Editorial: Burt, Schmid, Berman, Kniss for City Council | October 5, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - October 5, 2012

Editorial: Burt, Schmid, Berman, Kniss for City Council

With mixed feelings about Kniss returning to the council, we conclude her regional experience could serve the city well

In the last Palo Alto City Council election in 2009, with 14 candidates, voters overwhelmingly reelected Larry Klein to his second four-year term after he had previously served two terms in the 1980s. Klein was the top vote getter among a field of 14 candidates and the only incumbent in the race.

This year, it is former council member Liz Kniss who wants to return to the council after having served 11 years in the 1990s followed by 12 years as a Santa Clara County Supervisor. She is termed out from running again for supervisor, and, ironically, is able to run for council this year only because she successfully urged a change in local elections to even-numbered years.

With a new city manager, a severe economic crisis and a council made up of no one else who had served more than two years, back in 2009 the city needed Klein's historical perspective and knowledge, experience and his willingness to be blunt with city staff when necessary.

But with a council that over the last three years has coalesced, matured and worked well together through some very challenging years, the need for the likes of Klein and Kniss is lessened today, and therefore Kniss's prior experience on the council should count far less in this race. Some might even argue that her past service works against her, since her political insider status fails to broaden the community perspectives represented on the council.

Among the other five candidates in the race, two are incumbents (Pat Burt and Greg Schmid), two are candidates who ran unsuccessfully in 2009 (Tim Gray and Mark Weiss) and the fifth is attorney Marc Berman, at 31 the youngest candidate.

Unlike in the 2009 race, when 14 candidates vied for five slots, this year the field is the smallest in memory. Weiss says he is not spending any money in his campaign and Gray is limiting himself to a modest amount of his own funds. As a result, both are long-shots, and many political activists have proclaimed that there is not a real race this year.

Two events four years ago indirectly define this race: the hiring of City Manager Jim Keene in September 2008 and the world-wide economic collapse that began with the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that same month.

The city hired Keene when the developing recession was only beginning to impact Palo Alto, but as he started the city was slammed by economic forces that has preoccupied it ever since.

At the strong urging of the council, Keene was not only faced with cleaning out a severely underperforming management group but also working with the council to implement financial measures to address unprecedented declines in city revenues.

Thus the last four years have been dominated by the dual challenges of cutting back personnel, benefits and services, while taking steps to encourage new economic development. While there have been some serious missteps along the way (the tree-cutting on California Ave. and the Alma Plaza development are just two examples) for the most part the council has worked cohesively with the city manager to prevent greater economic calamity. Unfunded pension and retiree health obligations approved by past councils remain huge and complex problems, but the city has been well-served by the council's actions over the last few years to begin rolling them back.

The Stanford hospital expansion was successfully negotiated, meaningful reductions in employee compensation and benefits were achieved, binding arbitration was repealed and the investment in city infrastructure, led by the new library/community center construction and renovations, was increased at a time other cities were cutting back.

With a more welcoming city attitude toward development, motivated by the need to boost the local economy and shore up the city's revenue base, and with investment capital and commercial lending rebounding, the next city council will have some important choices to make.

If recent development proposals are any indication, who we elect to the city council this year may matter a great deal in determining the future character of the community.

We believe both incumbents, Pat Burt and Greg Schmid, are worthy of another term. In many ways they are opposites, with Schmid, an economist, a believer in process, careful study and especially reluctant about development without clear financial benefits for the city, and Burt, a business owner-entrepreneur, preferring to immerse himself in the details of an issue with an eye toward improving what the staff has recommended, often to the point of micromanaging yet usually with beneficial ideas.

Schmid often finds himself alone on issues and unable to persuade his colleagues to his point of view, but his perspective is often unique and valuable and his analysis usually sound. He approaches every issue like the economist he is.

Burt distinguished himself as mayor in 2010, leading efficient meetings by being firm — yet not shutting down debate — when his colleagues began bogging down the discussion. As a council member, he is always well-prepared and puts his nine years of Planning Commission experience to good use. He is an effective leader, although sometimes his strong opinions make him appear insensitive to those with differing viewpoints.

Our choice for one of the two "open" slots due to Yiaway Yeh and Sid Espinosa stepping down is Marc Berman, whose passion for public service almost led to his running for Assembly in 2010 until he determined the field was too strong for him to be a viable contender.

Berman, like Yeh and Espinosa, would bring the perspective of a younger generation of resident to the council. Raised in Palo Alto and a Palo Alto

High School graduate, Berman served on the city's Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission and impressed us with his solid knowledge of the issues and with the breadth of support he has obtained in the community. He has not staked out any bold positions on city issues, preferring instead to simply raise concerns about things like neighborhood parking, new development and the future of the Cubberley site, without committing to specific solutions or actions. Rather than a shortcoming, we find his approach to be one reflecting a commitment to studying issues and listening to the public rather than standing for a set of specific outcomes. On a nine-member council, these qualities will serve the community well.

For the final slot, and with some reservations, we recommend Liz Kniss. Kniss has grown tremendously since she was first elected to the council in 1989 and her public health background is unlike that of any other candidate or current council member. More than most of the current council, Kniss thrives on networking and listening to community members and their concerns. She believes the council has been too easy in negotiating with developers and is not happy with the new proposal by John Arrillaga to build four office towers at 27 University Ave. Her three terms as county supervisor gives her a unique perspective of regional issues and challenges.

While we are strong believers in developing new leaders to guide the community, the gap in experience between Kniss and Tim Gray and Mark Weiss is simply too great.

For voters looking for an alternative to Kniss, either out of principle or because of her views, Tim Gray is the best alternative. Gray is a CPA and financial consultant specializing in recovering overpayments by companies that have gone through mergers or acquisitions. He lives in south Palo Alto with his wife and three school-age kids, and he wants to contribute his financial skills to the city's budget issues and to evaluating development proposals. He is concerned that the council is too responsive to developers and that continuing to approve new commercial development will lead to the city being forced to provide more housing to compensate for the jobs being created and that will lead to unwanted intensification.

The sixth candidate, Mark Weiss, is a Gunn High School graduate and a music producer, arts advocate and writer. He believes both the city's pension and infrastructure problems have been "oversold" to the community, and that city workers have shouldered too much of city budget cutbacks. He believes the council gives too much weight to developers and opposes the practice of granting development rights in exchange for public benefits. .

This year's council race is not as competitive as we would have liked given the governance challenges that lie ahead. We believe that Pat Burt, Greg Schmid, Marc Berman and Liz Kniss are the best choice for dealing with these issues and recommend their election on Nov. 6.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

I strongly disagree with the Weekly's endorsement of so much old blood. I would favor new faces and in particular Tim Gray who is doing so much to reach out to residents and willing to put forward his common sense views on important matters that face us, namely the budget and infrastructure concerns. Tim Gray is like a breath of fresh air and it is a great shame that he was not elected last time.

ps I do not know Tim Gray and have no part in his campaign.

Posted by Can't trust anyone , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 9:38 am

What is the point of accepting any such "rationale" for electing these candidates, if they take office and mis-represent the residents.

Not mentioned is the impending monster development on University and Alma, where Palo Alto is being sold out by City "staff", courtesy of elected officials.

I think I will do an "opposite" vote this time and vote for Mark Weiss and Tim Gray. It's all a crapshoot anyway.

Posted by same same but different, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2012 at 9:46 am

Anyone really surprised by these endorsement? Typical Weekly cheerleading. Naturally, the cynical and self-serving manipulation of our election process by Kniss is glossed over and of course, being part of the Palo alto establishment she gets her usual endorsement from the Weekly. The Weekly ignores the failure of our council members to deal with the real issues and supports re-electing the two sitting members. These endorsements are probably what the editor feels will be in the best interest of the Weekly and not the city of Palo Alto

Tim GRay probably lost his chance of an endorsement after bravely posting the following a few months ago:

Web Link
Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on May 29, 2012 at 12:05 pm
Look behind the numbers and you will find that the Weekly's endorsements have nearly a perfect correlation with the size of the campaign advertising budgets.
This is neither a compliment or criticism -- it is just an observation that may lead to understanding the Weekly's decision. Remember, this is the same Advertising Circular (the word newspaper intentionally left out) that asks for charitable contributions to "support local journalism" when a more forthcoming request would be for the publisher to simply ask for people to make deposits to his personal bank account.
Does anyone else feel repulsed by the ethics of disguising a profit making venture as a "charitable cause"?Respectfully shedding some light on what seems to be a sacred cow topic.
Timothy Gray

Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:15 am

Woops! I guess I need to learn to subdue my directness: or not.

I have a renewed commitment not to engage in Criticism, so I will go forward with advocating my vision for building a better future for Palo Alto.

As they say, "The Fix Is In, but This Horse is Not Out!"

I really appreciate the first post by "Resident, a resident of another Palo Alto Neighborhood." www.vote4gray.com


Tim Gray (Candidate for Palo Alto City Council 2012)

Posted by same same but different, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:22 am

"Woops! I guess I need to learn to subdue my directness: or not."

No, Tim, your original comments were right on. There is "bad for Palo Alto" relationship between the Weekly and the City Council. You were correct on how endorsements are given out and it is clear to me it is a "what is best for the weekly" mindset that is in play.

You have my vote for sure. The problem is I cannot find 3 other people on the ballot that I can vote for without puking afterwards.

Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:41 am

Voters can select one candidate, so one vote for Gray helps with the election math.

In my interview with the weekly, I sincerely offered that I was appreciative of the service provided by Palo Alto Online, and would be willing to buy a subscription, but said "I am not willing to make a donation." Also, the reporting by the Weekly's Gennady Sheyner is top quality and represents excellent journalism.

Criticism is poison, so I do want to keep the conversation focused on how we can stand up for Palo Alto. Thanks for your endorsement of candor.

Tim Gray www.vote4gray.com

Posted by Jo Ann, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:47 am

I watched the entire 2-hour video of the council candidates. I highly recommend it.

I'd like to hear answers from all the candidates on what they're going to do about the gridlock around Town & Country Shopping Center and the idiotic timing of the traffic lights. Why do we have red lights at the school crossing at midnight?? How long does it take to fix something like that?

Related to that, I'd like to see an analysis how much that traffic mess costs in the lost tax revenues as people like me shop at the Trader Joe's in Menlo Park specifically to avoid it.

I'd also like to hear what they're doing to rein in utility rates.
I'm tired of getting expensive surveys, mailings and other marketing materials from the Utility Dept. asking what it will take to get me to spend MORE when they should be trying to cut our ridiculously high bills.

Tim Gray's got my vote. Burt lost my vote with his stance on Cal Ave. where he said he couldn't understand the opposition of the merchants and others and thus decided to ignore it.

I'm undecided on Schmidt and Berman.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

If your prioritize keeping the character of the city the four to vote for are Greg Schmid, Tim Gray, Mark Weiss, and Liz Kniss (maybe - Kniss has a history with Jim Baer, so what she says now may not be how she votes once she is elected).

If you are for more development, higher density development, granting of more PC Zoning, then vote for Pat Burt, Marc Berman.

If the budget is more of a concern, vote for Schmid, Tim Gray, Pat Burt, Liz Kniss (maybe).

If you are more concerned with union issues, vote for Berman & Weiss.

Posted by Ernesto USMC, a resident of Ventura
on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

Gray has demonstrated the greatest understanding of sound business practice, which in my book makes him most likely to take on special interests that are slowly bankrupting this rich city (union entitlements...)

The two incumbents at least voted to let the public vote on revoking the long-abused binding arbitration legislation that has led us to grossly overpaid firefighters retiring in their early 50's with six figure taxpayer funded pensions. They have done far too little to right the ship, but have at least moved in the right direction.

I will probably leave the fourth vote blank. Kniss and Berman are terrible. They'll both serve as little more than union-puppets.

Posted by Jo Ann, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:58 am

Thanks for that, common sense. I'd like to hear more on that.

It seems that the city's high-density plans are in direct conflict with their anti-car policies.

Posted by Kniss, really? No!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:02 am

Kniss feels the council is too easy on developers? Really? Yet when she was on the council and the Hamilton Project came up for a vote. (The Hamilton Project was massive, and overshadowed all of the smaller adjacent houses and buildings.) She was all for it then and voted it in. And I believe she was all for Baer building, the Cowper- Webster parking lot that he was to hand over to the city for free public parking in 15 years. But that never quite happened. Only 2 floors are available for free. The rest are permitted- which was not the agreement.
Kniss has always supported and voted for developers. I will not vote for her!

Posted by Voter, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:05 am

I'm voting for the two who seem honest and thoughtful, namely Schmid and Gray. They have the residents in mind, not just the big money interests. (Long time support for very big development by Kniss is well known.)
Not on the Take, that's my priority: I'm voting for Schmid and Gray.

Posted by Voter, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:11 am

She also rammed through the SummerHill development just before her term on the council was ending. Rammed it, yes-- as chairperson, cut off any opposing voice and forced the vote. She isn't just the plastic smiley face in her ads.
And developer Jim Baer gave her office space on El Camino and forced her opponent out of the office when she ran for the county seat. It was ugly.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2012 at 11:30 am

Since I favor the residential parking permit program (RPPP) in College Terrace, and I also support other neighborhoods that are impacted by intensive parking pressures, I would ask the candidates to reveal their views on the spread of RPPP in other neighborhoods.

Posted by Bailey, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

You say the experience gap is too great for Tim Gray and yet you endorse Berman who has no experience on any kind of board or commission other than being one of 16 IBRC members? Tim Gray has been working in the community for many years, and has a track record. Berman just got here in 2009. He's a carpet bagger. If he loses here, he'll move on to another town.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Weekly was impressed by Berman's Democratic Party ties rather than his ties to the community.

Posted by Bailey, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm

One more thing -- you failed to discuss Berman's pro-union views. He went down to the San Jose labor council to get the endorsement from the unions representing city workers. He did the interview and filled out the endorsement form. Then he decided the endorsement wouldn't help him in Palo Alto, so he declined to accept it. I got to think he's secretly a union backer but feels the label would sink him in the election.

Posted by No-Change-Coming-To-Palo-Alto, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm

All you have to do is look at Berman's "endorsements"--and you see the same, tired, left-wing, poltical class that has created the sinking ship we now call "California":

Web Link

It's doubtful that Marc Berman has ever had an original thought about local government, and has promised all of these "endorsers" to follow religiously in their footsteps.

In what way is Berman "qualified", and someone else not? Well, perhaps the Weekly's "endorsement" has nothing to do with experience--but more about how "connected" you are.

New Boss same as the Old Boss ..

Posted by Voter, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm

At the League of Women Voters forum Berman was clueless about most of the issues facing Palo Alto.
So the real question is, who are his mentors.

Posted by pants on fire, a resident of Stanford
on Oct 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Well said, No-Change-Coming-To-Palo-Alto. I have been wondering for a long time the rationale behind the Weekly's endorsements. Maybe we need to follow the political affiliation and the money.
As another poster stated, Tim Gray did not get endorsed because of his views about the Weekly and how they conduct themselves.
Will vote for Gray--but definitely not for Kniss. I remember an issue when she was mayor that she would not even bring to a vote--probably afraid to go on record with a vote on the matter (BTW, Voter, nice comment on the plastic smiley face). I cannot state what my conclusion on that matter is, since it would probably be deleted--suffice it to say she demonstrated a distinct dislike for a certain group of people in the city.

Posted by facts, schmacts, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Bailey - Berman a carpetbagger? The guy grew up in Palo Alto! Try learning something about a person - unless of course you don't want facts getting in the way of your insinuations.

Posted by Annette, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm

We're in a hole that took several years to dig. With the exception Schmid, I don't see the upside to putting past and present hole diggers back in office.

Tim Gray is giving us a 3rd chance to benefit from his expertise. I am going to vote for him b/c I think his financial acumen will be helpful, he strikes me as being reasonable, and I think he will bring new thinking to the Council.

Posted by More candidates Please, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm

As I watch many of the City Council Meetings, I am disappointed at the two current members running again. I will not be voting for either of them because frankly they've made some wrong decisions. Neither will I be voting for Liz Kniss, she needs to retire.

There will, of course, be some blank spaces on my ballot but that's better than betraying my conscience.

Posted by Michael, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Endorsing the two-faced (he sought the labor endorsement then denied it) wannabe union-shill Berman over Gray is madness.

Gray is probably the best candidate, if things like smart fiscal management are important to the city. He is certainly a better vote than Kniss or Berman.

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2012 at 7:57 am

Recent article on each candidate's campaign contributions:

Web Link

Note that Pat Burt gets contributions from Jim Baer, who has represented before city council developers who have requested PC Zoning changes which lets them build huge building which exceed existing zoning limits. I would guess Jim Baer also gets a bunch of his associates to donate as well.

Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 6, 2012 at 10:16 am

Two quotes from two different Weekly stories create a stark contrast worth noting:

From today's Campaign Contributions story linked in the above post:

"Financial consultant Timothy Gray has the largest war chest of the six hopefuls after loaning himself $30,274 on Sept. 28, according to campaign statements filed with the city clerk's office. Due Friday, the Fair Pol itical Practices Commission-mandated forms cover contributions and expenditures made between July 1 and Sept. 30."

From the Weekly's Endorsement Story:

"...Gray is limiting himself to a modest amount of his own funds. As a result, both are long-shots, and many political activists have proclaimed that there is not a real race this year."

It is suspicious when the announcer calls the race before its over.

The contrast provides just one more data point that speaks for itself. Web Link


Tim Gray

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2012 at 10:34 am

Tim Gray brings a breath of fresh air.

I've lost confidence in Pat Burt. He's too much about City Hall hubris and not enough about efficiency and accountability to the people.

The city needs to be more responsive and of service to the community rather than the obese, stifling bureaucracy it has become -- with our dollars.

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

And further, I find Burt too smug in his views, ignoring residents' concerns and thinking that he knows better. One man's opinion.

Posted by For new blood, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Watch the Kniss interview. She's clueless about what's going on in the city. Almost a parody [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]. Berman has my vote (don't bother with Bailey, she's trying to raise a cloud of FUD around more than one race ). And Gray, who will make things a little less cozy on the Council.

Posted by CaptainObvious, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

For folks surrounding me to claim to be so bright, it's hard to figure out where they are getting their facts about Berman and the Union. If it was on the record - and accurate, then produce it. Otherwise you're just regurgitating the same lame, elementary write-up in the other local rag.

As for Gray, at least we'll have some direction.

Oh and speaking of traffic, unrelated to T&C, how about a few sensors on Page Mill. 3~6 minutes per light turning? I thought this is full of Technology around here? Come down off the hill with me to commonsenseville.

Posted by Traffic blocking emergency care, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2012 at 5:49 pm

speaking of traffic,

someone suggested turning University Avenue into a pedestrian aerea, to accommodate the Arrillaga office project. Which means transferring the problem to Hamilton and to the neighborhoods.

But If you close off University, there is nothing left to reach critical medical services located at PAMF, and at Stanford. Already NOW you better hope you do not need access to medical attention during a Stanford football game or rush hour.

Even if you ran over to get medical help from your house (if you could), your nurse or doctor may not be able to get to work because of the gridlock. Certainly an ambulance would be stuck too.

Blocking off traffic and access to El Camino for Palo Alto residents because of this project is the most irresponsible thing. Offices need to be zoned OUTSIDE traffic push points, and certainly away from anything that blocks medical attention.

"Quality of life" would certainly be impacted.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Oct 6, 2012 at 5:59 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

I am all for new blood and young residents on the council and was sorry to see Espinosa and Yeh decide not to run again.

I have endorsed Mark Berman, only the second candidate I formally endorsed since I have lived in PA.

I served with Mark for more than a year on the IBRC, which provided a great intensive course in local PA finance issues. I was very impressed by his intelligence, thoughtfulness and willingness to be engaged.

Posted by John, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2012 at 6:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Burt Clean Up, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Pat Burt and Jim Keene have done a good job the last few years in cleaning us the leftover mess within Palo Alto city government. No more scandals, no more lawsuits, no more hysterics, no more cronies gone wild in City Hall on Hamilton Avenue. Pat Burt deserves re-election!

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Oct 9, 2012 at 11:28 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

To Timothy Gray

Help me understand some of your positions. I am open to voting for people I don't agree with entirely if I think they bring a fresh and helpful perspective to the council.

I see theses campaign signs that say "spend less". We are all so tired of the presidential candidates talking about taxes and budgets without much specifics, I was hopeful you could say what spending you advocate cutting.

Second, you say cut spending somewhere to be able to spend on infrastructure. Do you think all of your cuts will be available to be redirected or do we need to control the growth of spending mostly to take care of rising costs relative to revenues?

Finally, I either don't understand what you are saying about financing major investments like the public safety building or we just disagree.

Are you saying we should save up a fund (reserves) from reducing General Fund spending and wait ten to fifteen years to get a new facility becasue you oppose borrowing for long-term capital projects. Do you also oppose borrowing for school facilities? Shouldn;t we distinguish between operating budgets where the IBRC does advocate building a reserve and long-terrm capial investments.

P.S. I really do vote for candidates that I sometimes disagree with. I strongly think Greg Schmid is wrong in his arguments that the ABAG regional projections are too high. I also disagree with his position on Palo Alto and the RHNA housing planning target. But I will vote for Greg becasue he is honest, dedicated and brings a set of skills and perspectives to the council.

Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm


You ask many good questions. I can answer with more detail in a private correspondence, but in general, I am advocating for us to take an Infrastructure first approach to budgeting so that we don't get further behind in maintaining our streets and sidewalks (fully fund "keep-up" and also set aside a few more million to the "catch-up" category. We should also set aside reserves for replacing our newer facilities from day one, so that we have a meaningful pool of money to repair and replace them as needed.

With the money that is left, we can, as a town inventory and prioritize City services and spend what is left according to a general consensus on what is important. If there is not enough money in the budget to spend on the least important, then those are the items subject to reduction. That kind of soul-searching requires the Council to engage the residents in sincere Citizen Participation. Even if I had an idea of the least important services, I could not act on my own opinion, because I am elected to be a representative of the Will of The People. Yes, even my own opinion can be a special interest that has to be set aside. (Read more about this at Web Link )

In lean times, we may decide that the cuts are too painful and we might choose not to fund some of the reserves. In times of plenty, we may fund extra. But the problem is that even for richer or poorer times, we have consumed our revenue on operations and failed to establish proper reserves. That is the concept: Just because you can put off fixing your roof until next year, does not mean that you spend the money now.

Now realistically, because our history of overspending, and not keeping up with prudent repairs, nor setting aside reserves, we may be in so deep of a hole that we have to ask for a "bailout" by borrowing in the bond market. I agree that we need a new Public Safety building, however there is this not-so-unwarranted belief by the residents that any amount of money put on the table would be spend by a City Structure that has an insatiable appetite for cash.

With that kind of skepticism and division between the voters and the City, acceptance of a big bond measure is unlikely and it would be unwise to spend cash on failed attempt. However, if the City demonstrated that it was willing to prioritize and make meaningful sacrafices in City operations, then some trust could be restored.

Demonstrating good financial stewardship is the key: As an example, when I worked for the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, we needed millions to build new programs and to recruit new physician specialties. However, the Packard Foundation (the one with Billions) simply stated (and I paraphrase) "Before we give you this extra money to grow, you need to meet some spending benchmarks are prove your financial stewardship before we release the funds. It was painful on operations, but the organization reached consensus and achieve some meaningful spending reductions. With that trust, funds were provided, and the wonderful growth in services is a story that everyone knows.

We might even keep this story of earning trust in mind as we creatively pursue some public and private partnerships. Instead of cutting, there may be a way to gain some outside funding to provide the Infrastructure first budgeting balance.

There continue to be stories about how Palo Alto has an adminstrative budget equal to Cities two times the size. Let's get the numbers and either show that is untrue or face the reality that some reduction is appropriate. It is never painless, but we have to keep our eye on the greater prize of gaining community unity through increased trust, which will allow residents to more enthusiastically investment that the City needs for the future.

There are other factors like searching for cost savings through regional cooperation, and inspecting once more if there might be functions within the Public Safety Building that might be share with other agencies. For example, we know that disasters are no respecter of political boundaries. I can't say what this increased scrutiny will yield, but we owe it to the residents to vigorously explore every option and in doing that, the City will be rewarded with greater unity and trust.

Thank you again for sincere interest in thinking in a the bigger picture with a more expansive timeline, and seeing that what we choose today will really determine whether we have resources tomorrow to continue our path of being a place of innovation. The alternative is a future where a large amount of cash will have to dedicated to servicing debt, and that diversion of resources will limit our ability to create the future that we all want.

Best regards,

Timothy Gray www.Vote4Gray.com is my campaign web site

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

I'm for Tim Gray.

@Jo Ann:
The Utilities Department will never tell you ways to reduce your utility bill. It cuts into their budget (raises, bonuses).

Neither will the City Council make this a priority as long as Utilities' profits go to the general fund.

In fact, Utilities is the golden egg-laying goose for the city. It enables them to in effect, raise taxes on us without being held accountable. Because where else are we gonna go to get water or sewer service?! It is an end run around Proposition 13, the will of the people. And people like Pat Burt are all for it.

This will continue until voters get wise and demand that Utilities return profits to the residents, and any services that are not cost effective be outsourced to other cities.

And don't even get me started on water rates. We have the highest rates in the country. And the City Council laughs all the way to their retirement benefits.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm

The Weekly seems to deliberately misrepresent me and dismiss my candidacy.
Here is my platform in 70 words:

1) Commercial real estate developers have too much say and sway; leadership –council, commissioners and staff – should listen to residents first.

2)”Planned Community” (PC) zoning is the most concentrated form of abuse of the system in recent years and should be amended, enforced or outlawed;

3) the 27 University project, “Arrillaga Office Towers” should be vigorously opposed by residentialists, as part of taking the town back from these powerful, oligarchical special interests.
Web Link

I hope people make it out to the Forum tonight at 8 at City Hall.

Posted by Can't trust anyone , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm


WHat is the Forum tonight at City Hall about?

Posted by can't trust anyone , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Are these forums recorded and available on public access tv?

Posted by DS, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 11, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I've been following this race fairly closely, and ideally would like to see Bermanjoin the council. Despite his relatively young age, he's really quite knowledgeable about the issues and is incredibly passionate about serving his hometown. Someone on this forum lobbed a 'carpetbagger' charge, which is nonsense - Vermanspent his whole youth here, attended out schools, and after attending law school immediately came back home and got involved in his community on a number of committed, boards and other volunteer activities. There are some other decent candidates, but I've had the pleasure of meeting Berman and working with him locally, and everything i have seen suggests he would be a tremendous asset to the council.

Posted by More nonsense, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 12, 2012 at 1:50 am

Do you really think that any of these candidates are going to be able to keep their campaign promises? How can they do that if they need 5 votes to support their motions, with the added complication that the Council changes out seats every 2 years. So, how does one build a constituency on the Council, long term? It's almost impossible.

Add to that the "appointed Mayor" fiasco. Now, these Mayors are all good people, but it's really a ribbon cutting position - i.e. no power.

So, who is in charge of the city? Who is responsible for setting strategy? It's not the City Manager, because s/he reports to Council.

Palo Alto is able to muddle through because of the wealth of its residents, and certainly not because we have a forward-looking governance structure. Sure, we muddle through, but how much BETTE might it be if we elected a Mayor who had just enough separation of power to set strategy; hire and/or fire a city manager; and. was ACCOUNTABLE to the electorate for getting things done, or not.

Palo Alto is a great place, but we are stuck in this karma wheel of inefficiency, and endless debate on most issues, because *nobody is in charge*.

As for the Weekly, they have a few good reporters, but it's mostly an ad rag with more money than the other ad rags in town. Bill Johnson is a smart business person; he bought property in the burgeoning Cal Ave District (he even cut down a beautiful old tree to accommodate his building, but not a peep in the Weakly about that :) The Weekly is essentially a "closed shop" newspaper; it's more a social thing with lots of back slapping amongst old politicos and insiders who get the nod. Palo Alto could do better, but again, the wealth of this city mitigates "good enough". As long as everything muddles along, people are happy; they have busy lives.

SO, again, the election really is inconsequential, because the governance structure "owns" the Council Members. They have to adapt to it in ways that keep them from optimizing our city's potential, and that's the way things will remain until we become serious about changing governance to elect a Mayor, possibly shrink the Council, and end the "strong city manager" model of government. I don't think it will happen. Why? Because everyone is "comfortable". It's a wealthy town. Who cares, really? Except for those that follow these things, and that's a vast minority.

Go ask almost anyone who the Mayor is; the City Manager; the Council members. I've asked. Most people don't know. They're happy not knowing; they don't 'need to know, because they're mostly comfortable enough to be able to buffer local inefficiencies. That's the way it is, in October, 2012.

Posted by Can't trust anyone , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm

More nonsense,

"that's the way things will remain until we become serious about changing governance to elect a Mayor, possibly shrink the Council, and end the "strong city manager" model of government."

How do you suggest we can change nonsensical Palo Alto governance?

How does one go about changing it to a better system. Looking at best practices in other towns or cities - who gets it right?

Why does this system need to stay?

What prevents us from going to an elected Mayor system?

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Just saw a City Council meeting on a Jim Baer project (2755 El Camino at Page Mill).

Pat Burt is SUCH an obedient puppet. Baer is certainly getting MAJOR vacuum for his campaign contribution to Burt.

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