Council will deliberate Tuesday an agenda item about term limits for commissioners, boards and committees- sometimes called “BCCs”. Generally speaking, leadership in Palo Alto comprises elected council members (seven, although it was nine until 2014), appointed BCCS (forty, although it was 44 until 2016) and paid staff. My qualifications to comment here include being a recent candidate for the Public Art Commission — in fact I have been candidate for commission or board a total of nine times since 2010.
Although I am curious to hear the debate, more to the point I would like to know if the current composition of appointed leaders was enacted within the rules of the Brown Act, to protect transparency in government in California. Or is there a significant and disturbing amount of illegal and backroom lobbying for certain types of BCC’s at the expense of more qualified, more representative and more receptive leaders?
A bit more personal testimony: when I applied to HRC in 2012 I got a call from Tom Dubois who asked “What did you say to Pat Burt?” If I understood the question, and if I recall the conversation, Pat Burt had contacted Tom Dubois to lobby against my appointment to commission. I immediately contacted, in person, Karen Holman, to share this anecdote. I received two votes, from Dubois and Greg Schmid, and was not seated. (Mr. Burt, for whatever reasons, abstained from the interview session that included me).
So the obvious question would be: to what extent did Pat Burt lobby against me, in violation of the Brown Act, in the recent selection process?
More fundamentally: do some BCC members get seated specifically to thwart or displace the potential Council candidacy of other more qualified and capable candidates?
Who decided to limit commissions from 44 to 40 persons? (meaning, what non-elected power told current leadership to consider such?)
Who decided to limit Council from 9 to 7 members?
Who decided to move elections from odd to even years (i.e. to limit debate, even if it, arguably, encourages participation)?
Why don’t we tax corporations? The San Jose Business Journal reported recently that San Jose gets $70 in business taxes (and $30m in TOT); arguably, we would make at least $50m per year if we had a business tax.
To the extent we don’t make our best efforts to train leadership, is it any wonder that in Palo Alto, children and adults step in front of moving trains, police dogs bite sleeping innocents, the police beat people of color, two current electeds supported a racist rebuttal by petition to a lawsuit by the NAACP, several more council members said they opposed the NAACP lawsuit but for reasons other than their racism, and builders do what they will — the County Assessors office says that Palo Alto has more than $50 Billion on the tax rolls — does that imply that an organized cartel of such special interests spend millions each year lobbying council and leadership, and dictate everything from their density bonuses to my role in the arts here? A recent Grand Jury Report — during Burt’s previous term but not that of Dubois — implies that they do.
Does the fact that trillions of dollars worth of ‘created wealth” in high tech, IPOs and SPACs indicate that democracy suffers here? Are capitalism and democracy inconsistent here?
I think PAC should a) expand back to 7 not 5 members and add myself and Shiraaz Bhabha to their ranks; b) delete private development and Stanford Industrial Park from the Percent for Art programs; and c) add performing arts such as concerts to the PAC charter: Palo Alto Public Arts Commission sic. We don’t need term limits for BCCs; we need sunshine. As a disinfectant.