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Vote for Burt, Lauing, Kou and Varma in PA race

Uploaded: Oct 6, 2020
This is a critical year for Palo Alto's future -- and whom we vote for in the Palo Alto City Council race has become quite important. There are 10 candidates running for four seats
-- a council majority in a seven-member council, and a variety of viewpoints within the 10. Who we select will in large part determine the future of Palo Alto, especially in terms of growth, especially in commercial office space -- slow or just build more commercial, housing, retail.

We have candidates who have lived here for decades, another one who has been here for only seven months; we have politically liberal and conservative candidates (remember, though, this is a nonpartisan race); we have residents who have served on city commissions, and we have some newer in town where serving on the council will be their introduction to city government. We have four women running -- the current council had three female members (Liz Kniss's has been termed out; Alison Cormack has two more years to serve and can run for a second term.)

In thinking about endorsements, I am looking for experience, community knowledge, smarts, but maybe a fresh face, so we have some new approaches to looking at our city.

My selections are as follows:

Pat Burt -- clearly the most qualified candidate, having served nine years on the Planning and Transportation Commission and eight years on the council (two as mayor). Burt, with his knowledge of how the city works, will be the one to once again have the council control the city, rather than the city manager -- a much-needed change. The current council has deferred way too far in allowing the staff to write up reports that represent their views rather than the public view. The staff has made decisions on the police, a city auditor and an outside police auditor, and then asked the council to approve what they did. Burt can be a bit edgy at times, challenging individuals who may disagree with his view -- but council members have oftentimes followed his lead. He wants to improve things in Palo Alto -- like finalizing a plan for grade separations at the Caltrain tracks, getting more affordable housing in town and trying to ensure we have a transparent government -- important because staff has become more secretive in the last four years.

Lydia Kou -- Lydia has come a long way in her four years on the council -- rising from a shy newbie to an aggressive member in pursuit of maintaining the residential character of the city. The present council has been divided 3-4 on this issue, with the majority (Kniss, Mayor Adrian Fine, Cormack and Greg Tanaka (who is running for his second term) supporting more development and growth. In a recent debate when asked why she had not challenged City Manager Ed Shikada's attempt to control the council, she said she had fought him (presumably in private or closed metings), but not publicly because she didn't want to embarrass the city. But if there's a problem, politeness in public won't solve the issue. I've watched Kou amend her ways, and think in her second term she can be an outstanding member, since she works well with others and really cares about how residents feel.

Ed Lauing -- A man who has served the city in one form or another for years, Lauing knows the city well, and will bring a depth of knowledge and experience to council chambers. He wants data to help him make a decision, which is a nice attribute for at least one council member to have (I say that facetiously), and while deliberative, he said it's important for the council to make up its mind in a reasonably quick manner. He is a logical person and has convincing arguments. He supports affordable housing, wants better staff performance and wants to improve binding arbitration from police contracts, which is a great idea that this city needs to pursue.

Ajit Varma -- I had the hardest time trying to decide who to endorse for the fourth available seat -- it was either Varma, Greg Tanaka or Greer Stone -- and I opted for Varma. This businessman has not served on a commission, but I listened to him several times and he has done his pre-council homework. He will provide a calming influence on the council, and is an affable person. His supports increasing the number of both large and small businesses, and while I don’t support faster growth in the city, the make-up of the council will change in this election, and we probably will have a slow-growth majority. Yet businesses are important in this town -- they provide needed revenue. So it is appropriate for this city to have a business-oriented council member. Varma also supports more affordable housing. He will make a good addition to the council.

I've always respected Greg Tanaka's drive to control spending in town, his perceptive questioning of proposed new taxes and out-of-bound expenditures, and he has been more mindful of the city's budget than any other member. Yet he has failed to win any support for his budget cuts from other council members -- one council member told me he wants to do it his way, and only his way. And then there's the issue of the $70,000 or so he received from developers, which has bothered many residents, including me. And he has consistently voted with the pro-growth, four member council majority, so while I support his ideas, I can't recommend him.

Greer Stone has a lot of backing in this community, and when I read his platform, I agreed with most of what he urges. He would make a good council member, but I think Varma would be a refreshing new addition.

Raven Malone is a young enthusiast who has captured much of the public's fancy in having a brand new face on the council -- BUT she has lived here only seven months. While she said she has studied all the issues, she lacks the knowledge of this town that longer-time residents understand -- the complexity of our budgeting process, and the history and previous council endeavors to make this city work. I've also seen her in several council debates, and while her answers to questions sound knowledgeable, in fact, in my estimation, they are shallow, glib responses that could apply to any city.

So please consider voting for Burt, Kou, Lauing and Varma. It's a good team.




We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   18 people like this
Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 7, 2020 at 7:35 am

Norman Beamer is a registered user.

Close but no cigar. Stone instead of Varma.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Free the people, a resident of another community,
on Oct 7, 2020 at 8:30 am

Free the people is a registered user.

Well, you got 50% right. Anyone but Burt and Kou.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by DIana Diamond, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 7, 2020 at 12:36 pm

DIana Diamond is a registered user.

Norman --

Gee whiz! I was looking forward to my first cigar ever!

Diana


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt is my top choice., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 8, 2020 at 10:06 am

Pat Burt is my top choice. is a registered user.

While on the PTC and Council previously, Pat was one of the few Council Members who habitually would dive into the data. If analysis that should have been there was lacking, he'd call for it. This was back in the day when staff would present their primary research data in staff reports and offer more than one recommendation. Sadly, these practices are no longer consistently followed.


I found Pat Burt to be thoughtful, open to hearing arguments that differed from his point of view--and willing to be persuaded by solid arguments.


Burt is passionate about doing the right thing for the community. He'll argue forcefully for something he believes in, but he'll also listen. He's not unmovably stubborn, like some current Council Members who seem to follow staff with blinders on. He's a creative problem-solver who pushed hard for innovative ideas like 100% carbon-free electricity at lower cost than PG&E. Without his strong leadership, that brilliant idea would not have been implemented. We were among the first cities in the world to do this important climate protection work, and we were able to do it cost effectively.

Finally, Pat is capable of seeing the forest AND the trees. He can look at complex budgets and parse the nitty gritty details while considering the numbers in broader context. He looks at other kinds of decisions--land use and transportation, for instance, in a similar way. It is what I like best about him. Other candidates talk about viewing these things systemically; Burt has demonstrated that he can do it.

Varma sounds to me like a pretty smart guy who needs experience in government. He doesn't seem to understand the scope and limits on government action. He should apply for at least one commission, because he has a lot to learn about the differences between public and private operations. That's the primary problem with the candidate field this year. Too many candidates who have zero or too little experience in government. Experience matters a lot. Navigating the layers takes knowledge and skill. It is nothing like working in a company. Pat has been a CEO and Mayor--twice. He's got this.

I like Pat because he has experience in spades and has already demonstrated that he can deliver.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 8, 2020 at 10:47 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Diana, you worked at Stanford, as the assistant to President Donald Kennedy, yet none of the candidates you endorse have a connection to Stanford. Meanwhile you completely overlook Rebecca Eisenberg, a Stanford graduate who also has a law degree from Harvard.
Arguably, Rebecca is more successful in Silicon Valley than two of your choices, Varma -- a middle manager with a large firm, very young -- or Ed Lauing, a long tme publishing industry functionary who says he founded two or three obscure software companies nobody's ever heard of. Rebecca meanwhile was of counsel for PayPal in their formative years and also more recently helped Reddit. Pat Burt was apparently the founder of Acteron which sold to Flextronics, both of which are considered polluters by the EPA -- though he seems to get a "pass" on that. Why?

I've ran for council three times and applied for commissions five times, since 2009, and continue to be alarmed at our weak and corrupt governance.
Rebecca is the only candidate that gives me hope that Palo Alto can be a Democracy. And of course I worry about the future of our country.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 9, 2020 at 9:37 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I looked at the 10/08 council debates with fresh eyes from the first go around.

Rebecca wants to tax Tesla and Palantir, and throw in Google. Palantir has left the stage and is now located in Colorado. Tesla has only a small contingent in PA - their main factory is in Fremont and Space-X plus cars in Hathorne CA - SOCAL. Google is home-based in MV. FB is home-based in MP. She has no awareness of the actual companies that are NOW in PA. That does not include business which is situated at Stanford Research Park which is on SU property.

Her stance on FHP appears to forget that the city OWNS that land and has the sole responsibility to fund the budget for its' maintenance and personnel - including fire protection. The US Constitution has little to do with parkland owned by various federal, state, and private entities. Note that the city of SF has Camp Mather which is for SF residents.

Mr. Lauing's response on housing was disturbing. R-1 neighborhoods are the selling point for this city. Quit undermining what is a revenue driver for the city.

What we are looking at is a bunch of younger people undermining the fiscal selling points for this city. They are providing the same stories in every city - they all have the same sponsors who are selling a bill of goods and using current concerns as the wedge for those POV's.

Start with the Comprehensive Plan which appears to be the rationale for much political nonsense. Where did the numbers come form? Do the numbers change when Palantir leaves? Do the numbers recognize that other companies are going down to the new buildings in the North San Jose complexes? We need the Comprehensive Plan updated and explained as well as the ABAG goals which are self-serving. Someone needs to audit their function. Get Ms. Hough from the state on their case.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 9, 2020 at 1:12 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

These companies that Pat Burt all of a sudden wants to tax -- despite 17 years in leadership who were afraid to tax companies, so as not to upset the landlords -- now have a trillion dollar market cap.
Leadership had punted the idea until Rebecca started talking it up, and other candidates, seven of eight save Tanaka, joined in.
We enforce zoning at Stanford Research Park, so we can tax them too.
Web Link

I saw Pat Burt walk with the people protesting Palantir's role in ICE separating children from their families, then slink away before the speeches in front of the building, at Hamilton and Alma.

Burt, Tanaka, Lauing, Templeton and Kou are to blame for the mess we are in. We need fresh blood.
But not Varma, who does not know that letting corporations rule us is Fascism not Democracy.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 9, 2020 at 4:52 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Mark - what companies do you think are headquartered in PA? Or have subsidiaries here? A lot of law firms. A lot of hotels. And why do you think that SU property companies are taxable by us. They have their own security canvassing their area. I think we need a legal opinion on that. SU is the beneficiary of companies that are on their property.
What are we giving people for charging them a Business Tax? The police force for one.
Kou is doing a good job. Templeton has not been elected. Burt has not been on for a while - why is he the blame guy for you? I blame the current mayor for the mess we are in - he is a Weiner want-a be. Weiner is the head of the destruction of the cities as we know them.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Oct 9, 2020 at 6:12 pm

Steve Dabrowski is a registered user.

Varma!
What on earth were you smoking?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Stefania, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 9, 2020 at 11:10 pm

Stefania is a registered user.

I'm sorry, I can't take recommendation of any woman who uses the word “businessman" seriously. You do realize that women work outside the home?

I'd also like to point out that the length of time one has lived in Palo Alto and/or serving on a board or commission is not a requirement to run for city council. In fact, to suggest such a thing is patently racist and patriarchal, just like using the term “businessman." As a POC, I can assure you that my perspective about this town was shaped in the first few months of living here, and haven't changed much in 14 years. I saw racial profiling then; I see it now. I saw Black and NBPOC students+parents being treated differently then; I see it now. I saw performatively woke white people then; I see them now. To suggest that POC need experience to serve their community when white people get elected, appointed, or admitted to positions all the time is racist and patriarchal. To pretend otherwise, is to dismiss the reality of the 200+ years of systemic white supremacist principles on which this country was founded. I've had enough, and if this town wants to show active allyship to the imminently qualified Black and NBPOC running for city council, their votes will show it, too.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Stefania, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 9, 2020 at 11:10 pm

Stefania is a registered user.

I'm sorry, I can't take recommendation of any woman who uses the word “businessman" seriously. You do realize that women work outside the home?

I'd also like to point out that the length of time one has lived in Palo Alto and/or serving on a board or commission is not a requirement to run for city council. In fact, to suggest such a thing is patently racist and patriarchal, just like using the term “businessman." As a POC, I can assure you that my perspective about this town was shaped in the first few months of living here, and haven't changed much in 14 years. I saw racial profiling then; I see it now. I saw Black and NBPOC students+parents being treated differently then; I see it now. I saw performatively woke white people then; I see them now. To suggest that POC need experience to serve their community when white people get elected, appointed, or admitted to positions all the time is racist and patriarchal. To pretend otherwise, is to dismiss the reality of the 200+ years of systemic white supremacist principles on which this country was founded. I've had enough, and if this town wants to show active allyship to the imminently qualified Black and NBPOC running for city council, their votes will show it, too.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Oct 10, 2020 at 7:44 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Stephania - what do you do for a living? Everyone who has a job - be it union, non-union, tech, legal, engineering, management has to have experience to get hired and move up the chain of command in what ever endeavor they are in. That is called "Common Sense". Even in Hollywood people go to acting school, usually start as children, and learn the ropes as they go along. Back at Ford Aerospace - now gone from the scene - we had POC's at all levels of the company because they had degrees in what ever their endeavor is. It was not an issue then since many government customers were POC's - the military is a great place with a lot of training.

Sorry to tell you that it all worked before because everyone worked from the same set of common sense rules we all learned in school - study hard, learn a skill, and keep developing your command of what ever you are involved in. Each person has to sell themselves and what skill set they bring to the job. If you have not noticed we have a large number of Asian and Latino people in this state. WE have a high number of POC's in Oakland because they have a huge port and manufacturing. There are a huge number of very successful people who don't work the "victim" card. Oprah never did until recently. She was a millionaire before she retired from her show.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Voter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 10, 2020 at 10:38 am

Voter is a registered user.

I was not in favor of Pat Burt and didn't think he deserved to be called a residentialist, until I saw his bravery to speak out about the stealing of downtown by overgrown corporations and transformation to an office park despite the way what he said was misportrayed by news outlets.

Small businesses deserve to be supported right now, resident-serving businesses. The larger ones have shown they can not only take care of themselves, but they are quite good at co-opting residents to unwittingly carry water for them against their own interests.

I will be voting for Kou, Stone, and Lauing, and maybe Eisenberg. I support Pat Burt, too, but I think he has a broad enough base of voters that despite our not having ranked choice voting, casting my vote for Eisenberg will not be the same as voting against Burt and the others.

In past races, where there was an innocuous-seeming extra vote, the candidate with the least actual support (because the least was known about them) ended up with the most votes as people on all sides of various divides voted for that person. There might be less of a danger of that in this race but maybe not. We need ranked choice voting.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Karen, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Oct 10, 2020 at 6:57 pm

Karen is a registered user.

I agree with most of Diana's recommendations, except I favor Greer Stone over Varma because of his involvement with the Human Rights Commission. I strongly support Lydia Kou as she has worked diligently to improve our quality of life by taking a leading role in fighting the jet noise/pollution caused by the FAA's concentration of flight paths over Palo Alto.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Oct 10, 2020 at 9:15 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Thank you, Mark and Voter!

And no worries, Diana. I always will love your column. :)

Regards,
Rebecca


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