In February, Palo Alto City Council member Lydia Kou lobbied her colleagues to make "regaining public trust" a 2019 priority. Perhaps, she had the 2018 National Citizens Survey in mind. It showed just 45 percent of residents appraised Palo Alto government favorably for acting in the best interest of the community. Alas, Ms. Kou's colleagues declined her proposal.
Acting in the community's best interest would require listening to residents. The survey showed only 5 percent rated affordable quality housing positively, only 28 percent rated traffic flow positively and only 34 percent rated public parking positively.
Our council frequently proclaims its intent to address housing, traffic and parking. Nevertheless, every year, the survey ratings for these measures decline. Even so, a council majority (Alison Cormack, Adrian Fine, Liz Kniss and Greg Tanaka) consistently vote to benefit office developers, not residents.
Recently, these four council members overturned the downtown commercial development cap knowing that more workers would negatively affect the jobs-to-homes ratio, housing costs, traffic flow and parking availability.
During the recent election campaign, Cormack said she "didn't see any reason to remove" the cap, then voted to do so. Kniss claimed that maintaining the cap would "freeze downtown," although the cap could be modified to allow exceptions. Fine argued that offices should be built downtown because it is "transit rich," even though the survey showed just 22 percent of residents judged public transportation approvingly.
It's no wonder the developer-first majority dismissed regaining community trust. They would need to reform their listening, legislating and truth-telling habits.
Alma Street, Palo Alto
Castilleja expansion debate
A while back, I attended a City Council meeting during which the Castilleja expansion was discussed. Several students discussed the benefits of women's education. I got the feeling that the students had been deceived by the school's administration into believing that women's education, rather than the effect of the school's expansion on a residential neighborhood, was the issue at hand.
High school students are unlikely to have independently developed an opinion on an issue like this. I would have been more impressed by a student who chastised the school administration for requesting her to make a presentation that misrepresented the issue. The student might have gone on to praise her education that gave her the skill to detect the deception and the self-confidence to present her contrary point of view in a public meeting.
Melville Avenue, Palo Alto
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