THE RACE TO THE DAIS ... Every once in a while, a local election ushers in sweeping changes (as in 1967, when Palo Alto voters ousted 13 out of 15 sitting council members) or provides a forum for debating the issue of the day (as in 2009, when there was widespread disagreement over the city's proposed business-license tax). This year's contest promises to do neither of these things. With just six candidates vying for four seats and four of these candidates enjoying sizeable leads in funds, endorsements and name recognition, this year's election could emerge as somewhat of a ho-hum affair (maybe it's a sign of the times that even panhandler Victor Frost, a perennial candidate, decided to sit this one out). The two incumbents, Pat Burt and Greg Schmid, have been on the council since 2007 and are well familiar to local political observers. Liz Kniss is a political veteran and a two-time mayor. Marc Berman — the only first-time council candidate — has already amassed a hefty campaign chest and a long list of supporters. Nor is there significant difference in the candidates' priorities, with all four frontrunners pledging in their candidate statements to focus on the city's financial stability and, to varying degrees, on issues such as transportation, infrastructure and sustainability. The other two candidates in the race portray themselves as truly "independent" voices. Tim Gray, who ran in 2009 and finished 11th out of 14 candidates, says he won't accept endorsements or contributions. But he then advocates a "vision of financial balance and well-funded infrastructure," a reasonable proposal that the rest of the pool would hardly disagree with. As for Mark Weiss, a concert promoter who also ran in 2009 (finishing 13th) — his priorities are a bit of a wildcard. In his statement, Weiss says he is running more "to generate and moderate" a list of concerns rather than to "foist one that is pre-written." He said he sees himself more as a "catalyst for ideas, as a facilitator and communicator, more than a leader per se. Part semi-conductor, part song-catcher, if you will."
STOPWATCH PLEASE ... Gunn High School student Utkash Dubey and Palo Alto High School student Anthony Villanueva have joined the Palo Alto Board of Education as nonvoting student members for the academic year 2012-13. The brevity of remarks each made at the start of Tuesday's board meeting did not prevent their colleagues from going on much longer — pushing the meeting's end an hour beyond the 10 p.m. target for adjournment. Board members have vowed to make their twice-a-month meetings more efficient this year but haven't quite worked out the details.
BREAKING GROUND ... Residents of Crescent Park will next year see a host of changes at their beloved neighborhood park. The city plans to launch next spring a major renovation project at Eleanor Pardee Park on Channing Avenue, near Center Drive. The $674,000 project, which the city's Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled to discuss Tuesday night, includes repaving the damaged asphalt walkways, renovating the irrigation system, planting new trees and replacing the swings and the playground equipment at the park's aged "tot-lot." The city also plans to add a host of new amenities, including benches, picnic tables, barbecue space, drinking fountains and new trash cans.