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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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2021: Council changes challenging

Uploaded: Jan 6, 2021
Palo Altans have a new city council, and things will soon change in this town -- for the better, I hope. The council will assume more control of the city; the role of the city manager and staff will be diminished. Slower growth will be the rule of the day -- well, at least on Mondays -- and less attention will be paid to what developers want.

Tom DuBois was easily elected mayor on Monday, having spent a customary year as vice mayor. Serving as vice mayor and then mayor has been a tradition in this city for years, except in 1999. Mickie Schneider was vice mayor but Councilmember Gary Fazzino wanted to be mayor, and successfully was voted into that slot. Liz Kniss wanted to be mayor in 2000, the millennium year, so she became vice mayor. Mickie was taken aback, but she finally found out the way politics can work in this town.

So the big question on the first Monday in 2021 was who was going to be vice mayor. Three were nominated: Lydia Kou, Alison Cormack, and, to the surprise of many, newly elected Pat Burt. He won on the second round of voting.

Actually, that's really not so surprising, because he had served on the council for eight years, twice as mayor. After his second term ended in 2016, he continued to stay abreast of what was going on and took strong stands on some issues he cared about -- like how well the city was running.

Which parallels one of my concerns. As I've suggested before, the city manager and staff have assumed too much control of our fair city. City Manager Ed Shikada has made some decisions on his own, like the time he declared a citywide curfew and then, a couple of hours before the curfew was imposed, he notified the council. The city manager's written reports to the council have also changed, they used to be a pro-con analysis of the issue before the council; now they are a proposed decision for council endorsement.

"On Jan. 5, the Palo Alto Police Department switched all police radio communications to an encrypted channel to comply with a state requirement. Embarcadero Media file photo.

In a sudden move that will severely limit the ability of journalists and citizen watchdogs to cover breaking news, the Palo Alto Police Department encrypted all of its police radio communications Tuesday afternoon.

The policy change, which was adopted with no forewarning and without any direction from the City Council, is intended to bring the city into compliance with a requirement that the California Department of Justice enacted last October, according to the city."


Burt, in my estimation, is the only one who can really get ahold of the council assuming more control and change the ways that the council-manager reporting has changed. And, as I’ve said before, the manager reports to the council, and not the reverse.

All was harmony and praise on Monday night, with council members constantly complimenting each other. Mayor Adrian Fine, who decided not to run for a second term, received much praise for wanting to be more with his family. (Some seemed confused whether he had one or two children. He has one.) Fine was not happy with this town's resistance to provide a lot more low-cost affordable housing, which was his primary concern ("Build more housing!) and the reason, he said, that he ran for office.

And then there was Liz Kniss. She has been in public office for 35 years, which is amazing. She was elected to the school board in 1985, and then ran for the council, served twice as mayor, was elected on the County Board of Supervisors, and then served two more terms on the Palo Alto city council. On her last day in office her front yard was bedecked with red balloons -- nearly 200 of them, and amidst the balloons were about eight white 24x36" poster boards, describing her "accomplishments" as a council member and supervisor.
We now have a 5-2 slow-growth, more growth council, and they will be facing some complex problems this coming year.

The coronavirus has disturbed the strong economy of the city, and getting it to revive will not be an easy task. Many stores have closed, never to open again. I took a walk through Stanford Shopping Center ad was surprised to see so many darkened storefronts. Some of these stores belong to chains that have closed their doors across the country, so it will take awhile for new stores to decide to locate in the shopping center -- a once-thriving store hub.

Downtown Palo Alto has similar problems as do the restaurants on California Avenue -- restaurants and stores are closing. People are getting used to working from home, so the need for office space in town may diminish. Until this virus abates and/or we all get vaccines, city streets and shopping areas will be emptier. People have learned to shop online (one of my neighbors gets two deliveries a day!).

Welcome to 2021, welcome to the new council, welcome to changing times -- and, hopefully, A Happy New Year!
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Victor Bishop, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Jan 6, 2021 at 2:39 pm

Victor Bishop is a registered user.

Nice charade at the council meeting- one old white man nominates Cormack, who graciously stepped away last year so the second old white man could become vice mayor and mayor this year. That old white man nominated another old white man for vice mayor to ensure that the council will not have any female leadership for the next 2 years.

As for Liz - glad that she is gone, some of us have not forgotten her disgraceful handling of the eruv issue.

Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 7, 2021 at 9:50 am

Norman Beamer is a registered user.

Victor -- nice playing of the race card -- not.

Posted by Victor Bishop, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Jan 7, 2021 at 12:52 pm

Victor Bishop is a registered user.

Norman - don't you think it is odd that the 2 women with seniority were passed over for the vice mayor? Oh wait, you probably have no problem with it.

Posted by Speaking as a woman..., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 7, 2021 at 3:47 pm

Speaking as a woman... is a registered user.

As a woman, I am completely fine with the election of Pat Burt as Vice Mayor. He has far more experience than Alison Cormack, who is so inexperienced she allows herself constantly to be led by the nose by staff. I give her credit for doing her homework, but she has much to learn before she takes on a role of this importance. Burt has demonstrated better judgment on many issues over decades of outstanding dedicated public service.

Leadership work (albeit successful work, which I appreciate) on a bond measure campaign is not good preparation for a City Council role, that much has become crystal clear.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jan 10, 2021 at 2:11 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

So we have a comment from a Mountain View reader whose own city is experiencing some problems. MV is now run by women. Being a women does not in itself qualify a person for any job. Skill, experience, and job specific knowledge is what qualifies a person for a job.

We are talking about running a city that continually gets into national papers, and not in a complimentary manner. We need people with experience in the management skills required to manage the flow of activity imposed by the state / county in general and special interests groups trying to push their agendas at taxpayer expense. I want the most experienced people possible. Right now Pat Burt is that person.

This county in total is experiencing a lot of problems relative to bad management regarding transportation, and the where and how of the major companies who are trying to dominate the decision making that goes on here. San Jose is a metro /urban city. Palo Alto is a suburban city. There is a requirement to work in a supportive role without losing our identity, or sacrificing the quality of life we all bought into.

Each city has a tax base that drives the budget. Mountain View has a distinctly different tax base due to Google. Palo Alto is tied to Stanford which is a different type of relationship. San Jose is the center of the county and is the biggest city in the county which is a different set of challenges. And the state through legislation is trying to drive decision making at the local level. All very complicated and requiring people who have in depth knowledge to guide us through the challenges ahead.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jan 10, 2021 at 8:48 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Have to note in Victor's comment that he is complaining that we did not elect a woman yet is complaining about Liz Kniss. Since the editor did not eliminate this comment we can note that it is a very peculiar comment. His comment is unacceptable.

AS to Mountain View their main company Google is building a city center in San Jose. The city center has a problem in that BART is behind schedule and suffering budget problems. And the tax payers are not going to let it off the hook with Measure B taxes. The Google MV campus is in a flood zone. Google is busy telling it's employees to stay home while their employees are busy trying to unionize the workers. As the MV city cash cow the city does have some problems for future budgeting. They did receive funding for a homeless shelter on the border with PA off San Antonio.

So we are seeing a lot of interest in our activities from MV. Since some of our "Commissioners/Others" have a relationship to Google I am sure there are a number of conversations on going concerning how resources are "shared". Yet to roll out how many "shared" city functions are involved. Housing is a focus now.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jan 11, 2021 at 8:24 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Listening to the City Council Meeting concerning the topic of Housing we have one commentator from Oakland, one challenging the ABAG numbers - yes, and Rebecca again talking about Tesla, and one person in the RACE department.

I would like to note here that this geographic area used to be the home of an active Moffett Air Base and Lockheed Martin - a defense company building hardware items. Those business entities which are no longer active in this area to any great number had a mixed population of workers. When the jobs go, as the aerospace industry has done - then people leave and go to other areas to get work.

Oakland has an active port which has a diversified work force. It is in the process of gentrification due to the movement of PG&E and other companies to that location. More growth going to that area because they have a mixed economic work base.

It is abut JOBS. The JOBS we have here in this city are technology related. No one is talking about what the people who live here actually do. People live where their jobs are.

As to Tesla it has moved it's base to Texas and is building a car assembly plant there. Its Space section is based in Hawthorne, CA. Say goodby to Tesla.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Jan 11, 2021 at 9:17 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco are major metro areas with highly diversified economies. Lots of low cost jobs in those cities. Palo Alto is not a metro area and is economically limited in diversification of jobs. We do not have any manufacturing or hardware related jobs. We are not a transportation center. Our low costs housing is directed at teachers and city staff.

ABAG and others have to be able to support what jobs all of the low costs people would be doing. Simply putting people in a location that does not have the type of jobs they need is pointless.

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