Cormack won’t seek second term on Palo Alto council

City Councilwoman Alison Cormack

Daily Post Staff Writer

Councilwoman Alison Cormack announced today (May 13) that she will not seek re-election after one term on Palo Alto City Council, paving the way for three new council members to be elected in November.

Eric Filseth and Tom DuBois can’t run again due to term limits.  That means that three of the seven seats on council will be open in November.

Cormack explained her decision in this post on Medium.

Cormack, who is in favor of more housing, is often in the minority on council. Many of her motions fail and her proposals are rejected. She was passed over three times to be vice mayor.

Cormack is a stickler for following the rules and making decisions based on data. She ran in 2018 as a champion for libraries — she led a successful bond issue campaign — and received the most votes ever for a council election.

Once elected, Cormack became a leader in the effort to redevelop the Cubberley Community Center.

Cormack said she first started thinking about doing something else in August 2020, when she saw how Covid was impacting other cities more heavily. She said she is confident that the city employees will carry the city in the right direction, and she wants to invest her time elsewhere.

Cormack listed a few decisions that she wouldn’t make again, including “gracefully” breaking a 3-3 tie to allow Councilman Tom DuBois to become Vice Mayor in 2020. She was passed over for the position in 2021 and 2022.

Cormack said she regrets voting for compostable produce bags at the grocery store and not developing a master plan for Cubberley with the school district. She said she now knows the city will need to do the project alone, on just a portion of the site at 4000 Middlefield Road.

Cormack said that redeveloping Cubberley is on her list of 17 things she wants to work on after her term ends.

Cormack was a supporter of police and defended Chief Bob Jonsen’s decision to encrypt police radios, preventing the public from listening in.

Without naming names, Cormack was critical of council in a phone interview. She said they are more interested in following “factions” than trusting a council member’s expertise.

For example, she pointed to her proposal in February to sell an unused portion of Palo Alto’s water supply to another city to bring in revenue that could be used for a recycled water project.

Cormack is the city’s representative on the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency. She said there was demand for water from other cities, and Palo Alto wasn’t going to use its entire allocation anyway.

But council rejected the idea because they said population growth could lead to more water use in the future. Even Mayor Pat Burt, who co-signed Cormack’s memo, didn’t support the idea at the meeting.

In her Medium post announcing her intentions, Cormack said future council members should run with other candidates, so they can govern as a team. She said she went at it alone, and learned the “team approach” works.

“I don’t think it’s really healthy for our democracy for people to be aligned in factions, but the reality is that it’s effective,” she said.

Cormack said she watched council members buying tickets, watching sports and doing other work while people were speaking at the meeting. She said she wished at least one council member had supported her idea to ban electronic devices during meetings.

With Filseth, DuBois and Cormack gone after the election, the remaining members of council will be Burt, Lydia Kou, Greer Stone and Greg Tanaka.


  1. “Cormack is a stickler for following the rules and making decisions based on data.”

    Nonsense, She pushed the Town & Country Shopping Center landlord’s request to convert the shopping center to “medical/retail” without ever defining what that even was — anything for one of her developer buddies.

    Re supporting”factions” it’s amusing that only now does she object but she was more than content when her mentor Liz Kniss loaded the City Council with pro-development acolytes, And it’s only now that they’re in the minority that they push for campaign finance “reform” to limit contribitions from RESIDENTS but bot from their business abd development backers!

    And of course she remains silent on Ms. Kniss’s campaign finance violations.

    Her transparent hypocrisy and disdain for the residents won’t be missed.

  2. Cormack’s presumptuous auto-administered exit interview is self-serving and more revealing than she surely intended.

    She lambasts “factions” because she says they interfere with trusting a colleagues “expertise” (hers). Such as the unanimous 6-1 vote to sell away our water. This wasn’t about factions, it was about her bad proposal.

    Irony enters when she then encourages all Council candidates to run as “teams” (slates) to be the very Council factions she derides. Oh my.

    Many Council members have been in the minority. Holman and Kou recently – they didn’t bellyache. When the Kniss, Tanaka, Cormack and Fine “faction” was a majority, Cormack seemed happy with it. Currently there are many Council unanimous and mixed votes, and a minority that Cormack often shares with Tanaka. That’s politics. It’s not for everyone.

    You say you’ve never been in position for more than 3 years. Congratulations – your 4-year term on Council will be your personal best! You’re getting better at commitment.

  3. I had hopes in Allison as a leader, but the defining moment for me was at the end of an extensive community outreach for Cubberley, she secretly instructed the consultant to add housing to the plan, thereby converting public facility to private usage. It was clearly not popular, and showed tone-deafness to the community, and the needs of a growing population. While Cubberley needs serious, action-oriented attention, I am leery of Allison’s continued involvement. Hopefully she will change her stance, and use her energy to make a long-lasting gem of a facility for an increasingly urbanized town.

  4. @friend of Cubberly, very interesting. I wonder how Cormack’s secret instructions to the consultant didn’t get more press. We know she’s always in the pocket of the developers but this secrecy goes way beyond her usual transparent pandering.

    Time for an in-depth investigation.

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