News

Karen Holman wins mayor's seat in Palo Alto

Greg Schmid edges out Pat Burt in race for vice mayor

Signaling a philosophical and political shift in City Hall, Palo Alto's new City Council on Monday night elected Karen Holman and Greg Schmid as its mayor and vice mayor for 2015.

With a crowd of more than 200 people filling up every bench, folding chair and standing-room spot in the newly refurbished Council Chambers, the council swore in five members, bid farewell to three and handed over the leadership positions to two people long accustomed to casting minority votes.

Both Holman and Schmid have distinguished themselves in recent years by their skeptical and at times adversarial positions toward new developments and by slow-growth philosophies that made them popular with the city's "residentialists."

By unanimously electing Holman as mayor, the council broke with a long-held tradition of having the prior year's vice mayor assume the mayor's chair. In this case, it was outgoing Vice Mayor Liz Kniss who nominated Holman, who was sworn in earlier in the meeting to her second council term after emerging as the leading vote getter in the November 2014 election.

Kniss observed that Holman would be only the 13th female mayor in the city's history and said she believes Holman can be "a very effective next woman mayor." Before nominating Holman, Kniss noted that the city has just gone through "a really difficult election," a time when "our community became divided" and when "neighbors actually stopped chatting with each other and lots of conversations around the community became uncomfortable and awkward."

The city, she said, now has the "right person" to bring the community together. Councilman Pat Burt, who has often voted along with Holman on land-use issues and who served with her on the Planning and Transportation Commission, quickly agreed and added his voice to the nomination.

"She is a voice that's trusted and respected by those who agree with her and those who do not," said Burt, who had nominated Holman for vice mayor in both 2013 and 2014 but could not muster majority support in either year.

In accepting the nomination, Holman said she plans to focus the next year on reforming the city's architectural-review process, improving staff reports to make information "better and easier to understand," increase retail opportunities and strengthening neighborhoods.

"As your new mayor, I will provide inclusive leadership to address these and other issues," Holman said.

Schmid's election was far more suspenseful, with the retired economist edging out Burt by a single vote for the second leadership position. Greg Scharff nominated Schmid for the vice mayor spot, with Kniss, Marc Berman, Cory Wolbach and Schmid himself joining in with votes of support. Holman, Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth and Burt cast their paper ballots in favor of Burt.

Both Burt and Schmid were elected to the council in 2007 and were re-elected to second terms in 2012. But while Burt had served as mayor in 2010, Schmid has not held a leadership position until now. Both Schmid and Burt have been associated with the "residentialist" camp and Burt said in a brief statement before the vote that he believes Schmid would "serve well as vice mayor."

While Filseth nominated Burt, his choice fell one vote short. With each candidate receiving four votes, the final paper ballot, cast by Wolbach, had Schmid's name on it.

In nominating Schmid, Scharff lauded his "encyclopedic knowledge," commitment to transparency and work ethic. He also praised Schmid's role as past chair of the council's Finance Committee and Regional Housing Mandate Committee.

"Greg is one of the most hardworking council members we have," Scharff said. "He just knows every detail on everything in the packet."

In brief remarks before the vote, Schmid focused on the role of the City Council and said there are two "great and unique things" about local government.

"It's easy for the public, for individuals, to participate," Schmid said. "And two, it may take a long time, but in contrast to other levels of government like the state and federal, it always produces a decision."

The meeting began with a swearing-in ceremony for the five members who won council terms last November: incumbents Scharff and Holman and newcomers DuBois, Filseth and Wolbach.

The meeting was also the swan song for three outgoing members, each of whom received a standing ovation and a resolution of appreciation in his or her honor. Councilman Larry Klein concluded on Monday a council career that spanned nearly two decades and three terms as mayor. Klein, who served on the council in the 1980s before returning in 2007, was termed out at the end of last year.

Gail Price concluded her first term last year but chose not to run for another term. Nancy Shepherd did run for a second term but could not win re-election during a heated race in which voters handed the council majority to proponents of slow growth.

Comments

10 people like this
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 6, 2015 at 8:31 am

This is a very balanced council that is dedicated to transparency, and I know will work hard to include a broader range of residents as Citizen participation will increase in response to the welcoming philosophy of this group.

I am optimistic that this group will not hand us another Grand Jury investigation, another costly move against the residents like the Maybell project, will not try to spin-off park land in back-room deals, and will not bully the residents by pushing the council desires over the wishes and needs of the citizens. Perhaps we might even see some regional cooperation vs. the "not invented here" attitude of the past.

I see a kinder and wiser Council in the next two years -- this is a great group of leaders. Never-the-less, we will be watching.

Best regards,

Tim Gray


10 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2015 at 10:17 am

I appreciated the fact that Wolbach corrected the record when a public speaker said that Mayor Holman supported the ban on car camping. In fact, she opposed the ban.


5 people like this
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 6, 2015 at 10:46 am

It is a great day for Palo Alto citizens.

We have Karen.
We have Greg as vice-mayor.

It could not get any better with what we have to work with.

Let's work to support them.

Respectfully


3 people like this
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 6, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Joel is a registered user.

Congratulations to Karen and Greg as well as all the new council members. Looking forward to less controversy and divisiveness, I hope. There are three significant Palo Alto concerns for me.
Traffic, Traffic, Traffic
Good Governing to all.
Joel


Like this comment
Posted by oops, they did it again
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 6, 2015 at 4:22 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 6, 2015 at 4:52 pm

I am optimistic. I got a front row seat thanks to Cory Wolbach. Haven't hobnobbed with so many city, county, and state government officials, and other dignitaries from the community, in years, both current and long retired. It was a good and important event, even though ceremonial....and too long! I heard a lot of good words from speakers on many subjects...civility and transparency came up several times. And if last night was a precursor of this year's council meetings I think we have made big strides in getting some of the nasty past behind us so we can move on in a more positive way.

And I thank Cory for taking the lead on that and for taking the high road in his campaign. Last night was all handshakes, hugs, kisses, kind words, to and about each other. I hope it lasts. The rubber hits the road next Monday though when the Buena Vista issue will be on the agenda. Will the gloves come off and the bare knuckle fist fight start again? I say 'no'. There were enough of us there last night to hear the new council's commitment and they know they rely on us to vote for them the next time around. Are you listening council? All in favor say 'aye'. All lights lit up green. It's a sign of good days ahead!

Council members, now that I'm getting involved again, on the sidelines , I will track your voting records. Don't treat that as a threat...but just to my renewed involvement and interest in city government.

You all do so much to serve our community. Thank you!



1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Besides the election of Holman as Mayor,which was expected,the only meaningful moment of last night's lovefest was Holman's very good laying out of the agenda including first the importance of improving the design review process through the ARB. She wants to tackle the issues - she needs 5 votes including her own and she should have them. We need a complete
reorientation here by the City Council and staff, nothing less.


2 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2015 at 7:56 pm

Congratulations to Karen Holman. Let's hope that the new city council fires the City Manager, Jim Keene. We need a more competent manager. A manager that has integrity and is knowledgeable. A manager that is less defensive, and truly cares about Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Art
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 6, 2015 at 8:50 pm

I think Jim Keene and the City Staff have done a remarkable job navigating the City during these past few turbulent years. Sure there have been ups and downs, and some missteps, the latter magnified by the cynics and some in the press. But by and large the city is in good hands. His 'Year in Review', while a bit long for the audience to sit through (clearly he doesn't have experience in being allowed to speak before the Council for only 3 minutes), showed off many of the impressive achievements of the entire Staff, from Utilities to Public Works. The room broke out in applause when he mentioned the new Mitchell Park Library - not just because it has finally been opened after failings by the contractor, but because it is a really glorious place, and already widely used and appreciated by the citizens.


3 people like this
Posted by Not-A-Holman-Fan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2015 at 11:26 pm

> not just because it has finally been opened after failings by the contractor

Guess we will never know exactly what happened with the management of the MP Library--since the matter was settled out of court. The records will probably all disappear within a year or two, since there are no mandatory requirements for maintaining these sorts of records, and it's hard to believe that Keene won't want them destroyed as soon as possible.

It's doubtful that Karen Holman will be doing anything to insure that these records are not destroyed, even though she claimed that "transparency" was one of the poles of her re-election campaign. Given her lack of honesty where the Arrillaga/27 University project was concerned--there is no reason to believe that she will do anything to make Palo Alto City Government better, or more transparent, than it has been in the past.

It's a real shame that the City Manager's job is not put on the ballot every couple of years, giving the residents and taxpayers a chance to have a say about his performance, and whether he should continue to control the management of the City and its finances.

It's pretty safe to say that when Holman's year is over, none of her objectives will have been completed, and there will be little evidence of just how much has been achieved towards the goals that she claims are hers.

Holman's contributions to the City have been virtually nil, to date. It's hard to believe that she will achieve much more in the coming year.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 7, 2015 at 7:39 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Go Karen.


2 people like this
Posted by Please dont fire me
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2015 at 11:35 am

Art said - the Manager's 'Year in Review', while a bit long for the audience to sit through (clearly he doesn't have experience in being allowed to speak before the Council for only 3 minutes)"

It was an outrageous power grab.
Hundreds of people came to celebrate the newly elected councilmembers and the Manager got the agenda re-arranged took close to an hour praising himself and his staff. His PR staff did a lot of work preparing so many pictures on Powerpoint slides.
I didn't hear much about the Grand Jury report or the overbudget and years of delay on the Mitchell Park library but it might have been buried in the unending drone.

The audience became restless, people were checking their phones for mail and shifting in their seats. By the end of the meeting about 3/4 of the audience was gone. Thanks to the City Manager.
It was a job interview pleading, Please don't fire me.


2 people like this
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2015 at 11:46 am

Keene's year in review filibuster that was moved from last year's agenda by him and defeated Mayor Nancy Shepherd was not a "job interview pleading". Together with the long speeches by Kniss and Shepherd it was just a way to hijack the celebration for the newly elected Council Members, Mayor, and Vice Mayor. Keene fully expects he will again be working for last year's majority when new Council Members take office in two years to replace Burt and Schmid.


1 person likes this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2015 at 3:44 pm

> “Given [Holman’s] lack of honesty where the Arrillaga/27 University project was concerned--there is no reason to believe that she will do anything to make Palo Alto City Government better, or more transparent, than it has been in the past.”

HUH? Holman was the ONLY council member who questioned the serial meetings around the 7.7 acres that Arrillaga wanted to buy from the city for $175,000. She even asked the city attorney about the process – and got no response.

It was Keene and his staff who were holding meetings with Arrillaga even before the council knew what was going on.


1 person likes this
Posted by Not-A-Holman-Fan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2015 at 4:05 pm

> Holman was the ONLY council member who questioned the serial meetings around
> the 7.7 acres that Arrillaga wanted to buy from the city for $175,000.
> She even asked the city attorney about the process – and got no response.

Really? So .. where is the paper trail that a person committed to the rule of law, and transparency, should have left to insure that she would be seen as doing the right thing, should it come to that?

Did she file a complaint with the City Attorney? Did she write up a guest opinion for the three local papers? Did she make a complaint to the Santa Clara Grand Jury? Did she even try to get a so-called colleague's memo put together--and make it clear who would, and would not, sign it?

Maybe it's true that she did mention this quietly to someone--but it's very clear that she did not take the bull by the horns and say: "I have taken an oath to uphold the law, and I intend to fulfill that obligations to the voters who entrusted me with this office." No, Karen Holman seems to have simply shrugged her shouldiers and done nothing to put an end to Keene's illegal activities.

By the way, did Holman vote yes, or no, to the pay raises that Keene was awarded, at least one of which was after the 27 University fiasco came to light? If she voted yes, what does that say about her integrity?


2 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 7, 2015 at 5:11 pm

It seems that the criticism being directed at Karen Holman could be leveled against any of the incumbents. None of them acted in a truly forthright and honorable way in the various Arillaga affairs.

Still, someone had to be selected as Mayor, and from my perspective, Karen is clearly the best choice. She has been on the right side of the issues far more often than any of the other councilors.


Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 8, 2015 at 10:00 am

This is 2015

Let's forget most of 2014 elections.

Please see some thing positive coming.

We have Greg to give us city hall updates in an honest way.

Let's trust Karen to keep us moving.

And we have slow growth team.

What is not right?

Just spend your free hours in the beautiful Mitchell park library.

Believe me; life is not going to get any better!

You do not believe me, take a trip to LA or Fresno or for that matter to Budapest or Paris.

Respectfully


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