Mark Weiss


Mark Weiss is not a politician, and he is proud of it.

He is a business owner who thinks the interests of business owners are overrepresented in local government, and he is a concert promoter who has opted to eschew campaign committees and promote his own campaign.

He hasn't yet figured out what his position is on high-speed rail nor does he have any particular ideas for closing the city's structural budget deficit of $10 million-plus.

Weiss, a 44-year-old concert promoter and artist representative, says he is running on an "arts platform," a position that may surprise residents who don't know such a platform exists.

Weiss, who graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in English, said he has a "keen insight" into how Palo Alto uses arts in its civic life. The city could do better, he says.

He told the Weekly he is running largely to make sure arts funding doesn't get slashed -- and to keep the city's annual summertime Brownbag Concert series in downtown Palo Alto funded.

On other matters, he is more philosophical. When asked in July what he thinks of the proposed business-license tax, known as the BLT, he responded, "I prefer it as a sandwich rather than a load I'm being asked to swallow." When asked last week how he would vote on the tax, he said he's "probably" leaning against it.

"I don't think it's very good policy to try to raise revenues on the backs of small business," he said, suggesting a tax on corporations with a million dollars or more in revenue would be a better way to raise the $3 million needed.

Weiss said he is "open minded" about the high-speed rail project, which many fear could split the Palo Alto neighboring cities down the middle and create a wall along the Caltrain tracks. He acknowledges that he doesn't know too much about the issue yet.

He also said he personally knows Quentin Kopp, a fellow Dartmouth alumnus who sits on the Board of Directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. But his position on the project may displease residents along the Caltrain corridor, who fear they could lose parts of their properties to make way for the project.

"If it's good for 30 million Californians and not so good for 60,000 Palo Altans, that's just fate," Weiss told the Weekly. "I'm open-minded about it."

In responding to other questions, Weiss made it clear that he isn't bashful about taking stances far from those of the other candidates, particularly when business interests are at stake.

When asked at the Chamber of Commerce forum about how the city could help small businesses, Weiss said business and real-estate interests are already "overrepresented" in city governance.

When asked what he thought of the proposed expansion of Stanford Hospital, he wondered aloud ("as a non-alumni," he said) whether Stanford is too big and influential for Palo Alto's good.

Weiss also took issue with some questions on the Chamber's recent candidates' survey, particularly one that asked how he would feel about reducing the number of seats on the nine-member council. He replied: Why not increase it back to 15?

Weiss presents himself as the grassroots candidate, one who prefers citizen-led petitions over developers' proposals. He said he had his grassroots awakening in 1993, when he was working for an advertising agency in San Francisco and writing ads for an oil company.

He left his North Beach home and moved to Palo Alto. He said his first grassroots event was the 1993 Earth Day, where he met current Mayor Peter Drekmeier.

Weiss said he then began producing concerts at Cubberley Community Center and formed his company, Earthwise Productions, which now primarily represents artists. In August, he helped Human Relations Commissioner Claude Ezran organize Palo Alto's first World Music Day, which brought musicians to downtown Palo Alto for an afternoon of street-corner music.

Weiss said he was inspired to run for office after reading a column by current Councilman Sid Espinosa in the Palo Alto Weekly, in which Espinosa encouraged the public to get engaged in city governance. Weiss said he would stick with his grassroots theme by eschewing campaign committees and financial contributions.

"I'm going 'old school,'" Weiss told the Weekly. "I think money has undermined our democracy."

Gennady Sheyner


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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 2, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Thanks, Gennady. I was born January 28, 1964 (Aquarius) such that I am 45 actually. I moved here in fall of 1975, for fifth grade at Fremont Hills (with Olive Borgsteadt). I graduated Gunn in 1982. Go, Titans!

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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Interesting. Mark Weiss says that business owners are overrepresented in local government, yet he is leaning against the business license tax (which many, if not most, local cities already levy but not Palo Alto). How does he reconcile the two positions?

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Posted by Eileen Stolee
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 4, 2009 at 10:41 pm

After receiving a flyer at the Farmers Market today I looked up information about Mark Weiss.
I think he is the real deal. Not the usual politician. I like very much that he comes from a literary and arts background!

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Posted by EASTPA
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2009 at 9:21 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by He's
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff]

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I am opposed to Measure A -- vote it down as a referendum on the current council and as a vote for change. It is poorly written. We should tax the largest corporations, perhaps. But as written this is regressive in that it hurts small business. I do think real estate interests are over-represented on council and in the current race - notice that the three papers endorsed the candidates most closely tied to that segment of the economy.
I bemoan the lack of a broader discussion in the campaign of what are the values of our community -- too many pro-business and, frankly, anti-democratic questions in the surveys and forums. Too short a campaign. I have lived here since 1974 but only entered the campaign two months ago.
Mark Weiss
Gunn 1982
Dartmouth 1986
founder, Earthwise Productions - a small, socially-conscious business here since 1994

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm

This is a buggy-whip moment. The world is changing and a lot of local businesses are going to miss out on the future because they refuse to recognize that their business model is obsolete. (REI is a great example of a company that makes it work in the real and online world.)

It’s not sales tax that keeps me buying from Amazon and other etailers. The big benefits are convenience, huge selection, ability to easily search for the best price, free shipping (sometimes), online reviews, great support (from most places).

I like Keplers, but why would I drive there (parking’s tough in Menlo Park), maybe not find what I want, pay full price if I do?

Keeping track of sales tax is easy. Every time I buy something online, I plug the price into a spreadsheet. At the end of the year, I hand over my Use Tax list to my accountant.

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 24, 2014 at 12:57 am

I re-read this because Gennady linked to it in his brief story today, five years later, about my running for Council again, summer-fall, 2014. I would say this is mostly still true, although I have honed my views on local policy having attended that many more meetings and read that many more staff reports, and press coverage.

I would say, in a lesser manner, the Weekly is less generous in their portrayal of me. That's their prerogative, but I wonder if it's is because I consistently accuse them of a pro-devleoper bias. And I refuse to spend money on my campaign or in their paper (I was an advertiser here when Earthwise Productions ran a concert series at Cubberley).

I describe the basic model of Palo Alto politics as a tug-of-war between Downtown interests, principally commercial real estate developers and the rest of us, or the residents or Residentialists. That's an oversimplification but meat enough to chew on. Meanwhile, as evidenced by Measure D referendum in 2013 and the Grand Jury report of June, 2014, increasing numbers of citizens are activated and clamoring for change, along these lines.

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Posted by Paly '82 Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 24, 2014 at 1:29 am

I repeat Mr. Weiss' first posting: "I graduated Gunn in 1982. Go, Titans!" which is a divisive statement in this city.

Did no one catch his mathematical error? "I was born January 28, 1964 (Aquarius) such that I am 45 actually." He should be age 50 unless he drank from the Fountain of Youth at some concert.

Prepare for the snipers, Mr. Weiss.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 24, 2014 at 6:46 am

Dude, check your calendar math. The original date of the article was 2009...which would have made his age 45 at the time.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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