Council shuns environment entity, by any name

'We don't need an environmental commission to keep us focused -- we are focused,' Councilwoman LaDoris Cordell says

Despite emphatic support from a trio of council members -- all of whom will return next year -- the Palo Alto City Council rejected a proposal to create either an Environmental Commission or committee, task force or something by any other name Monday night.

Instead, city staff can reach out to the community to develop environmental initiatives, an alternative proposal states.

"We don't need an environmental commission to keep us focused -- we are focused," Cordell said of the proposal.

Councilman Peter Drekmeier, Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto and Vice Mayor Larry Klein pushed hard for the commission, arousing the displeasure of several colleagues in the process.

Drekmeier proposed sending the proposal back to the council's Policy and Services Committee, a move that would ensure its fate would lie with the next council.

But Cordell called the attempt an effort to circumvent the current council.

Kishimoto said in a memo that a full commission is needed to involve the community in managing open space, reducing pollution, handling solid waste, battling climate change and responding to other environmental issues.

Klein said if the city already has too many commissions then perhaps another less critical commission should go.

But the other six council members disagreed.

The commission would be costly and discounts the environmental work that all city commissions should be considering, Councilman John Barton said.

A city staff report said it costs an estimated $147,000 a year in staff time to provide support for the Utilities Advisory Commission and $356,000 a year for staff support for the Planning and Transportation Commission, not including city attorney or city clerk staff support.

But the primary concern is the impact on staff time, the report said, urging the council to make the entity something other than a standing commission -- such as a task force -- that would require less staff time in terms of providing agendas and full minutes.

After the council rejected the committee, task force or commission idea, Kishimoto summarized that the city staff could proceed with a staff-level advisory group, and said she would name a staff-level task force.

But Kleinberg and others sharply objected to that as being beyond the mayor's authority in this case.

In other business, the council:

• Approved an agreement with City Manager Frank Benest that sets up a process for improving Benest's Bryant Street house before he sells it. He is required to sell the house before 2017. No earlier than three months before the house is put on the market, Benest can submit a list of needed improvements to the city, which will pay up to $60,000 for its share, the agreement states. The improvements would be intended to increase the sale value of the home, according to a city staff report.

Benest has said the city investment in the house is the best-performing item in the city's investment portfolio.

Benest owns 43.2 percent of the house while the city owns 56.8 percent.

• Unanimously appointed Einar Sunde to a 1.5-year term on the Public Art Commission. Maxine Goodman also applied for the position.

• Voted 5-4 to table a resolution that urges the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to obey all laws, including unreasonable searches and seizures. The vote was 5-4 with Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto, Vice Mayor Larry Klein and council members Judy Kleinberg, Dena Mossar and Bern Beecham supporting to tabling motion, which cuts short discussion. Klein objected to statements in the proposed resolution that have not been verified by Palo Alto.

• Agreed to have the city staff review revisions to the Baylands Master Plan with the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Planning and Transportation Commission on the future of Byxbee Park and the landfill closure before returning to the council in July 2008.

• Unanimously agreed to institute a green-building policy that requires city-owned buildings larger than 5,000 square feet to meet silver-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified green-building standards.

The vote came after an attempt by Councilman Peter Drekmeier and Vice Mayor Larry Klein to boost the goal to a higher but harder to achieve "gold" standard that would include smaller buildings as well. Councilwoman Judy Kleinberg and Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto also voted for the stricter standards.


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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2007 at 7:21 am

Bravo to the 6 members of the city council that had the spine to stand up to Yoriko and her climate change pipe dreams by voting against any kind of environmental commission.
Finally a well deserved slap in the face to our "crusading" mayor. Maybe this will awaken her to the need to start addressing important issues facing the city, Instead of gallivanting around the world with climate change agenda.
Unfortunately I do not think this issue is dead, since our future mayor Klein was one of the "environmental" troika who was trying to circumvent the present council. look for another attempt by this threesome to re-introduce this issue again next year.
Clearly when it comes to their dream of "climate change" this three some will not take "no" for an answer (while saying to hell with the other problems facing PA).
Recall yoriko, Peter and Larry now!!!!

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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2007 at 8:50 am

As usual, The PA Daily News has done a better and more thorough job reporting on the shenanigans last night by our climate change troika Yoriko, Peter and Larry.

Read their article and compare it to the Weekly coverage:

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2007 at 10:08 am

I saw last evening's shenanigans on this issue; it was a good example of how poorly one can look when trying to comport oneself as one is being rebuffed for attempting "end arounds" in an effort to steamroll one's preferences, *after* a vote has been taken that soundly defeats one's position.

Council members Cordell, Morton, Barton, Beecham, Kleinberg, and Mossar had this one right.

Why do we need another commission, especially one that parallels the already-stated environmental stance of our city policy makers and most of its residents? We do NOT need to politicize every little environmental tactic our city introduces, or have 5-7 commissioners noodling around, parallel to staff and an environmentally-committed policy group (or so-called, see notes on ABAG) making political waves about nothing.

I fear this commission would turn out to be the disaster that the Human Rights Commission has become.

We even had one member of the community (no doubt looking to be appointed to this unnecessary position) suggesting that we hire a staff member to support this commission!

Mayor Kishimoto's failure to take "no" for an answer was unfortunate; she has seriously damaged credibility with other members of the Council with her actions, and should refrain from lobbing toward a similar effort when new Council members are appointed early next year.

The Mayor should remember that she sits in a *appointed* position that came as a result of consensus by her peers. Those who remain on the Council next year (Kishimoto among them) will need to remain a cohesive, focused policy body if they are to get done what needs doing.

This unnecessary focus on an unnecessary commission - a commission that will further politicize already-understood environmental policy - should cease, for the good of our city, its citizens, and the focus that we need to give to more pressing issues.

Like this comment
Posted by Proverb
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 11, 2007 at 11:22 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2007 at 11:40 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2007 at 12:48 pm

Last night must have been tough on Yoriko--first Al Gore does not mention her in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech and then the city council votes against her regarding the Environmental committee.
This is a major blow for "climate change" in our city

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