Alison Cormack joins City Council race | News | Palo Alto Online |


Alison Cormack joins City Council race

Community volunteer is best known for her work to pass library bond

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A decade after Alison Cormack spearheaded Palo Alto's push to rebuild its library system, the Midtown resident preparing for another citywide campaign -- this time, for a seat on the City Council.

Cormack, who has worked for Hewlett-Packard and Google, is best known at City Hall for her work to pass Measure N in 2008. The $76-million bond campaign allowed the city to reconstruct the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and make major upgrades to the Downtown and Rinconada libraries.

Cormack had also served on the Palo Alto Library Foundation, a nonprofit that raised $4.5 million for furniture and equipment at the new libraries (having accomplished its mission, the foundation folded in 2015). Cormack was recognized for her contributions to local libraries in 2012, when she received a Tall Tree award in the "outstanding citizen" category.

In a statement, Cormack told the Weekly that after observing the current council, she fundamentally believes that it could improve in three areas -- working together, focusing on project outcomes and insisting on better communication with residents.

"We all know that getting people in Palo Alto to agree can be a challenge," Cormack said. "I've proven that I can bring people together on a contentious issue and get big projects done with a positive outcome. And we definitely have some big projects that need to get done!"

Cormack, who is currently traveling, plans to officially kick off her campaign later in the spring, when she plans to start walking the neighborhoods and talking to residents.

She told the Weekly that she had spent a full year weighing a possible council run. During that time, she had regularly attended council meetings and went to each of the city's board and commission meetings, she said. She had also visited all 37 city parks.

"I was reminded how fortunate we are to live in this vibrant community and came away with a renewed appreciation for the breadth of issues that face our city leaders," Cormack said.

While Cormack is best known in City Hall for her work on improving local libraries, she has also been vocal in recent months on other hot-button issues, including the city's slowly developing plans to redevelop Cubberley Community Center and its recent redesign of Ross Road.

In September, she urged the council to move forward with hiring a team to help develop a new vision for the community center, a project that she said has been neglected for too long. More recently, she has criticized the city for insufficient outreach to residents before construction on Ross Road kicked off.

Cormack is the first non-incumbent to announce her candidacy for the council, which will have three seats up for grabs. Cory Wolbach, Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth are each concluding their first term. To date, only Wolbach has announced his plan to seek a fresh four-year term.

Greg Scharff and Karen Holman will each be concluding their second term on the council and will be termed out.

This will also be the first election in which Palo Alto residents will be electing candidates to a seven-member council. In 2014, voters approved Measure D, which reduced the number of seats from nine to seven.


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36 people like this
Posted by Reality
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 2:08 pm

In reality, it's all about your position on the issues -if you really listen to the residents they will tell you they are for below market rate housing, not housing that is called "affordable" but is market rate, in other words, unaffordable except for the well off. Do you understand that if we keep building offices/R&D we will need to keep building more and more housing, we will need more schools , we won't have enuf parks, etc? Are you for more protection for renters or, like Wolbach who pretends he is but isn't, will you not do anything though renters are 44% of Palo Altans?

It's not about making nice on the Council, Allison, it's about the issues and policies that respond to voters (residents), and actually listening to those residents, and small business owners rather than the developers, Silicon Valley lobbyists, and the Chamber.

The residents will listen to you - and will vote.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2018 at 2:40 pm

So glad you're running, Alison! The Council could definitely improve on collaboration and communication. We have work to do to keep Palo Alto a great place to live now and in the future, and sounds like you've got the skills and experience to make it happen.

27 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 3:33 pm

I'm glad that she is all for good communication processes and civility. I appreciate politeness. But, I don't see anything about issues, especially the issues of overbuilt office space, traffic, and transportation.

41 people like this
Posted by Real estate interests
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Will Allison Cormack commit not to take donations from the development community?

8 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth Beheler
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 27, 2018 at 4:39 pm

I know of Alison Cormack's work through three separate community organizations. She cares about the well being of Palo Alto and the people who live here. I am happy to support her for City Council!

13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 27, 2018 at 5:17 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"In a statement, Cormack told the Weekly that after observing the current council, she fundamentally believes that it could improve in three areas -- working together, focusing on project outcomes and insisting on better communication with residents. "

All worthy goals. I'm especially interested in how she'd refine "project outcomes" to avoid the lengthy and costly Mitchell Library construction problems and how to ensure that community feedback on controversial and costly projects like traffic calming get substantive responses from the city.

22 people like this
Posted by Nina
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 27, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Cory ran on civility too

10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 6:10 pm

I am pleased to see Alison enter this as a fresh face. I do feel that she did a good job with the library except for the fact that we had no option to upgrade and remodel the old library and just go with the new library for the sake of the children. I do remember asking her why we couldn't upgrade and remodel instead of build and she had no answer but skirted around the issue.

For that reason, I would be interested to see how she might answer similar types of questions about similar changes in the future. I do not doubt that she values Palo Alto and the present residents, but I do wonder if she will think of all the options on a situation before going head first into something wonderful, shiny and new rather than doing something practical and affordable.

We still have no design for a bike bridge. I have heard so many Council remarks about making a statement with our bridge, having competitions and getting something really spectacular. I don't want to hear this from any new Council members, so I would ask Alison how she would view a bridge and how she could see the Council expediting this in a timely and cost efficient manner?

8 people like this
Posted by Loma Verde Dad
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 28, 2018 at 6:32 am

Go Alison Go!

Finally a strong voice of reason for South Palo Alto!

You have my vote!

41 people like this
Posted by How dense?
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 28, 2018 at 11:11 am

I have one question for all candidates running. How crowded and dense do you think Palo Alto should be?

Meaning - how many people should live here, how many cars should be on the road, how many kids crowded into our schools, how much park space and community center land should we have.

Each candidate should have to give a straight forward answer such as -
- we are full now - so no more growth
-we can keep growing forever
-we can double or triple or quadruple our population.

Those who refuse to answer, and mumble platitudes about reasonable growth and we should see how things go, should be viewed as pro-growth candidates and not trusted.

3 people like this
Posted by Developers Rejoice
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2018 at 11:15 am

[Post removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

I SO admired Alison's work on the Mitchell Park Library. Any criticism of the construction should not be laid at her door. My impression is that she worked on fundraising. The construction company that was chosen turned out to not perform in a timely manner and were indeed sued by the city for not meeting their benchmarks.

Alison has my vote already!

12 people like this
Posted by South PA needs Alison Cormack
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 28, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Alison is such a well-grounded and sensible individual.
We are fortunate to have her in the City Council race.

The most impressive aspect of the PA Library Foundation is that they accomplished what they set out to do and then when the job was completed they sent out thank you letters to all their supporters and announced that PALF was closing down. How many times have you heard of a fundraising organization saying, "We are NOT going to ask you for more money."

Alison will be a voice for fiscal prudence and clear end-goals, not just wishy-washy projects.

Thanks for running, Alison Cormack!

2 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2018 at 8:02 pm

Alison is very smart, reasonable and optimistic, and she gets things done. Palo Alto is fortunate she is interested in being a council member.

10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2018 at 8:20 pm

Posted by Susan, a resident of another community

>> Alison is very smart, reasonable and optimistic, and she gets things done. Palo Alto is fortunate she is interested in being a council member.

Depends on what she wants to get done. The last thing Palo Alto needs is somebody who wants to build more commercial office space and "gets it done". If she can figure out how to finance pedestrian/bicycle friendly grade separation and "gets it done", then, I will be very impressed.

17 people like this
Posted by Pro-development or not?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 28, 2018 at 8:52 pm

Pro-development or not? is a registered user.

One thing I have heard Alison Cormack say is that she doesn't think the gap between the pro-development faction and the residentialist faction is all that big. She thinks they are actually rather close. That surprised me -- it seems big to me -- so it will be interesting to hear her positions on specific issues like height limits, infrastructure priority, parking constraints, and more. Otherwise, yes, I do worry about getting another Cory Wolbach on the council, and we continue to degrade the character and quality of life of our town.

5 people like this
Posted by ACFan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 29, 2018 at 12:22 pm

At the onset of the Mitchell Park project, Alison and I had a few chats - in a social setting. I wasn't too much for the money being spent on the library .. in the world of eBooks and downloads, who needs paper books, correct? The library project got delayed and yet delayed, which sort of made me cement my opinion on how useless the whole project was.

A year or so after the library was built, I went in to 'see'. Oh boy ! Was I glad Alison stuck to her guns and saw this project through .. its amazing. It has created a safe place for middle schooler to spend time afterschool, it has created so many community opportunities.

So glad you are running Alison ! The city needs people like you ..

10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 29, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Pro-development or not?

"One thing I have heard Alison Cormack say is that she doesn't think the gap between the pro-development faction and the residentialist faction is all that big. She thinks they are actually rather close."

I think it depends on the type of development you're talking about. On housing they seem to be the closest, but on further development of office space they are miles apart. But even on housing they have their differences as far as density, parking, and what type of housing. Developers have no problem building market rate housing, although they prefer office space for obvious reasons, and of course CC appeases them for the most part, but then make a pretense of forcing the affordable housing defining affordable as 120% of the median income level of our area. That leaves a lot of service workers in PA out of the picture. All the attempts at getting BMR projects approved seem to get resistance unless zoning changes are allowed that permit relaxations on many things, many adversely affecting neighborhoods and the quality of life surrounding them.

@? Oops! you're was removed and now your post name. I think it was 'Visitor', but I could be wrong. Anyway, you have been totally expunged. Sometimes it's easy to understand the reason for that, but sometimes it's not. It's happened to me.

Anyway, I read it while it was still up, and it made some reference to Allison being a protege of Liz Kniss. I don't know if that's true or not, or to what extent, but, I do know that Mayor Kniss has several of her proteges on CC now...Cory Wolbach, Adrian Fine, and Greg Tanaka. Cory announced he will run again. Having a CC with all but one, poor Lydia Kou, being proteges of Mayor Kniss would not be a healthy and true representation of our community.

I'm hopefully waiting for Eric Filseth and Tom Dubois to announce they will seek re-election,again, also. They have been solid voices on CC. Very well prepared and analytical (just an inherent trait and outgrowth of their professions), and never knocking anyone over with off the wall idealistic ideas that have no basis for support, i.e., who pays for it and what are the possible bad consequences?

The best way to get to know...really know... your candidates? Go see them in person, wherever they will speak, privately or to the public. Second the videos of them on local media during their open discussions with a panel of well selected local people. Read the local newspaper recommendations. The worst way...only reading the flyers stuffed into your mailboxes or looking at signs stuck in front yards or on corners of commercial business intersections. Unfortunately, and sadly, the last two I mentioned, are probably what get the candidates elected to office.

I'm compiling my own list, and I hope many others are too...questions to ask during campaign season! The Ross Rd project and ADU's are already on my list. Who voted for them and how successful do you think they are? I expect hard data answers on them, and especially on ADU's...where were they built, who's living in them, and what is the impact on the neighborhoods? Oh, and did it really add housing to newcomers in the community, or only to put granny in the back yard? Transit, transportation, traffic, parking, and grade separation should be included also.

I have a fantasy slate that would include someone running on only one topic/issue, a very simple to preserve and increase the 'quality of life' in PA. They would lose so badly because the overwhelming number of candidates, those who don't even bring that subject up, or consider it important, when proposing their ideas, would destroy them in debates. Thus, our gradually eroding away 'quality of life' will continue.

All the talk and finger pointing about what/who caused the housing shortage, and the crazy escalation of single family home prices, will continue unabated. It gives politicians at all levels, newspapers, other media, and online commenters something to talk about, and someone to blame. Thank god for our founding forefathers, who gave us our freedom of speech...often abused and misused...but we don't live in Russia or China...and that's why we should all love our great country...warts and all.

2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 29, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.


I too was a naysayer...I loved our old library. I was always welcomed by people at the front desk, and then I could browse right there, or go back to the far end and sit and read, or check out books, CD's, DVD's, etc. I sat out on the little patio many times, just soaking up sun, reading, and watching kids coming in after school and doing homework on the tables, with a lot of loud chatter and laughing going on. I'm not sure how much homework was accomplished, but they were having fun and socializing. That was before the iPhone craze. Who needed a new library?

Well, I've since fallen in love with, not only our new library, but the community center there as well. I have to go upstairs for many of my former searches...but that gives me good exercise...if I climb the stairs. I cheat and take the elevator sometimes. Ada's Cafe is there also. Tell me about any library you know of where you can get great food for lunch while visiting your local library! They know how to make really good chili, winners at past PA 4th of July Chili Cook-off contests, and they support and hire a very special group of young people in our community.

So yes, and thank you Allison for whatever part you played in that effort. Now you're brave enough to embark on a much different adventure in support of your community...mine and thousands others. Good luck, and we are all anxious to hear more about you and what your goals are for our you propose improving our quality of life?

Like this comment
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 29, 2018 at 7:15 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

I was wrong. It was 'Developers Rejoice' and it's still here, but just the name.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Adobe-Meadow

on Jun 12, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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