City Actions Behind Closed Doors

Dear Palo Altans,

It is nearing seven months since we have sheltered in place. I hope you are well.

City government continues its operation, as it must; however, there should be prioritization as to what actions are important to ensure and enhance adequate community services for the residents, public safety, and the gradual safe reopening of community spaces. And those actions should be done openly to preserve transparency with proper public disclosure.

Upcoming City Actions:

Foothill Preserve: On the upcoming October 19, 2020 City Council meeting agenda as a CLOSED SESSION. This will be the second time City Council has discussed Foothill Preserve in closed session because of a pending legal action against the City.

Council Agenda for October 19:

"Public Comments: Members of the public may speak to the Closed Session item(s); three minutes per speaker". To join the Council meeting, here is the zoom meeting link

https://zoom.us/join Meeting ID: 362 027 238 or by Phone:  1(669)900-6833

Item 1A: There is a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Council's August 3 decision on Foothills Preserve (previously Park). My online survey of residents (https://www.lydiakou.com/survey_results) found strong support for continuing restricted access and sending the decision to the voters in a referendum (both over 80%). Similar levels of support were found in surveys by others.

This item was belatedly added to the agenda even though Staff had known for over 3 weeks that this needed to be on the agenda – a reply to the lawsuit is legally required by Friday October 23, unless an extension is granted.

In the published agenda, the title of the lawsuit was altered and could have been easily overlooked. It appeared as "Gasque vs City of Palo Alto", using the second-listed plaintiff – an individual – in place of the primary plaintiff – "NAACP of …" – which begins the official title.

Earlier misdirection

The initial Council meeting on this lawsuit was on September 28 in a Closed Session. It was deceptively described as "Threatened Litigation by San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP et al Regarding Non-resident Access to Foothills Preserve".  We now know that there was nothing "threatened" about this. A widely reported press release of September 15 had announced that this lawsuit was being filed and, in fact, was filed with the court that same day. A week later (Wednesday September 23), the court officially issued a summons to the City and it was received at 12:05 PM the next day. Yet 4 days after this, the public was still being told it was only "threatened" and the agenda had no link to a copy of the lawsuit, although Palo Alto Online did.

Dangerous precedent

The Palo Alto Online blog "Foothills Park Pseudo-Lawsuit: Is the City going to cave-in & defame its residents as 'racists'?" argues that the lawsuit has so many flaws that it was never intended to be adjudicated, but rather intended to push the City to settle. If the City does decide to settle, it will reinforce, encourage, and incentivize a disturbing trend: If you lose in the democratic process, you can get it reversed by threatening to file a (frivolous) lawsuit. We see media stories about why defendants settled even though they were in the right and likely to eventually win: A plaintiff can easily and inexpensively inflict large legal and evidentiary costs on the defendant with little risk of being forced to make restitution. A lawsuit also gives a plaintiff a media platform to inflict reputational damage on the defendant – the famous lament "Where do I go to get my reputation back?" And even a very strong case has a significant risk of losing.


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  • Lydia Kou - Palo Alto City Council
    published this page in News 2020-10-17 22:40:23 -0700