Yeh, Scharff to lead Palo Alto council in 2012 | January 6, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 6, 2012

Yeh, Scharff to lead Palo Alto council in 2012

Yeh becomes second-youngest mayor in city history; Scharff edges out Schmid to become vice mayor

by Gennady Sheyner

Yiaway Yeh, a mild-mannered auditor with an appetite for crunching budget numbers and delving into utilities issues, was unanimously elected Tuesday night to serve as Palo Alto mayor this year, becoming the second-youngest councilman to ever hold the position.

In assuming the top position on the City Council, Yeh, 33, became Palo Alto's youngest mayor in 80 years (only Byrl Salsman, who joined the council in 1929, was younger) and the first mayor to have graduated from Gunn High School. He also became the city's first Chinese-American mayor at a time when the city's Chinese population is booming.

In electing Yeh as mayor, the council lauded him for his patient, deliberative style and his mastery of some of the city's driest but most critical issues, namely finances and utilities. (see sidebar on page 5).

Councilman Larry Klein, who nominated Yeh, pointed to Yeh's experience as a city auditor as a major reason for his ability to bring a different perspective to the council's deliberation. Council member Karen Holman also praised Yeh's unswervingly polite manner, calling him a "gentleman and a gentle man."

"He frequently sees things that other members of the council, perhaps all of us, have not seen," Klein said. "I think we've all seen that Yiaway is a careful, deliberate thinker."

Yeh had been serving as vice mayor in 2011 so his election to mayor was a foregone conclusion. The race for vice mayor proved far closer, with the council narrowly picking Greg Scharff over Greg Schmid. After five of the nine members indicated that they would support Scharff, Schmid asked his colleagues to make the vote unanimous, which they did.

Councilman Pat Burt nominated Scharff, citing his deep familiarity with local issues and his ability to communicate clearly and to seek consensus. He also noted that Scharff, like Yeh, has been deeply engaged in the realms of finance and utilities. Scharff, a local attorney, has served as chair of the council's Finance Committee and as liaison to the Utilities Advisory Commission.

These issues, Burt said, "are the backbone of everything we do." Scharff was also one of the leaders of the city's successful effort to repeal a City Charter provision that required a binding-arbitration panel to settle labor disputes between the city and its public-safety unions.

"He has demonstrated a strong outlook that leaders truly must put the community's interest first," Burt said.

Councilman Sid Espinosa agreed and, after praising Schmid, said Scharff would "move us forward."

"He listens carefully when we have debates. He finds middle ground and, meeting after meeting, he helps us come to a decision," Espinosa said of Scharff.

Council members Klein and Nancy Shepherd also voted for Scharff, with Scharff himself providing the fifth vote to secure his own election. His rise to vice mayor makes Scharff the first of the four council members who were elected in 2009 to take on a leadership position on the council.

Mayor Yeh and council members Holman, Gail Price and Schmid all wrote Schmid's name on their ballots, though they all ultimately voted for Scharff upon Schmid's request.

Schmid's supporters lauded the economist for his dedication to strategic planning and transparency. Price called him a "very wise and thoughtful individual" while Espinosa praised him for understanding issues and data "at a level that is unmatched at this dais."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by Another-Day-In-The-Big-City, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2012 at 7:13 am

> the council lauded him for his patient,
> deliberative style and his mastery of some
> of the city's driest but most critical issues,
> namely finances and utilities.

And how has Mr. Yeh actually “mastered” issues associated with “finances and utilities”? Has he shared any of this knowledge with the electorate? Has he written any “white papers” outlining issues that he feels need to be changed? Has he called for any audits by inside, or outside, auditors to provide expert insight into the long term management issues facing the City?

No .. he has done none of these things. So .. what exactly makes him and “expert”, or how does anything that he has done while being on the Council justify his being Mayor?

> These include fixing up the city's aged infrastructure,
> promoting youth wellbeing and finding ways to make
> services more efficient.

Yeh certainly did not mention “infrastructure” during his campaign for the City Council in 2007, nor is there much of a paper trail linking him to the long-term infrastructure issues facing the City.

> He also said he will also hold "Mayor's Challenges," a series of
> athletic events that will be held throughout the city to
> encourage community building.

Oh Boy ..

Posted by Adobe, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 4, 2012 at 7:52 am

I met Yiaway awhile back, and I found him impressively confident, poised, and articulate. "Mild-mannered" certainly didn't come to mind, so I'm quite surprised to see this characterization in the lead sentence of this article. I'd like to think that your publication frequently describes public officials of all races as "mild-mannered" and that your reporter was in no way lazily and regrettably embracing negative stereotypes of Asian men. Yes, I'd like to think that.

Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 4, 2012 at 8:41 am

Adobe-- This is Just another example of more sloppy "reporting" by Gennady Sheyner. She recently had a story about the HSR (Web Link) that contained a quote by Larry Klein, that a real reporter would have pounced on.
On the other hand, this is another example of the back slapping that occurs with these elections (popularity contests). The council members fall all over themselves praising one another, while our city wastes money and slowly decays.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 4, 2012 at 9:08 am

Yeh was the 5th vote which put on the ballot the Measure which removed binding arbitration for the Fire department. That was a tough vote, especially since he gotten elected with Union support. Contrast that to Espinosa, Price & Shepard, who also elected with Union support, but didn't want to give Palo Alto the opportunity to vote on the binding arbitration issue.

Posted by Ronna Devincenzi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2012 at 11:37 am

Yiaway Yeh was the *only* member of council to attend the program at Jerusalem Baptist church on race relations, immediately after allegations of racial profiling was all over the news, during all the chaos, & while Police Chief Lynne Johnson still led the PAPD. That took *guts*.

He may be 'mild-mannered' but he has wisdom and courage beyond his years. Yeh is also a listener, a proven team player, approachable, a hard worker, and he pays attention to FACTS.

From what I've seen of how he works (and this is consistently since the day he was first elected) Palo Alto residents should consider themselves blessed to have him serving in the role of mayor.

Yeh is the best person at this time to be mayor, deserving support, appreciation, and a chance to create a vision in his new role.

Greg Schmid has similar excellent qualities as Yeh, and experience, elected at the same time as Yeh & Espinosa. He would have made a wise and capable Vice-Mayor, especially with so many hot button issues on the table, moving forward quickly is not necessarily a good thing (a la, the High Speed Rail?) Moving forward quickly should be limited to the Development Center staff regarding permits.

To "Svatoid" -Reporter Gennady Sheyner is a MAN, not a woman. Other than that, your point is well taken.

Posted by A-Vote-For-Limited-Governments, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm

> allegations of racial profiling was all over the news,

And that's all they were.

> and a chance to create a vision in his new role

The role of Mayor is not to create "his own vision" of Palo Alto, its government, and anything else. We are a nation of laws .. in this case, a Charter-based government which is intended to provide certain services. The idea that this fellow Yeh, who did not provide one hint of what his vision might be when he campaigned for office, should be now free to "do what he wants" is why governments fail in other parts of the world.

Yeh is not qualified to create a vision for Palo Alto. He has never been in the Military, he has never owned a business, made a payroll, or even openly admitted that he believes in the basic American system. It's not even clear he owns property in this town, although perhaps that information is in his Form 700.

Luckily .. he doesn't have too much power to do much other than Chair the Council Meetings. But maybe his being "first chair" will give the public an opportunity to ask him a few questions about who he is, and why he ran for office.

Posted by What's his problem?, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Sounds like the above poster had an issue with minorities. He dismisses the clear examples of racial profiling that an out of control police chief allowed tip happen. Then he launches into a diatribe against the first chinese-american council member in this city. Me thinks the poster doeth protest too much.

Posted by A-Vote-For-Limited-Governments, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2012 at 6:52 pm

> He dismisses the clear examples of racial profiling that
> an out of control police chief allowed tip happen

And what examples might they be? Other than one odd comment the former Police Chief that was taken out of context by people who seemed to be more intent on making Palo Alto out to be a mecca of "racism" than dealing with the spikes in crime that were occurring at the time--what examples of "racism" can you, or anyone, point to?

And as to Yeh's being Chinese .. you brought it up .. not me. My comments were in opposition to the poster claiming he should be free to "create his own vision". He ran a very thin campaign .. didn't say anything of substance .. other than "he was keen on local government". No comment about his "race" was in the posting.

So .. if you are looking for "racism" .. try looking in a mirror .. as you will most assuredly find it there.

Posted by What's his problem?, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Looks like the above poster has entered into advanced spin mode to try to control the damage from his comments. Let us just say that the questioning of yeh's "american" values by the above poster speak for themselves. The actions of our local police ate well documented as well. Spin on.

Posted by A-Vote-For-Limited-Governments, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm

> The actions of our local police ate well documented as well.

Yeah .. right!

One of the problems with Palo Alto is it attracts so many Kooks and Trolls .. slinging nothing but mud and garbage. If there were so many "well documented" incidents .. then this fellow would have been able to provide us with three or four incidents.. which would include:

1) date
2) nature of incident
3) names of police participants
4) outcome of incident

However .. all we get is his snarky gobbledygook.

There have been some incidents with the Palo Alto police over the years .. no one who is a long-time resident (with a good memory) will deny that. However, most of those incidents have not had racial overtones, such as the Officer Louis Verbera incident of some twelve years ago (or so).

The one case that did have racial overtones (the so-called Lee and Kan case) was referred to the Santa Clara DA's office, which in turn took the case to trial. The result was a hung-jury; the DA declined to retry the case, citing "racial bias in potential Asian jurors" of Santa Clara County as reason not to believe that a conviction could be secured. This failure to obtain a clear result was unsettling to many, but hardly constituted an example of institutional "racism" on the part of the Palo Alto police(particularly since the two officers involved were Asian).

Another case involving a black man from East Palo Alto occurred on the Stanford campus. The man was shot and killed by a Palo Alto police officer, but only after he tried to pin injure her with the vehicle he was trying to steal. The officer was cleared, as the shooting was determined to be justified in the line of duty. Again, no evidence of "racism" involved.

So .. without any stated examples from this poster .. it's pretty clear he is just another of the many "Trolls" that this blog attracts who have little to do with their time but pester people and waste their time.

Posted by What's his problem?, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm

The above poster is clearly in super spin mode now. And speaking of snarky gobbledygook!!!

Posted by Sandra Newell, a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2012 at 9:36 am

I remember Yiahway Yeh when he was a student at Gunn H.S. He was a polite, unassuming young man who was always willing to help his peers with academic difficulties. I'm glad to know he still shares generously of his talents and am proud to have known him. I wish him every success; Palo Alto is not the easiest city to lead, given the level of education and articulation of its citizens. It has been some years since I lived in Palo Alto, but I have warm memories of my 30+ years there and believe the city to be very fortunate in its mayor.

Posted by CPA Employee & Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm

I respect Yeh greatly for his experience as an auditor, his ability to financially analyze, and be informed of city functions and performance. I hope in his new post as Mayor that he brings back to Palo Alto some social and economic responsibility, and compassion to Palo Alto for it's treatment of the individuals who work for the City of Palo Alto....knowing fully well his ability to gauge performance and budget process.

In 2010- 2011 The City of Palo Alto for it's financial management exploited the use of retirees and contractors more than the surrounding cities and the County of Santa Clara.

Change is needed. Palo Alto has taken advantage of the economic downturn to exploit the unemployed and not provide full time year round jobs. Check out the Santa Clara Grand Jury report on Palo Alto's use of retirees (double dippers) last year. Ask how many "contractors", PT, "contract specialists" are now working for Palo Alto compared to 2009 work force percentages.

Our economy in Palo Alto according to Mayor Sid Espinoza on the Commonwealth Club broadcast in 2011,,,the "Palo Alto Economy is booming".

In summary: In the process of a balanced budget...there needs to be a return to respect for economic and social responsibility in Palo Alto.

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