By Paul Losch
Term Limits, City Council Size, and Related MattersUploaded: Jun 5, 2013
I don't know all the current City Council members, and for those with whom I am acquainted, I have generally found them to be decent folks working at an awful job. I toyed with running some years ago for City Council, and decided it was not what I wanted to do in my not so spare time. It is a very demanding job to be on Palo Alto City Council, and that is true no matter what you think of the people serving or the points of view they take.
There is a great deal of noise flying around right now about whether the size of the City Council should be reduced from 9 to 7, whether terms limits should be eliminated, issues above and beyond Palo Alto that our fair city's officials can influence if they around for a period of time, and climb up the proverbial ladder on commissions and the like that take a broader view beyond Palo Alto. County, regional, state, and possibly federal stuff.
With all due respect to our current Palo Alto elected officials, your eye is not on the ball. Stop talking to yourselves.
From a personal standpoint, I had the honor of serving 3 terms, 9 years, as a Parks and Recreation Commissioner. Had I applied for another term, it is possible I would have or not have been re-appointed. My reason for moving on is that I felt 9 years as a citizen volunteer with such civic responsibilities was enough, and that other members of the community should have an opportunity to serve as I had. Great time, no regrets.
I currently am helping the City of San Jose on a project, using some of my experience as a Parks and Rcreaton Commissioner, and I can appreciate that there are regional and larger issues that no one city can handle by itself. But our Palo City Council is a poster child for an Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged) in its advocacy for term extensions and council size.
This could turn into a very lengthy opinion on my part, so I will cut to the chase.
1. 2 terms are enough, find other ways to leverage your City Council experience when you leave office, there are plenty of ways to do that, should you choose to do so
2. There can be districts established in order to assure full representation across town. For example, we could have two elected from the north, two from the south, and two west of El Camino, and some at large members of Council as well. I live in the North, and I largely agree that the representation on City Council is skewed north of Oregon Expressway.
3. We do have many matters in Palo Alto that may adjoin larger regional issues (e.g. ABAG and housing, SF Creek, HSR), and we need to focus as much as possible on what we can do within town, while managing the issues that cross boundaries as much as it is within Palo Alto's scope. As many others point out, we have our plate full right here in town. Minimize the distractions. Council structure and smoking in parks are examples of distractions.
4. This is not a training ground for people seeking future career opportunities. There is nothing wrong with an elected official having aspirations for other office. The best way, IMHO, is to be effective at the current job, not be perceived as shilling for the next one.
Just how effective is our Council, spending time on the matters they have addressed in recent weeks? Not very.