News

After re-election, Palo Alto Vice Mayor Kniss reaps developers' cash

Palo Alto vice mayor gets more than $19,000 in funds -- all reported after election

Ten days after Liz Kniss cruised to an Election Day victory, picking up more votes than any other candidate, contributions continued to flow into her campaign chest.

But unlike the checks that Kniss had received in the months leading up to Nov. 8, most of the new contributions came from developers, builders and property managers, some of whom have been doing business in Palo Alto for decades. A $500 contribution from developer and land-use consultant Jim Baer -- who has developed dozens of "planned community" projects throughout Palo Alto -- was reported as having been received on Nov. 18. The same date is attached to a reported $2,500 contribution from the California Association of Realtors and a $1,000 contribution from Joseph Martignetti, board member at the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing, which develops low-income housing.

There was also a $999 contribution from Charles "Chop" Keenan, whose downtown developments include Whole Foods, Aquarius Theatre and the Varsity Theatre building that now houses Hana Haus. The check, along with three other $999 checks from employees Keenan's company, were all reported as having been received on Nov. 20.

Thoits Brothers, a development firm, contributed $1,875 to the Kniss campaign, and Hatco Associates LLC -- an entity affiliated with Thoits -- gave another $1,250 (both were reported as received on Nov. 20). Other checks that, according to the Jan. 11 campaign filing, were received on Nov. 20 include $999 from Premier Property and a pair of $250 contributions from two employees of Jones Lang LaSalle (a commercial real estate company). Palo Alto Improvement Company gave $1,875, with the amount also reported on Nov. 20.

Altogether, the 27 checks received between Nov. 18 and Nov. 26 total $19,340, with about $16,000 of the total coming from developers, builders and real estate professionals. While the total is dwarfed by contributions that Kniss' opponents in last year's competitive council race received, these contributions stand out because -- unlike others -- they weren't reported until well after residents cast their votes on Election Day.

The contributions are also notable in another way. Several candidates in the race -- most notably Greg Tanaka and Adrian Fine -- were assailed during the campaign by their ideological opponents for receiving "too much" cash from builders. Kniss, by contrast, was largely immune from these criticisms. Though she enjoyed an early fundraising lead in late September and early October, developers made up only a tiny fraction of her supporters. Instead, her list of contributors included former mayors, council members, business executives, neighborhood leaders and even some land-use watchdogs (Bob Moss among them).

State law requires candidates to report within 24 hours every contribution of $1,000 or more that comes from a single source. However, that requirement only applies to the period between Aug. 10 and Election Day. Large contributions that the candidate received after Nov. 8 are not subject to the 24-hour rule. They do, however, need to be listed on the campaign committee's semi-annual filing, which covers the period between Oct. 23 and Dec. 31.

The regulations mean that if checks from Martignetti, Hatco Associates, Palo Alto Improvement Company and Thoits Brothers were received after Nov. 8, the Kniss campaign did not have to legally report them until this month. If they were received before election, the campaign by law was required to report them within 24 hours.

The check from the California Association of Realtors, a political action committee, is listed on Kniss' form as having been received on Nov. 20, well after the election, which means it did not need to be reported before the election. Yet the filing from the committee itself (see page 49) indicates that that it made its donation to Kniss on Oct. 18, which means it should have been disclosed before the election.

When asked about the late reporting of the developers' contributions, Kniss said her intent during most of the campaign was to avoid accepting money from builders. But with candidates Arthur Keller and Lydia Kou -- who favor less aggressive city-growth policies -- receiving more than $100,000 from five local families and her own campaign faced with a $20,000 deficit after Election Day, Kniss changed her stance.

"I think it was clear, since we ended up with two sides in the elections, that they (the developers) were interested in supporting us," Kniss told the Weekly. "And I was willing to be supported when I was $20,000 in the hole at that point."

Yet several developers told the Weekly that they made their contributions well before the election. Baer said he issued his check to Kniss on Oct. 26, nearly two weeks before Nov. 4. Keenan also recalled that Kniss had asked him for money in the late days of the campaign and that he made the contribution shortly before Election Day.

"She came to me late, saying, 'I want some dough. Can you help me?'" Keenan said. "I said 'fine.' I couldn't respond right away because I was in the middle of a closing but I ultimately did.

"I do remember that she didn't think she needed to raise the dough, but then she realized that she did."

There is nothing particularly surprising about the fact that developers supported Kniss in her re-election bid. Since she re-joined the council in 2012, Kniss has had a mixed and moderate record on issues relating to growth. She was part of the five-member majority to support new developments at 441 Page Mill Road and the former Olive Garden site on El Camino Real, both of which were were approved by 5-4 votes. But she also voted against a proposed Mercedes dealership in the Baylands and was in favor of an annual cap on new office development.

In explaining her reluctance to solicit developer' contributions earlier in the campaign, Kniss cited the negative perception that many in the community have of builders.

"One of the reasons I really hesitated on these contributions is because developers really do feel that they are kind of second-class in many ways," Kniss said. "They are reviled, and it's a shame. I'm very aware that in this community, people are questioning developers' (contributions) like they're some sort of bad people."

She also noted that although at least some of the checks were sent in late October, they weren't reported until after the election because her campaign treasurer, Tom Collins, was undergoing rehabilitation after a surgery and was away from home for several weeks in early November. Once he returned, he deposited the checks and reported them accordingly, she said.

She also pointed to her record as proof that she hasn't been influenced by developer contributions and that she isn't "in the pockets" of developers. Her contributors, she said, "wanted to support people who are interested in Palo Alto continuing to thrive and they want to continue to do business here."

Kniss isn't the only winning candidate who reported a late contribution from a developer. Tanaka, a former planning commissioner who finished second behind Kniss in the election, received a $4,500 check from Andrew Wong, whose family has been trying to construct a four-story mixed-use building at 429 University Ave., former site of the boutique Shady Lane. The project has been mired for the past two years in an appeal process, with the council voting in May 2015 to send it back to the drawing board.

On Feb. 6, the downtown project is set to return to the council, which now has three new members (Fine, Tanaka and Lydia Kou) and no longer enjoys a narrow "residentialist" majority.

While Tanaka's finance reports show that the check was received on Nov. 12, Elizabeth Wong, the applicant on 429 University, told the Weekly that the check was sent out before the election. She also emphasized that the contribution was made not to sway Tanaka on the project but to support his vision for Palo Alto. She praised Tanaka for his work on the planning commission.

"It's not tied to the project," Wong said. "I think the city is going down a very negative slope and it is a way to try to bring the city back to what it should be.

"Contributions like this will be made as long as necessary to bring the city back to its senses."

Tanaka, for his part, said he wasn't aware of the $4,500 check before the Weekly alerted him about the contribution. Fundraising for his campaign, he said, was coordinated by volunteers, without direct involvement from himself.

Tanaka also said he has never spoken to the Wong family about the University Avenue project, though he said he knows Andrew Wong and was aware of the fact that he was considering contributing. He also rejected the notion that the contribution would impact his decision on the downtown project.

"I make decisions based on merits of projects and that's it," Tanaka told the Weekly. "I look to see if there is support from residents and if it makes sense for the city or not."

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Comments

72 people like this
Posted by Paul Goldstein
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 20, 2017 at 10:25 am

Paul Goldstein is a registered user.

This is disgusting, and entirely consistent with today's political Zeitgeist.


68 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 20, 2017 at 10:30 am

It seems as if you really CAN fool all the people all the time.


97 people like this
Posted by Deceitful
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 20, 2017 at 10:34 am

Deceitful is a registered user.

Liz Kniss [portion removed] has too many conflicts of interest to be in politics, and never recuses herself.

Kniss should be removed from Palo Alto politics, and if not by the mayor and the rest of the city council, then by due legal process. [Portion removed.]


21 people like this
Posted by Silly rabbit
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2017 at 10:50 am

The story states that the donations were received between November 18-26. That was after election day. So of course they were not reported until after election day! Another poor article that is meant to stir "outrage" by the weekly and increase traffic on this forum. Fake news.


41 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:02 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Depending on what you want from city government, these local politicians are either awesome or shameful.

Lets watch City Council discussions and votes carefully. Unfortunately we are distracted this very day by the master trickster in modern history.


57 people like this
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:04 am

The topic deserves our attention as the Fair Political Practices law requires any donation over $1,000 to be reported. The article indicates that the money was probably received before the election, and was not reported immediately as required by law.

Until the facts are known, it is important that we reserve judgement. It is the voters responsibility to hold candidates accountable.

At least we now know that outside special interest money is funding decisions that go against the best interest of the residents, and will most likely secure funding for Political advancement beyond Palo Alto. We really do need to select candidates that are dedicated to Community Service vs. a convenient launching pad for higher office. [Portion removed.]


59 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

How very special. And she's going to be vice mayor again.

And pay close attention to how the new City Council votes on Stanford's expansion plans.

Remember, they keep telling us their growth will have absolutely no impact on traffic or congestion -- and we're supposed to believe them.


20 people like this
Posted by Silly rabbit
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:12 am

No, Tim the article clearly states the donations were received after the election. And how quickly you forget about the special interest money that went to the slate you supported. The voters selected the candidates they wanted. Unfortunately this article is a poor attempt to stir up the minority, yet vocal PASZ crowd.


78 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:12 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Isn't it shocking, just shocking, that Liz Kniss has been receiving so much developer cash? She has always been their representative on the city council. Having her on the council is the same as having Clop Keenan or Jim Baer on the council.

The only mild surprise is that she keeps fooling so many voters, in this super educated community into supporting her [portion removed.]


58 people like this
Posted by Zibra-Bill
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:13 am

Every day traffic gets worse and worse. City government keeps putting more into our city. Quality of life goes down and the politicians get richer and richer. They are completely selfish.


63 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:13 am

@silly,
You didn't read the whole article. It says the checks were REPORTED as being received after the election, but went on to describe how they have been made and even received before the election.

That's really disturbing that candidates can deficit spend then take, um, donations AFTER an election, thwarting the intent of disclosure. What is it then but a bribe?

Kniss said it was necessary because poor poor developers are a discriminated-against class so therefore she didn't want to be known as taking money from them, then she says "one of the reasons I really hesitated on these contributions [from developers] ..." - Did she just admit that she hesitated to disclose the contributions on purpose because of how it would look? Is that even legal?. Hesitated to ask for them until late in order to avoid disclosure before the election? Again, for the same reason, is that even legal? She should at a minimum return these donations to avoid the appearance that developers have just bought her (or already had, she just didn't want voters to know).



53 people like this
Posted by Prakesh
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:52 am

I never understood the attraction to voters of Liz Kniss. Clearly she is owned by development interests. Do voters not understand this, or are they okay with it?


40 people like this
Posted by Prakesh
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:56 am

"One of the reasons I really hesitated on these contributions is because developers really do feel that they are kind of second-class in many ways," Kniss said. "They are reviled, and it's a shame. I'm very aware that in this community, people are questioning developers' (contributions) like they're some sort of bad people."

They, or at least some of the, are reviled for good reasons, and yes, many of them are bad people.

Look at the developer who violated the development agreement at Edgewood PlaZa, and the things they've also done, and not done, in Newark, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale.

That's not to say that there aren't some ethical developers, but the bad ones hurt the reputation of all of them.


59 people like this
Posted by Prakesh
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 20, 2017 at 11:59 am

Liz Kniss and Adrian Fine should resign.


13 people like this
Posted by Silly rabbit
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Prakesh- shall we ignore that kniss and fine were elected by the residents of palo alto. If you are so upset then start a recall.

[Portion removed.]


49 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2017 at 12:58 pm

[Portion removed.] Let's have some more manufactured outrage about the donations to Kuo and Keller which now we know didn't even come close to leveling the playing field among the two slates of candidates given all the developer money going to Kneiss and Fine.

Someone tell me again why it's the City Council that selects the mayor and the vice mayor and gets to appoint the commission members. And if they don't like the candidates for the commissions, they simply delay the appointments in the hopes of finding another Kate Downing.

Democracy sure was an interesting concept and was nice while it lasted.

I also want to know if Mr. Fine is going to recuse himself from the discussions and votes on Stanford's growth. His mother works there just like Mr. Dubois's wife although Mr. Fine's mother works in the real estate development office so it's an even more egregious conflict of interest.


32 people like this
Posted by myopinion
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2017 at 1:04 pm

The only people who would truly represent the interests of their constituents (vs special interests) are people who have no desire to be a politician, which is unfortunate. I guess the local swamps need to be drained too.


25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2017 at 1:25 pm

"The only people who would truly represent the interests of their constituents (vs special interests) are people who have no desire to be a politician, which is unfortunate."


Actually those kind of people do run - Arthur Keller. But you didn't vote for him, you prefer the kind of people this article talks about. So you get the city you want.


3 people like this
Posted by conflicts
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2017 at 1:34 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Kniss received a $1,000 donation from developer Boyd Smith (WSJ Properties) on September 16, and returned it on September 29.


50 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2017 at 1:55 pm

@Resident,
Interesting, she returned the checks before the election, but not the ones she reported after. More evidence that she knew what she was doing and was deliberately skirting transparency rules.


55 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 20, 2017 at 2:01 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

When you experience terrible traffic, clogged roads, ever decreasing air quality, ever increasing noise, ever decreasing quality of life and increasing urban blight in Palo Alto, be aware that no local politician is more responsible for it than Liz Kniss. Than you will realize why finding out about the contribution by the developers to her campaign is the least surprising and most predictable local news you will ever read.


5 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2017 at 2:39 pm

It bears some pondering: long-standing politicians like Kniss tend to dominate affairs here, unfortunately. OTOH, she does have experience, some of which, certainly, is needed to function best in a high-tech important city like Palo Alto.
What I wish is that our local city council persons (not: politicians, since in my opinion, they should not designate their political affiliation at that level of government) should represent the interests of Palo Alto residents on city matters and also represent our interests effectively when associating with regional interests - other local cities, the state of California, etc. Some percentage of the time this occurs, but not always.
I am currently confused as to the official stature of the City of Palo Alto with respect to California High Speed Rai, something I noticed today in local media (sorry, don't have reference) was stated to expect to be 50% over budget (already astronomical). I do NOT consider this representing my interests well, at all, nor expending my tax money effectively. But - would our city officials dare to oppose Governor Jerry Brown on his pet project even though common sense says they ought to---I wonder...vs. one's future in California in the Democratic Party. Which is more important to the residents of the City of Palo Alto?l


13 people like this
Posted by Myopinion
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2017 at 3:26 pm

@resident. How do you know who I voted for??? Do you work for Palantir?


52 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "She also noted that although at least some of the checks were sent in late October, they weren't reported until after the election because her campaign treasurer, Tom Collins, was undergoing rehabilitation after a surgery and was away from home for several weeks in early November. Once he returned, he deposited the checks and reported them accordingly, she said."

Depositing checks in the bank and entering that information in the reporting forms is neither difficult nor onerous. Is Kniss telling us that she was unable to get any of her supporters to step in to do this? Or that failing this, she lacked the ability to perform this legally mandated task?

Implausible. Instead this appears to be an transparent maneuver to avoid the required timely reporting.

There is no ambiguity about what the definition of "received" is. The law states "In general, a monetary contribution is made on the date that the
contribution is mailed, delivered, or otherwise transmitted to the
candidate or committee." (Web Link Manuals/Manual_5/Manual_5_Ch_2_Contributions.pdf ) Kniss' treatment of "received" as "date of deposit" is contrary to the law.


47 people like this
Posted by Whoa
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Before the election Gennady Sheyner wrote article after article lauding Kniss, Fine and Tanaka and casting suspicion on Keller and Kou. After they're elected and the smoke clears, he writes that, gasp, Kniss received large donations from developers. What's up?


3 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2017 at 4:49 pm

@Resident... you are right I did not vote for Arthur Keller, the world does not revolve around Palo Alto, which I know is shocking. There is life south of San Antonio Road.


36 people like this
Posted by The Shadow Nose
a resident of University South
on Jan 20, 2017 at 5:15 pm

"This is disgusting, and entirely consistent with today's political Zeitgeist."

Also consistent with yesterday's political Zeitgeist. Mayor Dena Mossar received "nearly $10,000" in campaign contributions from the developer of 800 High Street when she pushed the controversial project through the City Council in 2003 (Web Link , third letter).


62 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Anyone running for City Council, and especially anyone running for a second term, knows that contributions received a few day before the election do not have to be reported until after the election. Kniss used this loophole to hide contributions she received from developers from the voters.

The fact that Kniss was able to coordinate this legal form of deception with developers, just shows how cozy her relationship with developers really is. Liz Kniss is part of the development industry's ecosystem... a system of informal, essentially business relationships, that exist between want-to-be politicians and the development and construction industries that extends beyond Palo Alto, all the way to Sacramento.

Wake up Palo Alto. It is not 1972 anymore, and this isn't the Democratic party of George McGovern.


8 people like this
Posted by Paco
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2017 at 7:08 pm

[Post removed.]


46 people like this
Posted by Violation of Campaign Laws
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 20, 2017 at 8:14 pm

If Liz Kniss was receiving campaign donations in October and not reporting them then it sounds like she is in violation of campaign finance laws. What are the steps to start a formal investigation?


34 people like this
Posted by Cate
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2017 at 10:05 pm

Remember - the Weekly endorsed Keller, Kou, Kniss and Fine. Not Tenaka. Tenaka is a disaster - though on planning commission for years, he knows very little about land use or process. [Portion removed.]

To think we lost Keller for Tenaka.

Greg Tenaka, Liz Kniss - step down.


2 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 12:03 am

Nobody is accusing Kniss of giving land developers preferential treatment as a quid pro quo for these contributions... all I'm saying is teach the controversy


19 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 21, 2017 at 8:42 am

Had I known this about Tenaka, I never would have voted for him. I'd be willing to help with a recall campaign should one be started. If we don't stop these con people from manipulating voters, it will never stop.


3 people like this
Posted by Paco
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 21, 2017 at 9:46 am

What a pity!


30 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2017 at 10:31 am

@Mike,
Getting the ball rolling on a recall is the hard part, not getting help. Luckily, the info is readily available online and from the City Clerk. Consulting an appropriate lawfirm also could help. Get together with like minded citizens. Whether a recall succeeds or not, these issues need serious sunlight.

For Kniss in particular to make such a public admission. Imagine a similar statement if it were the NAACP ... 'I was reluctant to take money when I had to disclose it because of how it would look to take money from black people' or if it were the mob ' I was reluctant to take money when I had the disclose it before the election because of how it might affect my voters if I were known to take money from the mob' You get the idea.

The reason for the disclosure is so people can know those things, and Kniss, Tanaka, and Fine made such a campaign issue of their opponents getting funded by actual residents of Palo Alto.

Seriously, though, how can it be legal to donate to a campaign after it is over? That totally thwarts the intent of disclosure and cimes across like a naked bribe.


21 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2017 at 12:09 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

"Nobody is accusing Kniss of giving land developers preferential treatment as a quid pro quo for these contributions... all I'm saying is teach the controversy.."

So the fact she has been historically, arguebly the most pro development, pro urbanization Palo Alto politician (although Cory Wolbach is showing the potential to catch up to her), is not a quid pro quo for their contributions, which didn't start in the last election cycle?


12 people like this
Posted by so what?
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 21, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Unlike Wolbach, Kniss had a previous term on the CC and voters knew knew exactly they'd get (solidly pro-development politician) when voting for her. Apparently that's what the majority of Palo Alto voters wanted.


18 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Are demonstrations allowed at city councils? Are their police present to prevent them?

Can Kniss be called out in front of the council during meetings?


23 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Or, the voters believed Kniss and Scharff when they claimed they had turned over a new leaf and weren't as prodeveloper as all that. Recall please that Kniss Scharff and Fine made a stink about their opponents claiming they were pro developer and taking developer contributions. People rrusted Kniss. Now you are saying voters should be responsible for when candidates [portion removed] cover up? She should give back the money and resign. (Remember potgate, this is so much worse.)


22 people like this
Posted by You voted for THEM
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Don't forget Tanaka also received $4,500 from a person associated with a developer who will have a project coming before Council very soon, it's the former Shady Lane building, 429 University. In addition, during the campaign, the architect representing 429 University, provided space on his rooftop for Tanaka's campaign sign. I wonder if the space rental was filed as a campaign donation? Does anyone know?

Well, all I can say is...you voted for them... and ultimately for the Mayor and Vice Mayor.


3 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 3:10 pm

The echo chamber is getting awfully loud...


7 people like this
Posted by The City With The Big Fishes
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 3:12 pm

[Post removed.]


22 people like this
Posted by Louder and Louder
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Let's make the echo chamber even more awfully louder depending on how Kniss, Tanaka and Fine votes on 429 University.


11 people like this
Posted by @PAFreePress
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2017 at 4:17 pm

@BP

Are demonstrations allowed at city councils? Are their police present to prevent them?

Can Kniss be called out in front of the council during meetings?

Yes, of course. Its your 1st amendment right. But remember council chambers are technically a quasi court room and court rules apply. Police were called into chambers several years ago on police critic and attorney Aram James by city council member Jack Morton...


20 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2017 at 4:59 pm

"the info is readily available online and from the City Clerk. Consulting an appropriate lawfirm also could help."

The City Clerk works for the city council, not for you. That office is renowned for giving bad advice, which has torpedoed at least one referendum attempt. Get a competent attorney's guidance.


35 people like this
Posted by Cowper St
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Palo Alto needs to drain the swamp. Kniss is nothing but another career politician.


23 people like this
Posted by The usual suspects
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 21, 2017 at 8:29 pm

Congratulations weekly. You have managed to generate outrage, which leads to people visiting your site. Of course, the outrage you generated is towards a candidate that you have heartily endorsed in every election she ever ran in. And unfortunately for you the overwhelming majority of voters voted for her last election. [Portion removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2017 at 6:12 am

Several of the city council members own commercial property in town. That's why they serve on the city council, to
influence their interests. duh


36 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2017 at 8:05 am

In my opinion, Kniss's and Tanaka's actions were unethical - clearly she was concerned about the voters knowing she was supported by developers. It does not seem reasonable to me that a candidate would have a "deficit" of $20,000 in their campaign spending, and then after the election, without having some understanding or quid pro quo, that developers would provide contributions to make up that deficit. And the fact that several of the contributions were received before the election, and reported after the election is a violation of the law, and she should be reported to the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Kniss who has run for office many times before knows the law, and decided the law doesn't apply to her.

Here is the website for the California Fair Political Practices Commission

Web Link


15 people like this
Posted by Words Matter
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2017 at 10:24 am

I wish the Palo Alto Weekly would reconsider its use of the term "developer." To develop is "to grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate." What we really mean in this case is "a wealthy real estate builder." Others who "develop" are not all wealthy, nor are they considering only what they can persuade government "leaders" (elected as a result of the money they provide them) to accept, but rather are considering human scale, human needs, sustainability, environmental impact, aesthetic appeal, what makes for good, strong communities of people who get along well and support one another. Instead, Palo Alto's wealthy builders seem intent on turning our city into high-rise wind tunnels, and a place in which we can scarcely see that we are surrounded by mountains and the Bay, a place where the area's wonderful climate and sun has a hard time finding its way to the people on the ground due to all the buildings. This is not mature, or advanced, and it's only some people's version of "elaborate," which may not be what is desired by the majority. Palo Alto has not in the past been about "elaborate." It has been about community, education, and thoughtful citizens. These have been the reasons so many have wanted to live in this city, not the fact that there are start-ups and high-rises and fancy restaurants. People respond slowly - lives are built, homes and friends are made, but we will lose the essential character of this city if all we do is let wealthy real estate builders dictate the ways in which they will build and build and build until there is none of the valuable character left at all in Palo Alto, and instead only the wealthy builders and the shady wind tunnels of their soulless creations.


27 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Really, is anyone surprised at this? It would appear that we have our first, unabashed, in your face, coin operated council member.


22 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Good reporting job, Weekly! [Portion removed.] And, wondering who reminded who of writing $999 checks to avoid the $1,000 reporting laws.


24 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Oldster's post is pretty funny; Keenan may have written the requested check but he didn't do Ms. Kniss any favors in the way he described the asking. Also find Ed's phrase, "Coin Operated Council Member", quite clever.

These are old games that underscore how easy it is to circumvent existing campaign financing rules. Kniss and Fine and Tanaka could help their credibility by recusing themselves from voting on any project associated with a property owner or developer that funded their campaigns. This is obviously not something they are required to do, but it would be a mighty impressive act of personal responsibility from an ethics perspective. And there's no reason why other Council members shouldn't do the same. Get all the money you can from whoever you can, fine, but use it only to fund your campaign and get you on the Council, not to influence or determine your votes.


8 people like this
Posted by Analyze
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2017 at 3:37 pm

The fact that some council candidates amassed $100,000 or more for their campaigns threw the 2016 elections into a new and stratospheric level of expenditures unparalleled in past council elections. This situation necessitated additional contributions and those made by "developers" were small in comparison to the above-mentioned contributions made by others. Slamming “developers” for their contributions to local candidates is ridiculous, especially in light of the lop-sided fundraising in this Palo Alto Council race. That’s the whole idea of fundraising for local campaigns; candidates present their ideas and the voters support the candidates of their choice. Developers who are residents and voters have this right also.

Unlike developers who risk their money on a project and sell their project for profit at its completion, the "developer" in Palo Alto usually (1) is a local resident of Palo Alto, (2) cares deeply about the City, its past and its future, (3) improves the commercial and/or residential property he owns, (4) pours his hard-earned money back into Palo Alto and (5) contributes to to the City in time and money and to local causes such as the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo.

The Palo Altan developer and his reasonable developments should be welcome: his improved properties are reassessed at higher values after completion, retail ambiance is improved thereby increasing sales tax revenues to the City and development impact fees assessed on each development pays to improve schools, parks, libraries, infrastructure.

This year the City will have a deficit of at least $4 million, a school district deficit of about $3.8 million, over $388 million in employee retirement debt, and all after the huge increases in revenue from the hotel tax passed recently.


28 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Analyze @ Community Center - The article is about the ethics and legality of
(1) receiving campaign contributions before the election but not reporting them until after the election,
(2) having a deficit in campaign spending before the election, and then receiving contributions to make up the deficit after the election (there by avoiding timely campaign reporting).

Campaign contribution reporting laws are there to inform the voters of who are trying to influence the candidate.

The city council should rethink their vote to have Kniss as Vice-Mayor. Their vote making her vice-mayor is condoning this attitude of "the rules don't apply to me".


18 people like this
Posted by conflicts
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 22, 2017 at 11:40 pm

-Kniss received a $1,000 donation from developer Boyd Smith (WSJ Properties) on September 16, and returned it on September 29 -
This is show business. The point is that big developer Boyd Smith expressed his support. She didn't return the later donations.
In any event a thousand dollars to an extremely wealthy person like Kniss, is peanuts. But it shows developer Smith's support for her.


33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2017 at 7:50 am

@Mike
"Had I known this about Tenaka, I never would have voted for him. I'd be willing to help with a recall campaign should one be started. If we don't stop these con people from manipulating voters, it will never stop."


Mike, that isn't really good enough. You had your chance and you used it. You probably voted that way because the Chamber of Commerce or the Democratic Party promoted all these people. The Chamber is a mouthpiece for developers, and the Democratic Party doesn't care squat about Palo Alto or anybody else except themselves and their donors.

Next time wise up.


19 people like this
Posted by Chris Gaither
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 23, 2017 at 9:59 am

Tanaka simply should return the money to the Wongs, so as not to have any perceived conflict of interests. This is a no brainer.


18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm

So the cat is out of the bag. From this point forward there needs to be total transparency on any new project, or projects in the planning stages, as to who is financially sponsoring the project(s). The includes the financing and the developer - probably more than one funding source. Since we seem to have a track record now as to who is donating to the various CC members then we should be able to track the projects as to special interests. Once it is established as to who is benefiting from donations based on approved projects then other actions can be formulated as to how we go forward. We do not want a "pay to play" environment. That could have legal ramifications. The information on funding for projects should be incorporated into the legal documents for any project.


11 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 24, 2017 at 10:32 am

As Ed wrote about a "coin operated council member" - those of us outraged by such clear shaking down for coins by politicians might waive quarters in the air at City Council meetings when those who took any campaign money from anyone or any organization are voting on an issue which could benefit that person or entity. That way they don't have to recuse themselves but just face the consequences of the free press and free speech.

Looking forward to the Weekly publishing regulary updated full lists of which elected candiates got what from whom, especially on any development projects or City staff salary and benefits increases. Money and an endorsements list, too, would be helpful to judge where our local politicians' safety spaces truly lie. If the prss does not do that, does anyone thin the elected officials would remind a City Council audience?


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2017 at 7:03 pm

"... those of us outraged by such clear shaking down for coins by politicians might waive quarters in the air at City Council meetings when those who took any campaign money from anyone or any organization are voting on an issue which could benefit that person or entity."

Waving dollar bills would be more picturesque and dramatic. Also, it would be nice to know how much of this cash is in response to a shakedown, vs. being a tacit advance retainer.


14 people like this
Posted by conflicts
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2017 at 11:47 am

Developer Doug Ross's 800 High Street also received support of in-kind donations from Bern Beecham and Judy Kleinberg and he reciprocated in their campaigns for reelection to the city council.

Both have continued in subsequent support for developers after leaving the council, Beecham on various boards supporting development, and Kleinberg now heading the developer-dominated Chamber of Commerce.


4 people like this
Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Yes, ye olde revolving door is alive and well in this town.

Besides dollar waving (yes. that's a better visual, Curmudgeon, than waving quarters) we could also have some carosel brass rings since that's what these polticians riding their carosel horses are really doing. Round and round we go... when will anything ever really change?


4 people like this
Posted by Silly rabbit
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2017 at 1:47 pm

The reliable local paper, the daily post, reported today that the california FPPC looked into the matter abs found that kniss did nothing wrong. Funny how the weekly has made no mention of this fact.


8 people like this
Posted by conflicts
a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2017 at 1:43 pm

I can't wait for a report on Kniss. She has gotten away with so much, counting on her old friends from Below Market advocates whom she has long forgotten, and big bucks from developers, always.

Her well practiced sweet talk to speakers at the Council, or in the room, are predictable and cringe-worthy.

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by conflicts II
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 29, 2017 at 2:04 pm

The developers certainly got their money's worth now that ADUs are permitted with NO occupancy limits and no limit on how much can be charged. Too bad about our privacy and our parking.

But let's makethe RESIDENTS pay for the commuters who over-run us and make us prisoners in our own homes because of gridlock. We wouldn't want to penalize those poor poor businesses or developers for the mess they've made.

What's happening with the Tanaka investigation? He's still working busily to double the city's revenue from residents.


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