News

Editorial: Our incivility contagion

A divided City Council has helped create a toxic political atmosphere for the fall election

Palo Alto politics has historically been relatively polite, respectful, accepting of different visions for the city's future and lacking in divisive rhetoric.

Vigorous debate always took place, but the views of opposing council members were never characterized as disingenuous nor were colleagues openly disrespected or bullied during council discussions.

Over the last several years, those traditional norms have been steadily eroding, replaced by behavior that seeks to label and marginalize opponents, exaggerate differences and abandon the art of compromise and the value of unifying the citizens of Palo Alto. It is a political trend that is engulfing Washington and is increasingly infecting local non-partisan political bodies, even in a highly educated and engaged community like ours.

This fall's municipal election campaign season will be an important test for candidates but perhaps even more so their supporters and voters. Will it be possible to have an honest community debate over important issues without exaggerated or false claims about candidates or issues, or will we see a repeat of the last two campaigns in 2014 and 2016?

If it were not enough that the city is implementing with this election the reduction of the council's size from nine to seven members, there will be three controversial ballot measures sure to stir up controversy.

With the announcement this week by Vice Mayor Eric Filseth that he will seek a second term, all three eligible incumbents (Filseth, Cory Wolbach and Tom DuBois) and, as of now, one challenger (Alison Cormack) will be seeking one of just three available seats. (There would normally have been five seats up this year, but because of the size reduction, there are only three.) Council members Greg Scharff and Karen Holman are terming out after nine years.

The ballot measures are two voter-qualified initiatives — one to reduce the existing cap on total commercial development in the city and another to impose a cap on the amount local health care providers can charge patients — and a measure placed on the ballot by the City Council seeking an increase in the hotel tax to 15.5 percent.

If the open hostility and tension exhibited by some council members and their political allies during and since the 2016 election is any indication, the combination of a council race and these controversial ballot measures, including a possible competing measure the council majority may put on the ballot to counter the commercial growth initiative, threatens to make this another divisive election season.

Political gamesmanship was on display last week when the council debated (between 11:30 and 1 a.m.) whether the city should pay for a consultant to conduct a broad analysis of the impacts of the growth-cap initiative even though the initiative had legally qualified for the ballot and the council's only real option is to offer a competing measure.

Proposed by Scharff and couched as a desire to conduct due diligence on the fiscal impact of lowering the current citywide commercial growth cap from 1.7 million square feet to 850,000 between 2015 and 2030, it was an obvious politically motivated effort, at taxpayer's expense, to use a consultant to develop the case against the initiative that could then be used to defeat it or win approval for an alternative measure.

With even the city staff stating that the lowered cap was unlikely to have any impact given the rate of development in Palo Alto, and even with a recently completed environmental impact report for the just-updated Comprehensive Plan that addressed most of the issues Scharff wants studied, on a 5-4 vote (Scharff, Kniss, Wolbach, Fine and Tanaka voting in favor) the council approved the hiring of a consultant and the delay — until late July or early August — of council action on the citizens' initiative and a possible competing measure. That schedule means a special meeting needs to be held during the time the council is on its summer break and when it will likely be impossible to gather all nine members.

The acrimony and disrespect was palpable in the council chambers as the night wore on, with Councilman Adrian Fine warning his colleagues against "grandstanding" and more than one council member taking audience members to task for wearing misleading buttons saying "Don't double growth."

Everyone needs to step back and stop this behavior. Citizens should be embarrassed to wear a button that so badly mischaracterizes their own initiative, but their behavior pales in comparison to that of councilmembers who can't seem to curb their impulses to treat those with whom they disagree disrespectfully.

The council's summer break comes none too soon. May they return with cooler heads and work to forge compromise instead of continue to fuel a growing contagion of incivility and snarkiness in our community.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

52 people like this
Posted by Steven Olsen
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2018 at 8:38 am

A lot of the incivility in this town begins here on Town Square. Anonymous comments attacking people while Embarcadero Media makes money off of click bait advertising. Such horrendous ethics and morality on display every day in an area full of so many educated and privileged people.

The publisher should move to require Facebook or LinkedIn usernames before publishing articles about incivility.


38 people like this
Posted by Not a real newspaper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:04 am

Steven-- got are expecting morality and ethics from the publisher? Are you new to the weekly? The weekly has been writing editorials and articles with the express prose of generating traffic on the site for financial gain.
This editorial is a joke anyway.


31 people like this
Posted by I don't care. Do U?
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:13 am

Donald Trump has proven that bullying is an effective form of politics. Who can blame locals for copying him?


73 people like this
Posted by Amem
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:16 am

Fact based debate has been missing from Council for some time. Without some pressure from the public council members will continue to go in to heir meetings with viewpoints locked and loaded. Both Wolbach and Fune appear to approach nearly every issue from an ideology that does not allow compromise.

The initiative discussion was a great example. The staff report was clear that cutting the cap in half would have little impact on the city financially and unless growth rates accelerated wouldn’t even likely come into effect before 2030. Fine made an argument that the initiative would harm the city by calculating using up every square foot of the current 1.7M cap, highlighting his desire for rapid office growth.

Even though Wolbach is running for re-election he seems incapable of weighing facts and making careful decisions. Instead he challenged the public to “meet him in the back” of chamber after the meeting to duke out the facts.

We need mature, thoughtful leadership that will listen and compromise.


76 people like this
Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:17 am

Thank you for this editorial. I saw this meeting and it was awful. But there have been many meetings that this majority named, with the exception of Tenaka, acted like their parents never taught them good manners. But they all voted to waste taxpayers money for nothing, throwing their fiduciary responsibility to the wind to play politics.

I hope the public, especially younger people, understand that this is not business as usual on the council - that Wolbach, Fine, Kniss and Scharff are outliers - they do not behave as other council members have until one goes back several decades to when Dena Mossar was Mayor and civility was a major issue - so much so that TV stations covered the meetings because of the civility issues.

This council majority is the most cynical and dysfunctional in decades. With Kniss as Mayor she is responsible and shows no desire to have it any other way, participating fully. Scharff pulls everyones strings and treats people on council and the public in chambers so rudely at times and is needlessly aggressive. I will be so glad when he is termed out. Fine is arrogant beyond his years (it would be funny if he did not have power), and disdainful of position he doesn't agree with. We deserve better.

That Cory Wolbach recently did that bizarre thing in the middle of a council discussion when he called the public out who were in chambers, accusing them or someone of lying about him, telling them to meet him in the back of the room to talk was so inappropriate. But he is impulsive and seems unable to control himself - not a good quality for someone on the city council.

Tenaka who is usually in the majority is not rude.


52 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:17 am


Thanks for the editorial, the sentiments of which in general, I agree with.

To illustrate the problem the weekly called out the acrimonious, disrespectful and uncivil behavior of the council a week ago Monday when two citizens initiatives were before them.
Specifically the comments of Council Members Scharff and Fine with regards to the initiative in favor of reduced office growth were quoted...Ok....
But it is striking to me that the article does not mention the bizarre behavior of Council Member Wolbach, who in the wee hours of the morning accused one ( some ?) of the signature gatherers of Office growth initiative of calling him a "liar" and suggesting that they meet them in the back theChambers after the meeting, presumably to "fess" up.

Why omit Council Member Wolbach's actions when they illustrate the problem the editorial is opining about so perfectly, especially since Wolbach would like the voters to reelect him in the fall??


59 people like this
Posted by Very much agree
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:21 am

Very much agree is a registered user.

I strongly agree with this editorial. It is very difficult to govern responsibly in the context of such divisiveness. I also really appreciate the editorial's description of the devious way that the council handled the very popular citizen's initiative. The council is in place to serve the voters, not their own agendas.


28 people like this
Posted by Not a real newspaper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:25 am

Anon- and speaking of incivility. You are twisting the facts to make it appear that wolbach did something wrong. The fact wwzdd that signature gatherers were making false claims about him. The fact is that wolbach wanted to talk to those people in the back of the chamber after the meeting to clarify. Nothing bizarre about it.
What is also not civil is the fact that this forum had served as a base for endless unsubstsniated claims and mistruths about wolbach. The weekly has allowed these claims to remain ( probably as part of their allegiance to the pasz element on the council
So before the weekly lectures us on a lack of civility. They need to clean up their own house.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:28 am

While watching the World Cup it is interesting to see that before each game the two teams come in with a child walking beside them, National Anthems are played and everyone shakes hands.

Perhaps Council meetings should start the same way.


25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:54 am

Additionally, a referee with a watch and a whistle would also help. Instant replays and penalties for rules broken with stern warnings for timewasting, yellow cards for dirty play and sending off for the worst offenders.


61 people like this
Posted by The Weekly Needs to be More Civil
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2018 at 10:30 am

The editorial says "Citizens should be embarrassed to wear a button that so badly mischaracterizes their own initiative." The buttons reportedly said "Don't double growth."

Are those buttons truly inaccurate? The editorial doesn't explain why at all but just attacks the people wearing them. The initiative itself doesn't limit retail or housing, but it does limit office growth, which accounts for the major growth in Palo Alto for the last many years. Allowing office growth to double going forward is a major change instituted recently by the Council majority and the initiative seek to block that. So the buttons seem reasonably accurate at describing the initiative.

One source characterized the initiative as "Residents' group looks to reduce citywide cap on office development by half." Isn't that the same as not allowing growth to double? That quote comes from the Weekly itself in an article on April 18.

So why attack the buttons and the people wearing them? It seems the Weekly is being uncivil by attacking people for no good reason.


78 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2018 at 10:41 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Wolbach complains about an unsubstantiated rumor that signature gatherers ae calling him a liar with no context no proof and that becomes news and deserving of wasting CC's time? Scharff insults the slow-growth initiative as pure "populism" when it was spearheaded by current and past council members? Fine dismisses the same initiative as one proposed by a small group of "extremists" nitpicking about a "few" details and "completely disrespecting" the "good governance" HE thinks he provides?

How do Fine et al explain the continued decline in public satisfaction with the city's direction, down 20% each year and at only 30% for our transportation mess due to incredible growth they advocate?

70% doesn't sound like a minority to me!

[Portion removed.]

People, pay attention and vote!


61 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2018 at 10:49 am

Novelera is a registered user.

Thank you for the editorial, with which I agree completely. The really awful idea to spend our money in an effort to derail grassroots efforts to put a measure on the ballot is just the most cynical thing I've seen in Palo Alto for quite a while.

Supposedly this council majority has a noble goal, adding to housing stock and, therefore, affordability in Palo Alto.

How do they reconcile this with fighting against a sensible idea to have less commercial development in our town? More commercial development would result in more demand for housing.


14 people like this
Posted by Not a real newspaper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 10:53 am

And online name shows exactly the rhetoric that the weekly fosters and encourages. According to online name and the weekly, the pasz group on the council ( filseth. Dubois Kuo and holman) are all just poor innocents, reador among by the evil developers.
As for online names comment about the so called pro development cabal, he forgets they are democratically elected by the voters. And maybe the decline in satisfaction is actually due to the obstruction and the " we are against everything" attitude of the pasz gang. After all thati were trounced I n the last election.
Finally, remember that despite what the weekly wants you to think, the opinions repeated here by a small minority of residents do not really represent what the people think and want. After all they're had been talk here for 2 years about a recall of certain council members and yet nothing, nada, zilch had been done about it


61 people like this
Posted by Ms. Wells
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2018 at 10:54 am

I'll be relieved when Greg Scharff is termed out. His rude and disrespectful behavior will not be missed.


50 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:19 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Not, relax. I get censored more than most.

Re the "democratic" election, remember that 3 of the pro-development group were under investigation for campaign finance irregularities and that Mayor Kniss STILL is. Care to compare the funding coffers and number of organizational backers for the pro-development candidates vs the slow-growth candidates? Maybe you'd like to refer some big money donors over to PASZ?

Re the pro-development "cabal," look at how many Palantir employees the cc keeps naming to commissions. Care to comment on the cynical move by defeated Mayor Shepherd to reduce the number of council members to ensure a permanent majority?

How can poor little PASZ "obstruct" anything when they're always in the minority? Be specific about what's being obstructed.

That it was so easy to get 3,000+ signatures for the slow-growth initiative with no funding or corporate support should tell you something. I never heard word one about Wolbach but heard plenty about how people want a TOTAL moratorium on future office construction, how people are so disgusted they're planning on leaving when their kids graduate, etc.

Re council recall initiatives, that's only a deflection drum for you to beat since there never was one.


10 people like this
Posted by Not a real newspaper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:33 am

And the you go again, online. Are you saying the election was mur democratic? If you have evidence of fraud, please present it otherwise I will trest it like your constant demands for a recall. 1 council member was cleared, the second paid a minor fine.
I think the last election showed that the voters favor the " pro development cabal" vs the anti everything clique.


42 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:39 am

Annette is a registered user.

I am not surprised by what's going on. This city is growing in ways that it cannot sustain. We are suffering (badly) from growing pains. There's lots of concern and frustration and disappointment b/c we have some huge problems:

Castilleja ignores the terms of a CUP for 15 years AND seeks approval for a massive expansion.
We have one of the worst jobs:housing imbalances in the state yet we keep adding to the jobs side of that problem.
We pride ourselves on our neighborhoods yet our development policies threaten them.
Parking issues are legendary at this point.
Ditto for traffic congestion and circulation problems.
We struggle to figure out the best approach to grade separation.
People with community-serving jobs cannot afford to live here.
Our diversity is slipping away.
Our retail is threatened.
We have good schools but some serious problems at those schools.
We have substantial unfunded pension liability that only recently got some needed attention.
We live beyond our means and turn around and seek more tax revenue.
We spend money on projects that are poorly executed and arguably (in some instances) not even wanted.
Staff has a reputation for not being responsive to residents.
We are not good about enforcing promised community benefits after making concessions to developers.
People are worried about eminent domain.
Every resident of the President Hotel is facing eviction in a city that has no comparable housing to offer.

And when people go to City Council to address their concerns they frequently get a mere 60 seconds to tell CC what they want - and need - them to hear. That is not good.

The uncivil behavior reflects community frustrations, problems, and concerns. Can we do better? Sure, but likely not without some policy shifting.


26 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:40 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Re council recall initiatives, that's only a deflection drum for you to beat since there never was one."

One more time: What / whose constant demands for a recall?


13 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:42 am



"Palo Alto politics has historically been relatively polite, respectful, accepting of different visions for the city's future and lacking in divisive rhetoric."

Could this be the reason things have gotten this bad?

"accepting of different visions" sounds totally unrealistic when you have real problems and challenges with real costs to people.

The press has a role and instead of standing there like hall patrol, how about doing reporting about the real debates and the real costs that people are arguing about.

My observation is that the broader public only has 2 minute sound bytes at council meetings. The Weekly reports on what Council members or staff what staff say but the topics themselves are not covered in depth.

That's enough to make everyone irritable that all we have are what people "say" and not some facts to look at.


7 people like this
Posted by Not a real newspaper
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:49 am

Online-- you can go through the various threads on this forum from the last few years and you can read the many many posts calling for a recall of certain council members.
And you missed my point, constant calls for a recall on this forum led to no action translates to the small minority calling for a recall do not represent the voters.


36 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:57 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"Proposed by Scharff and couched as a desire to conduct due diligence on the fiscal impact of lowering the current citywide commercial growth cap from 1.7 million square feet to 850,000 between 2015 and 2030, it was an obvious politically motivated effort, at taxpayer's expense, to use a consultant to develop the case against the initiative that could then be used to defeat it or win approval for an alternative measure."

So how much will this "study" cost us? Shades of the Ross Rd "study" to see if it's "appropriate and feasible" to fix problems.


11 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 11:58 am



I would like to add that the "Behind the Headlines" videos are not real reporting.

this could probably be up for debate as well, but the "views" on videos do not add up, 100 or 200 people watching a discussion/chat (again with the usual suspects, city staff or council people) instead of having a real in depth article for the broader community.

the schools reporting has been excellent with Timelines and visuals (during the more heated debates) but for city stuff we need numbers, data, and that is nowhere to be found.





8 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 12:55 pm



noticed this article today with some numbers,

"Study highlights impacts of adding Stanford housing
New EIR looks at costs of requiring more housing as part of university's planned expansion"
Web Link

"By the numbers:

Stanford's proposal

2.275 million square feet: Net new academic space

3,150 units/beds: Net new housing

550 units/beds: New housing for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and medical residents

Reduced Project Alternative

1.3 million square feet: Net new academic space

1,800 units/beds: Net new housing

300 units/beds: New housing for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and medical residents

Additional Housing Alternative A

2.275 million square feet: Net new academic space

5,699 units/beds: Net new housing

2,892 units/beds: New housing for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and medical residents

Additional Housing Alternative B

2.275 million square feet: Net new academic space:

4,425 units/beds: Net new housing:

1,825 units/beds: New housing for faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and medical residents

Source: County of Santa Clara "

Is there something like this about Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan and would that include the Stanford projections?

What is extremely strange is that supposedly all this was supposed to have been studied (for the Comprehensive Plan over 10 years?), Greg Scharff is requesting more information and new studies.

Some summary tables, Timelines and diagrams would help make the articles easier to follow.






9 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I do not agree with the suggestion that joining a leading corporate cult be prerequisite to adding your two cents or two clicks here, but I constantly argue, and hear little refutation, that the level of discourse would improve if more people remove the cloak of pseudonymity.

That, And some nice person should start a newspaper not Ball Holden to real estate interest and that damn auto correct which reminds me the time that Stanford almost beat top ranked Oregon State in basketball and lost 1816 you can look it up


24 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 2:25 pm

The FPPC said that Fine had "misled" the voters. That's about as bad as it gets with them. They are a wimpy, toothless clatch; they don't do anything about it, they just let the voters have the tools, such as they are. If you want to recall Fine, then I think you have time if you start the process now. There are a lot of community members who will tell you have to do it or to even help.

Why there was no investigation into the fact that all of these overdevelopment-oriented Councilmembers did exactly the same thing -- that was deemed misleading by Fine -- if they two less-experienced ones were so much less experienced, how is it that they decided to do exactly the same things that misled the public? Was there collusion? I don't think the complaints even asked that.


18 people like this
Posted by Concerned Observer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Concerned Observer is a registered user.

No surprise that someone has to put the blame on Donald Trump, after all, the bay area is a bastion of progressive liberalism. Newsflash.....the incivility in political discourse has been around long before he was elected as POTUS and one might also be of the opinion that bullying in national politics stems from the far left, who unless they get their way become unhinged and go off the deep end. Some might be of the opinion that the divisive rhetoric of the Obama administration was a catalyst for this "erosion" of civil discourse. Just sayin'.


42 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 22, 2018 at 3:43 pm

"on a 5-4 vote (Scharff, Kniss, Wolbach, Fine and Tanaka voting in favor) the council approved the hiring of a consultant ... "

That concisely sums up the situation. Five pro-developer councilmembers, who posed as residentialists to gain election, and some of whom used legally marginal tactics to conceal the true donors of their campaign funds, and a mayor that is under investigation for shady financial reporting--but I digress, routinely use unfeigned acrimony as a tactic to promote their sponsors' interests instead of their constituents' interests.

This is not entirely new. Some of us remember the overt condescension that greeted our first African-American councilmember earlier this century. And how then-mayor Kniss belittled her colleagues in 2000 to promote the proposal of her prolific donor J. E. Baer for the redevelopment of the PAMF property.


38 people like this
Posted by Ann
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 22, 2018 at 3:49 pm

I used to think that campaign finance issues only affected state and federal elections. No more. There is a lot of money to be made in Palo Alto real estate and several large corporations who wish to see more and more development to serve their interests. Lots of money -- and employees on company time -- to support candidates that will support developers over residents. Residents may have been fooled last time when the so-called residentialists were called extremists. That's what money for slick campaign brochures, tons of lawn signs, many of which were illegally placed on public property.

Those local candidates who seek a future in offices beyond the City Council will need the money the developers can provide to further their ambitions. It is simply -- follow the money.

But, one of the commenters here is correct -- if the residents don't figure it out, then their interests will continue to be ignored.

Last, but not least, it is really disappointing to see what has become of Liz Kniss. She used to be someone who cared about the community of Palo Alto. But, now she is on the developer bandwagon -- lots of elections in her resume take lots of money. Many thought she was the same great person they used to know. But, unfortunately, no.

We need sensible growth and some very creative planning to make Palo Alto a great place to live in the future -- which will not be like the past. I have seen no creative thinking about how to accommodate growth in housing, how to provide better transportation alternatives (and believe me, even self-driving cars have to go somewhere and park somewhere when they eventually arrive in force), and how to grow without looking like the worst of Redwood City or Mountain View. We aren't Atherton, and shouldn't be. We could, if we just insisted on it, find a better way.


8 people like this
Posted by I blame
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 22, 2018 at 7:10 pm

Social media.

Would everyone above be making the same comments face to face? tweets etc. are ripping us apart. would love to hear someone argue otherwise.


25 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 22, 2018 at 8:13 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@I blame, social media have existed for decades, pre-dating the web.

"Would everyone above be making the same comments face to face? tweets etc. are ripping us apart. would love to hear someone argue otherwise."

Yes, of course they /we would. People talk to each other. Neighbors chat about local problems. One neighbor went door-to-door leaving printed handouts warning neighbors about a city plan we'd never known about. 70+ of us showed up at a meeting the next night and got most of the plan killed. we managed to defeat much of the plan. leaving printed handouts about a major change about which the city failed to notify the neighborhood about a major planned change; 70 people showed up the next night to oppose successfully the city's planned change.

I just got back from somewhere where folks who've never visited PA Online or NextDoor were complaining even more vociferously than we do here about how unresponsive the city's been to feedback on a wide variety of issues.

If all the online and face-to-face comments were combined, you'd simply have a broader group giving feedback.

Perhaps it would behoove the city to read the comments here and listen to all of us?


57 people like this
Posted by Another Giveaway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 10:14 pm

The problem with Palo Alto politics isn't incivility.

The problem with Palo Alto politics is the political establishment virtue signaling civility to misdirect the public from their corruption, hidden agendas, and passive aggression.

Virtue signaling civility is just a way of victim shaming the public for being outraged at the corruption.


46 people like this
Posted by Civility Platform
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2018 at 8:34 am

Recall that Cory Wolbach ran on a platform of moderation and "civility" and that this paper endorsed him. He has spent his term being unabashedly pro development (commercial and housing, despite his pledge to "focus" on the latter-- the pull of developer cash for his future political ambition appears to have become the key driver of his actions), and anything but civil.

I should hope the editors don't render meaningless their current, admirable attempts to bring this trend in bad behavior into the open by reendorsing someone who decieced the voters so blatantly the first time and spent 4 years being divisive, entitled, and partisan.


51 people like this
Posted by I don't care. Do U?
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2018 at 5:07 pm

Sarah Sanders defended the right of retail businesses to refuse to serve gay customers. What goes around comes around. Just saying.


57 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2018 at 5:58 pm

@ "I don't care. Do U?"

I want to add something of a correction. The recent Supreme Court case on behalf of Masterpiece Bakery was NOT akin to "the right of a retail businesses to refuse to serve gay customers."

The owner/baker of the religious bakery (filled with Bible verses on the sign and in the store) agreed to sell any cake that the gay couple wanted. He simply stated that he could not decorate the cake for a gay marriage because it would make him a participant in the celebration of a union that he was morally and religiously opposed to. The owner even offered suggestions about where the cake could be decorated or different bakeries that would be able to meet their needs.

The merits of this case could be debated ad naseum. I understand both sides. I think that the baker -- the sole proprietor of that business -- had a right to refuse the specific decoration just as much as a gay bar has a right to refuse to admit the Westboro Baptist Church cult from flooding their establishment with hate speech. I also think that a family-owned restaurant owned by an African American should have a right to refuse catering service to a KKK meeting too.

Services restricted from individuals on the account of their ideology is nothing new. People readily point to racism during the era of Jim Crow or the vile tactics of the Nazis during the 1920's and 1930's against Jews and other groups (as well as restrictions on speech, press and assembly to be what the government deemed to be "politically correct" at the time).

A couple of years ago, I read about comments that were erased from the Huffington Post (owned by Verizon). The comments were not threatening or vulgar. The posts didn't violate terms of the agreement in terms of content. They stayed on topic. The sole reason that they were removed from the public for-profit forum was sociopolitical censorship. The Huffington Post responded by saying that their moderators reserve the right to delete any posts that the moderators want.

When it comes to this restaurant refusing service to Sarah Huckabee Sanders: I don't really have a problem with it. I obviously disagree with the owner's politics as well as the stated intent behind the owner's actions. It is very different from the recent Masterpiece Bakery vs. Colorado case. After all, the owner of that business wasn't asked to make "Trump-themed policy" foods. She simply refused service to sell ANY food to Sanders on account of Sander's politics.

I do wish that people could maintain levels of common respect and civility when discussing beliefs, goals or what they aspire for their country, schools or city of residence. We often focus on our disagreements because they are the most glaring differences. I suspect that we all have much more in common -- no matter our political, socioeconomic, religious or racial/ethnic backgrounds. Our beliefs might differ and matters are usually in that "gray" area. However, the ability to view others as an "enemy" for disagreeing on such matters are troubling.

During the last year, there was a young woman who had the novel idea of inviting people into her family home for dinner. She is a Muslim and her goal seemed motivated in showing that they are a good and kind family. What a wonderful thought! Maybe we should take a page from that wonderful young woman and demonstrate our similarities rather than our differences?


4 people like this
Posted by Dinner at nayelis
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2018 at 6:19 pm

"
During the last year, there was a young woman who had the novel idea of inviting people into her family home for dinner. She is a Muslim and her goal seemed motivated in showing that they are a good and kind family. What a wonderful thought! Maybe we should take a page from that wonderful young woman and demonstrate our similarities rather than our differences?"

That's a great idea, nayeli. How about at your place next Friday evening. Where do you live in midtown so we will know where to go.


50 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2018 at 6:28 pm

@ "Dinner at nayelis:" I'm totally up for it! I can cook some authentic Norteño Mexican cuisine. Unfortunately, I doubt that many people would feel comfortable in our small place. I'd be very happy to meet with people at a restaurant though. Maybe someone could create a means for "reach out" dinners or something.

I remember reading that Tip O'Neil, the former Speaker of the House and staunch Democrat, said that his view about Ronald Reagan changed when Mr. Reagan hosted him for dinner and movies. He said that he still disagreed with Reagan on politics; however, he couldn't help but like the man in private.


43 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 12:11 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

@Congnitive Dissonant Liberal Progressives

The Democratic Party, its machinery and coordinated social action groups have beaten, burned, shot and shouted down civil discourse. From the college campus to the Congressional baseball fields to the corporate boardrooms. The hatred and contradictions are the same.

They seek justice but support the cover up of massive crimes at the IRS, DoS, FBI and DoJ.

They complain of collusion to change an election but have attempted to frame a freely elected President in the hopes of removing him out of office.

They practice systemic racism in the pursuit of racial equality.

They restrict speech and compel language.

They count the number of climate scientists but ignore observable data.

They make laws and then condemn those who enforce them.

They mock half the country as deplorable, irredeemable clingers while they implement economic policies that undermine those communities and enrich themselves.

It is impossible to be morally superior while acting dishonest and corrupt. The ideological movement has inverted. Noble origins have led to pathological destinations.

Its time to resolve the contradictions and go back to the values of the Enlightenment -- Reason, science, tolerance and the free pursuit of life, liberty and property.

When the hypocrisy goes away the discourse will return.


17 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 4:09 am

Steven Olsen, I do not think incivility is because of the anonymous nature of comments,
and I don't think making people identify themselves would help versus how much it would
stifle opinions.

If you are identified and you make a mistake or say something stupid it is there forever for
everyone to see. Thus, few are going to really post if that is the case.

You may drive out some riff-raff by doing that, but you also drive out marginal or unpopular
opinions. Talking in a Town Forum format in the age of the Internet has little benefit and lots
of risk if a comment can follow someone around for life.

There are those who aim to make uncivil cutting remarks from their first posts. It is difficult to
classify all the things that can happen. Some people are very good at expressing themselves,
or have thought about a subject a lot and others who react or float thoughts and idea or feelings,
and some that can jump in quick and attack with vitriol or seem to be superior.

There are also great bluffers who may drop 100 facts to pass one lie by. Comments on the
internet are like commercials, they are often aimed the emotions and fact-free, but make to
seem plausible.

And, some discussions inevitably turn political, and in political things we should get anonymity,
like a secret ballot. If you express an unpopular opinion, or put your foot in your mouth, recent
news stories show that you can lose your job or become a hated pariah. Maybe someone
deserves it or maybe not, but there are good reasons for internet chat boards to develop a kind of
civil protocol that deals with facts and thoughts instead of the constant personal political
competition some discussions provoke.

Internet chat and discussion boards have been around long enough, I am surprised that as
far as I know there have not been psychological studies of the board dynamics, or maybe
there have been many but by groups such as Cambridge Analytica who developed proprietary
models and techniques for manipulating people. In my opinion that is a good reason to
be very careful about anything that gets hot and emotional because the boards should
aim to keep discussions on track and productive.

Fair and objective moderation really helps, and I think it seems either extremely hard to do,
or extremely expensive to find a competent person who can really do it, and that is why I think
the Internet chat boards suffer, and few take them seriously, and some do not want to have
anything to do with them at all.


13 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 4:35 am

Another Giveaway:
> The problem with Palo Alto politics is the political establishment virtue signaling civility to misdirect the public from their corruption, hidden agendas, and passive aggression.

This is an interesting statement. I think I agree with the implication, but I find the connotations of the why it was expressed dishonest because of the use of the term "virtue signaling".

This term "virtue signaling" is like a lot of terms that get picked up and amplified and repeated in the wind and end up filling our media. Terms like "safe-space", "politically correct", "snowflake", "nanny state", and many, many more.

What these terms all have in common is that they were devised by the political right's propaganda machine as a way to inject negativity into any discussion by the use of the right-leaning pejorative terms, most of which are engineered to not really have any meaning other than emotional provocation.

So somehow virtue ( def: behavior showing high moral standards ) is automatically deemed hypocritical. If you deconstruct the language of the political right they are all uncivil and can only lead to uncivil discussion when they are the center or object of a discussion. In my opinion the technology being used is as toxic and anti-democratic, anti-American as physical violence, but just not as visible or noteworthy.

These kind of rhetoric came from out of the business sector that has always seek to exploit and abuse citizens and the environment for money and power. Watching the arc of the advertising business from one that began to deal with facts and comparisons to emotional manipulation into downright Orwellianism.

Using that term frames our city politics in a way that itself misdirects the public from their corruption, hidden agendas, and passive aggression in the language of what is put out here in the public discussion space, and casts it as sarcastic like calling someone a do-gooder.

The corporate agenda these says is to misdirect, and fake virtue signaling, like casting removing regulation on the coal industry as healthy skies, or clean coal, or the destruction of public education as no child left behind, or global hot-boxing due to pollution as climate change ... and the thing is that all these terms and techniques come from people who stand to make money, or maintain their monopolies at any cost, at the expense of others and the environment and disable discussion and thus anyone's ability to do anything about it.


14 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 4:49 am

I Blame:
> Would everyone above be making the same comments face to face? tweets etc. are ripping us apart. would love to hear someone argue otherwise.

Wow, good point, but yes, I do think people would be making the same comments, at least most of them. I think we have no idea what we have been doing to our society in the last 50 years or so -as we have had no idea what we are doing to our atmosphere, ocean or food. We have gone from having social conventions to just allowing anything that works for powerful interests in the moment, and so our media has become garbage, our news outlets and journalistic systems have been eviscerated, the behavior we see modeled in what is for more and more of us the only social space we see anymore - the public has become media and social media, and what human beings see is what human beings do.

When enough humans beings do bad, the bad drives out the good and doing good gets twisted into some absurd insult, like "virtue signaling".

Human beings used to have institutions that told us what works and how to relate to each other. They were never perfect, but the core ideas were pretty good and the idea that we were moving forward was pretty universal ... now they are just ignored or worse, ridiculed, except in small groups.

We had churches, civics classes, a diverse and independent news media and journalism industry, and all of it has been "disrupted" ... meaning destroyed without any discussion, under the aegis of the free-market and capitalist profit. Is used to be a no-brainer that people come before money, now it is the reverse. These are thing people used to be configured never to accept, and now they run on for years and decades while stuffed-shirt talking heads pretend there is controversy and disagreement about things we all know about right and wrong.

We quibble about abortion and preciousness of human life as we plunge people in poverty world-wide and kill people from above with no due process, and paper it over with a bunch of blow-hard multi-millionaires that when you scratch their surfaces turn out to have been abusing and exploiting everyone they worked with and hiding it institutionally for years, if not decades.


33 people like this
Posted by The old consultant trick
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2018 at 9:25 am

The law does permit the City to hire a consultant to anaylze the initiative but, as the editorial suggest, if the purpose is just to defeat the initiative, the hiring is a political dirty trick - as can be a City Council concocted competing measure. It is the City Council majority that is disrespecting other councilmembers and the public. Stop re-electing these characters.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 24, 2018 at 9:37 am

Who here thinks that politics and the media were more civil 100 years ago? Really?


4 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 24, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Frankly, in the current era of fewer - or almost vanishing - legitimate, educated, professional news media outlets
- and an era of constant attention-eyeballs/clicks/likes to social media of slugs too numerous to name, but for a start, the idiotic among us like pseudo “stars,” the Kardashians, Logan Paul, various “social media influencers” and over-sharing narcissists, it is difficult for meaningful topics to be publicly and helpfully debated/discussed.
Let’s hold onto whatever little remains.
Sadly, eminent news media commentators like Tim Russert are gone, and the prior equal-political-oversight of “60 Minutes” is way, way muted.
Trump, who recently by coincidence became a “Republican” is destroying that party and we will soon have a one-party state. I find this truly dangerous. R and D conspired to marginalizebother voices of Independents, Libertarians, and Greens.
The rule of law and the rights of a sovereign nation are cast aside in a pique many feel at this uktra-unlikable president - even if it means our nation becoming untenable as it’s made inoperable as overrun by illegal aliens, who have no identification,, legitimacy or vaccinations! We cannot function in this unaffordable and illogical manner.
Oh, whoever they are, these mass of uneducated persons from corrupt countries, including rich ones, are made the responsibility for support by the U.S. taxpayer. It makes no sense. Mexico empties out it’s jails onto us. The Kate Steinle killer is supported by numerous means in San Francisco. SMH.
We are under no obligation whatsoever to have “open borders,” it’s actually an illogical and impractical concept.
Meanwhile, we legal resident/citizens go through a serious review when we fly into SFO and produce our passports. There is no logic being used, no respect for this country. You are witnessing the breakdown of the rule of law and all logic.
The ultra-rich have sufficient safeguards and live on a different plane from thee and me. It’s we who have to pay for this federal corruption. Makes development arguments in Palo Alto pale by comparison.


15 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2018 at 4:13 pm

the issue is debate in general,

the current council majority has not allowed a debate, they lecture, and now we got a lecture on civility from the local press

that doesn't problem solve, neither does ranking national issues "bigger"over local issues.

The best I've seen in our local issues is when I tune in and hear public comments from residents themselves. Those 2 minute segments have real content that could get more coverage. What ends up happening though is that the press reports on one side vs the other, and the content itself gets lost in the argument.


4 people like this
Posted by Also Concerned
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 24, 2018 at 4:19 pm

@concerned: well done. Sounds reasonable, gosh, why can't we all get along, and then, dump Trump lies into your screed like they're accepted facts.

"Mexico empties out it’s jails onto us" Web Link

Nope. Rated: A Trump 'Pants On Fire' Lie, as are so many of the thousands of Trump lies (~3,200 to date.) As are many of your other RW talking point fibs. Defend them with links if you want anyone to believe your noise.

Civility is automatic. Until someone proves they deserve otherwise by lying.


30 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2018 at 4:37 pm

"The best I've seen in our local issues is when I tune in and hear public comments from residents themselves. Those 2 minute segments have real content that could get more coverage."

First, know that 2 minutes was 5 minutes 20 years ago, then it became 3 minutes under Kniss Round I, now under Kniss Round II it's 2 minutes. It often magically becomes 1 minute, and last week Kniss was complaining about even that.

Take a hint, gang. Certain of our elected representatives do not want to hear from constituents.


9 people like this
Posted by Gingrich
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2018 at 6:45 pm

All got worse under nasty newt G. Trump was the natural extension. Down to local.


21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2018 at 8:02 am

The two minutes allowed for public comment mean absolutely nothing. People wait to take their turn to speak and for the most part council members are not paying attention. The PAW reporter could do a much better job covering what people say at the open forum, or at least accurately count how many for and against and cover the points raised by the public.

I myself have on many occasions emailed the city on a topic only to get a very firm but polite rebuff from a council member or their aide, if I get a reply at all. Occasionally I have had a reply stating that the council member will be meeting people from the public to discuss this topic at a certain time in a certain place if I would like to attend, but generally these are very unsuitable times for me although they may suit others. Don't they get that the reason I have emailed is that I want my concerns heard not the opportunity to hear what the council member says about why they think they are right?

In this age of ease with communications, it should be much easier to get concerns heard by Council. Instead they seem to be blind, deaf and oblivious to the concerns of the people who live here and have voted them in. They seem to be much more concerned with those who don't live and don't have a vote.

If the Council started paying attention to actual residents and our concerns, I am sure that there would be a lot less frustrations and impolite remarks.


1 person likes this
Posted by Bubble
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 25, 2018 at 8:30 am

[Post removed; off topic.]


6 people like this
Posted by Also Concerned
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 25, 2018 at 9:03 am

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


5 people like this
Posted by Sanctimonious City
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2018 at 12:54 am

Sanctimonious City is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


28 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2018 at 1:59 am

[Post removed.]


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 26, 2018 at 9:57 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"First, know that 2 minutes was 5 minutes 20 years ago, then it became 3 minutes under Kniss Round I, now under Kniss Round II it's 2 minutes. It often magically becomes 1 minute, and last week Kniss was complaining about even that."

Fascinating. So how do we get it changed back?


20 people like this
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 26, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Candid and direct political discourse is an essential element of democracy.

A community dedicated to truth can have vigorous debate without villainizing the messenger. To expose deceit, strong words of truth sometimes need to used.

Beware of manipulation that hides behind the demand for nice words -- that is the villain.

Beware of the Trojan Horse of Political Correctness. Given the high stakes of land use policies, those with agendas can afford a "herd of Trojan horses."

Tim


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2018 at 4:46 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"So how do we get it changed back?"

1) Direct action: A dozen people sign up to speak for for a "quiet" issue, and use 5 minutes providing citizen input and denouncing the deprecation of citizen voices. Repeat on subsequent meetings until point made. Be prepared to be removed by police.

2) Ballot box: Amend the city charter by initiative to guarantee 5 minutes.

3) Be careful who you vote for. Educate citizens re a candidate's willingness to listen. Constructive negative campaigns are a good thing.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2018 at 5:57 pm

I think we need to be more organized which will help with time limits and also not duplicate our thinking.

Whenever an issue is being discussed and a large number of people want to speak, an organized group should be able to utilize the time better. Speaker a should stand up, give name and address, then start reading from a prepared essay and when time is up, speaker b should stand up give name and address and then continue reading from prepared essay until time is up. Then speaker c should stand up and continue from where left off, until all speakers have read the prepared statement. If there are more speakers then they should take their turn to stand up, give their names and addresses, and say they want to say or echo the prepared essay. After that, a copy of the prepared essay should be given to anyone who wants it including all media as well as the council and minute taker.

Otherwise, I can't see any point to the public speaking as council don't listen and speakers often repeat the same points ad nauseam.


34 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2018 at 6:22 pm

For years, the right wing has been slandering and lying and, only now, there's an issue with civility. Give it a break. The last local who ran on a civility platform was a Palantir employee who lied his way into office.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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