A NEW DAY ... Palo Alto's mayoral election is typically a ceremonial affair, perfectly suited to the largely ceremonial position. Thanks to the city's long-established tradition, the title of mayor usually goes to the vice mayor of the prior year. Furthermore, the mayor serves for only one year before the position rotates to another council member. (The short duration results in a huge quantity of ex-mayors. This became a running joke at a November meeting of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting, where two former Palo Alto mayors, Yoriko Kishimoto and Sid Espinosa, addressed the board on the topic of a county grant, and a third former mayor, Supervisor Liz Kniss, took part in the decision on the grant.) Unlike in cities like New York and San Francisco, the mayor doesn't have any executive powers beyond those enjoyed by the rest of the council. Job requirements include a smooth ribbon-cutting stroke; the ability to pronounce the names of all council members who wish to speak; a firm grip for shaking hands in front of cameras while bestowing a certificate of appreciation on a worthy citizen; proficiency with a ceremonial shovel; and a social calendar capable of accommodating various grand openings and dedication ceremonies. Vice Mayor Greg Scharff should have little trouble taking over as mayor from the outgoing Yiaway Yeh, having already subbed in for Yeh on all matters relating to Stanford University over the course of the year. The only wildcard at Monday's meeting is who will take over for Scharff. In the past, the election for vice mayor has been competitive. Last year, Scharff edged out Greg Schmid for the spot, despite the latter's seniority. Schmid might have a better shot this year, having just been re-elected by the voters with the second-highest number of votes of the six candidates (Kniss finished first). When the council meets on Jan. 7 to kick off the new year, its first action will be the swearing in of Schmid, Kniss, re-elected Councilman (and, you guessed it, former mayor) Pat Burt and newly elected Councilman Marc Berman.
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