Faced with a strong backlash from residents across Palo Alto's political spectrum and angry colleagues who felt disrespected, the City Council majority that had in January abruptly voted to remove the implementing programs from the draft revision to the Comprehensive Plan reversed course with a do-over Monday night.
The mea culpa was offered by Councilman Cory Wolbach, who had authored the surprise Jan. 30 motion to remove the programs and place them in an appendix. After receiving much criticism from the community and members of the Comprehensive Plan's Community Advisory Committee, Wolbach said he wanted to clean up the "mess" he had created. The council unanimously agreed.
It was a welcome move by Wolbach and an attempt to re-establish a more congenial atmosphere on a new council that has been unable to find its bearings.
But unfortunately Wolbach, who ran for City Council in 2014 on a platform that emphasized improving civility in Council interactions, managed to undermine his own attempt at rehabilitation by unleashing needless pot shots at DuBois (for his "inaccurate op-ed" in the Weekly), a former mayor, presumably Pat Burt (for "misrepresentations"), and Board of Education member Todd Collins (for a "hyperbolic and inaccurate" letter to the council expressing concern about the impact on schools of the targeted growth in housing in the draft Comprehensive Plan).
Not exactly the way to re-build bridges.
Councilman Adrian Fine similarly didn't help himself by unapologetically saying that it was "democracy in action" for the council to have reversed its vote after a community outcry over the council's "irrationality." A better form of democracy would be to act more thoughtfully and rationally in the first place.
For his part, Mayor Greg Scharff thankfully pivoted away from the hard-edged leadership posture he has taken thus far and took a notably more constructive and inclusive approach as he effectively led the council through a series of Comprehensive Plan issues that could have ignited new antagonisms among members.
By the end of the evening, Scharff ended up crafting a compromise and joined the four slower-growth council members (DuBois, Filseth, Holman and Kou) in passing a reasonable "preferred" plan for housing and job growth to be used in the final environmental assessment of the revised Comp Plan. We hope to see more of this version of Scharff going forward.