The crowded race for the Palo Alto City Council further expanded Wednesday, when two familiar candidates -- Mark Weiss and Victor Frost -- signaled their willingness to join the fray, bringing the candidate field to 12.
For both Weiss, a concert promoter and frequent critic of new developments, and Frost, a panhandler best known for his protracted legal battle with the city over its sit-lie ordinance, running for council is a familiar experience, albeit one that has been fruitless thus far. Weiss ran in 2009 and 2012, finishing near the bottom each time (in 2009, he finished 13th out of 14 candidates, edging out only Frost). Frost has run in every election over the past decade save for 2012, when he pulled candidate papers but ultimately did not file them.
Weiss, 50, has been vocal in his criticism of new development, particularly the proposal to turn Varsity Theatre on University Avenue into a hub for high-tech workers. He has also been a proponent for public art and an advocate for new performing-art venues. He is the founder of the concert-production company Earthwise Productions.
Weiss has also been critical of the 2012 proposal by billionaire developer John Arrillaga to build an office-and-theater complex at 27 University Ave., a plan that ultimately fizzled in the face of community opposition. In an interview Wednesday, Weiss told the Weekly that he believed that "the leadership is not listening to citizens as much as to downtown interests."
Frost, who is perhaps the city's best-known panhandler, has been regular presence near Whole Foods, Fresh Market and Mollie Stone's, where he often sits on the sidewalks and solicits 26-cent donations. He lists as his address a telephone pole on the corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino. During past campaigns, he talked about the need to take better care of the homeless.
Weiss and Frost pulled their candidacy papers one day after two other candidates signaled their entries into the race: Barron Park resident Lydia Kou and Richard Wendorf, who lives at Alma Place and like Frost, said he wants to help the city deal with its homelessness problem. Other non-incumbents vying for the five contested seats on the nine-member council are Tom DuBois, Claude Ezran, Eric Filseth, John Fredrich and Seelam Reddy. Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Councilman Greg Scharff are also planning to seek their second terms on the council. Councilwoman Karen Holman hasn't made a formal announcement but has recently formed a campaign committee, suggesting an intention to run.
Councilman Larry Klein will be termed out this year, while Councilwoman Gail Price will complete her first term and will not seek a second.
The suddenly crowded field presents a stark contrast to the 2012 race, when only five candidates ran for three open seats. By contrast, 14 candidates ran for council in 2009, with Klein, Holman, Price, Shepherd and Scharff winning council terms.