Opinion: Five questions for city council candidates


Daily Post Editor

The goal of a city council member should be to make their city better. A council member running for re-election should be able to point to a number of achievements that made life better for residents. Yet in the past four years, things have been getting worse in Palo Alto. Incumbents Pat Burt and Greer Stone have some explaining to do.

Here’s some questions they should address:

1. Why does it appear that University Avenue and California Avenue are rebounding much more slowly after the pandemic than the downtown areas in Redwood City, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Mateo, Burlingame and San Carlos? City Council owns this problem because they’ve been making the rules for University and Cal Ave. Why isn’t Palo Alto doing as well as similar cities? For longtime Mid-Peninsula residents, did you ever think that one day we’d be saying that downtown Redwood City is more vibrant than downtown Palo Alto?

2. Why did you allow the city to miss the deadline for having a state-approved Housing Element, a plan showing where more homes can be built in the city? Under state law, cities that miss the deadline must allow developers to build projects that exceed height restrictions. Now a developer is proposing to put a 17-story tower on the Mollie Stone’s site at 156 California Ave., and two other large projects are pending.

3. Why did the city not publicize a $40 million surplus before it asked voters to approve a new tax on businesses in 2023? Why should we trust a city government that keeps important information like that from the public?

4. Did you consider the 100 or so businesses along El Camino Real that will lose their street parking when new bike lanes are added to that thoroughfare? Some of the businesses have warned that they will have to move or close if they lose that parking. Are bike lanes more important than local businesses?

5. Why did you allow City Manager Ed Shikada to bar the public from the upper floors of Palo Alto City Hall at 250 Hamilton Ave.? When this issue surfaced, the official line was that members of the public might be stealing items from the desks of city employees. But nobody produced any police reports to that effect. I think the upper floors were declared off limits for some other reason that hasn’t been made public. Maybe it’s because a startling number of city employees don’t show up at work any more since they’re working remotely?

The incumbents who seek re-election will need to explain all this. The challengers should tell the voters how they’d solve these problems, many of which were caused by the current council.

• • •

Biden’s impact here

If people begin to perceive that President Biden won’t be re-elected, turnout is going to drop in dark blue places like the Bay Area.

Democrats will say to themselves, “What’s the point of voting?” If that happens, new taxes and bond measures (which are also taxes) will fail since anti-tax Republicans are going to be voting.

That means the $20 billion bond measure for housing projects in the Bay Area is in jeopardy. The statewide bond measures for school construction and global-warming grants probably won’t pass either.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays.


  1. Thank you for thus. I’ve got a few more questions:

    1) Why isn’t fiscal responsibility a city priority unlike the vague priorities chosen by the 300 people who responded to the city’s flawed survey?

    1a) When will the city FINALLY prioritize outreach to resident/taxpayers instead of excoriating those who suggest it like Mr. Burt did when Ms Kou wanted input from ECR businesses before destroying their businesses?

    2) Where’s the council oversight of staff projects? Why do they allow staff to give absurd deadlines to respond to requests for comment (Housing Element Plan) and not survey California Avenue merchants BEFORE releasing their Survey on Signage / Streetscape Design with “ambitious” aka costly alternativess that could again close Cal Ave when all the merchants wanted was simple clear signage?

    3) How can candidates like Pat Burt claim they care about the budget / spending when they keep supporting projects like $100M+ Fiber-to-The Hoe and huge utility rate hikes that currently siphon $24,000,000 from mour pockets to the General Fund for questionable / unwanted projects?

    4) Why are we spending $100+ Million to plan and build a fiber network to compete with two existing commercial ones people already use and can buy right now?

    5) Why don’t they instruct the city attorney to oppose questionable and costly projects like the El CCamino that shift the cost burden to us?

    6) Where does CC hope to find parking garages and extra parking when they begin walks the blocks adjoining ECR? How can Mayor Greer claim safety us his top priority unless ECR driveways to dangerous vvehicles crossing the bikelanes.

    7) How can Greer claim safety’s the top priority when it should be sanity?

  2. Can something be done about Pat Burt’s constant “man-splaining” to female council members? He used to do that to Alison Cormack until she quit. More recently he’s been dressing down Lydia Kou. He should state his position and not comment on the opinions of others. If he has a strong case, he will prevail. But he can do it without acting boorish.

  3. Dave, you left out the 60% pay raise that the Council voted for itself, along with a committee to identify additional ways to increase compensation, on the grounds that this would lead to a more diverse candidate pool, As I look at who the new candidates are, I instead find they are exactly the same candidates as always. Incumbents, unsuccessful candidates from last time, planning and parks commissioners etc.

    Who would have ever have thought that this is what would happen?

  4. It’s astonishing that council hid the massive surplus the city had before that tax election. How is it democracy when voters aren’t informed of all the facts?

Comments are closed.