. Wrong temperament for City Council.

Posted by Jen, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 18, 2016 at 11:58 pm

Thanks for a thoughtful perspective.

Posted by CL, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 8:18 am

Doug, I am always grateful for the thorough, thoughtful, contributions you make. I find your writing to be a relief: clear air blowing through the landscape of foggy thought.
Thank you!

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Of course, Liz, is always up to speed on the issues cuz she's been doing it for so many years, and very well I should add. Oh, yes, she served when the office development got out of control...and she should be able to respond to hard questions asked about that period. Why did she support it...were there any objections discussed at CC about the impacts? She will have answers like she always does. She has served us in PA, and the county well for many years, so she'll get my vote.

Other candidates need, and are under, further scrutiny/review.

This is probably the most savvy and informed slate of candidates I've seen in many years. However you vote...I think PA will be well taken care of in the future hands of whichever side wins it. There are no nut cases running for office locally like 'The Donald' running for the Presidency at the national level.

Posted by Thanks, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Extremely detailed analysis - thanks Doug. It's illuminating to go back and look at comments by Tanaka and Fine on the PTC - they have certainly tried to change their tune. I hope voters are smart enough to see through it.

I'm struck by the hypocrisy of recent postings. Developers and Chamber of Commerce lined up behind four candidates are now shocked ("Shocked!") that residents are stepping up in a forthright and transparent way to level the playing field through donations. People are donating money to candidates who prioritize resident issues over developer funded candidates who have huge financial stakes in the process.

Way to go Palo Alto!

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 20, 2016 at 4:55 pm

"Kniss instead wants to wait until there is a [development] proposal, which would require policy to be made on-the-fly to meet mandated review deadlines."

This razzle-dazzle is a long-time Kniss hallmark. It has served the development interests she serves very well.

"Oh, yes, she [Kniss] served when the office development got out of control...[snip]. Why did she support it...were there any objections discussed at CC about the impacts?"

Many from citizens and brave colleagues, but none that Kniss deigned to acknowledge. She diligently looks out for her constituents' interests. Unfortunately, those constituents are not the residents of Palo Alto.

Posted by Fred Balin, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 23, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.

Thank you for the extensive research, synthesis, and documentation in this article, Doug.

Your section on Greg Tanaka, particularly the last paragraph (reprinted below) prompted some follow-up checks and comments.

"Tanaka also cites as relevant experience his time as President of the College Terrace Residents Association [CTRA]. However, if you listen carefully, he is talking about what happened while he was President, not what he was involved in. My recollection of those events is that he was not among those prominently involved."

Greg Tanaka served for four years on the CTRA board, all as President, from April 2006 thru March 2009. However at the Palo Alto Neighborhoods forum, he took credit for something he had nothing to do with:

"When I was President of the College Terrace Residents' Association, one of the first things we worked on was to get soccer fields on the corner of Page Mill and El Camino ...." (Q9: Expanding our Parks as Population Grows)

Greg was was not on the CTRA board between the period when the soccer fields proposal was first presented in the Fall of 2004 (as part of the larger and complex Mayfield Development Agreement) through when it came for final approval to the city council in May, 2005. I also do not recall him speaking at any public hearing on the topic of the soccer fields, nor on any other aspect of this proposal including the highly contentious plan for 180 units of faculty housing adjacent to the neighborhood with all access restricted to California Avenue.

Another curious item appeared in Greg's written responses to the Palo Alto Neighborhoods questionnaire:
"Leading with my neighbors and leaders like Doria Summa and Fred Balin, [as CTRA President] I drove the implementation of the successful residential permit parking program after years of stalled efforts."

Here Greg incorrectly associates myself and Doria Summa with his efforts.

Greg does deserve credit for CTRA's work on this issue during his tenure, but he overstates his role in the ultimate success of the program. Without the efforts of the late Colin Mick, working outside of CTRA and leading door-to-door canvassing in the wake of Facebook's massive cram into a gutted HP R&D building, the current parking program would be a shell of what it turned out to be. The singular success of the College Terrace Residential Parking Permit Program encompasses individual and group efforts going back years before Greg arrived in College Terrace, and continues to this day.

What does all this amount to?

As the opening minutes of his video interview at the Palo Alto Weekly most clearly demonstrates, it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to pin Greg down on the crucial issues facing Palo Alto. Asked three successive times to discuss how his personal views on development have evolved during his nearly 7 years on the planning commission, and where he now stands on limiting commercial development, he changed the focus each time, and therefore would not answer the question. Web Link

In the Weekly's endorsements editorial of the following week, they write “his reluctance to articulate his own views and values, was in our opinion, disqualifying." I could not agree more.

Greg's go-to mantra sequence is staff outreach, his participation in a meeting "with all sides," community buy-in, and arriving at a “win-win" solution.

Consequently there are few or no issues to standup for, especially if they have not already achieved near consensus in the community or the support of known and respected path breakers.

What has been most important in Greg's campaign is association with recognizable, powerful names and their endorsements. There is no small amount irony in that most of these “marque" endorsers have clearly laid out policies and are powerful advocates. And there is also no small amount of disappointment here that a number of those endorsers I respect. While many of us see the future of development in Palo Alto as the crucial decider in this election, a second factor in the mix will be the power of name endorsements as a replacement for substance.

When achievements are defined by process and value by association, there could be a temptation to stretch the two.

Meanwhile back within the Tanaka campaign, a late recalibration may be underway. HIs brief bio and aspirational home page remains, but it appears that a new “positions" page has been added. We now learn, in writing, that Greg will call for the elimination of the PC zone (following the post-Maybell field-reversal of his endorser Greg Scharff); that Greg is fully behind Sky Posse, now that its goals are backed by his endorser Anna Eshoo and the city's money, even though he has never been associated with the group; that he supports the office cap; that he wants cumulative impacts to be assessed in traffic studies, and more.

With no more forums before the election, we'll have to wait for his own video to see if these and other positions make it clearly and unambiguously into words, and if and how they impact his campaign.

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