In her first council meeting of the year and her final meeting as Palo Alto mayor, Karen Holman won a pair of standing ovations from an overflow crowd and kudos from her colleagues for uniting the once-divided council behind a common vision.
But even as her colleagues unanimously approved a resolution of appreciation for the council's most popular slow-growth "residentialist," they clashed over a proposal by Councilman Tom DuBois to make Holman the vice mayor. Instead, newly elected Mayor Pat Burt joined the four non-residentialist candidates to give that honor to Greg Scharff by a 5-4 vote.
This setback notwithstanding, Holman drew praises throughout the evening from both her colleagues and from members of the public for leading the council at a time of heightened anxiety over growth and development. In addressing the crowd, Holman compared the past 12 months to a cartoon of a "roadrunner zipping across the screen." The council's initiatives in 2015 included instituting an office cap, strengthening rules requiring ground-floor retail and proceeding with the reform of the "planned-community" process.
These initiatives, all of which aim to mitigate the impacts of a hot development market, should help the city "have a stable place to start so that we're not chasing a moving target," Holman said.
"I'm hoping we have a number of things in place at this point in time that will help us focus even more on the Comprehensive Plan," Holman said, referring to the city's decade-long effort to update its land-use bible.
At one point, Holman teared up as she thanked the public for making "this all worthwhile," drawing another round of applause.
"It's you the public that make the place what it is," Holman said. "It's your commitment, your intelligence, your intellect, your experience, your expertise, your time and your care that you care so much about this community."
Shortly before the council voted to adopt a resolution of appreciation, several members of the public offered their own thanks to Holman, a veteran planning commissioner who was soundly re-elected in 2014, earning more votes than any other candidate. Former planning commissioner Arthur Keller thanked Holman for "healing the city and bringing us back together."
"After all, the last election was a very divisive election," Keller said. "In the past, we've had some divisiveness on the City Council. We didn't see any of that this year. This is a testament to the work of Karen in bringing us all together and bringing a spirit of collegiality."
Former Mayor Yoriko Kishimoto thanked Holman for "strong leadership," a "real mastery of the process" and for "bringing out the best in each council member and for "prioritizing and bringing focus to the most important issues." Kishimoto also thanked Holman for "representing the community so well."
And while he voted for Scharff rather than Holman, Burt praised his predecessor for her "real dedication to fairness, not only to all the members of the council but to all the members of the community."
"This is a deeply held value for her and we can all see it over the course of the year and we really value and respect it," Burt said.