Town Square

Post a New Topic

Guest Opinion: Council reduced the size of the HRC because of me

Original post made on Jul 3, 2020

Members of the community have asked why did the Palo Alto City Council reduced the size of its Human Relations Commission from seven to five seats last Tuesday without saying a word.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 3, 2020, 6:58 AM

Comments (39)

18 people like this
Posted by Thank you
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 3, 2020 at 10:24 am

Thank you for your service on the committee.

I too was and still am concerned about PAPD's reluctance to release incriminating body cam footage of their officers and tends to make up excuses (like its under investigation, although the law says it should only be held if it interferes with investigation but PAPD conveniently misinterprets that law as release of body cam footage always interferes with their investigation, which is BS).

However, sometimes the Federal, State and County are more appropriate places to create laws so its important to choose. PAPD is city department and down Downtown Streets are city issues, where as female discrimination should be done at the state (or Federal) level. I'm not discounting the need for it, it's just important to under appropriate jurisdictions.


42 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 3, 2020 at 10:29 am

Mr. Lee appeared on Facebook to solicit comments from people who do not live in this community. It was like taking information generated by a local, city commission and speaking about it on a national format. He was making PA's business national in a forum for his political advancement - my opinion.

Suggest that in the future anyone that is working on a city commission sign an agreement that states they will not air city grievances on a national forum. I gather from other comments in the past that Mr. Lee was planning to run for city council.

Our mayor also made comments in a published newspaper that were inappropriate.

We have also seen threats of law suits published in a national paper. Very inappropriate.


56 people like this
Posted by Political Stunt
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 3, 2020 at 10:42 am

Mr. Lee is a political opportunist and is taking the council's reasonable decision to reduce commission sizes as a personal attack on him. If the council didn't want Mr. Lee on the commission, they would have simply not-reappointed him. [Portion removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:20 am

Thank you, Steven, for your service, and for this exceptional letter. I support you entirely in this!


60 people like this
Posted by Longtimer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:22 am

Mr. Lee - This is probably not what you want to hear. It’s not the issues you embrace, it’s your bullheaded approach to addressing them. Having watched you in action, I admire your preparation, your grasp of complex issues, and your attendance.

However, you clearly have an ego and think your way is the right way, the only way. [Portion removed.] The HRC is a collaborative body, and we need people who come to the work with greater humility and willingness to collaborate.

[Portion removed.]


53 people like this
Posted by Lee has got it backwards
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:37 am

I agree with many of the causes the HRC has worked on, and don’t always agree with council decisions. But in this case, Mr. Lee seems to be flipping a democratic process on its head and complaining that he didn’t get his way, and anyone who disagrees with him is “unwoke” “racist/sexist” or “retaliating”. Truly poor form.

Having watched many HRC meetings, Mr. Lee is uncompromising, non-collaborative, and takes his role as a social justice crusade, instead of its role as an advisory committee. [Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2020 at 12:07 pm

I ran for City Council, came in 6th place. Four were seated (Kniss, Berman, Schmid, Burt). But then we went from 9 to 7, to spite me, who advocated going from 9 to 11.


13 people like this
Posted by Take a Breathe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2020 at 1:26 pm

Gee, how about just thanking Steve for the good issues he advocated for and give nastiness a rest. You did support good things Steve.
Also let it be said that the city council reduced the size of some other Commissions along with the HRC.


9 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 3, 2020 at 2:09 pm

Reducing the City Council from 9 to 7 had nothing to do with Mark Weiss. Other towns larger than Palo Alto had fewer Council members. Why would Palo Alto need 11 members??


9 people like this
Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2020 at 3:24 pm

Or is Mr. Weiss being sarcastic?


27 people like this
Posted by Barron Parker Too
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 3, 2020 at 3:45 pm

You say: "a vast majority of our community agrees that Palo Alto needs substantial police reform."

There is no evidence for this, and, anecdotally, none of the people I talk to in Palo Alto have a problem with policing here. So, again anecdotally (since we haven't had a survey), I conclude that your statement is nonsense. [Portion removed.] It's good that you quit -- we don't need people with such a strong bias against the police on the HRC.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 3, 2020 at 6:35 pm

I have to admit that I am confused now as to the role of commissions - how people end up on commissions, and what the end goal of a commission is. We elect City council people - right, wrong, or whatever. But we do not elect commissioners and most do not even know they exist - I didn't. But we collectively have a group of commissioners who think they run the show for their area of concern. They focus on an issue and expect that what ever opinion they arrive at is how it will go down. And the residents of the city are mostly blind to this activity. Until the apple cart gets rocked over and they do not get their way.

We have paid employees of the city - I always expected that the paid employees were hired for their expertise in what ever job they were hired for. Is that the case or are the employees someone's child, sister, or brother? If we have paid employees then what is their role relative to the commissioner's role? What is the hierarchy in decision making?

If the commissioner is a paid employee of some firm that does business with the city then are they directing contracts to that company? A conflict of interest. We have a lots of "consultants" a coincidence? -

I am sensing that there is a conflict of interest here across the board. The city needs to clarify what the relationships are and how the decisions are made.


19 people like this
Posted by KTE
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 3, 2020 at 8:04 pm

Stephen. Are you really surprised? When I did a petition to save the Palo Alto Animal Shelter from the evil intent and then city manager James Keene, the city went after me personally with a public letter that was even placed on Nextdoor. Then their shills started in digging up any dirt on me they could. All because we wanted to save our 100+ year old animal shelter and becoming the back lot of a Honda dealership. This city is taking itself and to a shameful direction. They do not represent the residents of Palo Alto. They represent only those with power and money.


4 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:04 pm

[Post removed.]


15 people like this
Posted by Carl
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 3, 2020 at 11:17 pm

I don’t know the entire story behind the reduction in member of the HRC, but I definitely agree with Mr. Lee on one thing. The City staff is unaccountable and unresponsive to residents. They are responsive only to themselves (they know best) and to the businesses who have time to spend all day at City Hall telling them how wonderful they are and how much money they will give to certain Council members to further their political ambitions.


13 people like this
Posted by JG
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 4, 2020 at 12:01 am

Thank you, Steven for the good work that you have done. Many in Palo Alto are oblivious to the opportunities that present in this town to do things right. Racism, homophobia, and gender discrimination are a part of Palo Alto’s history and present. It’s a town built on white supremacy, just like most of California. Bringing attention to these matters is why the HRC is so important. The fact that council could not provide a legitimate reason for the reduction speaks volumes. Just give a real answer. COMPLACENCY EQUALS COMPLICITY.


4 people like this
Posted by Another PA Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 4, 2020 at 12:06 am

Steven, you may have good intentions, but I think it's unseemly to have an HRC tasked with fighting racism which is itself composed of only one under-represented minority out of 7 people. Let's make room in these types of leadership committees for those who have historically been underrepresented by our government.

Please find a different way to contribute.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2020 at 5:20 am

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2020 at 6:23 am

Anyone reading this article really should review HRC meetings and talk to current and former members. [Portion removed.] Rather than working to address issues together as the HRC has done for many years, Mr Lee has sown dissent and disrespect, causing several good hearted people to quit rather than battle him. [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 4, 2020 at 9:37 am

What is Mr. Lee's resume? Where did he go to school, what did he major in, and where does he now work. Does he work for a company that has a contract with the city for any consulting jobs? Clearly he has political ambitions but someone has to be paying the freight here.

That comment is addressed to all of the disgruntled "Commissioners" whose pet projects have not panned out. I appreciate when experienced people that we have known in the city participate in helping to guide progress. But now we have people that are not generally know in the community who are slugging it out in national formats.
For the next go-around in "Commissioners' suggest that the local papers tell us who they are - what credentials they have and where they work. If they work for a company like Google then you can already tell why they are there.


13 people like this
Posted by NoProof
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 4, 2020 at 9:47 am

Irresponsible to run this "opinion." He presents as "fact" that the commission was downsized to target him. How can he possible know this for a fact? He may suspect it, but he states it as a fact. On the other hand, if that is what happened, sounds like it was a good move on council's part.


16 people like this
Posted by Helen Young
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 4, 2020 at 9:57 am

I worked with Steven for several years as we tried to help Palo Alto become a CEDAW city, and found him to be selfless, dedicated and always respectful. His training as a lawyer has given him a logical, thorough mind which, combined with his deep sense of justice for the underrepresented made him an asset to the Human Relations Commission. Thank you, Steven.


5 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Jul 4, 2020 at 10:30 am

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by long sun
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 4, 2020 at 10:38 am

I'm one of those moderates with lean towards liberalism. I think the far left especially here and the far right elsewhere has practically made our country ungovernable. I see very little difference between the far left and far right beyond the nuances of their authoritarianism.

shrinking commission sizes is good, it will save money and make them more effective.

There are actual services the city supplies And they just seen to have cut everything regardless of their actual use to citizens and the city. My notion of the Palo Alto police for example is that they're quite good except for a few individuals. Those individuals cost money and make problems; get rid of them. And if the police union makes this difficult, then get rid of the union.

On the other hand the city has severely cut the planning and approvals department and their inspectors jamming up construction and necessary work everywhere even though these city functions pay for themselves.


9 people like this
Posted by CLS
a resident of University South
on Jul 4, 2020 at 10:47 am

Thank you for your service, Steven. I agree with many points you bring up, particularly PAPD reform - and hope people in the greater community will look more deeply and honestly at why we continue to be content with the status quo. As JG said in another comment - COMPLACENCY EQUALS COMPLICITY.


15 people like this
Posted by Barb Jaarsma
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 4, 2020 at 11:19 am

I've followed Steven Lee's tenure as Human Rights Commissioner for years now, and while we don't agree on every single topic, I wholeheartedly applaud his passion about these issues and his unwavering conviction that his research and understanding of the nuances and concealed motives of the various players is as thorough, as detailed, and as complete as possible.

I hope he DOES choose to run for City Council. If he does, he already has my vote.

As an aside and FYI, the Human Rights Commissioner position is a volunteer position. No pay, no medals, and - judging from many of the anonymous comments above - very little respect.

Thank you, Steven.



.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 4, 2020 at 12:20 pm

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by Gabe Kralik
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 4, 2020 at 3:36 pm

Steven Lee is a young talent at the start of what should be a long career of representing the vulnerable in our community, fighting their epic battles which few dare to take up. I had the front line experience of serving with Steven on the Human Relations Commission during the past two years, a portion of that time when I was the Chair. He was exasperating, frictional, inquisitive, indefatigable and downright bull-headed in his advocacy. Nevertheless, what impressed me the most about Steven, was his natural way of connecting with real folks, people with difficult problems. They could always approach Steven, trust his sincerity, and count on his unwillingness to give up their causes. Mistakes, of course, are going to be evident early on in one’s public service career. Steven made a few. However, Steven also made a point of learning from his colleagues and others in positions of polish. Steven did begin to implement their collaborative and productive strategies, finding important allies for his causes. I saw a big difference in two years’ time. While on many, many, things I didn’t agree with Steven at all, I sure did enjoy working with him -- always present, always prepared, always engaged, and always speaking up. When we did agree, for example, on addressing (ok, attacking) the youth vaping issue, he was special, capably protecting the interests of our citizens against bad actor corporate interests. He is going to find a place, even if we don’t appreciate him right now. And, for the record, I agree that the cutting the number of HRC Commissioners to five will have a detrimental impact on the diverse representation that group needs to be effective.


10 people like this
Posted by Eyemax
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jul 4, 2020 at 7:27 pm

Your editorial left out a number of salient details. For example, remember when you viciously attacked a volunteer group and reduced the co-chair to tears? Remember when you tried to defund nonprofits that serve the elderly in order to support your prioritization of homelessness, only to turn on Downtown Streets Team within a year? Remember when you bombarded staff and HRC colleagues with so many texts and emails that the City Attorney's office had to get involved? Remember when you publicly disrespected female colleagues and councilmembers, including then-Mayor Liz Kniss? Oh, and you also forgot to mention that Council is now developing a process for removing commissioners who bully, threaten and harass community members and colleagues. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Hans
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 4, 2020 at 7:33 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 4, 2020 at 9:34 pm

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Heidi Schwenk
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 4, 2020 at 9:39 pm

Hello Steven,
Well, many Palo Altoians who didn’t know about who you are, and your passion for critical civic and social justices and causes, do now. Thank you for publishing your opinion. My first thought after reading your opinion is, “you should run for city council of PA!”. Palo Alto citizens need you!

Speaking up and using your voice to give the community your opinion in our local paper about critical issues, such as homelessness, and other important societal issues is very helpful. Transparency is vital to a democratic republic. Many Palo Altoians are dedicated to raising a family and working; too busy to attend city meetings or read notes from all the city departments, if they are even available.

After reading all the comments it is apparent that some people approve of you personally having had experience working with you and obviously others think your passion is misguided and ‘bossy’. Everyone is free to have their own opinion of another person, however, many comments read as angry rants, bullying you and your decision to post your opinion about the loss of your HRC position. Thank you again for airing your opinion about your reality and how the City Council decides to make decisions. I was hoping the CC would remove PR people instead of HR. Especially because so many companies are hiring HR consultants and employees to help them navigate the tremendous need to help their employees cope with the Pandemic caused anxieties, fears, and racial issues!

You have brought light to another situation that the PA City Council has created; more problems for the citizens of Palo Alto to deal with the best they can. I am in complete agreement that the PA Police Union / Department needs reform. And if defunding is the means to the end of police being stopped from abusing their power, then it needs to happen sooner than later! No more teenagers, twenty year old males and females should be treated inhumanely and illegally or disrespectfully.


6 people like this
Posted by Fairmeadow
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:03 am

The “Sound and Fury” of a truly misguided individual that will hopefully correct himself before coming to grief.


2 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 5, 2020 at 1:29 pm

"Oh, and you also forgot to mention that Council is now developing a process for removing commissioners who bully, threaten and harass community members and colleagues."

You forgot to mention how the City Council allows shills to do that to small business owners thus chasing them out of town quite successfully leaving Palo Alto to revel in generic mediocrity while collecting those special deal dollars.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 5, 2020 at 2:16 pm

@Fairmeadow, my Shakespeare quote was deleted. And it wasn't even about all the lawyers.


2 people like this
Posted by marianne mueller
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 5, 2020 at 4:58 pm

thank you, Steven for your service and advocacy and I hope the council reinstates the two positions since we do need seven people not five to address all these important issues that you outline.


2 people like this
Posted by Rebecca White
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 6, 2020 at 9:23 am

Steven, keep being outspoken and rattling the cages. Someone mentioned to me last week that we need people in city government who aren't divisive. Whereas I believe we need people in city government who have the courage to speak up, and the strength to change the cycle of sycophancy. More people who aren't worried about getting invited to the holiday parties.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2020 at 10:11 am

Responding to these comments:

"Suggest that in the future anyone that is working on a city commission sign an agreement that states they will not air city grievances on a national forum. I gather from other comments in the past that Mr. Lee was planning to run for city council.

Our mayor also made comments in a published newspaper that were inappropriate.

We have also seen threats of law suits published in a national paper. Very inappropriate."

What is wrong with making comments and statements public? If you truly believe local news and goings on have no place with a wider audience, then you wouldn't hear of any news whatsoever unless it came from your neighborhood or the federal or state government. You cannot censor who shares what with whom. You're reducing an entire city and its politics to a family matter. If a local jurisdiction was accused of racist policy, do you believe that information should be kept within the city lines only? That no one else has the right to hear about it? Your statement is completely ignorant and ignores the fact that people have a right to know what is going on in public places whether they live there or not.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 6, 2020 at 1:22 pm

The SJM is owned by the same news organization that owns the Baltimore Sun. They share many of the features exclusive of the local news. When you see a very large article in the SJM it is very possible that the Baltimore Sun will pick up on it if they need a space filler. I explain to my relatives that live in a Baltimore suburb, that grew up in California - that the state is going to the dogs. They already understand that - given that they have a star nephew that was at a SOCAL University and decided to quit that school and is now at a university in Montreal, Canada. He could not stand where he was in SOCAL.
Publishing articles where unpaid Commissioners of a relatively small suburb in NORCAL are busy savaging the city council who are elected by the residents proves the point. Keep handing out reasons why people should leave this so-called "paradise" - People who do not live here do not understand all of the nuances that are not mentioned in the paper - and hang on the nuances that are printed in the paper and inflated to a noxious degree.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.


Get the most important local news stories sent straight to your inbox daily.

Former Flea St. Cafe chef starts meal delivery service
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 6,892 views

10 ways to reduce your dog's "pawprint"
By Sherry Listgarten | 9 comments | 4,474 views

Why can't high schoolers write?
By Jessica Zang | 13 comments | 2,738 views

"Plant an Expectation, Reap a Disappointment"
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,893 views

'Ignoring what's wrong has never made anything right'
By Diana Diamond | 4 comments | 1,267 views

 

Who is your local hero?

Whether they're grocery shopping for a neighbor or volunteering for a nonprofit, you can spread the joy and support our journalism efforts by giving them a shout-out.

Learn More