Dealing with public criticism and a bitter cut up in its personal ranks, the Palo Alto Metropolis Council backed away on Monday from its contentious plan to permit lame-duck council members to nominate new members to town’s Planning and Transportation Fee.
As a substitute, after weeks of procedural maneuvering and political squabbling, the council agreed to defer the planning fee appointments to early subsequent 12 months, thus permitting newly elected council members to take part within the course of. The compromise represents a concession from the 4 council members on the council’s extra pro-growth wing, who had beforehand advocated for making the appointments on the Dec. 14 assembly, the council’s last of the 12 months.
The three council members within the extra slow-growth wing protested that proposal, with Vice Mayor Tom DuBois accusing his 4 colleagues of “ramming via” appointments earlier than new council members are sworn in and council member Eric Filseth likening the transfer to the current actions by the Trump administration to hamstring the incoming Biden administration.
The ugly political tussle culminated in DuBois, Filseth and council lady Lydia Kou all lacking the Nov. 12 assembly by which the council interviewed candidates for the Parks and Recreation Fee and the Architectural Evaluate Board. All three additionally instructed town clerk that they might not have the ability to attend the Dec. 9 assembly by which the council was scheduled to interview candidates for the planning fee and the Historic Sources Board. As a result of council member Alison Cormack was additionally unable to attend that assembly due to a demise within the household, the council didn’t have a quorum and the interviews by no means occurred.
On Monday, the three council members who had hoped to make the appointments earlier than the tip of the 12 months chided their three colleagues from the “residentialist” facet for lacking the Nov. 12 assembly and stopping the Dec. 9 one from happening.
“As mayor it was extraordinarily embarrassing to interview candidates with solely 4 of us in attendance — together with incumbent who’ve spent years serving as metropolis,” Positive stated. “That stated, Palo Alto doesn’t want one other struggle.”
“However by Golly, people, the rank hypocrisy and unhealthy religion concerned on this course of really astounds me. It is actually beneath Palo Alto’s requirements. I hope all of us replicate on that.”
Council member Alison Cormack additionally expressed disappointment on the tenor of the dialog. Despite the fact that Cormack supported altering the council coverage to shift the recruitments to spring, she favored sticking with the prevailing coverage this 12 months and making the appointments in December. After quite a few residents spoke out in opposition to the frenzy to make appointments this 12 months, Cormack stated that the neighborhood is “higher than this.”
“We should not be threatening individuals’s political futures for complying with our present municipal code and prior follow,” Cormack stated. “And our council is healthier than this. We have now council members who’ve refused to take part in interview and it was embarrassing for me and I feel it is disrespectful.”
Kou, DuBois and Filseth all pushed again in opposition to the suggestion that that they had boycotted the Dec. 9 assembly to stop it from taking place. All three instructed this information group that that they had prior commitments and that they have been planning to observe the movies of the interviews earlier than voting on the appointments.
DuBois stated that he has work commitments which required conferences with individuals in numerous time zones, together with groups in Tel Aviv and China. In an e-mail, he known as the council majority’s transfer to make appointments in December a “clear try by outgoing council members of their final assembly to put the Planning Fee in opposition to the Council fairly than advisory to it – this can be a enormous waste of money and time.”
Kou stated that her lack of ability to attend was due partially to the council majority’s resolution to schedule a gathering on such a brief discover. She instructed this information group that she has common conferences, together with commitments to church committees, that on this case prevented her from attending the interviews.
“I am not embarrassed,” Kou stated Monday in response to accusations from Positive and Cormack. “I’ve to work and I’ve different conferences I’ve to go to – they’re standing conferences.”
Positive bristled at that clarification, and by ideas from Kou and DuBois that the council lengthen the recruiting interval for the Architectural Evaluate Board. The board has two seats that wanted to be stuffed and the one candidates have been the 2 incumbent members, Grace Lee and Osma Thompson (the council reappointed each by a 6-0 vote, with Kou abstaining).
“Contemplating we get chastised on a regular basis about doing our work, I discover that significantly wealthy,” Positive stated in response to Kou. “And admittedly, should you guys need extra ARB people, present as much as the interviews, actually.”
Like Kou and DuBois, Filseth additionally stated he had one other dedication on Dec. 9 and was planning to observe the video on the assembly.
“Council is a part-time job, so most of us have various ranges of different commitments,” Filseth instructed this information group in an e-mail. “It is inevitable that these different commitments recurrently compete for our time and schedule. Confronted with a kind of conflicts this week, I selected the opposite. Had the interviews really proceeded, I would have watched the movies as I’ve accomplished different instances.”
Whereas the council stopped in need of throwing out the interview course of altogether, Kniss famous that town’s present ordinances that govern appointments do not really require interviews.
“They could be fascinating, however they don’t have to be held. … And I am really dissatisfied that we could not get a quorum for lots of the instances we wished to have interviews, together with simply final week,” Kniss stated.
A number of residents strongly criticized the proposals to permit lame-duck candidates to decide on planning commissioners and to probably foregoing the interview course of earlier than making appointments. Resident Hamilton Hitchings argued that the permitting lame-duck council members to fill the fee with pro-growth members would, mockingly, “damage the pro-development forces it seeks to profit.”
“If the PTC is so stacked with pro-development members and lacks significant residential illustration for the tens of 1000’s of Palo Alto voters, then it can imply the residents’ issues will be unable to get labored out on the PTC,” Hitchings stated. “Thus, the output of PTC will hit a brick wall when it comes earlier than the Metropolis Council.”
Barron Park resident Winter Dellenbach chided the council and metropolis workers for even contemplating shifting forward with appointments with out first interviewing the candidates. This, she stated, is each unfair to the candidates and dangerous for council members, who will not actually know whom they’re appointing to necessary positions.
“Are they articulate, respectful? Do they hear or interrupt? Are they educated about what’s most necessary? You solely know what they wrote in response to boilerplate questions, but you’re pondering of voting on them tonight with low info, with out seeing or interviewing them,” Dellenbach stated.
The council’s resolution to defer planning fee appointments to subsequent 12 months, when a extra residentialist-friendly council is in place, will increase the probability that the 2 commissioners whose phrases expire this month – Doria Summa and Ed Lauing – will win recent phrases. Summa has been the fee’s most constant critic of growth proposals and its most frequent and vocal dissenter on coverage modifications that promote extra progress. Ed Lauing, who fell simply quick in his bid for a council seat in November, acquired an endorsement by the Palo Altans for Wise Development, which tends to assist members aligned with the residentialist facet.
Different residents who had utilized for a seat on the planning fee are Kelsey Banes, Doug Burns, Alon Carmeli, Rebecca Eisenberg, Kathy Jordan, Kevin Ma and Jessica Resimini.
The council additionally moved forward on Monday with an appointment of 1 new member to the Parks and Recreation Fee. Whereas the method on this case was comparatively drama-free, the vote cut up alongside acquainted traces. Positive, Cormack, Kniss and Tanaka all voted for Amanda Brown, making her the latest member of the fee. DuBois, Filseth and Kou all supported Brent Yamashita.