Run for City Council only if you want to improve your city


Daily Post Editor

This is the time of year when possible City Council candidates begin testing the water to see if they should run in November.

The campaign window is short. The deadline to file is in mid-August and people will get their ballots in the mail in early October. That leaves less than two months to build name recognition and acquaint the community with your platform.

You want to pick your treasurer and get your fundraising done now so you won’t be distracted when you campaign.

Money is important. You can have the best message of any candidate, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t reach the voters. Going door-to-door is important, but you won’t be able to reach enough people.

Don’t hide the truth

When it comes to a message, don’t hide your true intentions. City councils in the Mid-Peninsula are split between two groups. You have the people who want to protect single-family homes, even if it means stopping other developments or new housing. In Palo Alto, they’re called Residentialists. In other places, they’re called NIMBYs, for No In My Backyard.

Then you have the side who favors new housing. They’re sometimes called YIMBYs, for Yes In My Backyard. Often they’re pro-development, or at least reasonable development.

Candidates naturally join one team or the other, just like higher level politicians join the Democratic or Republican teams.

One of the things I hate is meeting a candidate who claims they’re on both sides. It’s always a lie. They’re trying to trick voters into thinking they hold the middle ground.

But you can usually tell what side they’re on based on their campaign contributors or comments they’ve made in the past to city council or various boards and commissions.

It’s not about you

Another frustration about local elections are people who run for self-aggrandizement. You should run because you want to make the community a better place for residents. But some candidates feel that being on a city council is a platform for making virtue-signaling speeches, as if anybody cares what they think.

Your attitude should be: It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, but let’s work together to solve the problem.

I don’t expect a first-time candidate to know everything about how a city government works. But I’d like to see a track record of public service that shows they were able to deal with a challenge, learned what was necessary and made good decisions. Serving on a planning commission is excellent experience.

If you’re an incumbent and you’re trying to decide whether to run again, ask yourself: Did you accomplish anything that made the lives of residents better?

If people’s lives are the same or worse, please don’t run again.

When the pandemic restrictions were destroying local small businesses, what did you do to help them from permanently closing?

Did you offer thoughtful ideas, or did you parrot the talking points of your political party?

How can a council member make residents’ lives better? If you’re running for the first time, make some goals about what you want to accomplish in your first four years. Tell the voters what those goals are. Determine how you could make a difference if elected.

• • •

In lawn watering news

Our cities and water districts need to do a better job telling residents what days of the week they can water. I realize many cities put notices in utility bills that give the days, but few people read junk mail.

The websites for Menlo Park, Redwood City and Mountain View had the regulations clearly posted.

Los Altos, Atherton and San Carlos either have out-of-date information about drought restrictions or nothing at all. Los Altos’ website is hopeless. If you type in “water restrictions” in the website’s search bar, a press release from 2017 comes up, saying lawn watering restrictions are gone, which we know is not the case.

Palo Alto may have put its lawn watering days on its website, but I couldn’t find them. No mention of the days on a page with the title “Water Conservation and Drought Updates.”

It shouldn’t be that hard for a city to tell residents what days of the week they can water.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is [email protected].


  1. Thanks for that. Lack of good leaders is a really serious problem both in and out of government. Good leaders have always been scarce but especially now when so many people believe in the slogans, shaming, and synthetic virtue of people now driving the bus. Bezos just called out a prime example of this – Biden blaming everything instead of leading in respect to inflation. The nation’s airlines are a mess – where is the transportation secretary? And so on. It’s not about party, it’s about finding the best people possible to manage our most urgent needs. So very many elected officials – and many who are quite old – hold their seats not because of what they have improved but because of controlling the political machine and the money that goes with it. They are there because we keep electing them. New candidates want to be known as champions for your cause when instead we should be selecting them for their ability, experience, and most importantly, sincere interest in good solutions. We have bad government now. That’s on us. We the people staff the government and we haven’t done a very good job. 70% of the country are not happy with how things are going. As in the the old saying, ‘People get the government they deserve’.

    • “Biden blaming everything instead of leading in respect to inflation. The nation’s airlines are a mess – where is the transportation secretary?”

      You identify problems caused mainly by government meddling and regulation of money, business, and private actors, yet you demand more control from the very same politicians responsible for the mess! How about getting the government out of the way and let the market alone. I used to think control of the spread of contagious disease was a proper government function. The last couple of years have disabused me of that notion.

      • I agree Alvin. There has been far too much government interference in the private sector. Government has overstepped in too many sectors of the economy exceeding it’s legitimate role of regulation in favor of creeping dictatorship. In the energy sector for example, there can be general agreement to move into better and more efficient resources but activists have pushed ahead of the technology requiring rapid adoption of alternatives that are not ready to replace what we now depend on. PA forcing adoption of green is wrong. The market recognizes efficiencies and provides incentives for delivering better mousetraps. No question Tesla is a better alternative but you can’t force everyone to own one especially when it’s still questioned whether we can actually produce the batteries, and electricity, and charging, etc to support worldwide EV – and when. Same for natural gas – crazy to force abandoning it at a time of energy crises. Officials are supposed to regulate, ensure orderliness, and of course prioritize public safety. They’re supposed to balance their books. They don’t do any of that well enough and instead think their role is to dictate morality, gender pronouns, board quotas, how you sort your trash, ESG silliness and force top down behaviors. The CDC and states health officials vastly exceeded their authorities – trust is lost. Covid shutdown of the economy was an overall disaster and an extreme abuse of power. I do think the Sec of Trans should be involved in bottlenecks, whether it’s ports, or airlines, to coordinate a rapid resolution. Biden could help by allowing American oil markets to function and to offer some sense that the government is actually helping the country’s economy to recover – not just giving more away (like open borders). Leadership is not dictatorship.

        • Well said, agree with almost all (you favor more regulation than I do), and ESG is beyond silly, immeasurable, antithetical to the purpose of business, and plain coercion.

          Tesla could never survive without mandates on manufacturing and government subsidies, which is strong evidence that they’re not viable on the merits.

          I am opposed to all subsidies, which are just crony capitalist scams that benefit large, politically connected businesses. As you pointed out, subsidies distort market signals, retard innovation, and transfer rents among politcally favored constituents.

  2. I can’t stand the virtue signaling from counsel members. They’ll be discussing a serious topic and then one of them goes off topic to tell us how they always five money to panhandlers, or how they use reusable grocery bags. What was the point of that? Stay on topic and don’t brag about how saintly you are! No wonder their meetings go past midnight, they’re spending too much time patting themselves on the back!

    • I’d rather they spend all meeting virtue signaling to one another and the public than passing legislation that restricts more of our freedoms. So keep patting each other on the back all night as far as I’m concerned without getting anything done.

      What’s ironic is the very same people who complain about our homeless problem give money to the panhandlers, which only leads to more panhandling, less incentive to find a job, and attracts more of the homeless to Palo Alto.

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