Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 10, 2014

Around Town

A COWARDLY COUNCIL? ... Residents who recently posted comments on the Open City Hall website want to give City of Palo Alto officials a somewhat harsh civics lesson. The city asked the question, "What core values do you believe the City Council should use to guide them in their decisions on behalf of the community?" The responses were all over the map. Suggestions ranged from more pingpong challenges to "Tell ABAG to stuff it." (The Association of Bay Area Governments determines how much new housing each city is required to build based on growth estimates and the jobs-housing imbalance.) But the majority of comments focused on a need to listen to constituents and to do something to preserve Palo Alto's quality of life: "Don't be cowardly; be willing to reject developments; stand up for us; BE a government. Quit being a dictatorship," one resident wrote. And another gave the city leaders a civics lesson and verbal spanking: "When I think about it, it is a crying shame, not to mention an outrage, that in a city like Palo Alto, its council has to ask its citizens what its core values should be. How about 'Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.' This exercise just shows how far our city government has moved from reality and the ability to even understand the meaning of the word 'governance.' Our Founding Fathers gave us our core values — it's called The Constitution."

VICE AND VIRTUE ... Karen Holman may have finished second in Palo Alto's race for vice mayor on Monday night, but she easily had the line of the night. Holman, who is one of the City Council's top skeptics when it comes to new developments and one of its top champions when it comes to neighborhood preservation, was nominated for vice mayor by Councilman Pat Burt, who like Holman had previously served on the Planning and Transportation Commission. Burt cited Holman's two decades of service and praised her for her long-standing "commitment to open government and full public participation," her "strong sense of fairness to all," and her "courtesy and integrity." "At this particular period in our community, with concerns of residents about preserving our quality of life, Karen is widely recognized for her strong commitment to protecting those qualities," Burt said. With Liz Kniss also nominated for vice mayor, Burt also went "out on a limb" and predicted that in 2015, the city will elect its 13th female mayor (Nancy Shepherd, who was elected to the position Monday, is the 12th). Holman, who often finds herself as a minority vote, did so again this week, with six council members opting for Kniss (Greg Schmid joined Burt and Holman in voting for Holman, before all three changed their vote upon Holman's request to make Kniss' election unanimous). But before the vote, Holman offered some words of advice to the public: "I invite all of you to consider strongly participating in local governments — running for office and getting involved — because you get to hear accolades like this without having to die."

THE GOOD OLD DAYS ... This year's Palo Alto school board president Barb Mitchell has a long history with the school district. Arriving here with her family as a 7-year-old in 1959, she attended the old three-story, Victorian campus of Lytton School, which occupied the block where the Lytton Gardens senior housing facility now stands. Mitchell remembers it as a beautiful building, with hardwood floors, big windows and schoolyard trees to climb. The Lytton campus, built for $21,648, opened in 1905. "It was a beautiful building and if it had lasted another 10 years it never would've been torn down," Mitchell said.

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