Editorial: Burch for two-year council seat

Publication Date: Wednesday Oct 27, 1999

Editorial: Burch for two-year council seat

The race for the two-year Palo Alto City Council seat created by the resignation of Micki Schneider has drawn four strong candidates unusual for their varied backgrounds and interests.

We find much to like in each candidate, yet also have difficulty envisioning with confidence how each would perform as part of a nine-member body in need of strong leadership. There are some good reasons to vote either for or against each of them.

The most traditional of the candidates is Planning Commissioner Phyllis Cassel, 58, a registered nurse at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. Cassel has served the city well on the commission for the last six years, yet she has not exhibited the strong leadership qualities we'd prefer on the next City Council. She has a degree in community development and has worked on affordable housing issues for the last 30 years. She initially decided to run to defend the historic preservation ordinance passed by the City Council, but her campaign has emphasized her commitment to implementing the goals of the new Comprehensive Plan.

Longtime council observer and Barron Park activist Bob Moss, 65, an engineer who attends and participates in most council meetings of import, is running for the fourth time. Moss' depth of knowledge on the issues is greater than the other three candidates', and we share his frustration with how long it takes for city government to address problems and resolve issues. But Moss is not known for his ability to build consensus and collaborate with those of opposing views, and as a result he may have more to contribute in his current role as a council watcher.

Craig Woods, 40, is the person responsible for leading the very effective opposition to the historic preservation ordinance and founder of the Palo Alto Homeowners Association. The historic preservation experience turned Woods into a bitter critic of the city staff and the City Council, and almost his entire campaign is based on his desire to reform the way government works in Palo Alto, especially in communicating with residents. Woods would bring an appealing energy and passion to the council, but we found his inflammatory and misleading rhetoric during the final debates on the historic preservation issue irresponsible and divisive. We were also disappointed that he has not demonstrated a knowledge or interest in other important city issues during the campaign.

Retired advertising executive Jim Burch, 73, has spent the last 25 years actively involved in broad social activism through Palo Alto-based Beyond War and Foundation for Global Community and before that through Creative Initiative Foundation. He's boned up on local political issues for the council race, but his heart is in more significant issues affecting society well beyond our community, such as what he calls the relationship of the human species with the living earth. Burch would bring much wisdom, idealism and global thinking to the City Council, as well as plenty of time. We wonder, however, about his ability and patience to translate his global vision of community into practical answers for issues facing Palo Alto.

That said, in weighing the unusual strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, we conclude that Jim Burch offers voters the best option for filling the ninth seat on the council.

Burch brings an intellect and calm demeanor that we feel will serve the city well during a period of transition on the council and the staff. His concern over the erosion of a sense of community in Palo Alto and over signs of intolerance of new ideas, such as the eruv proposal, resonates with us and, we believe, with many residents.

Burch has the potential to be a healer and consensus builder on the council at a time when both are needed. As a former business executive, he also brings a perspective that will be useful in recruiting, selecting and guiding a new city manager.

The council and community will benefit from the quiet and thoughtful leadership we think Jim Burch can provide, and we recommend his election to the two-year council seat.

Editorial: Yes on Foothill bonds

With the buildings at Foothill and De Anza colleges now more than 30 years old and with enrollment booming, both campuses are in need of major repair and renovation. Measure E, which requires a two-thirds vote of approval, will allow the district to issue $248 million in bonds over the next 10 years to modernize important lab facilities, replace old heating and air conditioning systems and upgrade plumbing and electrical equipment. The cost to homeowners will be $14 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, or about $39 per year for the average homeowner in the Cupertino-to-Palo Alto district.

With close to 40,000 students attending classes at the two colleges each year, De Anza and Foothill are suffering from too little state funding to keep up with important maintenance and infrastructure needs. Neither campus has received any bond support for 18 years, and we strongly support Measure E as a critical step toward keep the community college district one of California's finest.

Editorial: Rasheed, Argus, Rosales for Sanitary District

As has become the practice with the East Palo Alto Sanitary District, two slates of three candidates each are running for the three available board seats. Although the two camps have strong disagreements over the financial health of the district, a more fundamental problem is the inability of the board to function smoothly and professionally as long as a 3-2 split exists.

This election gives voters the choice of perpetuating the division for another four years, by re-electing Peter Evans and Niambi Lincoln and electing Jacquie Greene, or bringing an end to the divisiveness by re-electing board chair Samuel Rasheed and adding Peggy Argus and Belinda Rosales. Rasheed isn't without responsibility for creating tensions on the board, but we are convinced that he, Argus and Rosales are on the right track in focusing on reducing the high cost of sewer service in the small district and on making sure the district's spending does not improperly benefit its staff and board members.

We recommend Samuel Rasheed, Peggy Argus and Belinda Rosales for the East Palo Alto Sanitary District.

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