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City Council incumbents maintain cash edge in crowded Palo Alto race

Original post made on Sep 25, 2020

The two incumbents in Palo Alto's crowded race for City Council seats are leading the 10-candidate field in cash raised, while six of their challengers have received more than $20,000 in donations, campaign finance disclosures show.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 25, 2020, 3:29 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by Follow the Money
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2020 at 3:49 pm

Follow the Money is a registered user.

Over 40% of Steven Lee’s donations come from outside of Palo Alto. Add to that Tanaka’s overwhelming haul from real estate and developer interests, and we’re seeing a very worrisome trend.

Here at the most local level of democracy, non-residents (and therefore neither taxed nor impacted) and special interests are weighing in heavily to influence the election outcome (and future of our city).

Posted by Haru Sato
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Haru Sato is a registered user.

Looks like several candidates are taking money from outside Palo Alto through PACS and other groups like Cari Templeton and Raven Malone in addition to Steven Lee. Would be interesting if the Weekly did an analysis of where the money is coming from. I'm interested in understanding who Palo Alto voters are supporting

Posted by It's Time for Campaign Finance Reform
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2020 at 4:07 pm

It's Time for Campaign Finance Reform is a registered user.

@follow the money. Agree that there is a worrying trend in how much money is spent on these races, but odd to call out Lee who at least seems interested in stopping the runaway amounts by committing to a $45k cap, not accepting money from developers, capping individual contributions.

Palo Alto is of course a rich city, but we have seen the amounts going up each year. Let's be clear, it is both sides too: Developer-backed candidates and PASZ backed candidates. MV managed some sort of agreed-upon cap in the $25k range, can we do the same? Maybe put that on the ballot next time around... something we all agree on?

I'd like to see more candidates at least try to limit their fundraising. The whole "PA residents only" purity test is irrelevant and dangerous unless we only want candidates who have lived here for 50+ years to run. Looks like most of these candidates raise from friends and family, some (like a lot of residents) didn't grow up in PA so those people aren't from the city...big deal.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 25, 2020 at 4:17 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@FollowTheMoney I agree that it is odd that you are calling out Lee when he is the only candidate who has a self-imposed limit on spending. Lee also refused to accept donations from developers, for-profit corporations, and law enforcement. Despite receiving donations from friends, classmates, and family outside of Palo Alto, Lee has still raised money from more Palo Alto donors than most of the other candidates. This indicates broad support for Lee throughout the community. Campaign finance reform is absolutely necessary. We need a spending cap and to eventually transition towards publicly financed elections which will make running for office more accessible to every person in our community. We must also pay our council people a living wage so that they can focus on the necessary work being done in our city without needing another job.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Resident is a registered user.

There seem to be three main groups shaking out this year:

The Progressive Crusaders, who support police-defunding, oppose racism, and want to replace single family homes with duplexes and quadplexes. Have stated they’re “the ONLY candidates who embody Palo Alto Values,” and will “build the Palo Alto of Tomorrow”* since today’s is a den of Privilege and Exclusion-ism. Oppose local control of land use. Substantial money from out-of-town social activists. (*Lee-Malone-Templeton mailer)

The Libertarians, who oppose Retail protection, residential parking programs and office caps, all of which cost landlords money. Big Real Estate loves (and funds) them. What’s good for Development is good for Palo Alto.

The Local City Elders, fixated on boring stuff like traffic, budgets, services and dog parks. Most money from residents.

Vote your preference in November.

Posted by Paly Student
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 25, 2020 at 4:49 pm

Paly Student is a registered user.

Cari Templeton, Raven Malone, and Steven Lee have really done a good job with real grassroots fundraising without any special interest backing, unlike the other candidates. They will definitely take Palo Alto in a positive direction!

Posted by Independent expenditures
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 25, 2020 at 4:51 pm

Independent expenditures is a registered user.

What the article missed is all the Independent Expenditures (IE) campaign spending. These are organizations that campaign for candidates but the fund are not reported as part of the candidate's campaign. Last time Cormack had half of her total campaign spend (~$130k) from IEs and there was a bunch of IE $s with DuBois and Filseth. Where is the research into this for the 2020 campaign? It looks like Raven's campaign has a IE setup.

I think the real problem isn't the amount raised but that some candidates hide money via IEs.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 25, 2020 at 5:09 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Independent expenditures, absolutely more digging into the funding is needed.

Big money is being spent on this election with, for example, Big Tech spending $70,000,000 on Prop 22 to keep their workers as contractors with no benefits to save themselves money while pricing more workers out of housing (as per the San Francisco Chronicle on 9/4 so that number is probably much more a month later).

Web Link

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2020 at 7:38 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Hi. I am grateful for this article because it demonstrates a few things about my campaign:

1. I value speaking to constituents over phone calls to people asking them for money;

2. I have accepted only 2 donations over $500, one of which was $560.

3. I may have the most number of individual contributors, but this was not calculated by the Weekly.

4. I almost certainly have the lowest average contribution - also not contributed by the Weekly.

5. I have a spending cap less than half of Steven Lee's -- my spending cap is $20,000. (His is $45,000)

With the large amount of time I spend speaking with our residents, and my recent endorsements by the SEIU 521 and the South Bay Labor Council's 101 member organizations, I am proud of my priorities -- people over money.

I strongly believe that a candidate who spends too much of his or her time raising money is going to be the least prepared to serve our community!

So I am grateful for the Weekly's coverage, which demonstrated what a truly grassroots campaign looks like, and what a PAC- and special-interest campaign looks like.

To Resident: Am I a local city elder? I embrace that, while also being passionately pro-affordable housing, and strongly in favor of a business tax on our largest employers and commercial developers.

To Paly student: my son goes to Paly, and he disagrees! My campaign actually is the most grass-roots, given that I (possibly) have the most donors, and (almost certainly) have the lowest average donation size. Maybe it's my age showing, but I consider $1000 to be a HUGE donation (I never have made a donation of this size!) which is why my campaign only has accepted one donation that large. I also don't have any independent expenditure or private interests spending money on my behalf, and I have made a commitment not to spend more than $20,000 (less than half of Steven Lee's commitment). Also, relevant to you, perhaps: I am the only candidate who has campaigned actively for Vote16! But I mean no insult to any other candidate.

Maybe most relevant is that I'm the only candidate who believes in publicly funded elections. As a different competitor complained last night, publicly funded elections could double the number of candidates! But I, like the Palo Alto Weekly moderator, perhaps - think that allowing a much larger - and more representative - number of residents the opportunity to serve in public office is a GOOD thing. For that reason, I also support turning City Council positions into (median-income-paid) full time jobs, requiring all elected officials to forgo their conflicts of interest (so future mayors won't have to choose between the boss who pays them, e.g. Ford, and the boss who elected them - the voters). Making city council a job also would clarify that the role deserves priority attention, while enabling lower-income workers - many of whom have to work more than one job to make ends meet - the long-overdue opportunity to participate in government.

Given the self-promoting nature of this comment, the Weekly may remove it. But I did feel that a couple of the misstatements -- in the comments more than in the article -- were worth correcting.

Posted by Change your Language
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 25, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Change your Language is a registered user.

Because one commenter mentioned this before, I figured I can talk about this here - Lee, Templeton and Malone's mailer was so incredibly rude and disgusting that I find it impossible to vote for them.

"The only candidates who represent Palo Alto values" - really?? THAT'S the phrasing they went with? How dismissive of all the other candidates - I might disagree with some of the people running, but they are all running to make Palo Alto a better place to live. How dare they run a mailer which claims that they are the only ones who represent our city, when most of their funding isn't even from the city? They are clearly spending more time courting high dollar donors than speaking to Palo Altans, and that's not a Palo Alto value at all.

They could have said "candidates for change." They could have said "candidate for progressive reform." That's acceptable and descriptive of their platform. It is arrogance and ignorance that led them to say they are the only ones who represent Palo Alto values - if they get elected, I doubt their council colleagues will want to work with them after this.

To anyone who read the whole thing, congrats! And vote for Eisenberg - she's always been my pick.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 25, 2020 at 11:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

I find Ms. Templeton's evasions insulting. She's SAID she's the YIMBY candidate. Why won't she be honest about that means??

She can't find a single issue or action to criticize or change about the council's decisions during the last term??

When "Candidates were also asked to describe in one word or phrase, or a single sentence, their position on growth and development," her response was "Green"

Web Link :

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2020 at 2:18 pm

Resident is a registered user.

>> "The only candidates who represent Palo Alto values" - really?? THAT'S the phrasing they went with?

It might not be just phrasing. Local Council elections are supposed to be non-partisan, and though the Republican Party generally stays out of them, the Democratic Party has been wading in for years. Besides the “ONLY candidates with Palo Alto Values” bit, the mailer is packed top-to-bottom with Democratic Party paraphernalia.

The thing to understand is that while there’s a huge spectrum of Palo Altans who register democrat, the Democratic Political Party leadership in the South Bay has been completely taken over by the Angry Far Left, the people that the good folks at Fox News would have you believe represent all of California. This “our values not yours” business isn’t just rhetoric to the Party Leadership, and it may not be to these candidates either, especially if the Party Leadership supports them. As somebody earlier pointed out, at least one had to go delete their old Twitter history before starting a mainstream campaign in Palo Alto.

Furthermore, one of those Party Leadership Values, and this is obviously not limited to either political party, is “it’s ok to smear anybody with anything at all, no matter how outrageous, if it suits your purpose.” Saying other candidates have no Values is consistent with that.

If you share these values, you know how to vote. If not, that’s relevant too.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 26, 2020 at 5:53 pm

mjh is a registered user.

On the face of it, I notice Templeton appears to say all the right things to appeal to voters. But also very circumspect. Careful to outline the issues to appear knowledgeable but without giving much away as to where she really stands. Or whose interests she would really be representing if elected.

Posted by Voter
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2020 at 7:44 pm

Voter is a registered user.

Templeton sang the praises of Cormack in the Weekly's debate and her style of platitudes + evasiveness is very similar. I expect she is very much in Cormack's mold politically as well.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 27, 2020 at 11:18 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group and it's subsidiary groups have a big investment in increasing housing in this city. They have stated that in previous editorials in the papers. Given the current situation in which their employees do not go into work in their buildings and work from home that creates a rather weird situation. What we have learned this year is that people want a suburban home with a yard since that is as far as they are going to get on a normal day. So many empty buildings out there.

On a personal level I have no interest in supporting their agenda since it may be upsetting the local energy usage levels. Their agenda could be better served if they spread out their work areas to cities in the middle of the state as subsidiary support facilities. Everyone does not have to live on the peninsula. And the people who moved here and bought here do not have to throw their hands up and be taken over.

PA is centered on SU as it's original reason for being. Having our neighborhoods is reasonable. San Jose and southward can take care of what the SVLG is pushing. So word to our current group of PACC want-a-bees - push the breakdown of R-1 neighborhoods and you are toast. The current hopefuls are recent arrivals in the city and do not understand our "values".

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 27, 2020 at 11:26 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Another note here - in the last big earthquake the financial institutions moved their computer facilities to Ranch Cordova. They have to have a stable location that is not going to break down in an upheaval. Franklin Funds, insurance companies, etc. have to respond to their subscribers in an emergency. So this has been done before and is good facility management. It is also called "common sense". We here do not have to be pressured into tearing our city apart - no need for that. We need to push back and get more of their facilities in the inner state. Rancho Cordova is very green, very hip. And it has a great river for rafting. A fun place.

Posted by Voter
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 27, 2020 at 1:19 pm

Voter is a registered user.

Here is an example. I don't understand when Templeton says duplexes won't change the nature of the neighborhood. Has she been to EPA lately? They have a lot of duplexes there, it helps to reduce the cost of living. One consequence of that is an abundance of street parking. (You can scarcely drive down some EPA streets these days.) Higher density without additional parking means we will have more cars and less garage space.

Similarly Templeton advocates for high-rise density to protect our green space. Green space that is now used by how many more people? I never understood that about Cormack's Cubberley plans. It was something like 50% more green space to be used by 10x more people. Looks great as long as no one is using it.

Affordable housing will require compromises. I ask that we compromise for *affordable* housing and not market-rate, and that our representatives be up front about the changes -and the compromises- they are promoting.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 28, 2020 at 8:32 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Since someone mentioned Cubberley green space that is a main location for AYSO soccer teams. Obviously some people do not get out much - or don't have children who play sports. There are basketball courts, tennis courts, all of the facilities that you would expect a high school to have for it's students. There is also a football field - not sure how much that is used. We have a large number of club teams who are renting space all over the city. That is a BENEFIT. The school system and the city parks and rec can do more to promote the club team use of those fields. SU is closed down and a lot of their property has been used for club sports.
If a lot of people are not out there then you don't see it - but don't knock it if you are a stay-at-home. This is a family city and our kids are all about being on teams and we need facilities for those teams.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 28, 2020 at 8:49 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Many comments are focused on fund raising as being the criteria of success. Given the location of this city and it's continual appearance in national papers a lot of funds will appear from outside donors who are pushing the current progressive agenda since that is the political strategy this year. That is what the national level debates are about. And make no mistake a number of the candidates are in the pipeline for increased attention for future advancement in state politics.

Since state politics are term limited you have to be able to move up and out to fill in those positions. And then advance to federal positions which are not term limited. It is very clear from the debates who is getting into position for advancement in the party. And this city is a ticket to ride. Most have to demonstrate involvement on a city council to move up to a county and state job. It is called resume building activity.

Posted by Progressive’Join Forces!
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 28, 2020 at 7:34 pm

Progressive’Join Forces! is a registered user.

If the three progressive candidates shun joining forces and continue to bitterly compete against each other , not one of you will get elected. Strength in numbers. Malone, Lee and Eisenberg should create a progressive slate mailer, not on housing alone. PA CC is losing its biggest housing advocates and only renter on the CC. Align to win. Reach out to newly registered 18 year-olds, climate change advocates etc. You three may not agree on every issue and have differing ideas to solve PA massive housing deficit, climate change, cooperate and business tax loopholes. Don’t fall into the the powerful monied usual tactics to weaken this moment in a stacked deck. It’s exciting, thrilling and hope filled to know that progressive candidates are on the ballot. The most money does not have win. Three seats are open use the opportunity to usurp the dominate paradigm. I am voting for Lee, Malone and Eisenberg . Make the change you want to be. Start from our City Center and be larger than yourself. Race to win with the progressive vote .

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 28, 2020 at 7:41 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Greer Stone is also a renter

Posted by PaloAltoVoter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 28, 2020 at 9:29 pm

PaloAltoVoter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2020 at 9:48 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Listening to the debates I find the "progressive" approach very unsettling. For some reason this city keeps popping up in national papers with strange stories.

So the marchers went to Menlo Park - first I have seen Menlo Park mentioned anywhere. How about Sunnyvale? Even Mountain View which is the center of Google does not get much press. When I go downtown I do not seen anything that makes us stand out. What stands out is the SU campus for major sports activity with a lot of fans. Redwood City stands out because of their great weekend events for music attended by thousands. But RWC knows it's values and keeps it all together with great new housing in the down town area where it belongs.

We appear to be a political spring board for political want-a-bees. And they are pushing agendas which are goals for the governor and progressive groups. Most are loosing propositions because there is no money to support those "aspirations". And they say they are here to "save" us.
Please - save us from people who are centered on tearing down the R-1 residential neighborhoods and turning this place into a shanty town. And trying to take over the police department. That focus spells big trouble.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 29, 2020 at 12:59 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I wonder about people who arrive in PA to "save" us. My opinion - they are political want-a bees coming from a location that has bigger fish in it. Lee says he is from Cupertino - big fish fighting over development of the shopping center. Lots of bigger fish there.

Side story - Harvey Milk takes credit for being the first in a political office. I grew up in West Hollywood which is populated by well paid professionals in the movie business - it is a job wealthy area with long time credits for high end professionals. Harvey Milk would have been a small frog in a big frog pond. So go to SF which is less concerned with the professional aspects and skill sets. So he just jumped to a different frog pond. West Hollywood is a city that has a gay mayor and a gay population. And they make a lot of money in the movie business. They have big frog pond.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 29, 2020 at 1:57 pm

ALB is a registered user.

[Post removed; unverifiable factual assertion.]

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 30, 2020 at 12:07 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

YEAH - did I just mention Sunnyvale? They hit the papers today for being one of the safest cities in CA. San Mateo also got a nod for being a safe city. NO mention of PA. We hit the papers for other reasons. Disgruntled commissioners who rail away in the national press. What are they selling? They of course are here to "save" us. Do we need saving? We must since we do not have a name in the "Safest City List". But we are not buying what they are selling. Retribution factor at play here.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2020 at 5:28 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Of current leadership, Lydia Kou is the only person on this ballot that deserves my continued support.
I am much more enthusiastic about Rebecca Eisenberg; she would raise the game of the other six on the dais.
I’d give an opportunity to Greer Stone and Raven Malone.
Overall, I think it’s a weak crop of candidates.
Bob Marley says: you can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of time.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 1, 2020 at 5:37 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Or as the Al Mighty weird have said, if Palo Alto

is truly Supreme, where's the guac, ground beef, and sour cream?"

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