POPULARITY CONTEST ... Palo Alto's first City Council meeting of the year is typically a festive and ceremonial affair, a time for council members to choose their new mayor and vice mayor, thank the outgoing mayor and treat themselves to treats in the City Hall lobby. But for council member Alison Cormack, this year's gathering was a perennial disappointment. Despite garnering the most votes in the 2018 council race, Cormack has been passed over for the vice mayor and mayor positions since that election. At the start of 2020, when she and Tom DuBois each received three votes for vice mayor (Greg Tanaka voted for no one, creating the deadlock), she stepped aside to allow DuBois to take the position, which typically serves as a stepping stone to becoming mayor the following year. The 2020 election further cemented a majority for the council's slow-growth "residentialist" camp. Now in the political minority, Cormack watched the council choose Pat Burt over her to serve as vice mayor in 2021. And on Jan. 3, her colleagues voted to make Burt mayor despite Cormack's argument that the position should go to Lydia Kou, in recognition of both Kou's many years of community service and of the city's growing Asian American population. After the vote, Cormack suggested that the city follow the example of neighboring cities like Mountain View and Menlo Park, where mayor and vice mayor get selected based on seniority rather than politics. "Our neighbors seem to manage this with a lot less drama, and it's more straightforward," she said. Cormack said she hopes the council will reconsider its process for electing mayor and vice mayor during its annual retreat. Liz Kniss, a former three-time mayor, also said she supports selecting mayors and vice mayors on a rotating basis. "It's been mentioned many times in the past. Maybe it's the year it will actually happen."
TIMELY TEST RESULT ... California Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, has tested positive for COVID-19, he said Wednesday in a statement on Twitter. Becker, 52, received a positive test result prior to a speaking engagement. "Thankfully, I am feeling fine and am grateful to be vaccinated and to have received my booster shot. I will be quarantining at home and look forward to returning to work as soon as possible," he said. Becker also encouraged people to get vaccinated and boosted. "If you have not received your vaccine or booster, I strongly encourage you to do so. You can find information and schedule an appointment here: myturn.ca.gov," he said. He also directed people to covid19.ca.gov/get-tested, a state website with information about where to get tested for COVID-19. Becker didn't specify which variant he contracted, but federal health officials on Wednesday said that 95% of cases throughout the country are now caused by the highly transmissible omicron variant. Only about 5% of cases are now found to be the previously ubiquitous delta variant.
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