Opinion: And now a word from our sponsor

OPINION

BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor

In the next couple of months, you’re going to be hearing from the heads of nonprofits about that wonderful Willow Village project Facebook hopes to build on Willow Road.

After all, Apple built its $5 billion spaceship headquarters in Cupertino and Google last week unveiled its Bay View dome with its “Dragonscale” solar roof. So now it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s turn to get a splashy headquarters.

The nonprofit executive directors aren’t going to say that, of course. Instead, they’ll say it’s a wonderful project that will bring “Community Amenities” like a grocery store to a long-neglected area.

Never mind that Willow Village will worsen the jobs-housing imbalance considerably by adding 4,332 new employees and only 1,730 new apartments.

That means the community — all of us — must come up with housing to balance the project out. Why are we doing favors for Facebook?

But ignore that. Facebook is a wonderful company.

Familiar promises

It’s promising to open a grocery store. Ah, yeah, we’ve heard that one before. Remember the developer who promised that if he got approval to build some expensive homes, he’d open a new grocery store at Edgewood Shopping Center at Highway 101 and Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto? The store was open for two years before it closed. Then, under considerable legal pressure and protests by residents, a new store returned three years later.

In Palo Alto’s College Terrace neighborhood, the same thing happened. A developer promised a grocery store in order to get approval of an office project. Then a few months after the offices opened up, the grocery store closed. A second grocery store opened and closed. Now a third one is there, and we’re all crossing our fingers that it succeeds.

But, no, that couldn’t happen in the happy Facebook Village. Facebook would never pull a con. It’s part of Facebook’s “Community Amenities” package.

Will the grocery stay open?

You’d think council, at a minimum, would require Facebook to keep the grocery store operating years into the future.

Learning from Palo Alto’s mistakes is probably too much to ask.

And besides, who is going to drive a hard bargain on council when the room is packed with the heads of nonprofits pleading with council to give Facebook whatever it wants?

Who paid for that comment?

Of course, Facebook has been making contributions to those nonprofits for years. So, an executive director of a charity feels an obligation to go to council and cheer for Facebook. Got to keep those checks coming.

Every time the head of a nonprofit goes to the microphone at a council meeting to sing the praises of Willow Village, somebody on council ought to ask them — “How much money have you received from Facebook or its related charities in the past few years?”

•••

Police chief search

Palo Alto is looking for a new police chief. The man who will ultimately make the decision about who to hire, City Manager Ed Shikada, could do himself a favor by involving the community in the hiring process.

How? Tell the candidates in advance that if they’re named one of the three finalists, their names will be released and they’ll be asked to participate in a town hall-style meeting where they will face questions from the public.

One of the toughest jobs a city manager will face is scrutinizing the candidates for police chief. Some have lives that are an open book. Others are very secretive. The city’s hired recruiter, Teri Black, and other city employees can’t be expected to find out everything in a candidate’s past.

But if you release the names of the finalists, a bunch of Palo Altans will do their own research — and they might just find something that either disqualifies or elevates a candidate.

This has been done before

The idea of releasing the names of the finalists isn’t unprecedented. The Palo Alto school board used this process in 1997 when they hired Don Phillips and East Palo Alto introduced to the public the three finalists for police chief in 2015 before hiring Al Pardini. In both cases, the public got to meet and scrutinize the candidates before a decision was made.

Given the recent history of the police department — its decisions to reduce transparency and lawsuits over brutality — it’s crucial that Shikada find the right person for this job.

Note: Since this column was printed on May 23, Shikada has said that he will not be introducing the three finalists to the community. He said that he was told by the recruiter, Teri Black, that good applicants wouldn’t want to risk their current jobs by having it known that they were applying in Palo Alto.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is price@padailypost.com.

1 Comment

  1. You left out the MP councilwoman, Cecelia Taylor, whose nonprofit was being funded by Facebook. But the city attorney said there was no problem with that. Wonder how Facebook has wormed its way into the bank accounts of other councilmembers or city staff.

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