Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 2, 2014

Gail Price won't seek second council term

After 13 years of public service, councilwoman says she is ready to pursue other interests

by Gennady Sheyner

Gail Price, who joined the Palo Alto City Council in 2009 and last year was appointed to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, announced April 25 that she will not seek a second term on the council in November.

Her decision means the council will have at least two new members next year. Councilman Larry Klein will be termed out after completing his second consecutive term, leaving an open seat. Mayor Nancy Shepherd, Councilman Greg Scharff and Councilwoman Karen Holman are eligible to seek a second term, though Scharff is the only one of the three who has said he plans to run again.

Price, a former transportation planner, had been one of the council's leading proponents of collaborating with regional groups on transportation and development issues. She has been a passionate advocate, on both the local and regional level, for allocating more resources for social services and mental health programs.

At times, her advocacy of regional cooperation has put her at odds with her colleagues, as when she voted along with the VTA board in February to support a legal brief in favor of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

At other times, her council decisions have pitted her against the majority of her Barron Park neighbors. She joined the rest of the council last June in supporting a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue, which included 60 units for low-income seniors. The project, which was unpopular in her neighborhood, ultimately fell in a November referendum.

Price said the Measure D vote and the political climate had some influence in her decision, though her main motivation was pursuing other endeavors, including visual art, traveling and spending more time with her family.

"I think the discourse now is very contentious and I don't think we do our best thinking and our best decision-making in that environment," Price said. "I'm still very concerned about the implications regarding the loss of Measure D and the issues of affordable housing in the community. It's a critical issue, and we have a responsibility to be more comprehensive in our thinking when we look at the future of our community."

She cited as her proudest achievements her work on Project Safety Net, a community effort to promote youth well-being; her contributions on the issues of mobility and transportation; and her commitment to cultural and public-arts programs, which included a major expansion of the city's "percent for art program" for new developments.

Price said she wanted to announce her decision early to give people in the community more time to decide about running. She added that she wanted to leave at a time when she feels "positive and productive."

"There are many things I'm interested in, and I look forward to having time to pursue these other activities," Price said. "When you're working and deliberating as a City Council member, you have to let a lot of other things go or you have to somehow be able to pull them into your life, which I've done. I want to have more flexibility and more freedom, in terms of time and my intellectual and creative energy."

She said she plans to remain engaged in Palo Alto civic life.

"Frankly, community engagement in Palo Alto is very addictive," Price said. "People in this community get very engaged, and I think it's important to remember what are the things one can do that are rewarding and can make a difference. There are a lot of ways it can be done."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

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