It was an emotional evening Tuesday night as three City Council members stepped down, three new members took their place, and a new mayor and vice mayor were selected.
After spending eight years on council each, Jac Siegel, Margaret Abe-Koga and Ronit Bryant said farewell, before newly elected members Pat Showalter, Lenny Siegel and Ken Rosenberg took their places on the dais in front of a crowd of supporters. Then, in a pair of unanimous votes by the new council, it was decided that John McAlister would serve as mayor, replacing Chris Clark, and Pat Showalter would spend her first year on council as vice mayor.
The selection for the honorary positions followed a longstanding tradition that members rotate in based on seniority and who got the most votes in the election. Showalter was the top vote-getter in a crowded field of candidates on the November ballot.
"I believe the Nov. 4 election may mark the beginning of a new era of Mountain View politics," said Lenny Siegel, who said he would continue to push for the changes he called for during election season: balancing job growth with housing growth to help solve the area's housing crisis.
A key issue during the election was whether to allow a large new neighborhood to be developed near Google headquarters in North Bayshore. The new members all support the idea, while the outgoing members had voted against it in 2012, and came under criticism over it during the election.
Farewell to the council
"The last couple months have been pretty emotional, to be honest," said Abe-Koga. "Eight years it is a long time, a fifth of my lifetime. It has been a roller coaster ride at times. I woke up every morning looking forward to challenges."
She said that during the recession in 2009, when she was mayor, "there were some sleepless nights those days about what kinds of cuts we'd have to make."
"Affordable housing will continue to be a challenge," Abe-Koga said, adding that she was looking forward to seeing the future council tackle that problem. She called the city's move to raise the minimum wage its "defining, shining moment." Last year the council voted to raise it to $10 an hour this year and made it a goal to get to $15 an hour by 2018.
"We are really proud of what we have accomplished," Jac Siegel said. He estimated that he had spent between 400 and 500 evenings in meetings while on council. He recalled meeting President Barack Obama during the recession when he was mayor. After landing at Moffett Field, the president "came right to me and said, 'Mayor Siegel, it's a pleasure to meet you. We know what a wonderful city you have. It's one of the few cities that are creating jobs. It's really fantastic.'"
"People know about Mountain View and how great it is," Siegel said. "Mountain View is a small city with big heart, and it really is."
In her remarks, outgoing member Bryant said she had experienced "eight amazing and very intense years, filled with learning and challenges and lot of personal growth and lot of satisfaction."
"We really are a model for many places for how we get along and how truly diverse we are," Bryant said. "I'm proud of how our City Council works. I put a lot of effort to get my fellow council members to see things my way, often enough I've succeeded in convincing three others to vote with me. And it's not always been the same three people. Even across deep philosophical and ideological divides we can reach agreement and make good decisions.
"It's a wonderful tradition to have and something to cherish. We put so much time, so much effort into what we do, it really is like a family. I come back from vacation and think, 'my family.'"
Among the things she said she was proud of: the city's new general plan; leaving the city more environmental sustainable; new neighborhood parks; surviving the country's "financial meltdown;" plans for enhancements to the community center; adding affordable housing in an "accelerated pace;" the newly inaugurated teen center; and the new cross-town shuttle service.
"I was probably quite demanding as a council member, insisting on clarity, trying not to edit everything," Bryant said. "Thank you for your trust. I believe I have helped move Mountain View in the right direction."
New council members
After hearing from the outgoing members, Showalter kept her comments brief.
"I am just delighted to be here," Showalter said. "As many of you know, we've worked very hard for the three of us to get here." She thanked the outgoing members "who have really done a really wonderful public service to Mountain View."
Rosenberg's reaction to taking Bryant's seat on the dais: "This is quite overwhelming."
"I wanted to sit in your seat," Rosenberg said to Bryant. He said he had also followed her as chair of the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association. "You don't strike me as a person who would become a politician, yet you were up here for eight years making difficult decisions and doing it with aplomb."
He acknowledged comments that the council was going to be less diverse without Abe-Koga, the only Asian American woman to serve on the City Council. "I will see if I can help at least another woman get elected two years from now," Rosenberg said.
He acknowledged the hateful comments Abe-Koga said she had received as a council members because of her race, saying he had heard hurtful comments directed at him during the race for being Jewish. "It was really shocking and negative and hurtful," Rosenberg said. "These things are alive and well in Mountain View and we will tackle them."
Rosenberg talked about a cowbell he had been given by a young girl during his campaign, which he said he was going to keep near him and "use it as talisman to remind me of why I'm here." After hearing that one of Rosenberg's campaign signs had been stolen from a neighbor's yard, the girl had tied the bell to her family's Rosenberg sign, put the sign under her bedroom window, and tied it to a tree -- to keep it from being stolen, she said. "I received these photographs, it was touching," Rosenberg said.
She presented the bell to Rosenberg when it appeared that he was winning on election night. "It was probably the most touching thing that happened to me on the campaign," he said.