City Council

Your Voting Strategy – Los Altos City Council Candidates 2016

Only one candidate is a definite NO vote. He's got the sign.
Written by lalahpolitico

Lalahpolitico has listened to about 1000 minutes of Los Altos City Council Candidates speech across the major sponsored candidate forums. That’s a whole lotta hours that maybe you won’t need to spend…on research. See the analysis on issues…

Events I watched / recorded / attended

Figure: CCA interview on Focused on Community Center Solutions / Downtown

Video Review: If you watch just one, try KMVT with Bruce Barton‘s thoughtful questions. The 2 CCA event links above are interesting because they capture the Los Altos City Council Candidates  in a more informal light. [Unfortunately Jeannie Bruins had asthma that evening, so is not herself.]  For opening and closing candidate statements try the beginning or ending of the League of Women Voters video.

Figure: Best Forum on Video – KMVT

This was Lalahpolitico's favorite forum because it featured Bruce Barton 100% of the time. His questions were thoughtful.

This was Lalahpolitico’s favorite forum because it featured Bruce Barton questions 100% of the time. His questions were thoughtful.

The technical quality of the Oct. 6 Eagle Auditorium video is poor; but it does have a lot of timing markers on the google video page which you can click on for jumping to a particular question that interests you.

My 2016 Matrix .pdf  is my “Semi-objective” Estimate

The 120 row matrix is here as a .pdf so you can read it in its entirety.  [There are more small screen shots of the matrix at the end of this post. ] It covers positions on issues, and fitness to serve. Every number is a probability expressed as 0 (no chance of doing this) to 100 (very certain to do this). When cells are blank I didn’t have enough info to predict. Perhaps that Los Altos City Council Candidate did not talk about the item.

Figure: Matrix 3 – issues excerpt from full matrix

Numeric scores are probabilities 0 to 100. Most items are independent. But some are not and then the rows sum vertically to 100.




Lalahpolitico has tried to assess each candidate’s current/future position on a long laundry list of issues. These are not my issues, but the issues I hear around me. You know what subset of issues is important to you. Sometimes a candidate states something definite about an issue during the campaign. Sometimes it’s between the lines. Sometimes candidates dissemble. Once in office candidates may change their minds, having been persuaded to flip flop by other council members or by citizens pleading their case. During the campaign the Los Altos City Council Candidates start mimicking each other’s positions. By the end of the campaigning, they all start to sound alike. I have tried to tease out some real differences in how I predict they may vote on issues.

As individual voters we want to PREDICT how candidates are likely to vote on the local issues most important to us. Our City Council doesn’t just follow the City law or interpret the City law, it CAN CHANGE THE CITY LAWS. [Or at least those that aren’t dictated by the County, State or Feds.]

Figure: Matrix 5 – an excerpt from .pdf here.

Fitness to serve traits, scores are probabilities 0 to 100


Fitness to Serve

Besides looking at issues,  voters usually also want to step back and assess the social, intellectual and emotional fitness of each of the  Los Altos City Council Candidates for the job of City Council member. We all have our different prejudices about education degrees, kinds of careers and professions, and what is an appropriate “leadership style” or personality in a particular setting. Do you like a council member with a more alpha style? “Here’s a great idea, now follow me, let’s just do it.” Or do you prefer a more beta style? “Bring your ideas to the table. What can we agree on? Let’s pursue that.”

You are the voter, you get to decide! Yes, this fitness to serve thing is very subjective, very right-brain. Do view a bit of video to assess a candidate’s aura, energy, Meyer-Briggs scale score, whatever. But also use your left-brain to review their likely positions on issues. How will they vote on your issues?

The City will benefit if both incumbents are re-elected. Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper deserve your vote.

The City will benefit if both incumbents are re-elected in this 2016 election. Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper deserve your vote.

First Consider Incumbents

 Maybe you have already decided to throw out one or two of the 2 incumbents – Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper. Hold on now. Let’s look at their “crimes.”

No Way on Measure A Los Altos


Crime 1: Measure A Failed!

They both screwed up with Measure A which lost with 71% NO votes. A story has slowly emerged of what went so, so wrong. Both Pepper and Bruins say that the former city manager made a mistake by recommending the same Architect-Planner as was used for the 2009 “Taj Mahal” plan. That Architect came up with the same size, large Community Center as was in the old Taj Mahal plan.

A terrible bond consultant – the same one used by Los Altos School District – was brought in by the former city manager. The consultant recommended that a detailed “final” plan of the building – its location, its looks — NOT be prepared and marketed. He wanted to pull the wool over the eyes of the voters. Pepper said that was very, very, very “bad advice” considering that Los Altos is a town full of smart educated citizens. At a council meeting during the planning for Measure A, Bruins had suggested that the bond separate out the community swimming pools in a separate bond measure – Measure A for the community center, Measure B for the add-on of the pools. But the majority of the council and the bond consultant thought pools added “sizzle” and that the elements should be packaged together. More bad advice.

What would Bruins and Pepper do differently today? Well they would get a new city manager and a new community development manager, ones that don’t recommend bad consultants [And they have already hired Chris Jordan and Jon Biggs]. Also definitely don’t use those same “bad advice” consultants again says Pepper. And Bruins says get some visualization of a concrete proposed plan, location, and architecture…take that out on a “listening tour.” If the public doesn’t seem to vet it, revise it, and tour again. “Don’t just throw it on a ballot.”

Losing badly on Measure A is not a crime. Can you see that they were inexperienced and taken for a ride?

Senior citizens turned out en masse at city council to try to keep the Senior Commission from being "demoted." It was not demoted.

Senior citizens turned out en masse at city council because they were told by media that  the Senior Commission might be  “demoted.” Council said they were just looking at many different approaches in order  to make it function again.


Crime 2. Attack on the Senior Commission!?

Today some people choose to remember a very sanitized version of the whole story around the Senior Commission death and rebirth. Let’s remember what happened. – Lalahpolitico

Prochow and Bruins found that the prior senior commission was dysfunctional and troubled by outrageous and disrepectful volunteer behavior. This caused resignations, lack of quorum, etc.

Prochow and Bruins found that the prior senior commission had become completely dysfunctional and troubled by outrageous and disrepectful volunteer behavior. A volunteer retraining effort  by a consultant was tried in the summer of 2015.  It was unsuccessful.  Commissioner resignations continued because of the toxic volunteer environment. Prochow & Bruin refused to subject city staff  to this disrespect. Satterlee agreed.

Over a couple of years 2013-2015, the commission was having trouble attracting volunteers. Eventually, by bad luck of the short draw, it wound up with a group of people who just could not work together. A consultant was hired to provide remedial training to this unruly crew about civility, norms, the Brown Act best practices, etc. So there was in fact MORE training being provided beyond initial commission orientation. The City did in fact try to intervene and cure the ailing senior commission, to save it.

That summer, a subcommittee of two people on the senior commission was very publically recommending/demanding(?) that Measure A should have 10,000 square feet of the new community center dedicated for exclusive senior use. “That’s what is done in other cities.” Lalahpolitico believes this would have been about 20% of the 48,000 planned in Measure A. Was that reasonable or likely when the new space was being designed to be Flex Space? At old Hillview the seniors have 2 classrooms, less than 10% of interior space. This subcommittee report of two persons was not approved with the consensus of the full senior commission. Some people said the subcommittee of two persons was “going rogue.”

Complaints from staff and senior commission members about commissioner bad behavior continued. Council members Jeannie Bruins and Mary Prochow formed a subcommittee to assess the problem and explore possible alternative ways for the City to “engage with seniors.” Here is Prochow in a Dec. 8, 2015 council meeting describing the situation she found at one senior commission meeting the summer of 2015.


“There was not only complete disruption, but also disrespect of two of our staff. There were comments that were outrageous. Some of the additional senior commissioner resignations occurred because of that. It can’t go on. Staff were trying to do their jobs. They were NOT giving back what [the nasty] they were getting…” — Mary Prochow.


Mordo and Pepper volunteered to craft a new senior commission charter and get input from the community

Mordo and Pepper volunteered to craft a new senior commission charter and get input from the community

Bruins, Prochow and Satterlee suspended the commission as a commission, putting it out of its misery. They suggested creating more informal senior “advisory” groups like forums which don’t need to adhere to the Brown Act. Mordo and Pepper volunteered to work on how to give rebirth to the commission as a regular commission that would adhere to the Brown Act.  On March 6, 2016 all 5 council members voted to create a new charter for a new regular commission.

The good news is that all the scary publicity brought forward lots of well-behaved, talented senior volunteers. The Commission was soon recreated as a regular commission, the same as our other appointed standing committees and commissions, but with 2 year terms, instead of 4 year terms. Without the death of the old commission, there could not have been this rebirth on a better footing. Too bad it was all so tumultuous.

All council members played an important role in the final happy outcome. Painting Prochow and Bruins as ageist is just plain silly. Hey, they are OLD. Do you need to check their drivers licenses?


The City of Los Altos voted to retain the Civic Center 18 acres and Hillview Park for City uses.

The City of Los Altos unanimously voted to retain the Civic Center 18 acres and Hillview Park for City uses.

Crime 3. Pepper & Bruins, Saving a City Park – Hillview Park by saying NO to LASD

Both Pepper and Bruins voted with a unanimous council to quit the Joint Public Lands Subcommittee, when the Los Altos School District balked at even exploring using its existing campuses to house new schools. The District has about 116 acres, whereas the City has about 57 acres and 10 of that is parking plazas. The District demanded to look only at using the City’s Hillview Park or other sections of the 18-acre Civic Center.  LASD reps – Trustees Ivanovich and Logan — said looking at LASD land was a waste of time, and they didn’t want to do it.

Jeannie Bruins, Jan Pepper

Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper, back when they were still trying to work with the LASD , joint Public Lands Subcommittee.


If you think the City saying No to LASD was a crime, and you are a single-issue voter, I guess you are the kind of person who is going to vote for council candidate Steve Smiley. He thinks just like you.

LASD owns twice as much land as the City. And uses it less intensively.

LASD owns twice as much land as the City. And uses it less intensively.

See City Quits Public Land Subcommittee

See Council cross-examing LASD Trustee Logan

Figure: New Route 522 Buses run now with fewer El Camino stops than Route 22 and have Wifi

Yes, Bruins, VTA board vice-chair, along will all board members were tasked with trying to sell the Bus Rapid Transit on El Camino idea. Most of us in our careers have had to go along with something that wasn't the greatest...and even sell it. In 2017 as Chair of the VTA Board, she ensure Measure B funds reach Los Altos

VTA board members, including Vice-Chair Jeannie Bruins, were tasked with trying to sell the idea of  Bus Rapid Transit on El Camino. Most of us in our careers have had to go along with something that wasn’t the greatest…and even sell it. As you prepare to vote, focus instead on the smell of political bacon. As 2017 Chair of the VTA Board, Bruins can ensure that County Measure B road funds reach Los Altos. Vote for B and for Bruins.

Crime 4. Bruins rode an unpopular bus, but brings home the bacon

Jeannie Bruins is our City representative to the Santa Clara County VTA Board of 16 members. She has risen to Vice-chair and is slated to be Chair in 2017. This is important because she helped to craft Measure B [Vote Yes] such that North County – us – get our fair share of the loot. In particular SR85 will be improved – an extra lane – and will have more capacity. Maybe this will help cut through traffic here, there and everywhere?

Jeannie Bruins looking at bus stop map by Showers Drive and El Camino. Bus equipment and bus routes have been improved. That's real social justice for the dishwashers, housecleaners, wait staff, students without cars...

Jeannie Bruins looking at bus stop map by Showers Drive and El Camino. VTA Bus equipment and bus routes have been improved. There is even wifi on the bus! That’s real SOCIAL JUSTICE for the dishwashers, housecleaners, wait staff, students without cars…


Even more important, shovel-ready County projects in Los Altos – like the Foothill San Antonio and Foothill El Monte intersections – will be redone to alleviate the big commuter backups at rush hour. I now routinely take cut-through routes to avoid these intersections. Also, for the first time, the County will provide some funds for repairing and resurfacing CITY streets. But it is important for the City to be among the first in line when the funds become available. As I said, it is Bruins who will be Chair of the VTA Board in 2017.

Figure: Vote for Measure B to bring in VTA funds for a redo of Foothill Intersections at El Monte and San Antonio

El monte foothill intersection is expected to get Measure B funds

If the county Measure B passes, County VTA will pay for redoing the rush hour clogged Foothill intersections at El Monte and also at San Antonio. El Monte will be two thru lanes again. Bruins is expected to be chair the VTA in 2017

Bus Rapid Transit is a VTA staff idea that the VTA Board – city council persons from 16 cities – was tasked with taking seriously. They worked hard trying to see the positive about it and tried selling it to cities along the El Camino route. The result: not enough sales! The BRT, even just a small test of it, thankfully has been removed from Measure B 2016. The test of BRT using other pots of money is very, very unlikely because not even 3 contiguous cities are interested in participating in such a test. Remember that Measure B will fix Foothill intersections and help pay for maintenance of city streets, especially if we continue to have good representation at VTA, aka VTA Board Chair Bruins.

I think almost all of us over the course of our careers occasionally have had to try to sell something we knew was not great, or if a lawyer, defend someone who was guilty, etc. This is what grown-ups do.

Pepper and Bruins – a whole lotta City knowledge

Jan Peper, Neysa Fligor, Jeannie Bruins, Lynette Lee Eng lead the pack of Los Altos City Council Candidates 2016

After much thought, Lalahpolitico gives both of the 2 incumbents an A-. [Jan Pepper on the left and Jeannie Bruins on the right.] Lalahpolitico gives both the 2 women newcomers a B. [Neysa Fligor on the left and Lynette Lee Eng on the right.] You may weigh  the 4 womens’ strengths and weaknesses differently.

There is a lot of city knowledge and institutional memory in those two ladies, Jan Pepper and Jeannie Bruins. Should we throw it all out? Oh yeah, we don’t like some of their positions. Pepper is a little too eager to forgive when people don’t adhere to the Brown Act: save that Parking Committee report! Bruins is too strict you say? Also see above about the “perceived crimes.”

We should retain both of them. They have momentum. Can we slow down the revolving door that is city council? If too many newbies get on council, nothing much will happen during the long period while they eventually learn to play nice together. Thank god for the City Manager form of local government.

Both Bruins and Pepper say a key goal in their next 4 years is to create the first ever long-term, 10 year financial plan – addressing what will be spent on operations, capital infrastructure projects, and strategic initiatives (what’s left for fun stuff?) given our revenue. The idea is that key priorities can be set for a decade, even as council members come and go.



janpepperelected-1-2Strong Points

Incumbent Jan Pepper wants to bring back developer incentives, and to figure out with council what the city wants, when, in exchange for what incentives…”like they do in the City of Santa Clara where I worked for over a decade.” Developers there apparently don’t push council around.

Her new job as CEO for the County of San Mateo’s alternative energy provider puts her in contact with 22 cities up there. She hope sto learn more about how other cities do things, bringing new approaches to Los Altos.

She hopes for a newcomer(s) from among Los Altos City Council Candidates that will guarantee more majorities of 3 votes to do this or that. Lalahpolitico: Guessing that would be Mordo, her and X?

A 10 year financial plan is one of her top goals for her next term.

Also among her top goals, she will try once again to get the Council to agree to create city-subsidized Neighborhood Associations, along the lines of the ones in City of Mountain View. [Lalah does not like these, but a lot of people do, so it’s here as a strength.]

Weak Points

A history of saying yes, yes, yes, till she has to say no. Jan really does listen respectfully to you, no matter how repetitive, cockamamie, or self-serving your idea. She is reluctant to tell people no you can’t have that, can’t do that, etc. The first time I saw her say a big NO was to the Los Altos School District wanting to use City land for a school. This election she has changed her mind and is telling people, yes, yes, yes it’s ok to create mega plans – where everything is included even the kitchen sink. She’s FOR all-in plans now that the wind is blowing in that direction. 

At a recent council meeting Lalahpolitico was surprised to see Pepper (and Mordo too) get annoyed at new City Manager Chris Jordan very publicly. Trust issues?



Jeannie Bruins at City Council Chambers

Jeannie Bruins at City Council Chambers

Strong Points – truth-telling, VTA Board, balances minority interests

Incumbent Jeannie Bruins wants to create the first ever 10-year financial plan for the City… forecast revenues then plan annual spending on Operations, on Capital Improvement Projects, and funds permitting ,on Strategic Initiatives. Such a plan could allow long-lead time efforts to stay on track over many years, even if council is a fast revolving door.


Truth-telling is a strong point (and a weak point!). For example, she is not enthusiastic about mega plans and is candid about that. Sometimes she calls such attempts “boiling the ocean”. She seems to prefers divide and conquer instead. Also she says she respects the votes of citizens for their council members. She prefers that plans/actions be packaged in smaller packages to minimize the need for council members to recuse themselves from a decision. For example, when the “connection of the civic center to downtown” is discussed in the future, Mary Prochow may wish to recuse herself from that decision to avoid potential FPPC fines.

Some downtown property owners are disappointed that Bruins did not rubber-stamp the Downtown Parking Committee work as enthusiastically as Council member Jean Mordo apparently has. Both Bruins and Mordo were council co-liaisons to that “citizen” committee. It was actually a committee of mainly real estate stakeholders. But her considering residentialist interests is a strong point, isn’t it?

Keeping Bruins on the VTA Board so she can Chair it will ensure that Los Altos enjoys its share of benefits from Measure B. Those benefits are fixing commuter clogged Foothill intersections, funding some city street repairs, and widening SR 85 which could help reduce cut through traffic in Los Altos.

After 4 years on Planning and now 4 on Council, Bruins really has learned how to work with staff. And how nice that council now has a brand new City Manager and Community Development Director…that they selected. [Picking a City Manager is the ONLY hiring decision our City Council makes. ]

Weak Points

Style: Some citizens grouse that Jeannie is lecturing them, not listening to them. She hangs on to the talking stick.  Lalahpolitico: I think women get dinged for this way more than men do.  Perceptions: She is being inaccurately painted as an ageist, and BRT proponent.

 Two Incumbents & Four Newbie Candidates

Jeannie Bruins, Alex Glew, Jeannie Bruins, Neysa Fligor, Steve Smilely, Lynette Lee Eng

Lalahpolitco’s grades for 6 candidates… The two Incumbents get A-. The 2 women newcomers get B. But that said… there is only one candidate who is a NO way.


Carefully weigh the number of votes you cast for the Los Altos City Council Candidates. Should you be voting for your top 3, or voting for only your No. 1?

Depending on whether you decide to keep either of the 2 incumbents, you will have the option of picking one, two or three of the four newbies. As newbies, they all have a lot to learn.

And remember you can always vote for JUST ONE of the Los Altos City Council Candidates – the one you really, really want to see get on council for the first time or really, really want to see return to council. You can withhold votes from your 2nd and 3rd placed favorites, because those votes might let one or both of those candidates EXCLUDE your No. 1 first choice candidate.


Friends of Los Altos GPAs for Comparison

Clearly Los Altos Politico and FOLA don't reach the same judgments. Sometimes FOLA is harsher, sometimes Lalah is.

Looking at the GPA grade in the bottom row…clearly Los Altos Politico and FOLA don’t reach the same judgments. Sometimes FOLA is harsher, sometimes Lalah

In the same order as presented in the Friends of Los Altos ad, let me compare the 4 newbies among Los Altos City Council Candidates…

Compare Los Altos City Council Candidates Newbies

Lynette Lee Eng

Lynette Lee Eng, Los Altos City Council Candidates 2016

Lynette Lee Eng, Los Altos City Council Candidates 2016

Strong Points – Seniors, Park Preservation, Los Altos School District-Cupertino equity, a residentialist.

Lee-Eng’s service to Los Altos Seniors — starting the first senior commission, later lobbying for the revival of a new fully empowered senior commission, and her continued volunteering at the senior program at Grant Park very near her home — will win her votes from that community. Of the newbie candidates, she has longest service on city committees. In her case, she has served on Parks & Rec for over a decade. People who care about open space and green space can be sure she will not ever favor shrinking city parks. She may move or may not move the Heritage Orchard, but there will always be an orchard on the Civic Center if she is involved in those decisions.

She lives in S. Los Altos and in the Cupertino Union School District. Voters can expect she will get more City dollars for Grant Park and will advocate for equal treatment of all our school districts. In particular, she will not shrink park space at the Civic Center/Hillview for the benefit of Los Altos School District students. If elected, She may start a joint City School  committee to meet quarterly about traffic issues of concern to the Cupertino Union District’s Montclaire school.

Traffic Calming with a median

Shown is a traffic calming median.  Lynette Lee Eng supports the three E’s: engineering, enforcement and education. Regarding engineering, Lynette advocates reviving the 2009 Los Altos Traffic Calming Plan.

In Lalahpolitico’s opinion, she is the most “residentialist” of all the 6 Los Altos City council candidates. She seems attracted to lower-rise and lower-density approaches to downtown and El Camino. She is least likely to sacrifice immediate neighbors’ livability for abundant vibrancy. She seems like the least likely to be swayed by the interests of downtown commercial property owners.

She was the first candidate Lalahpolitico heard express concern about traffic this campaign season. Others followed suit. She supports the three E’s: engineering, enforcement and education. Regarding engineering, Lynette advocates reviving the 2009 Traffic Calming Plan. The City executed on some of it. But there are quite a few planned but undone projects that could be built. [Lalahpolitico: Yes, but each of the 30 or so potential project plans should be reviewed in light of what traffic engineers know now. ]

She favors planning & visioning of Downtown, of all City Facilities, of all Recreation, of all Parks, and of all of the Civic Center as simultaneously as possible. The relocation of uses should be explored.

She believes in the rule of law. She wants to get our zoning codes “right.” She will take the transparency requirement of the Brown Act seriously… as applied to herself and to others. She thinks it is desirable to give the Council appointed City Commissions and Committees more authority and more leash; just give them more training and they’ll follow the Brown Act.

Weak Points

While she does have experience on the County Grand Jury investigating a wide variety of cases often involving government bureaucracy, she is probably underestimating the unwieldy dynamics of “getting things done” in our city-manager form of government. She’ll need at least 3 council votes to get it done. And staff works for and reports to the City Manager, not to council.

Alex Glew


Alex Glew head shot

Alex Glew is running for the second time. He ran in 2014.

Strong Points

Glew certainly can be an out-of-the-box thinker. He generates lots of good and sometimes wild ideas. With a Ph.D. in materials science, and running his own consulting company, he probably has the highest IQ score among the whole bunch of Los Altos City Council candidates. In his capacity as an “expert” or “expert witness” he says he has encountered people at all kinds of companies and at all level of government up to federal. Sounds good, is good.

He lives very near Loyola Corners and favors fostering vibrancy in all commercial zones of Los Altos. Glew ran for the first time in 2014, endorsed by Friends of Los Altos. He has explained to Lalahpolitico that in 2014, he was “politically naïve” and did not understand that FOLA appealed to a certain constituency….the “keep things pretty much the way they are now” crowd.

Today, Glew is on board with significant but not aggressive “vibrancy”. So Glew is more accepting of making zoning and parking changes than Lee-Eng, who leans more residentialist. He is also fine with making Big, Big plans with all-in, for example, he is ok with simultaneous visioning of Downtown and the Civic Center. And if anyone has the capacity to keep all the moving parts of such mega plans in their head at once, Glew does.

He believes the zoning we have downtown creates boxes – “boxtown.” Because of height limits, owners have every incentive to fill out the “building envelop” to the lot line. He agrees that if we let height go higher, we can get attractive architecture and a more pleasing street experience.

Glew says current zoning downtown incentivizes owners to build boxes out to the lot line. Just a bunch of boxes.

Glew says current zoning downtown incentivzes owners to build boxes out to the lot line. Just a bunch of boxes.

He is currently serving his first term and first year on the City’s Design Review Commission. This group reviews all two-story house plans and many requests for single-story housing variances. He is getting some good experience in the main business of the Council – land use and zoning. [But he needs to move to the PTC if he wants to get more up to speed on downtown commercial developer issues. Among Los Altos City Council candidates, only Smiley had done less City volunteering, namely none. ]

He is a guy. Maybe it’s time to restore more gender balance! His campaign literature says he can “guide consensus with strong personalties.” Lalahpolitico must admit it could more entertaining to watch council meetings with two strong alpha personalties — Mr. Jean Mordo and Dr. Alex Glew — up there.

Weak Points

Glew is very used to running his own show, unlike all other Los Altos City Council candidates. It sounds like it’s been a long time since he worked for a bureaucracy or a big, slow corporation. He appears to be much more of a leader than a follower. That’s good and bad, eh? This trait may make it harder for him to be part of a council consensus – or of a majority of 3 votes. Is he used to giving orders and having his staff follow them? One can’t do that in a City Manager form of government. On the other hand, you might think he can be a fast learner, easily capable of learning new habits of social interaction.

He has less experience with City volunteering (1 year)  than Lynette Lee-Eng (10+) or Neysa Fligor (4) , but more that Steve Smiley who has (0) zero.

Lalahpolitico thinks he needs a bit more mellowing time in City volunteering. If he is not elected, how about stepping him up to the Planning Commission, if he applies?

Neysa Fligor


Joe Simitian with Neysa Fligor

County Supervisor Joe Simitian on left. Neysa Fligor on right. Simitian and the local Democratic Party both endorse Fligor.

Strong Points

Fligor is one of the two attorneys vying for a council seat. Our termed-out council member, Megan Satterlee, is an licensed attorney and managing executive at HP.  It’s nice to have a trained attorney on the dais; they tend to be very logical. And in Neysa’s case she has been an attorney for the County for 9 years. With this experience, she says she is knowledgeable about the “nuts and bolts” of local government. Our County Supervisor — the famous Joe Simitian — warmly and persuasively endorses her. [He endorses Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper too.]  Fligor is supported by the Peninsula Democratic Party. In the past year or so, she has transitioned to a corporate attorney position at HP.

She says her key issue is traffic and especially traffic around schools. She lives in N. Los Altos very near Pilgrims Haven/The Terraces and has very young children. This is another parallel with termed-out council member Satterlee. I believe Megan’s kids were mere toddlers when Megan started her first term. [Update: Megan was pregnant with her second child while already on Council.]

Lalahpolitico believes Neysa will be just moderately receptive to proposed “vibrancy” changes downtown, unlike some other Los Altos City Council candidates. However, she is enthusiastic about the LACI proposal for a public-private agreement to place a small park on half of the City land Plaza 9 downtown. All the displaced parking stalls would be rebuilt underground under the proposed parklette.

Fligor has the 2nd longest service on city committees, after candidate Lynette Lee-Eng. Four years ago Fligor started volunteering on the Grant Writing committee. She’s been on Parks & Rec for two years. What with working for the County and volunteering on City committees locally, she may be best equipped of the newbies to do the complex consensus building — across citizens, elected officials and City staff – to move forward on City issues. She will likely have the smallest learning curve about functioning on council.

She is ok with all-in, simultaneous visioning of the Civic Center, the Downtown, all City Parks & Rec, etc.

She is probably best equipped to avoid tripping over the transparency requirements Brown Act! With her long County experience, she may more easily slide into the role of representing the City at regional agencies which often are County agencies than some other Los Altos City Council candidates.


Weak Points

With a focus on parks and traffic, Neysa will have a learning curve to get up to speed on the other key city issues like zoning, parking ratios, and relations with commercial developers.

Steve Smiley


Steve Smiley at the KMVT studio forum.

Steve Smiley at the KMVT studio forum.

Strong Points – strong strategy for vote-getting

Smiley is a manager and attorney at a respected tech company. And wouldn’t it be nice to get at least one attorney up on the dais.? I believe him when he says he can work really hard – he worked while earning his three different degrees from mid-tier institutions. I can see he has worked hard in the past 3 months – taking essentially a self-taught, crash course in City matters – to try to get up to speed. He started from a position of no prior knowledge to some partial knowledge now about major city issues. He’s plenty smart. He’s affable too.

He is a long-term volunteer parent at his Los Altos School District School – Covington. Therefore, he is very knowledgeable about the history of relations between the City and Los Altos School District – or rather the deterioration of those relations. He does realize there is well-functioning City-School committee that cooperates quarterly on traffic issues around Los Altos School District schools. And he also knows the City severed relations with the district when the City quit the Joint Public Lands subcommittee. Lalahpolitico: The latter is what motivates him.

He is probably the most PRO candidate on “vibrancy.” He claims he favors changing Los Altos to adapt to moderate growth. That means “complete streets” for downtown and good architecture compensating for taller buildings. When the City builds on the Civic Center it should probably be limited to 4 stories he says.

He is the candidate who is most dissatisfied with the current council. Why? They all voted unanimously to NOT let Los Altos School District buy or rent or swap land for City land – aka Hillview Park.

Steve Smiley as a young twenty something Los Altos City Council candidate

Steve Smiley ran as young single man back in the 1990s? Smiley’s record for the youngest candidate was broken by the recent Mr. Jarret Fishpaw

He has analyzed the failure of the City’s Measure A bond in 2015 like this: ~35% of the NOs were Los Altos School District parents who are mad because their priority was not considered [use that location for a new school]; ~20% of the NOs were seniors who are mad they did not get a dedicated large senior center; ~20% of the NOs were S. Los Altans who are mad because the North end was getting all the benefits. He believes those 3 groups will vote for him. It’ll be a landslide! This is his vote-getting strategy.

He is saying YES, YES, YES to those three types of single-issue voters. “I can get you everything you want.” If he gains a seat, he is likely to try to keep these promises. It’s other people’s money. Like most of the other candidates, he agrees funding of improvements on the Hillview/Civic Center need not be property-owner financed by a City capital bond. Spending could be made non-transparent by using saved City reserves [$60 million], borrowing at today’s low interest rates, getting the City of LAH to kick in, public private partnerships, etc. [Lalah: I don’t oppose looking at this alternative funding… but let’s keep a bright light on it . Especially if Smilely is involved.]

He is also saying YES to downtown developer interests. For example, “Plaza parking space restripping sounds good. ” The City will pay for it out of annual operations and … and ta da … 200 more spaces at no cost to downtown interests. [Lalahpolitico: that kind of thing is normally done through a parking improvement district. Residents should not pay for it.]


Weak Points

When he began his campaign, Smiley did not realize that part of the City is served by the Cupertino Union School District. He made the beginner mistake of thinking the Los Altos School District serves the entire City, just because of the naming.

Unlike all the other newbie candidates in 2016, Smiley has never volunteered on any City committee like Grant writing, Parks & Rec, Design Review.

In fact, Smiley’s only natural constituency is a subset of Los Altos School District parent community, a minority special interest group. And within that group, it is the Covington School area segment which hope most earnestly that Smiley will figure out a way to get some City land for use by Los Altos School District. The Covington area is where Smiley lives and has a child in school.

He lives very near El Monte and Covington. He may want to recuse him if that planned Foothill-El Monte intersection improvement were to need a council vote. He may want to recuse himself if the City agrees to make traffic improvements around Covington School or St. Williams.

He is the candidate who is most dissatisfied with everyone now on council. It’s publically on record. Imagine if he has to work with any of them.

He is endorsed by the Los Altos School District Trustees, the majority who themselves live in or near the Covington School Area. He is endorsed by elected school officials WHO CAN’T SEEM TO GET ANYTHING DONE with the 2014 Measure N bond money.

For years people have been gossiping that the Los Altos School District might put forth a candidate for Los Altos City Council, a candidate who would work to get City land for a District school. It has finally happened. It’s Smiley.


More Matrix Rows

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Figure Matrix 1

Matrix 1

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Figure: Matrix 2


Matrix 2

Figure: Matrix 4

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About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past several years.

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