The nomination papers for Palo Alto City Council remind me of the gentle kind of hazing required of fraternity pledges at my school, or so I observed and now feel. To sign a petition qualifies the candidate – should he or she reach 25 bona fide names — but does not obligate the signee to vote for me or constitute an endorsement. It is a hoop the prospective leader or statesman or stateswoman must squeeze through. I found I had to ask about 50 people to get my first 30 signatures. Of those, about 10 were known to me, including my parents, my girlfriend and four of her neighbors. So to get about 20 signatures of total strangers, I approached or initiated contact with about 40 people; 20 therefore “blew me off” in varying tones and ways, I should probably not dwell on.
I’ll probably gather another 10 to 20 names, at this point mostly people known to me and friends. Neighbors here at Terry’s, at my folks’ building and maybe my own building. I also have a notebook from my 2009 campaign which has about a dozen or more contacts I could inform. I resisted campaigning at my Gunn 1982 class reunion which featured about 80 classmates including at least a half dozen who are definitely registered PA voters.
In my undergrad days, pledges would have to carry little books around for inspection by their potential big brothers, which to me seems like me carrying my blue folder around, with the blank and semi-filled forms. My courage to approach people ebbs and flows, but if you cannot speak to a stranger, how are you going to stand up to powerful special interests?
If I reach 100 signatures the City will refund my filing fee.
Some of the highlights of meeting new people included:
Dennis, who I have seen at the library a lot;
Stan, from Brooklyn but here half his life;
Anne, who could probably write my entire platform for me;
Nancy, who liked my Tesla shirt, but like me, has so far resisted the car;
Anne W., from New Zealand.
As I said below, I ran into Greg Scharff, on Cali Ave, who also signed, despite the fact that most of the times that I have spoken out on issues I have taken the opposite side as him; he suggested I switch sides on the Arrillaga Proposal, the effort to build an office tower and theatre at 27 University, home to MacArthur Park restaurant and a Julie Morgan community building.
I suggested to Nancy, who lives on Forest, that she outreach to another signatory, Neilson Buchanan, who correspond with his Downtown North neighbors AND the 700 Cowper cluster, who organized around “George” the late great Oak.
I spoke to Joan, disturbing her supper, because I mistook her for the columnist Diana Diamond.
Thanks to everybody, even the ones who declined to sign. I hope I can earn all 30 of the signatories’ actual votes.
(If you know me and want to sign, contact me asap and I will make a house or office call; I am tempted to go for the big money bonus — rebate — at #100).
Candidates’ petitions will become a public document at Donna Grider’s office on the 7th floor of City Hall and are available for inspection. She will also verify that the people who sign are all registered Palo Alto voters, and only then are the candidacies approved. Voters can sign up to four petitions because there are four seats open.
See also my post below about Stephen Carter’s story about how saying hello to your neighbor is the basis for a Democracy. Even when we disagree and beg to differ, the space between us is a common and uniquely ours.