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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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How to Differentiate and Select CPA Council Candidates

Uploaded: Sep 24, 2009
On occasion, I am described as being as an "insider," which makes me laugh. I am willing to offer up a point of view on this blog and as a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission. I hardly feel like an insider, as that term is thrown around.

I will endorse people I know who are running for elective office and in my view are good choices locally, but I don't look to get sought out by candidates, nor do I want to be. I do support those who have asked me for an endorsement if I think it is the right thing for me to do.

But I am thinking about where I was as a dad, a guy with an SF job, a person who had no clue who were our elected officials and appointed Commissoiners less than 10 years ago. I had no clue who was in charge of our City or School District.

I chose to get involved. I worked on the language (Spanish) immersion effort in the mid-1990's, and then for reasons that are not worth explaining, I now am the longest serving member of the City of Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission.

And I get to blog about stuff in town.

I think most Palo Altans are like the way I describe myself before I chose to get involved. For parents of young and elementary schools aged children, the involvement is much more intense, but its half life goes quickly for many after that. Involvemt may continue with private organations, but schol involvemetn drops in a huge way when the kids get to middle schools. Having an understanding of how things work in the City of Palo Alto, as opposed to the PAUSD, is even less understood, from what I perceive.

And the role as a citizen/parent also changes, compared with being a parent/citizen.

The choices for those who sit on the dais at City Hall has limited correlation of understanding for many who are active in the schools and other activities that are independent of what the City of Palo Alto provides. Many things the City does are for members of our community that an individual voter knows nothing about and does not experience. That said, those things are important to the fabric of this community.

It is not clear to me that how people choose their City Council members is based on as informed an understanding of who they are choosing than is the case for the school board or various private and school site organziations.

So when it comes to selecting our next City Council members, just what is it that we are in need of and looking for? How does that decision get informed to the public at large?

The PAN folks, who represent the various Palo Alto neighborhood assocations, have another candidates forum this year, and that is great. What about the rest of folks who cannot make that?

Are the City Council candidates creating distinct positions and points of view? What are the key ones that you are in support of or will lead you to not voting for a candidate?

Please focus on the issues, not the candidates, whether you support a particular position or oppose it

I have my points of view, but that is not the point. It is for those who weigh in on PA Online to provide some thinking.

And it up to the candidates to decide if what those who weigh in on this blog are offering thought and perspective, or just want to provide invective and negativity. What is said may affect the thinking the candidates have, but please use care when you offer your thoughts. I tire quickly of polemics directed at me that are extreme or too ideoligical, one way or the other. Imagine how candiates for office feel about such comments.

And I suspect the current candidates are all terrific folks, so they need points of view on the issues, not their qualifications or character. Unless there is a point of view that the sort of background a candidate has does not fit with the imperatives we need from our next City Council.

5 positions are up for election. Think about your choices seriously.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Sharon, a resident of ,
on Sep 24, 2009 at 6:28 pm

We will not support candidates who seek endorsement from SEUI

1/SEIU does not serve the best interests of the Voters

2/SEIU would require some thing in exchange for endorsement which will not serve the best interests of PA voters

3/SEIUs relationships with ACORN, which are now under investigation, means that many politicians on the left are distancing themselves,
even Barney Frank

That leaves 2 candidates worthy of our potential support.

Posted by Peter, a resident of ,
on Sep 24, 2009 at 6:51 pm


You are to be commended for not locking your blog. You, clearly, have the guts to stay in the kitchen and take the heat.

You have been active in youth sports, and you have promoted the playing fields solution. It is unfinished business, but there has been significant progress. Good for you, and some others.

"Please focus on the issues, not the candidates".

What are the "issues", Paul? Since you pitched the concept, I think it is up to you define those issues. Am I being unfair?

I will respond to your specific issues, and the positions that you take.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Sep 24, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.


Thanks for the comments about some things in town in which I have been involved.

My intent with this blog is to hear from others in town about what they think the issues are. Sharon has provided one relating to current SEIU matters.

I am not running for City Council. Those that are will benefit from hearing points of view on Town Square around what the electorate in Palo Alto is seeking in the next election.

Going back and forth with the likes of me is not the point on issues. This blog is seeking points of view from others about what the most critical things are when we consider whom to choose for City Council.

I am sure we could have a fine conversation about my points of view over a Peet's Coffee, but not on this venue.

Posted by Resident, a resident of ,
on Sep 24, 2009 at 7:53 pm

It seems to me that one of the most critical things in this City is the communication between City Council and PAUSD. There seems to be a huge disconnect as the City keeps on approving housing and the school district has no choice but to educate the kids that move here.

At some stage there has to be more communication on this issue. If the City is going to continue with its present housing agenda then it is also going to have to find some City owned land on which to school the children that undoubtedly will come. Even in ABAG housing designed for single or double occupancy, or senior housing, children will come and legitimately (or perhaps not so legitimately) reside in them.

For this reason, any candidate who advocates more communication between the two will be listened to by many of us with children going to school in PAUSD.

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of ,
on Sep 25, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On differentiation on the issues: PAN (Palo Alto Neighborhoods)created a questionnaire for the Council candidates and the responses are now online at its website . You can read a candidate's positions on all of the issues or for an issue read all of the responses to that issue.

Endorsement (unsolicited) from Council member Sid Espinosa: ?If you want to know what's important to Palo Altans today, read the PAN questionnaire. I have told council candidates that no other survey will better prepare them for the breadth of issues covered during the campaign or their council service. The PAN questionnaire hits nearly every hot issue facing the city today."

On the PAN Forum: We are _trying_ to get it recorded for replay on cable's Public Access and to make it into a streaming video for download from the web, possibly breaking it up into segments that can be posted to YouTube. Note that I said "trying"--at this time, we haven't been able to find people with interest, available time and skills to do this (most of the interested people are working on individual campaigns leaving very few to work on forums).

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of ,
on Sep 25, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On candidate qualities other than position on the issues, see my Palo Alto Weekly Guest Opinion from the 2005 election (in Nov 2 edition: Web Link

PS on the PAN questionnaire: I intended to publish a backgrounder on the questions (relevant facts and histories, basic controversies,...) at the time that the responses were released, but that is pending.

Posted by Wary of PAN, a resident of ,
on Sep 25, 2009 at 8:33 pm

PAN's image has been tarnished in recent days with revelation that they knew about the California avenue tree massacre and did nothing about it. Do we really care what they think about council candidates? How many residents do many of these self- appointed neighborhood leaders really represent? Do they not have an interest inelecting people that they can easily influence? Be wary of any PAN endorsements

Posted by member, a resident of ,
on Sep 25, 2009 at 10:55 pm


Who are the 2 candidates worthy of support? thanks!

Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of ,
on Sep 26, 2009 at 12:47 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Wary of PAN": When no one following up on the claim that PAN members were involved in tree massacre, even a newbie should have recognized that as a sign that the charge was a groundless and that the perpetrator has such a bad reputation that his claims don't merit rebuttals.

The perpetrator took participation in a meeting for public input for a grant proposal that wasn't funded--and hence that project never happened--and claimed it was for an entirely unrelated project (the tree massacre).

Posted by Wary of PAN, a resident of ,
on Sep 26, 2009 at 6:55 am

Doug-- if someone disagrees with you and/or critcizes PAN, he is labelled a"perpetrator"? What exactly did I " perpetrate"? I thought we lived in a world where questioning of organizations was welcome. I guess things are different in Moran-world

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Sep 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Wary and Doug (whom I know):

Within the exchange you have had on this thread is an issue around how the public is communicated with around significant changes in Palo Alto's infrastructure, the California Avenue tree issue being an example of how it should have been done differently and better.

What does that imply for what to look for in our next City Council members? That is the point of this thread

Take any further discussion about the merits or lack thereof of PAN to a new thread.

Thank you

Posted by pat, a resident of ,
on Sep 26, 2009 at 2:30 pm

There are several HUGE issues facing Palo Alto:

? City Budget, e.g., business tax, utilities fund transfer to general fund, employee salaries & benefits
? ?New Urbanism?/PC Zoning/Comprehensive Plan Amendment: What do you want your city to look like in the next 10+ years?
? High Speed Rail

Whatever your opinion of PAN, the web page Doug refers to provides lots of good information. This is a critical election.

Posted by Wary of PAN, a resident of ,
on Sep 26, 2009 at 2:34 pm

"RE: "Wary of PAN": When no one following up on the claim that PAN members were involved in tree massacre, even a newbie should have recognized that as a sign that the charge was a groundless and that the perpetrator has such a bad reputation that his claims don't merit rebuttals."

Here you go, Doug (BTW, Doug, I never said PAN leaders were involved--I just said that they knew about it and did nothing):

Web Link
(scroll down to the Fred Balin post from sept. 20th)
3. Failure of Neighborhood Leaders to Sound the Alarm

On Friday, September 10, three days and four evenings before the start of the tree removal, Public Works sent out a project notification to Ronna Devincenzi, President of CAADA entitled ?CALIFORNIA AVENUE STREET TREE REPLACEMENT PROJECT. She forwarded it on to the CAADA email list and to the leadership of Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN), which, in turn, forwarded it to its membership of neighborhood leaders. Now the endgame was clear and public.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of ,
on Sep 27, 2009 at 10:22 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

For me there are two big issues I am interested in knowing where Council candidates stand.

One is the set of issues around growth including housing, Stanford, high speed rail and our role in the region.

Two is the set of issues around the city budget--what services do we want, how should they be paid for, what to do about the seemingly unsustainable path of retirement benefits that were promised as a result of contract negotiations.

On the first set of issues, I will look for candidates who expect Palo Alto to play an active and positive role in addressing regional growth issues. We have an active set of public policies about requiring reasonable steps to mitigate the impact of growth on the community and environment. But, within that, I would hope candidates respect the right of local businesses and Stanford to plan for their future.

On the second set of issues, I prefer to live in a community with a high level of services and am willing to pay for theses services. The recession has made always difficult budget decisions even more challenging, including the impact of promised retirement benefits for city employees. I will look for candidates that offer specific proposals where the arithmetic works and also for candidates who treat the retirement funding challenge with respect for city employees.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Sep 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I look, as yet unrewarded, for the candidate who will seek to redefine the permissible scope of City governance. I don't want to be led, taught, encouraged to be a better person or shown the new Jerusalem of Gaea, I just want the joint kept together, cheap utilities and the yahoos kept in check.
I ain't gonna get any of it. Pity.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of ,
on Sep 29, 2009 at 8:50 pm

We see that John Hackman is a candidate for CPA council.
His pitch is cutting cost, good, we believe he has also rejected ACORN/SEIU sponsorship, even better.

The sooner ACORN/SEIU influence is revealed and purged from the political process the better, even Barney Franks agrees.

SEIU/ACORN must be investigated and purged from the the political process when found guilty of corruption

Posted by Sun and Sand, a resident of ,
on Oct 1, 2009 at 4:22 am

Boy, does this all sound familiar. You want issues? How about looking hard at Palo Alto's governance model, and how that model perpetuates not only itself, but many of the same problems (from a structural perspective) from election-to-election. As the world turns...

For instance:
1) does it really matter what any one Council candidate elaborates as a position, given that that Council candidate will need 4 more votes to move on that position, should s/he be elected. Sure, it matters to a degree, but how much does that degree *mean* in the large picture, when a 9-person dynamic becomes involved?

2) Where is the locus of power in Palo Alto? Does it reside with the Council? City Manager? Both? WHO (name one person) is accountable for not fulfilling a vision? The answer to that question doesn't exist, because the answer is "it depends". Does the City Manager's head roll if the streets aren't fixed, or capital intake slows down? Does the Mayor?

Why do I bring this up? Because Palo Alto, like so many municipalities in America has an outdated governance model. It's a model that worked great in times of no constraint - i.e. a large body of people with innumerable commissions and almost unlimited citizen input (on even the smallest decisions) that grind adaptation to a halt. Palo Alto cannot elaborate a vision, because no 9-person body of political representatives will every agree on a large vision. They may agree ona a smaller municipal project (like the library), but when the big picture comes into play, it's fireworks, and sub-optimal decision-making, borne of too many decision makers, and a governance model that eliminates ultimate responsibility and accountability. Power in Palo Alto is diffuse, and as a result, it's largely dysfunctional. That's why we keep having the sdame old problems popping up, over and over again.

How to fix this? Elect a Mayor, and shrink the Council to 5, or 7 members (preferably, 5) Give the Mayor just enough separation of power to hire and fire the City Manager. Pay the Mayor and Council members 1/3/ to 1/2 the median Palo Alto wage. That way, Palo Altans will get to hear a *diversity* of positions and visions from candidates, with a really good chance if we elect a Mayor, we'll also elect a few people who agree with him, among a smaller body of decisino makers. What does that enable? Forward direction - instead of relecting on a bi-annual basis a siginifcant portion of a 9-member Council that doesn't really have a leader with enough power to elaborate a vision.

If the Mayor fails to deliver, we elect a new Mayor. That way we risk only 4 years of bad decision making, rather than repeating the merry-go-round of process that a large body of collaborative process leads to.

Palo Alto's governance model is essentially a bad habit. We've cone to think of the way we govern as "inclusive", and "collaborative" etc. etc., but it's really not. It's mostly slow and ponderous, and wastefull of opportunity that could generate a new spirit of growth and sustainability in Palo Alto.

So, go on with your issues; go to the PAN meetings and hear the same old, same old - often organized by the same neighborhood representatives (all good, well-meaning people) that have been operating these things forever (and are comfortable with our present governance model, because they get to play in it, like a sandbox). Even bad habits can feel comfortable.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we had a really accoutable Executive in Palo Alto? Someone who had the power to drive over to Mountain View or Menlo Park and ask about sharing public safety infrastructure, or road maintenance? or someone who could go out and really solicit large capital opportunities, instead of ribbon ncutting visits to foreign capitals and other places (with due respect to the fine people who sit on Council, who are also caught in a metaphorical trap, re: their perception of what governance should be, rather than what it has to become - in order to adapt to serious constraints).

Can you imagine the wonderful political ferment that would occur if we had someone in Palo Alto who's desk is where the buck really stopped - instead of passing the buck around 10 musical chairs (yes, the City Manager is the 10th Council member - don't kid yourselves).

I expect that what I'm pushing for won't happen, because we're not at crisis stage, nor will we probably ever be. We're close to one of the greatest universities in the world; you really have to muck things up to go down the tubes in a sitation like that, but it does lead to a kind of stagnation that is mind-numbing, leaving those of us who have seen the power of what an elected Executive can do.(and sometimes it's not all good - far from it, but at least you can throw the bum out - here, we get to elect a lot of decision makers, but we can't throw the governance process out).

And so, the world turns...

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of ,
on Oct 4, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Way up above Sharon said..

"We will not support candidates who seek endorsement from SEUI

1/SEIU does not serve the best interests of the Voters

2/SEIU would require some thing in exchange for endorsement which will not serve the best interests of PA voters

3/SEIUs relationships with ACORN, which are now under investigation, means that many politicians on the left are distancing themselves,

even Barney Frank

That leaves 2 candidates worthy of our potential support."

"We"? Does Sharon presume to speak for all of Palo Alto? Who is the "we"?

SEIU is not supposed to serve the best interest of the voters. SEIU is a labor union and is supposed to serve the best interests of the people it represents, who pay the dues. That is like saying "Green Waste" does not serve the best interest of the voters. A long time ago the city workers voted to belong to a union. It is their right to do so. And they did.

As regards the whole SEIU endorsement brouhaha.. I would direct readers to this LaDoris Cordell.

Web Link


"Therefore for these candidates to single out only SEIU's endorsement is naive at best and hypocritical at worst.

Tensions are high as the city management and union leaders negotiate SEIU's new contract. Talk of a pending strike has escalated. This is not the time for council candidates to engage in union bashing, which, sadly, is exactly what those who have singled out the union in this fashion are encouraging."

As regards SEIU and ACORN...or rather as regards trying to use the current right wing assault on ACORN as ammo against SEIU...

I would direct readers to...

Web Link


Web Link

And for some specifics as to how the next target for the fringe right is SEIU, see this link.

Web Link

It is my hope that a fair settlement can be reached soon as regards the city workers and management. I do not hope for a strike.

However should one occur, or loom ever more likely on the horizon.

I would encourage citizens to first look at the ideological Godfather of the current intransigent stance taken by management....

Web Link
(It's San Mateo Co., but is the kickoff of the current mindset). I view this Grand Rigged Jury as an abuse of the Grand Jury process----using a grand jury in order to facilitate a group price fixing consensus. If the various managers had met and agreed to all hold a certain line as regards negotiations this would have probably been a prosecutable crime.

But in any event....getting to the meat of the matter.

While there is a recession and I can see the need for some belt tightening.....

It seems fools have rushed in and we may all be the victims of a right wing spin job. If a strike does come to pass, I ask readers to look at the above links, see the vitriolic right wing posts here opposed to SEIU (and playing the ACORN card) and ask if you wish the city management to be played by these people and to these ends? Do you want your tax dollars spent as part of a right wing national campaign against SEIU?

They targeted ACORN to get at Obama (ACORN was very successful in registering millions of people to vote and was targeted by Karl Rove back in the Bush era). SEIU was the first major labor union to endorse Obama over Hilary Clinton and is the next target.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by sharon Moran, a resident of ,
on Oct 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sharon, a resident of ,
on Oct 4, 2009 at 6:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sharon Moran, a resident of ,
on Oct 4, 2009 at 7:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sharon Moran, a resident of ,
on Oct 5, 2009 at 6:06 am

Sharon continues to try to blacken the name of hard-working members of SEIU, by trying to tie them to ACORN--an organization she despises because they register minorities to vote and work as community activists (remember how Obama's work as a community activist was denigrated by the republicnas last year). Sharon does not realize that her stratagey will backfire--PA residents treat minorities like real people, unlike Sharon who wants to keep them in ":theri place". She still does not elbaorate on who is this "we" that she constantly refers to.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of ,
on Oct 5, 2009 at 7:04 am

Sharon (not Moran, but sounds like it)..

You keep invoking the spectre of ACORN as regards SEIU. It is you, and others of your far right political persuasion, who keep tying the acronyms of ACORN and SEIU together. You, with no doubt fundamental fervor if political wishful thinking, think that it's some slam dunk that the assault on ACORN has all the final chapters written.

I am not privy to the internal dealings as regards the city workers represented by SEIU and the city management. But it seems that long ago an area wide agenda/agreement was devised such that the agenda is union busting. The evidence for this is that, despite the city workers clearly indicating a williness to assist with expenditure reduction, there has been no willingness to meaningfully negotiate on the management side. They have offered a deal they know is unpalatable to the city workers and seem to be driving the bus, if not over the cliff, dangerously close to the precipice.

I don't know if this agenda was devised in tandem with internal political mindsets akin to the ACORN bashers, birthers, folks who clapped when Chicago didn't get to host the Olympics. My guess is that area-wide there is some influence at ordinate levels and some hope to ride the political wave ala Reagans and the Air Traffic Controllers (some on this board have bought that up as a celebratory event). But should this go to a strike the political synapses and allances will be made.

I find it hard to believe that a negotiated settlement can't be reached that the City of Palo Alto can live with. The city workers have had a lot of people retire recently, have opted to forgo COLA raises, have offered to take furlough days, etc.

The city workers I've talked to admit that their healthcare coverage is perhaps better than the average. But years ago they all opted to work here for less money than other cities pay because of the better benefits. The elephant in the room is also that we need a sane national healthcare policy, which would address the true cause of the skyrocketing labor costs. Hiring people unionized and without benefits (if the right wingers were to get their wish on this) does not fix any problem. It just lets the rich get richer and the poor poorer---their agenda all along.

What is a bit surprising to me is that no one has offered to find a meditative third party. ? Open all the books, look at the funds squirreled away (or truly separate as the city claims), look at ways to save money which both work and are palatable to the city workers.

But a different agenda is afoot. Does the City of Palo Alto really want to open Pandora's Box on this?

At first people's knee jerk reaction may be a bit against the city workers. Yes even in liberal Palo Alto. That is just the unavory side of human nature, like liberals who say they aren't racist until an African American family moves in next door. But if this goes to a strike and the real underlying issues, history, not-so-hidden agendas of some like Sharon get a full airing......a different political landscape may be in play (notice I avoid making pronouncements from on high--think I've developed an allergy to such, cept it is fun to try at home on the wife and kids).

Posted by Education doesn't matter, a resident of ,
on Oct 5, 2009 at 9:07 am

I voted for the School Board members (Dana Tom, Barbara Klausner) based upon their Stanford educations, figuring they would have critical thinking skills. I was disappointed when they had no common sense and voted for Everyday Math. Maybe they've gotten so used to pleasing their superiors (parents, professors) that they could not dissent from the math adoption committee or Superintendent.

Look at personalities when voting. Are they pleasers or do they have the guts to speak up against others who disagree?

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