Raven Malone, an engineer who wants to bring a community-led approach to policing in Palo Alto, has added her name to the City Council race.
Malone, who has been active in the Black Lives Matter movement, said she is concerned that the current council isn't being responsive enough to the community when it comes to issues such as police reform and housing. She is hoping to change that.
"I've been advocating and listening to Palo Altans who feel like City Hall isn't listening to them," Malone said. "I decided to step up to ensure that the City Council listens and collaborates to serve the whole community."
Malone grew up in Mobile, Alabama, which borders the Gulf Coast, and had spent two years in San Jose before moving to the Triple El neighborhood earlier this year, she told this news organization. She currently works for Perspecta, a Virginia-based technology company in the defense industry.
Malone, 28, said one of her top priorities, if elected, would be to reimagine public safety. To her, this means having unarmed personnel, rather than sworn officers; and taking the lead on issues such as homelessness, mental health issues and domestic violence (though an officer may at times need to accompany an unarmed professional for domestic violence cases). This is similar to the type of approach that is currently being advanced in Berkeley, which is shifting the responsibility for issuing traffic citations from police officers to unarmed civilians.
Malone has spoken out in favor of "defunding the police," an approach that shifts dollars and responsibilities from the Police Department to community services. She has preached the message at recent rallies following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and on her Facebook page, where she expresses support for putting some of the funds that are currently used for police toward community programs and homeless services.
If elected, she said she would also turn her attention to improving public infrastructure and addressing the city's housing crisis. On infrastructure, she said one of her priorities would be to revive the city's Fiber to the Premises effort, a bid to expand the city's underground fiber network to every neighborhood. While the city has been talking about this project for decades and has commissioned numerous studies and business plans, it has only made incremental improvements to the fiber system, which largely serves commercial customers. The COVID-19 pandemic, Malone said, has made high-speed internet more critical than ever.
"We should get fiber into every home in Palo Alto. … So many of us are working from home or have kids at home doing schoolwork. … Now is a better time to do it," Malone said.
Another infrastructure project that Malone said she feels strongly about is flood protection. She took part in a rescue effort when Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana in 2017. She said she and her friends rented a truck, drove to Texas and then spent four days helping people get out of their flooded homes.
After learning about the massive flood that hit Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto in February 1998, she wants to make sure that the cities improve flood protection around the volatile San Francisquito Creek. The cities have already made some strides to beef up protection when they completed the construction of levees downstream of U.S. Highway 101, a project that was led by the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority. Now, efforts are underway to reconstruct and boost capacity at some of the bridges that span the creek, including the Newell Road Bridge.
On housing, she believes Palo Alto should prioritize shelter for the neediest and for those who have been priced out. This means moving ahead with creating "safe parking" spaces for individuals who are forced to sleep in cars, allowing construction of "tiny homes" and working with nonprofits to create housing for teachers, people with disabilities and low-income workers. Some first responders and teachers currently have to commute two to three hours per day, she said.
In contrast to those who believe the city should focus exclusively on below-market-rate housing, she believes Palo Alto needs more housing for all income levels.
"We need to create both affordable housing for our workers, our seniors, people who work here and can't afford to live here, and still need to create market-rate housing and townhomes," Malone said.
She also believes that the city can do more to address its legacy of discrimination when it comes to housing. This includes removing racial exclusion clauses from deeds that exclude Black people (and in some cases Chinese and Japanese residents) from occupying the homes. Even though these restrictions have not been legal since 1948, they have not entirely disappeared, Malone said. She believes it's time to change that and believes the city should be more proactive on the issue.
"As a Black person myself, I can imagine how hurtful and painful it would be to buy a brand-new home and read the deed and see that it says that the home shouldn't be sold to a Black person," Malone said.
The engineer is competing for one of four seats that will be up for grabs in November. Three incumbent council members — Mayor Adrian Fine, Councilwoman Lydia Kou and Councilman Greg Tanaka — are all eligible to seek fresh four-year terms. Kou and Tanaka have declared their intentions to seek a fresh term. Councilwoman Liz Kniss is terming out at the end of the year.
Other candidates in the race are former Mayor Pat Burt, attorney Rebecca Eisenberg, attorney Steven Lee, teacher Greer Stone; Planning and Transportation Commission Chair Cari Templeton; and planning Commissioner Ed Lauing.