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Alison Cormack will not seek second term on Palo Alto City Council

Council member said pandemic forced her to reevaluate her priorities

Palo Alto City Council member Alison Cormack stands outside Cubberley Community Center, a 35-acre campus that she has advocated for renovation. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Alison Cormack, who was elected to the Palo Alto City Council in 2018 and who has been a vocal advocate for building more housing and redeveloping Cubberley Community Center, announced Friday that she will not seek a second term.

Cormack, who was the top vote-getter in the 2018 election, is one of three council members who is concluding their terms at the end of this year and the only one who is eligible to run for another four-year term. Council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth, who were both elected in 2014, will both be terming out.

Over her four years on the council, Cormack has served as chair of the Finance Committee and as member of the Sustainability/Climate Action Plan Committee. She has also represented the city on the board of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.

On policy issues, she has often clashed with members of the more slow-growth "residentialist" faction of the council, which gained ascendancy in 2020. She has been a persistent advocate for renovating Cubberley Community Center and expanding the city's shuttle program. She has also been the only member of the current council who has publicly supported instituting limits on campaign contributions for council races.

Her independence came at a cost as Cormack found herself on the losing end of several political tussles. In 2020, when the council deadlocked 3-3 over who would serve as vice mayor (with Greg Tanaka abstaining), she broke the stalemate by throwing her vote to Tom DuBois, a member of the residentialist group who would go on to serve as mayor the following year. And even though the council had initially designated Cormack to represent Palo Alto on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority board of directors, it reversed course after the 2020 election and gave the seat to now-Mayor Pat Burt, a move that DuBois and Filseth had advocated for.

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In an interview Friday, Cormack said she is concerned about the factionalism on the council. She also acknowledged, however, that working as a faction succeeds.

"That's the inherent paradox," Cormack said. "I don't want to do it but I see that that works."

She reiterated that point in a post that she published on Medium on Friday, explaining her decision not to run. She encouraged others to run for council and advised them to run "as a team."

"When you run as a team, you can govern as a team," she wrote. "So share your treasurer and donor lists and mailer expenses with other candidates who think like you — and consider that an investment in getting colleagues memos supported, and seconds to your motion, and votes to go the way you want. Running with others will make your campaign easier and lay the groundwork for allies on Council who will already trust you."

Cormack said that she began to consider not running for a fresh term in August 2020, when the pandemic brought to the forefront the sharp socioeconomic differences between Palo Alto residents and residents in East Palo Alto and east San Jose. The pandemic, she wrote, "served as a catalyst for me to reflect on where the greatest needs are in our larger community." She has been volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank over the pandemic and she said that hunger and child care are among the issues that she plans to focus on after her council term expires.

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She listed in her Medium post some of the accomplishments she is proud of, including the hiring of a new city auditor, city clerk and executive director of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority during her term; her votes to support the construction of Palo Alto's new bike bridge, which opened last November, and the new public-safety building, which is in the midst of construction on Sherman Avenue.

She also cited several disappointments, including her failure to sway her colleagues to adopt policies prohibiting council members from using electronic devices during meetings and pursuing campaign finance reform. She also lists as one of her failures "gracefully letting a colleague with more tenure take a leadership role," an apparent allusion to the vote for vice mayor in 2020.

"Let's just say it wasn't reciprocated," Cormack wrote.

Palo Alto City Council member Alison Cormack speaks during a council meeting on Jan. 7, 2019. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Cormack said in an interview that she hopes some of the projects that she has championed, including the redevelopment of Cubberley and the expansion of the shuttle program that was shut down during the pandemic, will come to fruition after she is no longer on the council. Palo Alto, she noted, has plenty of precedents for that: Vic Ojakian championing the new public safety building; Karen Holman supporting the new history museum; and LaDoris Cordell fighting to drop Foothills Park's "residents-only requirement."

Cormack said that her decision not to run is related to the "Great Resignation," a nationwide trend of people leaving their jobs during the pandemic. She emphasized that she will remain fully committed to her duties until her term ends. The reason she is announcing her decision now, she said, is because she wants other people to have time to run.

She said has worked hard since winning the 2018 election to "maintain my own and the council's calm demeanor."

"I'll be sad if that changes when I'm no longer on the council," Cormack said. "I will look for candidates who can be graceful and thoughtful under pressure."

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Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Alison Cormack will not seek second term on Palo Alto City Council

Council member said pandemic forced her to reevaluate her priorities

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, May 13, 2022, 5:22 pm
Updated: Sun, May 15, 2022, 6:28 pm

Alison Cormack, who was elected to the Palo Alto City Council in 2018 and who has been a vocal advocate for building more housing and redeveloping Cubberley Community Center, announced Friday that she will not seek a second term.

Cormack, who was the top vote-getter in the 2018 election, is one of three council members who is concluding their terms at the end of this year and the only one who is eligible to run for another four-year term. Council members Tom DuBois and Eric Filseth, who were both elected in 2014, will both be terming out.

Over her four years on the council, Cormack has served as chair of the Finance Committee and as member of the Sustainability/Climate Action Plan Committee. She has also represented the city on the board of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.

On policy issues, she has often clashed with members of the more slow-growth "residentialist" faction of the council, which gained ascendancy in 2020. She has been a persistent advocate for renovating Cubberley Community Center and expanding the city's shuttle program. She has also been the only member of the current council who has publicly supported instituting limits on campaign contributions for council races.

Her independence came at a cost as Cormack found herself on the losing end of several political tussles. In 2020, when the council deadlocked 3-3 over who would serve as vice mayor (with Greg Tanaka abstaining), she broke the stalemate by throwing her vote to Tom DuBois, a member of the residentialist group who would go on to serve as mayor the following year. And even though the council had initially designated Cormack to represent Palo Alto on the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority board of directors, it reversed course after the 2020 election and gave the seat to now-Mayor Pat Burt, a move that DuBois and Filseth had advocated for.

In an interview Friday, Cormack said she is concerned about the factionalism on the council. She also acknowledged, however, that working as a faction succeeds.

"That's the inherent paradox," Cormack said. "I don't want to do it but I see that that works."

She reiterated that point in a post that she published on Medium on Friday, explaining her decision not to run. She encouraged others to run for council and advised them to run "as a team."

"When you run as a team, you can govern as a team," she wrote. "So share your treasurer and donor lists and mailer expenses with other candidates who think like you — and consider that an investment in getting colleagues memos supported, and seconds to your motion, and votes to go the way you want. Running with others will make your campaign easier and lay the groundwork for allies on Council who will already trust you."

Cormack said that she began to consider not running for a fresh term in August 2020, when the pandemic brought to the forefront the sharp socioeconomic differences between Palo Alto residents and residents in East Palo Alto and east San Jose. The pandemic, she wrote, "served as a catalyst for me to reflect on where the greatest needs are in our larger community." She has been volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank over the pandemic and she said that hunger and child care are among the issues that she plans to focus on after her council term expires.

She listed in her Medium post some of the accomplishments she is proud of, including the hiring of a new city auditor, city clerk and executive director of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority during her term; her votes to support the construction of Palo Alto's new bike bridge, which opened last November, and the new public-safety building, which is in the midst of construction on Sherman Avenue.

She also cited several disappointments, including her failure to sway her colleagues to adopt policies prohibiting council members from using electronic devices during meetings and pursuing campaign finance reform. She also lists as one of her failures "gracefully letting a colleague with more tenure take a leadership role," an apparent allusion to the vote for vice mayor in 2020.

"Let's just say it wasn't reciprocated," Cormack wrote.

Cormack said in an interview that she hopes some of the projects that she has championed, including the redevelopment of Cubberley and the expansion of the shuttle program that was shut down during the pandemic, will come to fruition after she is no longer on the council. Palo Alto, she noted, has plenty of precedents for that: Vic Ojakian championing the new public safety building; Karen Holman supporting the new history museum; and LaDoris Cordell fighting to drop Foothills Park's "residents-only requirement."

Cormack said that her decision not to run is related to the "Great Resignation," a nationwide trend of people leaving their jobs during the pandemic. She emphasized that she will remain fully committed to her duties until her term ends. The reason she is announcing her decision now, she said, is because she wants other people to have time to run.

She said has worked hard since winning the 2018 election to "maintain my own and the council's calm demeanor."

"I'll be sad if that changes when I'm no longer on the council," Cormack said. "I will look for candidates who can be graceful and thoughtful under pressure."

Comments

Kevin
Registered user
Greendell/Walnut Grove
on May 13, 2022 at 7:32 pm
Kevin, Greendell/Walnut Grove
Registered user
on May 13, 2022 at 7:32 pm
Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2022 at 8:28 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 13, 2022 at 8:28 pm

Too bad for the developers and those looking for huge capital spending projects, maybe, regardless of what the neighbors want like the landlord's desire to convert Town & Country Shopping Center from a resident-serving shoppijg center to undefined "medical/retail" just as the recovery was starting.


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2022 at 11:19 pm
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 13, 2022 at 11:19 pm

Excellent decision.
“Team” - a new euphemism for “Slate”.


PaloAltoVoter
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 14, 2022 at 1:10 am
PaloAltoVoter, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 14, 2022 at 1:10 am

I’m not sure Ms Cormack would work well with many. She always seems to take snarky shots at her colleagues when they are agreeing, with her being the one “to disrupt the calm”. I think it’s called micro aggression. Let’s hope we can some candidates that represent residents well.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2022 at 6:55 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 14, 2022 at 6:55 am

Alison Cormack was well known around the community for her work on the Mitchell Park library and in the PTA. I believe many of her friends and contacts voted for her just because they knew her or knew her name. I think at least some of them were disappointed in her views which they did not know when they made their decision. I am not sure they would vote for her again.

It comes down to understanding who the candidates are before deciding to vote for them. Just because you know the person from somewhere, doesn't mean you should automatically vote for them. I wish people in Palo Alto would pay more to council elections because so many take little time choosing compared to the more noisy bigger races.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 14, 2022 at 10:37 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 14, 2022 at 10:37 am

"I’m not sure Ms Cormack would work well with many. She always seems to take snarky shots at her colleagues when they are agreeing, with her being the one “to disrupt the calm”. I think it’s called micro aggression. Let’s hope we can some candidates that represent residents well."

In addition to her snarky shots at colleagues, you could always count on her to disrupt substantive discussions by saying, "Let's hear staff's take on this" since she and staff rarely represent residents well.

She really outdid herself representing the Town & Country landlord, giving us good giggles with her absurd insistence that patients at the proposed "medical/retail" establishments would surely go on shopping sprees while hurting, sweating and/or still drugged from recent procedures.

Re her support for campaign finance "reform," where was she while her mentor Ms. Kniss was violating campaign finance laws and why aren't they pushing to limit contributions from businesses and lobbyists as well as from residents?


community member
Registered user
University South
on May 14, 2022 at 4:36 pm
community member, University South
Registered user
on May 14, 2022 at 4:36 pm

Cormack's close association with Liz Kniss says everything you need to know. Kniss was featured prominently in her pre-election fotos.
Pro developers all the way.
Hope she can be replaced with a citizen-centered candidae.


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