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An Alternative View

By Diana Diamond

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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A new PA mayor is facing many challenges

Uploaded: Jan 8, 2019
Palo Alto has a new mayor, councilman Eric Filseth, who was unanimously elected Monday night. I have many good wishes for him – including good luck. “Luck” because the city has so many new things happening and so many current high-level vacancies that we will need a strong mayor and council to make sure this city is running smoothly.

Filseth and the council will face many challenges: Palo Alto has a brand new city manager, Ed Shikada, who while serving as utilities director the past months and as assistant city manager, is new to the role of city manager. Shikada has been regarded as a hands-on nuts-and-bolts kind of guy, which is great, however, a manager’s job also requires strong leadership for a thousand-plus city employees, strategic planning and forethought, and, of course, keeping the entire city running during of time of continued growth.

And right now Palo Alto has a dearth of top-level vacancies, many of which have surprisingly not been filled for months: Planning Director Hillary Gitelman resigned in May, the city is looking for a new fire chief, a transportation director, a public works director, a new chief financial director, a new auditor, a development services director, a community services director, a head for the city’s massive utilities department, and the list goes on. The city has lost a lot of expertise with these resignations, and while in some cases temporary directors have been appointed, we need permanent ones who will know they have the full responsibility and authority to run their departments.

Which brings me again to Filseth. While all these vacancies create an unusual time, we need the mayor and council to assume more responsibility in running this city by ensuring on a constant basis that the city working efficiently. Usually this task is that of the city manager, and while I am confident Shikada will be fine, the council needs to become more active in running the place, ensuring that replacements are being hired and the needed work is being done. We certainly don’t want to feel there’s been a partial government shutdown in Palo Alto.

Given Filseth’s experience as CEO of several technology companies, I have great faith that he’s the man who can do the job. The rest of the council, particularly Tom DuBois, who also has corporate and council experience, will have to assist him.

It is a challenging time, but that’s part of the fun of being mayor and serving on the city council. Again, good luck!
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Time for a chnage, a resident of Community Center,
on Jan 8, 2019 at 6:36 pm

As long as filseth works for the good of the city and ignores the marching orders he will surely receive from his master from PASZ, there is some hope.
Also,good for the city is Karen Holman finally leaving the council. She accomplished nothing in her 9 years in office and was a constant “no" vote against any progress and change, plus she delayed the building of the bike bridge over 101 ( let's have a design contest and build an iconic bridge).
Fortunately the mayor really has little to do besides carry the title of mayor, so even if he proves to be incompetent it should not effect the city too much.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 9, 2019 at 8:44 am

Since so much is being said about increasing housing being the inevitable occurrence I think the new mayor should be just as eager to improve infrastructure to support the increase in population.

Public transportation, particularly to our schools, would make such a difference to commutes particularly when school is in session. We all know how much easier it is to get around when schools are out.

Power supply and utilities safety are not going to support more residential use. It has been proved that damage to the one route for power to enter Palo Alto can put the city, including Stanford, into darkness for over 12 hours when power was interrupted by a plane crash in EPA. What about our water supply, our sewer system, etc. Can they work efficiently with increased population?

Police, fire, schools, traffic flow, postal delivery, refuse collection, etc. are all affected by increased population. How are they going to be improved?

We seem to have more criminal activity, particularly sexual attacks and muggings in recent weeks. PAPD seem to have been working well to solve these crimes, but crime itself should be something CC spend time thinking about in respect to increased population. Is it getting easier to be the victim of crime as a result of more residential units?

Our town is important to those of us who live here. We are the ones that should be top of the list of priorities to the mayor and CC. I would like to see more evidence that the residents are treated with more respect. We need to have more opportunities for input and more evidence that our input is valued and heard. I may or may not get a response, personal or standard reply on a particular issue, when I email CC. I think we should be made aware of how many emails CC receive and what percentage are pro or con on any particular issue. If I take the trouble to email CC I at least would like to know if I am the only resident with my particular view or one of a large group with similar views. Being ignored is not the way to treat us who are basically the ones they are supposedly representing.

It is time for the mayor and CC to turn a new leaf and be more transparent, more accessible, and more aware of the needs of the residents who live here. I am tired of being treated as an annoyance rather than valued as a Palo Altan.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 9, 2019 at 2:35 pm

One change that I would like to see is that the City Manager job should not be considered as decades-long or lifetime role. In the management world, managers tend to get stale after 6-7 years. The CM should be willing to step down after a few years, and the city council should be willing to ask the manager to step down if necessary. (Financially) unbreakable contracts should never be given to the CM. I'm not one of those folks who demands that the coach be fired if the team misses the playoffs, but, at the same time, it should be understood that the CM tenure is limited.

Given that, I think the CC owes it to us taxpayers to make sure that city policies are clear. For example, when it comes to new office developments, the city seems to be pursuing a policy of limiting office space, while, actually not doing it, and, not improving the jobs/housing imbalance, and actually, allowing the jobs/housing imbalance to get worse. Let's address that question directly instead of playing it both ways. The CM has a clear policy to follow, then, we will have a much better idea if the CM is doing a good job.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jan 9, 2019 at 3:40 pm

I wish our new mayor good luck as well.

@Resident, regarding citizen emails to city council: for council meetings I find a link to the agenda and packet at the bottom of this city webpage -- Web Link

At the end of the agenda under "Additional Information" is a link to "Public Letters to Council" -- Web Link is the entry for last Monday 01-07-19 (assuming I've copied a stable url).

Interesting read. Emails are often more extensive than could be conveyed in the 2 or 3 minutes allocated for in-person oral communications at the microphone.

Posted by WilliamR, a resident of another community,
on Jan 11, 2019 at 10:56 pm

Minor correction--

At the beginning of the third paragraph, 'dearth' means 'lack', so the sentence could say that the city has a dearth of talent and experience because of the vacancies, not a dearth of vacancies.

Posted by K1 visa/, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Mar 13, 2019 at 8:43 am

K1 visa/ is a registered user.

Its sad when I read some of the comments here.

Posted by ADC Air Duct Cleaning, a resident of Woodside,
on Mar 22, 2019 at 7:59 am

Thank you Diana for posting about a great leader like Eric Filseth. Wish him all the best. "(portion removed)

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on Mar 28, 2019 at 11:20 pm

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