Scharff, Shepherd to lead City Council in 2013 | January 11, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 11, 2013

Scharff, Shepherd to lead City Council in 2013

After Scharff wins unanimous support for mayor, Shepherd beats out Holman for vice mayor job

by Gennady Sheyner

The Palo Alto City Council ushered in the new year Monday night by choosing Greg Scharff and Nancy Shepherd as its mayor and vice mayor for 2013.

At a meeting that began with a swearing-in ceremony for four council members and ended with an emotional send-off for two others, the council voted unanimously to select Scharff as its mayor for the next 12 months. The decision was largely a foregone conclusion, given Scharff's position as vice mayor in 2012 and the city's tradition of elevating its vice mayor to the council's top position the following year.

Shepherd's election to vice mayor was more suspenseful after she withstood a challenge from Councilwoman Karen Holman. The former school-district activist was elected by a vote of 6-3, with Councilman Pat Burt, Councilman Greg Schmid and Holman herself voting for Holman.

The election to mayor completes Scharff's meteoric rise to the top of the city's political scene. He was elected in 2009 on the strength of a grassroots campaign based in large part on his opposition to a proposed business-license tax. Unlike most of his colleagues, he had not served on any local boards or commissions before joining the council.

Since then, he has emerged as one of the council's most confident and assertive voices, taking a leading role in the city's effort to curtail the rising costs of employee benefits and to promote bike-friendly initiatives. He and Holman both played a central part in the city's successful campaign in 2011 to repeal binding arbitration for public-safety workers. He was also an outspoken opponent of last year's proposal to legalize medical-marijuana dispensaries in the city — a proposal that fizzled in the ballot box in November.

Scharff also hasn't shied away from the lighter components of his position, taking part in various groundbreaking ceremonies and city functions throughout the year.

Councilman Larry Klein, who nominated Scharff, praised his ability to "keep us moving along and reach sometimes compromise solutions and sometimes better-worded resolutions." Scharff has already chaired numerous meetings, particularly those involving Stanford University, from which outgoing Mayor Yiaway Yeh had to recuse himself.

"We've seen he can do the job," Klein said of Scharff.

Klein also rejected the notion that a mayor is strictly a ceremonial position in Palo Alto. The position involves not only chairing meetings but also representing the city in other communities, in the United States and abroad.

"I think Greg has shown that he is a leader for our community," Klein said.

In his first speech as mayor, Scharff said he has much to look forward to in 2013, including the opening of the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, the implementation of the city's new Bike and Pedestrian Transportation Plan, and the city's electric utility reaching a carbon-neutral portfolio. He also said the council still has plenty of work to do, particularly when it comes to curtailing costs.

"As those of you who follow city issues know, we still have much hard work ahead and many choices that will define our community for decades," Scharff said. "That future is now. At the end of 2013, I want all of us to look back and say, 'Wow. We accomplished a lot.'"

Both Scharff and Shepherd joined the council in 2009, the last council election to occur in an odd-number year. Councilwoman Gail Price and Holman also joined the council that year, while Klein was re-elected for another term.

Price, who nominated Shepherd, lauded her respect for the colleagues, preparation for meetings and sense of humor. Shepherd has been heavily involved in the city's ongoing effort to promote youth well-being and in its decision-making process over the future of the Cubberley Community Center. A Southgate resident, she took a central role in her neighborhood's opposition to the state's high-speed-rail proposal in 2009 and has served on the council's Rail Committee.

Over the past year, the former PTA Council president has also chaired the council's Finance Committee.

"Nancy is well-versed on a wide variety of issues and prepares carefully and thoughtfully for all meetings and discussions," Price said.

In accepting the nomination, Shepherd called it "an honor" to serve on the council.

"I think we do take rigor with all of our debate," Shepherd said. "This is something we really want to get right for the community."

The council began its meeting by swearing in the four members elected last November — incumbents Burt and Schmid, former Mayor Liz Kniss and Marc Berman.

The meeting ended on a bittersweet note, as the council said its farewell to two of its youngest members, Yiaway Yeh and Sid Espinosa. The council unanimously passed resolutions in honor of Yeh and Espinosa, with each receiving a standing ovation for his five years of service on the council.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by Dark-Days-Ahead, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2013 at 9:30 am

> Klein also rejected the notion that a mayor is strictly a
> ceremonial position in Palo Alto. The position involves
> not only chairing meetings but also representing the city
> in other communities, in the United States and abroad.

The Charter does not remotely suggest that the City of Palo Alto has any municipal authority outside its borders. So, it’s not at all clear what role an unelected Mayor should be trying to assert beyond Palo Alto’s borders. Certainly inviting people to visit our town is within the role of Mayor, but to promote national policies, or international policies—which might reflect only the mindset of a few people—is not appropriate, and should perhaps even become the basis for a Council recall.

> "I think Greg has shown that he is a leader for our community," Klein said.

Our form of government is “representative”, meaning that there is a conveyance of political power from “the people” to individuals who are elected (but sometimes selected) to make decisions for everyone. There is no mention of “leaders” in our municipal Charter, or any of the foundation documents of our government (state/federal constitutions). Leaders are people who generally expect the “little people” to follow them, rather than to discern the sentiments of the majority and make decisions that reflect those sentiments.

After Scharff’s clear statements favoring massive buildings (relative to a recent PC zoning: “The building is the benefit”), it’s difficult to believe that there will be anything that remotely reflects the general sentiments of Palo Altans—just his clients in the building trades.

It is difficult to understand how a city that is populated with as many well-educated people can end up electing the likes of Peter Drekmeier and Gregg Scharff.

Posted by Egotists rule, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2013 at 10:47 am

Dark days said:It is difficult to understand how a city that is populated with as many well-educated people can end up electing the likes of Peter Drekmeier and Gregg Scharff.
I agree and I would add Kniss and the new kid, Marc Berman. He sounded like a high school boy talking about himself and joking round. Ignorance wont stand in his way though, the other developer lawyers will tell him how to vote.
Kniss was unbelievable in the tastelessness of her speeches. She used her time to praise her own ELECTION committee and she went off the dais to give flowers to her election committee. Her egocentricity set a new low for inappropriate self-praise.

Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 8, 2013 at 11:38 am

The elected officials keep congratualting themselves for doing a great job, but somehow the job is not getting done.

Let's be optomistic and hope for a change:

1. A list of priortitized city services, and meaningful reductions to the bloated City budget.

2. Stop the gifts to developers and uphold the principles of our comprehensive plan.

3. Stop robbing the Utility funds to pay for City operations.

In the end, we need to show that we spend no more per resident than any other Bay Area city.

We have a long way to go. I hope that the voters will hold the elected officials accountable for these pragmatic expectations. We sure spend a lot of time on pomp and circumstance for being a relatively small business compared to the companies most residents work for. Let's ask for fewer words and more results.

Hope springs eternal, but there are no historical data points indicating brighter days. Instead we can look to Bond Issues as a substitute for fiscal responsibility, and breaking Prop. 13 as a substitute for living within our means.

Greg Scharf, I hope you read this and take us in a new direction.

Best regards,

Tim Gray

Posted by communitymember, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Thank you, Tim Gray, for stating so clearly what many Palo Altans want.

Posted by Alice Smith, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Last night's ceremony was impressive for its acknowledgement of the fine work and dedication of those who volunteer their intellect, compassion and foresight to civil duty.

In a democracy, with a representative form of government, we learn to stop, look and listen. Integrity and dedication have been the hallmarks of Yiaway Yeh and Sid Espinosa's service. I commend the new council on its efforts and know that these 9 men and women will ensure that what we are privileged to enjoy in Palo Alto continues: a livable community with the capacity to plan for the future, to make sure the public is involved in that planning and decision-making and to focus on a greener, safer, saner place to live.

Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Dark days-- not only the two you mentioned, but also Morton, kishimoto and burch. Plus we just elected kiss again!! After she manipulated the system to ensure an election year that would suit her needs.
I am honestly surprised given the shenanigans over the last decade we have not booted a few more council members a la Eakins.
Timothy is right on. Instead we get another evening of back slapping and self congratulations. Get ready for another year of crumbling infrastructure and consultants fees while we plan to build an expensive bike bridge over 101 so that all can see how wonderful PA is.
Too bad, Timothy was not elected to the council. Unfortunately he spoke his mind regarding our "leaders" and their shill, the PA Weekly.

Posted by lazlo, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Scharff is just another of Klein's yes men. It is no wonder Klein unashamedly nominated his junior partner. Too bad we don't have any councilmembers willing to show leadership or act independently, but choose only to follow blindly where others have already failed. What a pity.

Posted by Rob, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 8, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Scharff has shown that he could care less about the citizens and employees of Palo Alto. What he does care about is "rubbing elbows" with the big builders that keep invading our town.

Posted by Fighting Negativity, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 9, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Glad to see a few glimmers of positivity in these comments. Thanks to Sid and Yiaway for their service. I appreciate the valuable, dedicated service of these wonderful people.

Posted by Missing the story, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2013 at 8:27 pm

The story here isn't Scharff it's shephard. Why did three council members vote against her? That's unusual. I suspect it's because they think she is not up to the job of mayor intellectually and they don't want to put her next in line for it. But no one asked them or if they did the paper didn't publish their responses. If you have ever talked with her then you know that she's very nice but not going to be able to swim in the deep end of the intellectual pool. Since this is Palo Alto the partners the mayor has to deal with in industry and with Stanford require a higher degree of horsepower. At least she's not a self promoting old crone or a spoiled brat (welcome to our two newest members!). But she's basically a hat rack. Good for Pat Burt and the others for trying to maintain some standards.

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