2013 Exclusive: An inside look at the new City Council members

Becca Raffel, Author

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Marc Berman, Pat Burt, Greg Schmid and Liz Kniss won offices in the Palo Alto City Council on Tuesday Nov. 6. The Paly Voice looks at what each member may bring to the City Council in 2013. “I look forward to serving with all of them,” Kniss said. Photo by Phoebe So.

With the arrival of 2013, Marc Berman, Pat Burt, Greg Schmid and Liz Kniss assume their seats on the Palo Alto City Council. Schmid and Burt returned to their seats in the Nov. 6 election, while Berman’s election marks his first time on the Council and Kniss’ her first time since 2000. The Paly Voice takes an inside look at Berman and Kniss to see what these newcomers will bring to the council and what they want to accomplish this year.

Berman, a Palo Alto High School graduate and an ex-journalism student, hopes to focus on “revitalizing our infrastructure, maintaining a sustainable budget and building community” for his first year on the City Council, according to his campaign website.

In an email interview, Berman acknowledged how growing up in Palo Alto has affected his outlook now that he is on the City Council and personalized the issues that are brought before the City Council.

“I think growing up in Palo Alto definitely has an impact on my perspectives and will impact the decisions I’ll make on Council,” Berman said. “A lot of the decisions the Council will be facing in the coming years are very personal to me. I used to bike to Duveneck, then Jordan, then Paly, so I can relate to the importance of programs like Safe Routes to Schools. I remember some of the stresses and pressures of growing up in Palo Alto, so I’m looking forward to engaging with our youth on initiatives like Project Safety Net.”

Kniss, who previously served on the City Council from 1998 to 2000 and as mayor in 1994 and 2000, also stressed the importance in addressing traffic and bike safety in an email.

“I’d like to address the increasing concerns about traffic, and finally, concentrate on bike safety and routes,” Kniss said.

Kniss also found dealing with the development of buildings, or Planned Communities, important. Kniss explained that PC’s “allow developers to exceed height and zoning requirements in exchange for a public benefit.”

Kniss added that these PC-related problems must be resolved during her term on the City Council.

“The first issue I think must be addressed is the issue of P.C.’s,” Kniss said. “There is a perception that developers have had too much influence, which has not served the community well … I believe we need to totally reexamine the process by which a developer is granted extra height and square footage, and what public benefit is received in return.”

Berman echoed Kniss’s sentiments regarding the importance of dealing with the prospective buildings, yet placed its importance behind other issues.

Berman stated “I would like to to see the City Council: 1) Identify and obtain funding for a new public safety building and two new fire stations that are very old and unsafe; 2) come up with a comprehensive solution to the city’s parking issues; 3) work with our youth to continue the important work of Project Safety Net; and 4) increase the ethnic, gender and age diversity on the City’s boards and commissions.”

All in all, Berman says he looks forward to serving his first term on the City Council this year.

“I want to get things done so that we make Palo Alto even better, and more often than not, that will take compromise,” Berman said. “I won’t always get everything I want and neither will my colleagues on the Council. In the end, that probably means we came to the best solution possible.”

Kniss, similarly, anticipates a good year with her colleagues on the City Council.

“I look forward to serving with all of them,” Kniss said.