Election 2016 Palo Alto 101

Palo Alto Election 2016: Who’s Running and Why it Matters

Think the presidential race is the only thing that matters on the November ballot? It's not by a long shot...

Think the presidential race is the only choice on the November ballot? Photo credit: CNN

Here’s a quick quiz: Which election matters more in Palo Alto- a) President, b) City Council, or c) School Board?  If you answered “a,” you may want to think again.

Trump vs. Clinton might dominating the headlines, but for residents of Palo Alto, the outcome of the 2016 local elections could have a bigger impact on our community, schools and neighborhoods for years to come.

City Council Election 2016: 11 candidates vying for 4 open seats

Ever wonder just what the City Council does in Palo Alto? Find out here. Palo Alto is one of many small cities without an elected mayor, so the City Council and City Manager make the big decisions for our town.

photo credit: City of Palo Alto

Who should fill these seats in 2017? photo credit: City of Palo Alto

In the 2016 election, there are 11 people running for four open seats on the Palo Alto City Council.

This is the last term that the City Council will be made up of nine people, thanks to Measure D that passed in 2014. As of January 2019, the Council will drop down to only seven people.

What are the big issues facing Palo Alto City Council candidates?

Three words: housing, housing and housing. A recent blog post by Kate Downing, a member of the Palo Alto Planning Commission who publicly criticized the City Council for not doing enough to address Palo Alto’s housing/jobs imbalance, caught the attention of national media outlets including the the Huffington Post and others.

In the post, Kate explained that she is leaving Palo Alto due to its sky high rent and home prices, which are unaffordable even though she is a lawyer and her husband as an engineer at Palantir. “It’s clear that if professionals like me cannot raise a family here,” she wrote, “then all of our teachers, first responders and service workers are in dire straits.”

Comprehensive Plan, demands for housing and more
Do you think Palo Alto should build more housing? Weigh in with your CIty Council vote. photo credit: Shelly Roberson Realtor

Do you think Palo Alto should build more housing? Weigh in with your City Council vote. photo credit: Shelly Roberson Realtor

This national spotlight has forced the City Council candidates to state their position on growth and development in a way that is more nuanced than in the 2014 election, which pitted ‘residentialists‘ against candidates in favor of new housing.

Another reason there’s a lot at stake in 2016 is the Palo Alto City Council must also pass the Comprehensive Plan, which will set forth a blueprint for the city through 2030, including roads, development, infrastructure, parks, and more.

2016 Candidates for City Council (listed in order of the ballot):

*= These candidates have completed a questionnaire about housing on the Palo Alto Forward (PAF) website. The other candidates have not yet completed the PAF questionnaire.

City Council Election 2016 Candidate Forums

  • Thursday, September 29 from 7:00-9:00 pm: Palo Alto Neighborhood Forum: 250 Hamilton Ave.
  • Wednesday, October 5th from 7:00 – 9:00 pm: League of Women Voters Forum, Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road
  • Saturday October 8 from 3:30-5:30 pm: All Saints Episcopal Church Hall, 555 Waverley St. Moderator: Peter Drekmeier
Palo Alto School Board Election 2016: 4 candidates vying for 3 open seats

Why does the School Board matter in Palo Alto? Find out here.  One of its biggest roles is fiscal oversight, which is especially important because of the unique way that Palo Alto schools are funded.

crossingIn November 2016, there are four people running for three open seats on the Palo Alto School Board. Camille Townsend is terming out, and incumbents Melissa Baten Caswell and Heidi Emberling are going up against four challengers:  Todd Collins, Jennifer DiBrienza, and Jay Blas Jacob Cabrera.

What are the big issues facing Palo Alto School Board candidates?

Two big issues up ahead for Palo Alto Schools are enrollment and funding. Enrollment is surging in the middle and high schools but falling in the elementary schools, while a recent dip in tax revenues caused a shortfall of over $4 million for this school year.

The Board passed a 12% pay raise for teachers last year based on optimistic fiscal predictions, but now faces more uncertainty about revenue and expenses.

With a cry for smaller class sizes in high school and a new math curriculum to adopt, these candidates for School Board have many questions to resolve as they consider how to lead the Palo Alto Unified forward.

List of PAUSD School Board Candidates running for Election 2016
Which way are Palo Alto schools headed? Photo by Palo Alto Pulse

Which way are Palo Alto schools headed? Vote for school board to make your voice heard. Photo by Palo Alto Pulse

Find out more about the candidates in person

PAUSD School Board 2016 Candidate Forums

  • Saturday, Oct. 1st, from 10 a.m. to noon, Parent Advocates for Student Success (PASS), the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education (CAC) and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs are sponsoring a candidate forum focused on issues that affect minority and low-income students and families and students with special needs, Jordan Middle School’s gym, 750 N. California Ave.
State Assembly

There are two candidates for State Assembly, both of whom are Palo Alto residents. These two candidates are running to replace Rich Gordon, who reached the end of his term limits and leaving the Assembly.

State Assembly Candidate Forum

And if you haven’t registered yet, it’s not too late!

Here’s all the info about how to register and where to vote, thanks to the Palo Alto League of Women’s Voters.

And check out our Palo Alto 101 resources…
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About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.