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Is There Civic Leadership in Palo Alto?

Original post made by fred, Barron Park, on Mar 19, 2007

Reposted from another topic - seemed worth its own thread...

Where is the organized city leadership in Palo Alto? It's the vacuum created by lack of strong, visible leadership that seems to let so many things get off-track or bogged down in interest-group sniping. Back east, we had a Mayor - a real, elected-to-the-job, 4 year Mayor, as the chief executive of the city, whose job was to drive initiatives and actually get things done. If we didn't like him/her, we'd vote him/her out, but at least things got done. This City Council/City Manager form of government appears to open the door for interest-group driven gridlock without leadership responsible for getting results.

Is there real civic leadership in Palo Alto?

Comments (5)

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Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2007 at 8:39 am

Our civic leaders are the ones facing away from bread and butter housekeeping while they try to steer the nation down the rosy path.

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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2007 at 8:47 am

Fred--you are right, there is no city leadership. the city council is afraid of any conflict and upsetting/alienating certain factions in the city, therefore difficult decisions are not made and things spiral downhill from there(witness the current discussion on cutting $3 million from the budget, any and all cuts appear to be opposed by one group or another, so the city council, not wanting to upset certain people, is dithering by trying cut $2 here and $10 there) Any criticism of city leadership is considered a personal attack and quickly gaveled out of order.
The mayors we have had are elected for a year and each has their own personal agenda that they want to see fulfilled. Our current mayor is interested in climate change and does not want to upset the apple cart by addressing the important issues facing our city

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Posted by fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2007 at 8:52 am

fred is a registered user.

Thank you, NSF. So that sounds like a bad problem. Has there ever been strong civic leadership in Palo Alto in the last 10-50 years? Is there a formula that works, or are we stuck with interest-group gridlock and reactiveness?

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Posted by Not so fast
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 19, 2007 at 9:29 am

Well, my opinion is only one of many. i am sure many people will say that everything is fine, because the Palo Alto process is working.
I have been living here for 10+ years. The Alma Plaza issue has been ongoing for more than 10 years with no end in sight. there was the Hyatt issue--they go fed up because one vocal neighborhood leader managed to have the city council wound around her little finger--they got fed up and left town. There was also the eruv issue--the council were falling over themselves praising the issue when it first came up--then the vocal critics started sounding off. Our mayor at the time had asperations for higher elected office and the issue never came to a vote. Nowadays there is the library and police building, as well as the budget, Edgewood Plaza and the still unresolved Alma Plaza issue.
So you know where I stand on the issue of civic leadership

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Posted by Carol Mullen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2007 at 10:04 am

Oakland changed to a strong Mayor system, with a sunset provision, retaining the City Manager as an administrator, but requiring him to execute the instructions of Mayor and City Council. Jerry Brown was successful in restoring Oakland's tax base, but less successful in his anti-crime and education programs. There seem to have been substantial improvements, since Oakland voted to retain the strong Mayor. Recently elected mayor is Ron Dellums. The office seems to attract applicants with known political skills. Oakland was miserably managed under the City Manager form of government.

Berkeley has a strong mayor. Tom Bates is far more skillful than the preceding mayor. Although she was more pro-development than he, he has brought in more development than she, because she was incompetent. She was also of the I-can-count-to-five-votes-why -do- I -need- to -talk- to- any -of -you? As you'd expect, with such a foolish attitude, council meetings went on forever and solved nothing.
It may have changed, but in the beginning, Bates had an open door policy, and most inter-council issues were successfully compromised.

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