After 46 years representing the Palo Alto area as an elected board member of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) -- a public agency she helped create in 1972 -- Palo Alto resident Nonette Hanko has decided to step down when her term ends this year.
She encouraged her friend and MROSD community advisory board member Karen Holman, who is now completing nine years as a Palo Alto City Councilwoman, to run for her Ward 5 seat. The ward includes East Palo Alto and portions of Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Stanford.
Holman began seeking endorsements, filed her papers and has won the support of all seven of the other MROSD directors.
Much to her surprise, Palo Alto City Councilman Greg Scharff, who has usually taken polar-opposite positions from Holman on city land use and zoning issues while they have served alongside each other on the council, entered the race a few days before the filing deadline. Like Holman, Scharff is facing the council's term limit and cannot pursue re-election to the council.
In the only two city elections they have competed in, Holman out-polled Scharff both times, in spite of Scharff's spending an unprecedented $100,000 of mostly his own money in his re-election campaign in 2014. He says he is largely self-funding this campaign as well, and Holman will likely be far outspent. With no major issues differentiating the two, voters must weigh who will be more effective and committed to the work of the district.
Scharff points to his financial experience as a real-estate attorney, a councilman and as a representative on regional bodies that allocate funds for, among other things, environmental restoration projects. His attendance record on some of his regional assignments show he has spread himself too thin. In the last two years, he has missed more meetings of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Agency than he has attended. And he missed five of the seven meetings of a Caltrain advisory committee. In both cases, his failure to attend these meetings deprived Palo Alto of representation.
We believe Holman is the better choice. Her service on the city's planning commission and council and as mayor, and her MROSD involvement (including co-chairing the strategic-planning advisory committee), make her a more prepared and passionate candidate than Scharff, who has not taken a strong interest in environmental issues during his nine years on the council.
More importantly, we have seen both Holman's and Scharff's leadership styles, including when each served as Palo Alto mayor, and we think Holman brings a much more collaborative approach and a temperament better suited for an MROSD board that is functioning well in a non-political environment.
With no major controversial issues facing the open-space district and no significant disagreements between Holman and Scharff on how the district is implementing the vision plan adopted five years ago or allocating funds from the 2014 bond measure, Holman is the best candidate to ensure the continued success of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
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