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Palo Alto City Council Candidates Chat About Motivation

Palo Alto City Council Candidates talk about the reasons they’re running for the political office.

When Mayor Yiaway Yeh and Council Member Sid Espinosa leave the dais this year, Palo Alto residents can expect at least two new voices on City Council.

Four City Council seats are open this election this year, two of which are currently held by incumbents Greg Schmid and Pat Burt who are seeking re-election.

Council Member Greg Schmid, an economist, has lived in Palo Alto for forty years and raised his four children in the city. He served on the Palo Alto Unified School Board during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Schmid was brought into politics by thoughts of change.

“I want to find solutions that benefit everybody,” Schmid said, without being too specific. 


Council Member , a technology entrepreneur, touts his children as the reason for his interest in local politics.

“I want to make a real impact on local issues,” Burt said.  Burt has spent time on the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commissions, his neighborhood associations as well as state commissions, particularly on environmental issues.

Attorney , who previously worked as a Staff Member for Rep. Anna Eshoo, touts his experience growing up in Palo Alto and involvement with causes such as the Measure A campaign as the reasons that he is running for office.

“I love being that person that other people go to for help,” Berman said.

Music Promoter decided to run in 2009 due to the lack of candidates running, and is running again in 2012 with the intention of running a non-traditional campaign.

Weiss, who produces events for non-profits, explains his concern about the current power structure in Palo Alto.

“Corporations and development companies have too much sway,” Weiss said.

, a former Palo Alto Mayor, who currently serves on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, is treading the path less taken in running for City Council. Kniss resisted pressure from supporters to run for statewide office, and instead hopes to use her experience representing over ten jurisdictions in the county to better serve her hometown.

Kniss says that Palo Alto’s unique role is as a birthplace of innovation.

“We can be one of the best incubator cities in the world,” Kniss said.  

could not be reached for comment by the time this article was published, but his campaign website states that he previously worked for Stanford Hospital and currently works as a Financial Consultant with offices downtown.

Gray’s website says he wants to encourage citizen participation in government and to bring needed financial skills to the council in dealing with budget issues.

Pan-handler Victor Frost could not be found at his usual perch near the downtown Whole Foods, but a 2009 Palo Alto weekly video shows Frost stressing the importance of accountability to ordinary people and the need for greater respect of constitutional rights.

Addressing, “Blatant stupidity within the City Council and the Palo Alto Police Department,” was on the agenda of Frost, who has made many runs for City Council, but has often been plagued by controversies such as his use of racial slurs, and his court appearance contesting the city’s ‘sit-lie’ ordinance.

“We must have city council members that are accountable to the people, not to special interests.”

Note: This is the introduction to a series of eight articles about City Council candidates, their backgrounds and their positions on issues.

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