Vice Mayor Eric Filseth, a staunch proponent of pension reform and restrictions on commercial growth, announced Wednesday his candidacy for a second term on the Palo Alto City Council.
With the announcement, Filseth joins his council colleagues Tom DuBois and Cory Wolbach and resident Alison Cormack in the race for three open seats in November. Like DuBois, Filseth has been a consistent proponent of slow-growth policies, particularly in regards to commercial development. He supports the citizen initiative to reduce the citywide cap on office development and he had argued for Comprehensive Plan policies with fewer new jobs.
"There's been a huge amount of discussion about the role of commercial development in terms of the jobs-housing imbalance, which is contributing to parking and traffic woes," Filseth told the Weekly. "I think it's appropriate that we slow it down."
"The reality is that the economic engine of Silicon Valley produces jobs five times faster than housing. No community can keep up with that."
A retired semiconductor-industry executive who now serves on the boards of two tech startups, Filseth joined the council in 2014 and has served on the Finance Committee in each of his four years. Though he has generally voted with DuBois, Councilwoman Karen Holman and Councilwoman Lydia Kou on items pertaining to growth and development, he has also often found himself in alignment with Councilman Greg Scharff and Mayor Liz Kniss. As such, he has often found himself in the role of the council's swing vote and chief centrist.
This role was underscored in January, when Filseth made the motion to nominate Kniss as this year's mayor. Minutes later, his council colleagues voted to make him vice mayor, a notable decision given that his political camp was in the council minority.
Filseth said he believes the biggest challenge for the council in the coming years will be finding ways to invest in the community while also dealing with escalating construction costs and growing pension liabilities. He said he would like to see the city fund the recently adopted Parks and Recreation Master Plan, upgrade its dilapidated animal shelter and expand Boulware Park by purchasing an adjacent site from AT&T. He also said he supports Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian's proposal to build teacher housing.
Filseth said in a statement that the city needs to address its growth issues, especially housing, traffic and parking.
"We need to invest in our community, to enhance the qualities that make Palo Alto a great place to live and raise families," Filseth said. "And we need to navigate the intensifying financial squeeze caused by the combination of the Bay Area's rising cost structure and our own escalating pension liabilities.
"None of these things will be easy; to negotiate all three at once will require extremely precise execution by our City government. I want to be part of that effort."
Listen to Filseth discuss the city's unfunded pension liabilities on an episode of "Behind the Headlines."