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Facing recruiting challenges, Palo Alto cuts seats on two commissions

Original post made on Jul 15, 2020

Citing difficulties in recruiting new volunteers, Palo Alto has reduced the number of seats on two citizen commissions, including one that is focused on promoting diversity and exploring police reform.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, July 14, 2020, 4:01 PM

Comments (10)

17 people like this
Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 15, 2020 at 10:48 am

As a former member of 2 different commissions, I can tell the Council that one reason you are not getting applications is that you have made sitting on a commission a thankless job. You don't follow the commissions' recommendations and you don't offer any gratitude for service, not even a thank-you letter.

And to the complainers, if you think the commission is important, volunteer to serve on it.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 15, 2020 at 11:44 am

I have a lot of concerns about "Commissions". If we were in LA I could see it. But we are not LA, we are not SF. We are a relatively small urban city on a narrow, totally built out strip of the peninsula. We are not going to build Hong Kong on this narrow strip of land.
My Concerns;
1. Are the commissioners employees of any of our consultant contracts? That is a conflict of interest.
2. What is the relation of the commission vs. the Police Force? The Police Force is under the gun right now. BLM is a political concept. To what degree are we allowing a political concept interfering with the actual workings of a police department?
We need the head of the police department who is a paid employee of the city to stand up for anything that is questionable and be open to discussion so that the residents get to know what to expect. Some east coast idea of defunding the police is now biting them in the butt. Raging people with signs and chanting is a political game. We need a policy statement that is not subject to games.
3. We need a media that is not paid for by the game people and an put out all of the related facts - not cherry pick only the facts that sell a concept.
4. How do commissions interact with the employees of the city and the city manager? I have yet to figure out why a person on a commission starts assuming directional advise to an employee - who presumably has a manager that working to a total city plan.
This whole year we have seen commissioners who are raging around because their personal goals were not pursued. Those goals appear to be not in conformance with city policy. Some major disconnect between what the point is. Do we have a management issue at the top level of the city? Time to force some hands here if that is the case.

7 people like this
Posted by Yes, please cut them and change their focus
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 15, 2020 at 12:11 pm

I don't feel that the people on the Human Relations or the Art commission represent me or most of the people who live in Palo Alto. Rather than the human relations commission spending all their time and resources pandering to the homeless, what about those of us that don't want them steeling from us and sleeping and pooping in the streets. And the Art commission wastes good money on ugly "art" and then we can't ever get rid of it. (Remember that ugly "digital" egg thing?) They should not be able to buy anything but only negotiate rotating pieces of art that have to leave after a certain amount of time.

4 people like this
Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Thank you Ms. Kou for voting against reducing the number of Commissioners. Since the Commissioners are City Council selected, reduced numbers make it easier to "stack the deck".

Did no one apply or just no one acceptable to the City Council majority? There is a difference. I believe you need to be an "artist" or have an art background to be on the Art Commission. Given the negative response to much of PA's public art (see above comment) perhaps having an "ordinary" resident on the Commission might help broaden the discussion and recruitment.

Regarding the Human Relations Commission, did anyone reach out to residents of diverse backgrounds, discuss the Commission and seek application? Was there an outreach, say to the residents of Buena Vista?

And yes, Ms. Wasserman's comments are timely. Thank you

8 people like this
Posted by former commissioner
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2020 at 2:18 pm

As a former commissioner I completely agree with Judith Wasserman's comments. Council's treatment of the decisions by commissions wastes both the Council's time and the commissioners time. In addition, it should be noted that commissioners use a great deal of City staff time. We definitely need to cut down on the number of staff as the pension liability is getting totally out of control.

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Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 15, 2020 at 3:27 pm

WOW - there is an interesting point. If the Commissioners are using city staff is that then taking away from the jobs they are suppose to be doing? If we assume that every city employee has a job directed by their management then is serving the requests of a commissioner part of that job - or extracurricular work. What is required here is a clear path of direction concerning the use of city staff - employees of the city - who now become employees of the commissioners? The more we flesh out this issue the more problematical it gets.

If they had all kept their opinions of the city off the global news we would not be aware of these abuses of power.

5 people like this
Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 15, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Is there a political litmus test for these positions, or are people withe truly diverse views allowed? Because I know many Palo Alto residents want to clean up the streets, get rid of the homeless, give police greater authority to prevent and punish crime, etc. But my guess is, the City Council doesn't want diverse voices like that. But maybe I'm wrong.

3 people like this
Posted by A.L
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 16, 2020 at 4:34 pm

Who are these people on the commission? Are they elected? Lived in Palo Alto for 20 years, only heard about them recently, and don't feel they represent anything in my mind for living in Palo Alto. Can we save tax payers money and not have them at all?

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2020 at 5:47 pm

Kind of reminds me of the joke from "Annie Hall" about the food is bad and such small portions.

Like this comment
Posted by Another Former Commissioner
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2020 at 7:52 pm

The Council chooses to ignore a Commission recommendation when it is poorly thought out. The PTC has been slowly converted to a pro-growth body with all contrary positions eliminated. Only Commissioner Summa and Lauing remain, and their positions are up at the end of the year.

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