AWKWARD TRANSITION ...
Few elections in Palo Alto are as suspenseful, rancorous and polarizing as the Planning and Transportation Commission's annual selection of its chair and vice chair. For those who enjoy hyperlocal political intrigue, this year's election of officers on Jan. 29 didn't disappoint. Residents read aloud a public letter, signed by about 50 endorsers, listing a set of principles they would like to see in the top two leaders. These include a "selfless interest in serving the public good," "zero tolerance for bullying or disparaging a member of the public from the dais" and compliance with "complete disclosure at the dais of any conflict of interest" — a veiled reference to Commissioner Michael Alcheck
, who has been criticized for not recusing himself during commission hearings that pertained to garages and carports while he was moving ahead with two projects that involved garage construction. Some expected Alcheck, who came into the meeting as vice chair, to assume to the chair's seat. He quickly quashed those expectations by nominating Carolyn Templeton
as chair, calling her "compassionate" and "thoughtful." His colleagues unanimously supported the nomination, with Commissioner Doria Summa
noting that she was thinking about throwing her own hat into the race for chair but was happy to support Templeton. They maintained that spirit of unity for a whole 30 seconds until things got awkward when they chose a vice chair. Commissioner Ed Lauing
supported Summa for the role, calling her an "avocational zoning expert" and touting her two decades of active engagement in city issues and three years of commission experience. Alcheck then nominated Giselle Roohparvar
, a real estate attorney who joined the commission last year. Commissioner Barton Hechtman
, who was appearing in his first meeting, abstained from the vote, noted that he didn't have sufficient knowledge of either nominee. Outgoing Chairman William Riggs
took a shot at Summa for not participating in a team-building exercise at a commission retreat last year and then abstained from the vote. Roohparvar prevailed by winning three votes from the seven-member commission. She gained supporting votes from Templeton, Alcheck and herself. In making the case for her nomination, Roohparvar said she believes the position should "transcend politics." "It's not about coming here and arguing your point. It's about making sure everyone is heard and has a fair chance, and making sure there is civility and decorum that's always maintained," she said.
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posted Friday, February 7, 2020, 12:00 AM