Q&A with Alison

What do you hope to accomplish on the Council, if elected?

  • Long-Term Planning. We need to get ready for the next fifty years. That means figuring out how to handle the train crossings, traffic, housing, preparing for the effects of rising sea levels, and rebuilding our long-term assets, such as the Cubberley community center and the police headquarters.  

  • Focus on Finances. Now is the time to deal with the hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded pension liability we have so the problem doesn’t get worse. We also need to figure out how to pay for the big projects that haven’t gotten done yet. And most importantly, we need to always spend our money carefully.

  • Improve Communicates. It’s time to invert the city’s information system—from the notification process to the website to meetings—so that the City communicates with its residents more effectively. We can also do a much better job welcoming our new neighbors with information about where we live and what makes it special.


What are three things you are proud of in your life?

  • Making all of our libraries modern and vibrant by bringing people together on a positive project

  • Getting a job at Google after being out of the paid workforce for ten years

  • Putting family first  


Why are you, as a candidate, making a significant donation instead of a loan?

Given the most recent election for Palo Alto City Council, I expect this to be an expensive race, particularly for me as a challenger. Years of experience with fundraising have taught me the importance of making your own gift first. Some candidates in prior elections took $6,000 donations and some have self-financed, so my approach is to find the middle ground for both size and source.


What does the City Council do?

  • The Council makes decisions for all of us every week.  The Council appoints the city manager and other roles such as commissioners and board members, oversees the police, fire, parks, utilities, and libraries, and makes financial and land use decisions that relate to homes, roads, Stanford, and development.  The City has an annual budget of $662 million in operating funds and $157 million in capital funds.

  • As former Mayor Mike Cobb says, the Council members “are the custodians of the present and the architects of the future.”  


Why are you running?

  • I spent a full year deciding whether or not to run. During that time, I attended a Council meeting once a month, went to one of each of our eight board and commission meetings, met with many former mayors, and visited all 37 of our parks (note that there may only be 36 because the City’s website and map didn’t match). I was reminded how fortunate we are to live in this vibrant community and came away with a renewed appreciation for the breadth of issues that face our City leaders.

  • After observing the current Council closely, I fundamentally believe it could improve in three areas—working together, focusing on project outcomes, and insisting on better communication with residents.  

  • We all know that getting people in Palo Alto to agree can be a challenge. I’ve proven that I can bring people together on a contentious issue and get big projects done with a positive outcome. And we definitely have some big projects that need to get done! I decided to run because I believe that my skills and experience will improve our Council and our city.  

  • Finally, dozens of council members have served our City during the time I have lived here. Having spent many hours in the City Council chambers, I am grateful for their commitment to this demanding, important, and time-consuming work and would like the opportunity to step up and do my part for our community.  

  • When I turned 50, it got me thinking about the libraries here in Palo Alto, which were 50 years old when I chaired the bond to replace and renovate them. It takes years of hard work to make big changes and, with the help of a great team, I’ve done that here in Palo Alto. But, there is more work to be done and much of it is stalled. Where is our bike bridge? What is happening at Cubberley? How are we going to deal with the sea level increase that we know is coming? How will we fund City services 50 years from now, given our pension obligations? I’m running for City Council because I’m focused on making the big changes we need to be ready for the next 50 years.

How have you prepared to run and serve?

  • Attended one Council meeting per month, from beginning to end

  • Attended one of every board and commission meeting

    • Architecture

    • Historic Resources

    • Human Resources

    • Library Advisory

    • Parks and Recreation

    • Planning and Transportation

    • Public Art

    • Utilities Advisory

  • Visited every single one of our parks

  • Completed the Emerge California program

  • Started conversations with moms from pre-school, former mayors, soccer parents, and library friends about our city

  • Assembled a dedicated, experienced and professional team of volunteers to run my campaign