October 21, 2018 Newsletter – Election Issue

Updated 10/22/18

Your vote is your voice!

Check out our city council vote tracker and a wealth of election 2018 resources to help you use it well.

As we enter the final days of campaign season, our mailboxes and local media are full of political ads with perfect pictures, simple messages, and high-profile or personal endorsements – whatever might catch our attention in a few short minutes and get our vote without making us think too hard. Makes sense. We’re all busy, the issues are complicated, and it’s hard to focus beyond the craziness of national politics.

But as you can imagine, we at Palo Alto Matters hope you won’t rely on a few short minutes standing over the recycling bin to decide how to vote. Scroll down for all the voter resources you need. And we hope you’ll keep the big picture in mind – all policy is interdependent at the local level. Together, we live, play, and shop here; work, raise families, and retire here; walk, bike, and drive here. Home is no place for single-issue or identity politics.

We know local matters matter to you.

From bite-sized to gulp-sized, you can find the info you need to make informed votes here.

Over the past two years Palo Alto Matters invested countless hours putting local headlines in context to help you understand and influence the decisions being made on your behalf here at home. Our diverse, growing, subscriber list from every neighborhood in town and your many gracious letters tell us that Palo Altans, community wide, care about what happens here. You’ve risen to the challenge, doing your homework, turning out at meetings, and reaching out to local officials in record numbers on a wide range of issues.

Now we’re here to help you recall what happened and connect you to a wealth of voter info created by local news media and nonprofits. Palo Alto Matters’ one-of-a-kind vote tracker compiles the voting record for our three incumbent City Council candidates on key issues we’ve covered over the past two years. In addition, we’re including links to other election resources available to the community – covering the City Council, School Board, and Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Ward 5) races as well as local and state ballot measures.

We hope you’ll review and share these voter resources, encourage your friends, neighbors and colleagues to subscribe (free!) to Palo Alto Matters, and make the best ballot choices for the future of our community!

Palo Alto Matters’ City Council Vote Trackers

Palo Alto Matters pays attention to local policy debates and chatter and, as you know, we think the facts and details matter. We urge you to resist basing your vote on campaign rhetoric and instead look critically at the actual record. We’ve pulled it together for you below in what we hope is an easily digestible form. Yes, we know it’s not exciting to read a list of policy votes, (and, sorry, we don’t have the bandwidth to make it pretty or interactive for you) but voting records offer a much better indicator of where a candidate really stands on key issues than campaign messaging does. 

Vote Tracker - Narrow VotesTo help you differentiate between our three incumbent city council members seeking re-election in 2018, Tom DuBois, Eric Filseth, and Cory Wolbach, we’ve compiled a table showing where they’ve disagreed in controversial council decisions over the past two years. We think we’ve captured the bulk of them, but if we’ve missed something important (or gotten something wrong!), please let us know. We’re happy to update the on-line version of our vote trackers.

A useful companion to our vote tracker, the Palo Alto Weekly has compiled it’s editorials on city issues from the past two years that flesh out some of the controversies that have swept the community. The Weekly’s editorials on school issues are also well worth review.

Vote Tracker - HousingOn the hot topic of housing, we often hear candidates pigeon-holed as “pro- or anti-housing.” But our review of the voting record shows that all three incumbents have a strong pro-housing record. Indeed, they have voted together more often than not over the past two years when it comes to housing. Skim our Housing Vote Tracker to see where they diverged. 

Unfortunately, without a voting record, it’s harder to assess how newcomers Alison Cormack and Pat Boone would perform if elected. But our local news media and nonprofits have done their best to nail them down on specifics. Take advantage of their good work by reviewing the resources below.

Additional Resources for Election Information

The Palo Alto Weekly, Palo Alto Daily Post, League of Women Voters, Palo Alto Neighborhoods, and Midpen Media Center have done yeoman’s work to help you make informed votes. From candidate interviews, questionnaires, and debates, to side-by-side position summaries, to pros-cons forums, to reasoned endorsements – you can find them below.

To get up to speed on the state-wide ballot, we highly recommend CALMatters.org. CALmatters (a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters) has everything from 1-minute videos along with in-depth looks at statewide ballot measures, to candidate profiles, to issue briefs and news stories related to California’s politics and November ballot. Their coverage throughout the year is astute and informative, we recommend you subscribe (free) and support their work.

Click here for the Palo Alto Weekly’s “Election 2018: Complete coverage of Palo Alto races, measures.”

Click here for the Palo Alto Daily Post’s “Readers’ guide to local elections.”

Click here for the League of Women Voters of Palo Alto’s 2018 Election Guide

Click here for Palo Alto Neighborhoods’ 2018 City Council Candidates Questionnaire and Palo Alto City Council Candidates Forum

Click here for Midpen Media Center’s video coverage of the Palo Alto City Council, PAUSD Board of Education, Midpeninsula Open Space District (Ward 5), and County Sheriff races, along with pro-con arguments for local ballot measures.

Click here for the CalMatters.org state-wide “2018 Voter Guide.”

Get Up To Speed

County to enter negotiations for a development agreement to guide Stanford’s expansion plans.

We called on you last week to tell the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors what you think about whether they should pursue a negotiated development agreement with Stanford to authorize the university’s expansion plans, and what such a process should look like. Now we extend a big thank you to all who submitted comments in person or in writing – over a dozen people spoke and over 150 letters were received.

Here’s what happened: The board voted 5-0 to go with the staff recommendation. They will enter into negotiations for a development agreement, but also will consider the required mitigations and conditions of approval that emerge from a Final Environmental Impact Report, before taking action on Stanford’s plans. Stanford did not accede to all the clarifying conditions put forth by staff, but acknowledged that they represent the County’s expectations going in. Work on the Environmental Impact Report (and mitigations and conditions of approval) will continue apace and according to Board President Simitian, “no substantive conclusions will be reached about anything” until that’s complete.

In the meantime however, outreach work will begin on “substantive preliminary conversations” around potential community benefits. Staff’s recommended outreach plan will serve as a floor for public engagement – more will be added as deemed necessary. Supervisors Simitian and Chavez were appointed to an ad hoc committee that will be part of the negotiating team for a development agreement. The target date for completion of final agreement, whether as development agreement or standard process or combination, is July 1, 2019, but remains flexible.

Looking Ahead

Residents ready for City Council’s Town Hall forum on Traffic.

On July 30, Mayor Liz Kniss commented from the dais that in her experience “traffic is not as overwhelming as you might think,” and suggested that residents simply try using alternate routes to get around. An outpouring of public comment followed, leading to a public apology from Mayor Kniss and the promise of a Town Hall meeting to hear from the public on concerns about traffic.

The infamous Town Hall will take place on Monday, October 22 and residents are coming prepared. Following Kniss’ Town Hall announcement, neighborhood traffic safety activist John Guislin wrote a thoughtful guest opinion piece for the Palo Alto Weekly describing Palo Alto’s complex traffic problems, decrying the need for residents continuously “to educate” the city about traffic impacts, and outlining some concrete steps the city should prioritize to tackle the problems. 

The Crescent Park neighborhood, heavily hit by commuter gridlock, has now gone a step further. In preparation for the traffic Town Hall, the neighborhood issued a survey to approximately 850 residents who belong to the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association. With a 22 percent response rate, on par with the city’s annual National Citizens’ Survey, 94 percent said “the city is not doing enough to address traffic problems.” The neighborhood survey, drafted by a group of residents with the help of people familiar with large survey design and analysis, offers an in depth look at residents’ traffic concerns and identifies a range of actions they would like the city to undertake.

Mr. Guislin plans to distribute the Crescent Park Traffic Survey Report at Monday’s Town Hall and hopes it will stimulate not just discussion, but city action.

Notable Upcoming Action

October 22, 2018

Traffic Town Hall: City Council will host a special town hall meeting on traffic and transportation. Staff will provide a status update on existing resources for the Office of Transportation in the City organization, a brief overview of regional traffic in the area and summarize the City’s goals and objectives for Transportation, including traffic congestion, as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan –Transportation Element. In addition, as part of the staff presentation staff we will report out on changes made to the Charleston Arastradero Road Corridor Project. Beginning at 5:00 pm (City Hall). Click here for staff presentation.

October 29, 2018

Lytton Gardens: City Council will hold a hearing to approve the issuance of tax-exempt bonds by the California Municipal Finance Authority (CMFA) for the Benefit of Lytton Gardens to finance a 220-Unit affordable apartment complex for seniors. Beginning at 7:35 pm (City Hall). Click here for staff report.

Pensions: City Council will take up Finance Committee recommendations about budget assumptions for pension benefits and directing staff to return in November 2018 with recommendations regarding reduced expenditures or use the Budget Stabilization Reserve to cover $4 billion in advance savings for future pension costs. Beginning at 8:00 pm (City Hall).  Click here for staff report.

Reduction to 7-member City Council: City Council will discuss amendments to procedures and protocols to conform to a 7-member City Council. Beginning at 9:00 pm (City Hall). Staff report will be available on October 25.

November 1, 2018

Cubberley Redesign: The joint City-School District master planning process for designing Cubberley’s future continues with the second of four community co-design workshops. These meetings are iterative, but newcomers are always welcome. 7:00-9:00 pm at Cubberley Pavilion (4000 Middlefield Road). Click here for more information.

November 5, 2018 – (Tentative)

  • Public safety building approval (TBD)
  • Pets in Need contract (TBD)