News

Debate over council size splits Palo Alto establishment

Past and present council members take opposite sides on Measure D

More than two centuries after Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton forced the nation to weigh the merits of democracy against those of government efficiency, the debate is playing out in Palo Alto, where voters will consider in November whether to reduce the size of the City Council.

The proposal to shrink the council has been resurfacing sporadically since 1972, when voters agreed to bring down the size from 15 members to nine. The number would go down to seven if voters approve Measure D in November.

The latest proposal sprouted from a June 2013 memo from Mayor Nancy Shepherd, Vice Mayor Liz Kniss and Councilwoman Gail Price in which they wrote that a nine-member council is "unusual for municipal government for a city of our population." They noted that Menlo Park has only five council seats and that Mountain View has seven. A smaller Palo Alto council, they wrote, "could bring efficiencies of meeting effectiveness and workload, which deserves discussion and consideration, while also reducing costs."

Since the memo was issued, other community leaders have joined the movement toward a smaller council. Former Mayors Betsy Bechtel, Mike Cobb, Peter Drekmeier, Sid Espinosa and Judy Kleinberg all support Measure D, as does Roger Smith, founding president of Silicon Valley Bank and co-founder of Friends of Palo Alto Parks. Smith, who has spoken on the subject at several council meetings, said at the May 12 meeting that the smaller council would make running the city "much more efficient."

"I'm a big believer, spending my career in the private sector, that time is money," Smith said.

Measure D supporters emphasize this point in the official ballot argument. A seven-seat council will be "more efficient and productive, more accountable, save taxpayer money, and increase opportunity for public participation.

"Human nature being what it is, each council member feels the need to speak on every issue," the argument states. "City Council meetings often run past midnight and into Tuesday morning.

"We've spoken to many residents who say that they want to attend council meetings to participate in our local government process but they just can't stay at City Hall that late on a Monday night. This is bad for our democratic process of citizen engagement and participation."

For opponents of Measure D, the idea that trimming seats will improve democracy is laughable. The length of the council meetings, they say, has more to do with the fact that some members just love to talk while others hardly say a word. Land-use watchdog Bob Moss made this point on May 12, when he told the council that it's not the number of seats that matter but how the council acts (Moss' argument becomes potent when you consider the case of Menlo Park, where a five-member council routinely debates issues well into the night). Moss called the proposal to reduce the council size "nonsense." Opponents use the same word in their official rebuttal to the "Yes on D" argument.

"Councilmembers speak for as long as they are allowed to speak," the rebuttal states. "Reducing the council size is a drastic solution versus simply crafting sensible agendas and requiring council members to be concise."

If Shepherd and Smith represent Camp Hamilton in Palo Alto's big democracy debate, Moss and the city's leading residentialists align with Camp Jefferson. This group includes Councilman Greg Schmid, Councilwoman Karen Holman (who is running for re-election this fall) and all three of the candidates affiliated with the group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning: Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth and Lydia Kou. All three took part in last year's successful citizen initiative to overturn a council-approved housing development on Maybell Avenue.

Unlike last year's Measure D, which failed despite having the support of the entire council, this year's Measure D has plenty of supporters and opponents among elected officials. The measure was placed on the ballot by a 5-4 vote, with Shepherd, Kniss, Price, Larry Klein and Marc Berman supporting it and Holman, Schmid, Pat Burt and Greg Scharff opposing it. The "No on D" camp also includes former Councilwoman Enid Pearson as well as former Mayor Vic Ojakian.

In their ballot argument, opponents of Measure D argue that putting power in the hands of fewer people is a bad idea. Their argument frames the debate as one of "democracy vs. efficiency" and makes a case that when it come to governance, being efficient isn't always a good thing.

"On one extreme, a one-member council would be highly efficient, but no one wants a dictatorship," the argument states. "In some situations, like juries and city councils, you want more participants not fewer."

Opponents of Measure D also point out that Palo Alto, unlike other cities, runs its own Utilities Department, has just taken over an airport Monday, and often has to deal with the impacts created by Stanford University.

Opponents also maintain in their official argument that trimming the number of council members would further increase each member's workload, effectively ensuring that serving will be a full-time job. Because this job pays only $600 a month, the argument goes, only the wealthy will seek council seats.

"Keeping our council at nine seats spreads the workload across more people and makes it more attractive for people to participate in the process. More seats means resident representation by people interested in their city and not professional politicians," the ballot agrument states.

Smith and supporters of Measure D take the opposite stance and argued on May 12 that reducing the number of seats will actually encourage more people to run because each council member will have "more of a say."

"In reality, reducing the council to seven members would result in both increased citizen engagement and a more efficient and less costly city council," the rebuttal argument states.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:09 am

From a 1 minute Google search, I understand that, in 1785, the Marquis de Condorcet, a French philosopher and mathematician, proved a theorem that the larger the group, the more likely that a majority vote would reach the correct result.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:20 am

I think this is one issue the City Council is going to lose. We have already seen what the city council can do if left unsupervised. We need everyone out there looking at all of the issues that are bubbling away and the less people calling the shots is not going to work. We need the full count on the council so we have more new people.


4 people like this
Posted by Don't vote for D
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:21 am

The supporters of reducing council size are big development advocates. Every one of them - Kniss, Shepherd, Price, Klein, Drekmeier, Espinosa, Kleinberg, Berman, and the rest. All have voted to support the kind of development we see all over town.
If you want more of what we are getting,support these people.
More secret government, more Grand Jury reports.


Posted by Rupert of Henzau
a resident of Midtown

on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:31 am


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3 people like this
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

Do I count as establishment after living here 37 years? Then vote out the incumbents and reduce the council to 7.


4 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:24 am

A leaner council will lead to shorter council meetings. Fewer will pontificate their opinions, resulting in topics of great public concern being addressed at a more reasonable hour for residents that attend meetings, not 11PM or later.

My vote is for 7 engaged council people that know the populace they represent, listening to them outside of council meetings, hearing our concerns and seeing, first-hand, what issues need to be addressed and why.

Nine council members is way too many. It is not working. Too often the buck is passed. It's easy to do that, with 8 other members and a huge city staff. No one person takes responsibility for things that go wrong. But the same assume credit, when things go well. Let us see some accountability.

Los Altos has only 5 council people, and they are in better communication with each other, and with their community.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:44 am

Los Altos has 5 members because they have very limited commercial business, and do not have a major university to contend with.

Palo Alto has major commercial companies - on S&P 500, government agencies - VA Hospital, an extremely large school system, a university to work with, and an airport with FAA presence.

There is no comparison between Palo Alto vs Los Altos, Los Altos Hill, Menlo Park, Atherton. PA has huge issues to deal with and we cannot have only a few people making decisions on those topics. Especially the few that we have already seen - they do not make the right decisions for the residents.

Council Meetings are recorded - if you do not want to stay up to see your topic of concern then you can catch the recording.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:27 pm

If 7 is better than 9,
then 5 is better than 3,
then 3 is better than 5
then 1 is better than 3...

But 1 is single point of failure..so the next best is 3! Not 7.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:34 pm

It is pretty bizarro that The Establishment are pushing for rapid change and the Insurgents are trying to enforce the comp plan / general plan and have a consistency of 120 years of Palo Alto history.

On the instant matter, Tim Gray, Sea Reddy and I filed this Against Amendment argument with Clerk Donna Grider:

Shall the Palo Alto City Charter be amended to change the number of Council Member seats from nine to seven, commencing on January 1, 2019?

Henry David Thoreau famously said, “who governs best governs least” but in the same essay, “Civil Disobedience” (1849) he also called for what in contemporary terms might be called civic engagement. Or move on.

Keeping the Council composition at nine members rather than the proposed reduction to seven better ensures a representative council, responsive to the spectrum of needs of the people.

In terms of efficiency leadership could learn to be brief.

Palo Alto has a 120-year history on enthusiastic and passionate engagement in local self-governance. The abruptly proposed measure could constitute a breach in that fabric.

Keep it simple. Keep the status quo. Nine is fine. Against the Amendment.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Hey I like your thinking of Hamilton and Jefferson; so that makes me Camp Daniel Webster or Camp Sam Adams. I'll drink to that, either way.

I'm also Camp Jeff Adachi, Camp Zephyr Teachout and Camp Mark Schauer if you care.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Whereas I see the point about a larger group of people having more balance overall, but the old cliché of too many chiefs and not enough Indians come to mind. Over the years in different stages of my life I have sat on many committees. From my experience, the bigger the committee, the longer the meetings, the more discussion gets off topic and the less business gets covered. We need good people on the CC, people who are varied in outlook, and that can be a smaller number to enable the business to get done.

To quote another cliché, quality not quantity, is my considered opinion.


2 people like this
Posted by Srink it!
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:47 pm

City Council should be reduced. It's laughable that Bob Moss blames City Council members for long meetings, because Moss is always there, commenting on NUMEROUS agenda meetings, spurring more discussion. Another change that needs to be made is ELECTING a mayor, instead of the beauty contest that we have, today.

That said, Palo Alto is a wealthy community, so it can afford inefficiencies in government - the political process in Palo Alto is a perfect example of the Peter Principle. It exists as it does because Palo Altans can buy their way out of inefficiencies at the municipal and school board level.


4 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm

This proposal first came before the council in June of last year through a Colleagues Memo by then Vice Mayor Shepherd and council members Kniss and Price, Web Link.
The first item was actually a proposal to extend our city council term limits from two consecutive two year terms to three (12 years). Reduction of the council size was the second item in the same memo. Then mayor Scharff and council member Klein spoke out in support of an even bigger change, complete elimination of term limits. The proposal was to rush both of these changes for city council approval the following Monday to be onto the fall 2013 ballot with very little prior public discussion. Fortunately, a change in state law prohibited these items from going on that ballot. I opposed both the proposal and the poor public process for such significant changes to our city charter. Council members Holman and Schmidt both supported my motion, Web Link (Item 19 staring on page 30).
Because of the delay due to the new state law, the council and the public subsequently had ample opportunity to have a more open discussion of the proposals. Consequently, the term limit change was dropped and only the council size reduction is now going before the voters.
My concern at the time was that the two proposals had the appearance of an effort to consolidate political power in the hands of incumbents, greatly reducing the opportunity for new members of the public to serve. While there are legitimate arguments on both sides of the council size debate, I believe that the community is best served at this time by a more open and inclusive process that would be undermined by reducing our council size.


4 people like this
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Joel is a registered user.

Has anyone ever thought about limiting the members of city council to a number of minutes that they are allowed to speak as they do to the citizens of P.A.? Also, one could conceive of having one Council member represent some of its colleagues to present their arguments rather than each council member have to weigh in on each and every topic. Reducing the Council means that the big bucks people have more of a chance to influence a smaller council and control the democratic process much like our federal government standstill is now.
I'm for keeping the 9 council members untack and finding a process for more efficiency by limiting council members to my above thoughts.


2 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Nine is fine. We need diverse voices and obviously better over-sight and more transparency.

And we should be horrified at the attempt to eliminate term limits.


6 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 19, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I am pretty sure no one will confuse Nancy Shepard with Madison and Hamilton, who by the way, were the authors of the Federalist Papers, not Jefferson. That whole thing is so perfectly Palo Alto -- we're just like the founding fathers, though we have no idea who they were or what they said. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by wow
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm

" Then mayor Scharff and council member Klein spoke out in support of an even bigger change, complete elimination of term limits. The proposal was to rush both of these changes for city council approval the following Monday to be onto the fall 2013 ballot"
Wow. just wow.


7 people like this
Posted by Two too Many
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2014 at 4:24 pm

As it is, council,meetings are so extremely long because every member has to have excessive verbiage on every issue on the agenda that night. Remember, not nearly as many people live in Palo Alto as work here. We do not need nine members. At least not until the population of residents passes 350,000.

The council members should be reduced to a more manageable number, and "time for preaching" should be limited. Also, the city should be divided up into seven districts, and one member from each district elected.

The current situation with nearly all council members living north of Oregon is pretty unfair and biased.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm

Right on Too Many! The city needs represintation.


Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2014 at 2:14 am

Dear Palo Alto residents:

We have a very engaging community with a lot of interesting ideas.

We would want larger representation and it allows new & aspiring people to 'serve' the constituency.

Why reduce?

A. is it cost?
B. is it deliberation process?
C. will we have better decisions with smaller representation?

NOT Hardly. Request you consider all elements and tell us what U think?

It is in your hands (citizens of PA). We can work either way with 7 or 9.

Respectfully







1 person likes this
Posted by 6Djockey
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 20, 2014 at 8:12 am

There are many ways to reduce duration of the Council meetings. Council members could do it themselves just by being more disciplined in how long they talk. Or the Mayor could encourage them to be more succinct. To limit the meeting time by reducing the number of members on Council is a drastic solution. It is clearly a power grab by the development-minded members of Council to let them keep on doin' what they've been doin'. By this time everyone in Palo Alto can see the effects of what they've been doin'. Time for some new blood on the council and that is more likely if we keep the nine seats.


1 person likes this
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 10:46 am

Interesting that the Weekly has seen fit to inquire as to the "establishmnent" of former City Council members about this downsizing issue. It's a shame that the Weekly didn't ask them about the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury's report too. Certainly it would be interesting to learn if any of the former CC members approve of the status quo, or believe that the City government should be more transparent, and CC members honest about their activities with developers.


Like this comment
Posted by wow
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 20, 2014 at 12:01 pm

>The current situation with nearly all council members living north of Oregon is pretty unfair and biased.
This false statement gets repeated. It is not true. Please stop the dis-information.
The bias isn't north vs south. It is big development vs compatible development. South PA's Gail Price supports very big development.
The north is getting more big glass boxes than it can handle, traffic, schools, etc.


Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 2:48 pm

As long as the Council work part-time on an essentially volunteer basis like this, we should leave the number of Councilmembers alone. There are so many committees, reducing the size will end up essentially meaning Council's influence will be reduced while full-time City manager's and City employees' influence will increase. That works against residents and transparency, at least given the influence of developers on our City staff.

Nine is fine. If we ever reduce the number, it should be in the context of creating a full-time, paid Council.

What is the vote wording on this? If I am for keeping the Council the same size, do I vote for or against?

(Will someone please draft Tim Gray for a write-in?!)


1 person likes this
Posted by questions
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm

When would this go into effect if the voters will pass it? Will 2 seats just not be up for re-election?


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry's broken record
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Not-A-Gray-Fan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm

> Will someone please draft Tim Gray for a write-in?

Tim Gray has shown no evidence of having any idea how to manage a large organization. He has heretofore simply stood on the sidelines, making a few observations, and not offending too many people by actually calling a spade a spade. [Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by double standard
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Rupert, Jerry and jerrys broken record all violated the terms of use. Yet one post is still available for registered users to see. Is that post less” offensive” than the others?


1 person likes this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 4:57 pm

@Not-a

Given the primary reason people seem to want a smaller council -- windbaggedness -- Gray's penchant for brevity, diplomacy, and well-chosen input should be a refreshing change.

Neighbors of the Measure D property are big fans because even though Gray doesn't live there, he ended up willing to step in to do key things at key times, and was willing to step up and support the neighbors publicly when they were fighting a political headwind, with well-reasoned statements, long before any of the rest did. He acted fearlessly where most did not.

Quite in contrast to your statement, he was instrumental in setting up the campaign and did a lot of the hard work no one else could, all as an unsung volunteer. He was a great mediator of internal squabbles. He even debated on behalf of the neighborhood along with Bob Moss against the Mayor and a Stanford lawyer, because he was asked, when no one else wanted to do it. He participated in a way that was wholly without ego or artifice, and stepped up in support long before the bandwagon, when he was putting himself out on a limb. He was honest and honorable throughout. Able to consider a lot of different input and take action rather than dither endlessly like so many people here do. And he has a backbone when he's standing up for what he believes in, he's the opposite of someone who sits on the sidelines.

I understand what you are saying, I think Gray's humility and lack of verbosity (he's pithy and not a slick public speaker) doesn't play as well on TV as some, and your opinion is pretty close to what I thought when I first saw him on TV and before I knew Gray and saw how he works. Don't confuse a lack of verbosity with any of that (again, this whole vote seems to hinge on how to rein in Council verbosity.)

Shephard, Scharff, and Berman, after years on the Council, also show no evidence of having any idea how to manage a large organization, but they seem capable of subverting public processes, thwarting the vision of the Comprehensive Plan, and putting developers above residents or any of the important business of the City like safety (remember that?)

The Council doesn't manage the organization, that's what the City manager is for. And to do a good job managing the manager, you have to put the interests of residents above the interests of developers. From what I have seen, Gray would do that better than almost anyone.

I have now posted anonymously, so I can't post as myself, but I am not related to Tim Gray (don't know if moderators can verify that by my URL), I am only someone who became a big fan after watching him over the past 18 months. I wish he would run as a write-in. We wouldn't need to reduce the size of Council to cut the windbaggeness, for one.


4 people like this
Posted by citizens united
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm

It doesn't take a high school diploma to recognize the fewer the number of elected seats, the less money donors or developers have to shell out to get a candidate elected.


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 20, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Interestingly the comments in support of a Tim Gray write-in are consistent with what I think we really need, but not to the extent of reducing council: Tim is someone who has had a significant impact on policy in recent years without ever having been elected.

My model for taking back the city is not seating 3, 4 or 5 Residentialists but getting some kind of input from 200 or 300 or 400 rank-and-file citizens who check power and fill what I think of as a vacuum and a disconnect between recent leadership and the people.

Go, Gray! And yeah you were right about Maybell Against D not leading to a worse case scenario: 30 homes.

Keep in mind that this Measure D was forwarded by leadership and not citizens per se. Burt is right that it is a clinging to power.


Like this comment
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2014 at 12:32 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@double standard

Nothing says that either I or "Jerry's broken record" violated terms of use. I'm guessing mine was deleted because it was a response to Rupert's, which was had been ruled out-of-bounds. Then "Jerry's broken record" got deleted because it was a response to mine, which didn't officially exist anymore.

Got to admit that Rupert had taken us pretty far off the topic of the thread at the time. But you'll notice that I'm not the only one who thinks Measure D was a big deal. (See Citizen's and Mark Weiss's posts above.)


1 person likes this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2014 at 12:58 am

@ Mark Weiss,
Measure D highlighted the fact that in Palo Alto, we do not have an impartial ballot system and that when there is a citizen referendum or initiative, the City gets to write the "impartial" analysis and ballot question. San Francisco is also a charter city and has had an impartial system for 30 years. [Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by fan of Gray
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2014 at 4:45 am

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Not-A-Grey-Fan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2014 at 10:00 am

> Quite in contrast to your statement, he was instrumental in setting up the campaign

The statement made in the previous posting (well, what survived the Censor’s shears) spoke quite directly to the “government” of Palo Alto, not the resident’s movement that resulted in the opposition to Measure D (commonly known as "the Maybell Mess"). One political campaign, manned by volunteers, who were free to operate any way they might choose to operate is hardly a parallel, or even a metaphor, for an organization the size of the City of Palo Alto—which is laden with more than a hundred years of policy, ordinances, not to mention the restraints of the State and Federal government. Gray’s contribution to any of this is difficult to see, and as such, is probably non-existent.

No doubt Mr. Gray is a fine man. But is he a community leader—in the sense that he has grappled with key/core/difficult issues of the day (and the future), providing clarity to the community in terms of white papers, classes, or even views that virtually no one else in this town would be able to provide? It’s hard to see much of a paper trail that indicates Mr. Gray is such a man.

> Shephard, Scharff, and Berman, after years on the Council, also show no evidence
> of having any idea how to manage a large organization

Agreed. That’s why hopefully they will not be returned to office this year.

> The Council doesn't manage the organization, that's what the City manager is for.

While true on face value, the Council’s role is to insure that the City Manager is doing the job he is being paid for—and that requires knowing how to manager a large organization. It means reading the documentation produced by Staff, and demanding that data missing is produced, and that false statements are not allowed to stand, if and when they are promoted by Staff.

From time-to-time, we find ourselves having to create a parallel between city government and private sector organizations. Although not always the best approach to understanding a city council’s role in government, it is not totally unfair to compare them to a Board of Directors. The Boards of most successful companies generally are comprised of seasoned veterans of other successful companies. City Councils all too often are comprised of people who are thought to be “well intentioned”, but have no experience in understanding how organizations work, or even how they should work.

Tim Gray has failed to provide much of an image of someone who should be in charge of any large organization—be it in the private sector, or the public sector.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Editors

It is hardly fair that posts criticizing Tim Gray remain while those supporting him are deleted. This is particularly unfair since Tim Gray is not officially running for election.

You should either remove all posts concerning him, or leaving all of them.


2 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Sep 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm

> the old cliché of too many chiefs and not enough Indians come to mind.

There may also be too many Indians.

Most council meetings in every city run long. It’s one of those problems with democracy and the Brown Act. If council was allowed to meet behind closed doors, none of us would have to sit through those long meetings and listen to residents like Bob Moss question the city's actions.

It's the mayor’s responsibility to stop council members from running off at the mouth. Not likely to ever happen.

I absolutely agree with Not-A-Grey-Fan about the importance of organizational management experience for council members.

Current council will tell you that government is not a business and so we can’t push the analogies. IMHO, it would be better if government did operate more like a business: more accountability, strategic planning, visioning, priority-setting and fiscal responsibility.

A business can’t ask customers for more money when it runs out. A business cuts products that aren’t profitable. A business fires people when they don’t perform. You get the idea.

It’s true that council doesn’t manage the organization, but they do manage the city manager – or should. Without operational management experience, how do they oversee his performance? How do they know not only when city staff is messing up (think Mitchell Park Library), but what should be done about it?

The reason most council members say management experience isn’t necessary is because they don’t have it!


4 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm

History Buff,

What was the link you posted in Doug Moran's topic for the city council candidates' answers to questions? Something about Palo Alto Neighborhoods?

Someone posted it earlier as a separate topic but it seems to have been removed. Thanks in advance.


5 people like this
Posted by Iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Sep 21, 2014 at 9:14 pm

"If council was allowed to meet behind closed doors, none of us would have to sit through those long meetings and listen to residents like Bob Moss question the city's actions."

What??? People criticize the government?? How dare they!!

As George W. Bush remarked in December 2000, a dictatorship is the most efficient form of government. Any history buff could confirm that.


2 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I agree with Resident, especially since not-a-fan is just wrong about Gray. The older I get the more I appreciate that rare person who will move forward based on information and good judgment, even when other people don't have the courage. I found Gray to be fearless, intelligent, and a moderating force. He's also the type who is intelligent enough to figure out what needs to be done even if outside his wheelhouse, His background is finance, though isn't it. Seems like we could use someone with that kind of background.


1 person likes this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 21, 2014 at 10:57 pm

[Post removed; off topic. Begin a new topic if you wish.]


3 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2014 at 9:34 am

To see candidates answers to PAN questions:
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by fan of gray
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Not a fan,

"Tim Gray has shown no evidence of having any idea how to manage a large organization."

I'm distrustful of the batch of people with these "skills." Could mean experience in being a political animal.

This traditional type of experience generally serves particular types, those uncomfortable with disruptive practices.


Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Norman Beamer a resident of Crescent Park said:
> ... theorem that the larger the group, the more likely that a majority vote would reach the correct result.

This is called the Wisdom of Crowds, and is very remarkable. There is a very good book, and at the time a great lecture by the author James Surowieki at Keplers about it.

The thing is that the hypothesis is about people all trying for the same thing ... like to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar, or things like what is the capital of Vermont - it does not really cover the political machinations and intrigues of groups of people who may have various motivations and not really be trying for the same thing ... meaning that the "correct result" Norman is talking about does not really exist for political councils.


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Posted by CrecentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2014 at 11:54 pm

What we have with a large City Council works against the residents of the City in at least two ways.

1) Obscurity, few Palo Altans have the time to follow and remember all the different positions and actions of each council member, and there is no real journalism media to remind us of the slant of each of our council people. In this case less is better, and more reporting and some tables or graphs of votes is important for Palo Altan's to see.

2) Then way we vote for multiple candidates also tends to skew the results towards those with name recognition too much.

I support reducing the council size.


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