Open Goverment

Confidence in our city government is fostered not only by the decisions city staff and council members make, but by the manner in which those decisions are reached.

Palo Alto has a problematic history of council member discussions with applicants prior to project submittals, planners that rarely reject a applications no matter how oversized, staff reports that are more advocacy than objective documents, and late submittal of applicant plans and revisions that subvert public engagement. All this and more contributed to a serious erosion of public confidence.

While positive changes were incorporated into the council procedures in 2010 and 2011, other important elements were neither addressed nor internalized.

In June, the Santa Clara Civil Grand Jury severely criticized the city for bypassing the public process, ignoring its own policies and for taking part in closed door negotiations with regard to two interconnected land use matters. Council members met individually or in small groups to view developer plans for a huge office complex at 27 University Avenue. At the same time, the city was negotiating the sale of city owned land, deeded for conservation and recreation, with that developer.

As a council member, I will be vigilant against closed door dealings. I will respect both the spirit and letter of the state’s Ralph Brown Act, which sets the open requirements for meetings by local jurisdictions.

I will also insist on staff reports and consultant studies that are based on hard and verifiable data, include cumulative impacts, and clearly separate objectivity in content from professional planner recommendation.

Furthermore, I support and will press for speedy implementation of the long overdue city manager proposal to increase the period of time between release of council agenda packets and council meeting from the current 5 days to 12 or 14. Palo Alto has a very educated, informed, and engaged public and we should provide our citizens, as well as council members, ample time to read and assess agenda items of all kinds.

Increased openness in government leads to increased trust in government. I will insist on the former, to obtain the latter.