Full text of comments of Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto


Comments of new Palo Alto Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto Monday night, Jan. 8, following her unanimous election as mayor for 2007, after a song and presentation by native Americans:

Thank you, Heath Wood, for honoring me with your song. You connect us with native America and you remind us of our legacy, which calls for us to consider the impact of our actions on the seven generations. I will work hard to honor your trust.

Palo Alto is at a great moment of opportunity and transition. I feel a special energy and momentum. Our council, our staff, our community are poised to take some serious steps forward. I am indeed honored to serve as your Mayor at this important crossroad.

Let me begin with some thanks. First I want to thank two wonderful men in my life -- my father Dr. Yasuo Kishimoto and my husband, Lee Collins. My mother is not able to be here tonight, but my father is here representing them both. They brought our young family over to American shores 46 years ago for a new life.

I give my love and thanks to the best husband in the world, Lee Collins -- we married in Japan 28 years ago as graduate students. It is his love and selfless work that has supported our family this last five years and allowed me to contribute my time to public service. That means so much to me as he knows. His father was briefly Mayor of Vacaville, so he knew what he was in for.

Our daughters Maya and Sarah are the light of our lives.

Janet Dafoe chaired both my campaign committees: Janet, Dorothy Bender and Meimei Pan gave me the courage to run for office.

There are many of you who have supported me and worked with me on community issues over the years and many are here today. I wish I could name each of you, but you know who are you out there, and I thank each and every one of you.

I also want to give big thanks to my colleagues especially the past few mayors on the council. Thanks to you, we have developed a culture of mutual respect so that we can tackle the most difficult issues head-on in a constructive way. It is a rare pleasure to work as part of such a productive and professional team.

Of course, our council by itself would not be able to accomplish anything setting policy if we did not have a highly qualified and creative staff to take our demanding community’s wishes and translate them into reality.

Finally, we all work for you, our residents and businesses here in Palo Alto. Your good will and involvement, your passion and your constructive criticism create the energy and ideas that propel our city forward. It is truly an honor to represent you.

Thank you all.

The media has noted that I am the first Asian elected to the City Council and as Mayor. Yes, I do represent a new face of Palo Alto.

One perspective I bring is to view Palo Alto as a unique global village. People from around the world know Palo Alto as a cutting-edge center of technology and environmental leadership as well as one of the very desirable places in the world to live and raise a family.

I also have experienced Palo Alto intimately from a bottom-up, grassroots perspective. The seemingly mundane decisions that we make every week are the building blocks of our quality of life -- our streets, trees, parks and open space, our shopping centers, utilities, libraries, and of course public safety.

Every day, I remind myself that it is not by accident that we enjoy this wonderful quality of life -- it’s not an accident that we have the parks and open space, our world-class research park and retail base.

From the founding days of Palo Alto in which Stanford professors helped us create our own utilities that sustain us to this day, there have been giants upon whose shoulders we stand today. Our founding mothers and fathers were far-seeing and acted to secure the future for us, living in Palo Alto seven generations later.

Today, the Bay Area continues to be the world’s center for technology and innovation. The pressure for more jobs and housing growth is unlimited and if unfettered, threatens our precious environment. We do still have the miraculously preserved open space in the Baylands and foothills, the broad watersheds with their creeks and flood control projects, the miles of air above us, and rich soil under our feet.

But as former Vice President Al Gore and thousands of scientists have made eminently clear, without some dramatic course correction, we are still on a collision course.

Last year’s Mayor Judy Kleinberg and past Mayors created the momentum of the economic development task forces as well as the Green Ribbon Task Force on Climate Action. Now the time is ripe for our council to work with our staff and community to fully integrate our path-breaking work on environment with our equally deep commitment to economic development and budget restructuring.

In 2007, we are in a unique position to bring together our progressive business community and our educated and enlightened neighborhood groups to make Sustainable Palo Alto a common reality.

The call for action I bring as the 2007 Mayor is “Building a green economy through innovation.”

In Palo Alto, we are in a unique point in history to use our pre-eminent position as economic, technological, and environmental leaders to break new ground as a knowledge-based economy and society. Palo Alto must build a green economy, taking full advantage of our trademark innovation.

If we cannot do it, who can? We cannot on the one hand commit to a 50 percent to 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases and then ignore that commitment when we look at economic development. One step forward, one step back is not what we want to do.

We need to take one thoughtful step forward in the right direction. Our coming negotiations with Stanford University, world renowned for its leadership in environmental and other fields of research, is a prime opportunity to put this into action.

In preparation for our council retreat, I have asked our staff to prepare a study session for us, summarizing three important but different snap shots of the city.

One is our “annual report card” -- the comprehensive survey of citizen feedback on our city services prepared by our auditor.

A second is the city’s Next Generation project. A great many of our most experienced managers are eligible to retire over the next few years. This will be a great challenge. But it is also an opportunity to bring the most talented younger generation into management positions and challenge our excellent staff to re-invent the way we deliver city services in innovative ways.

Third are the essentials of our long range financial plan -- the progress we have made over the past years, and also the significant challenges we continue to face as trim $3 million more from our on-going costs.

I expect we will also have the recommendations from the Green Ribbon Task Force on Climate Action fresh in our minds.

As we plan for the coming year, I would expect that we will follow-up our commitment to the priorities we made last year to the libraries, public safety building and emergency planning. With a trimmer budget and organization, we will finally be in position to fund new community investments such as our libraries and public safety building. We are expecting to review the draft city emergency plan in February.

We have much work to do in the coming year to align the twin goals we have been working on for many years: sustainable economic development and budget along with our unwavering commitment to the highest environmental standards and a walkable community.

Some say we cannot have it all, but we are in trouble if we as a leadership community cannot find a way to align the two goals. I know that together, we can indeed build a green economy through innovation so that our beautiful valley will flourish for at least seven more generations.


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