One of the interesting things that characterize towns like Los Altos is why some local issues become large enough to divide the town. For example: What to do with the property at First and Main streets?
The city bought this property about five years ago for $1.8 million. It was a good investment; the value has tripled.
The council is not asking for help as to what the city should do with the millions. The question is "What should be the ultimate use of the property?" Some "villagers" want a theater. Some want a hotel. Some want a combination of both.
When the property was considered for purchase by the city, yours truly and a few others, made a suggestion for its use: Sell it to Safeway.
The plan would call for enlargement of the present store to simulate their magnificent outlet on California Street in Mountain View.
Parking space in the area would increase significantly. Aisles in the store would be wide enough so kids with carts, going in opposite directions, would not crash. Working mothers would enjoy the increase of variety and volume of prebaked and precooked foods. If there is doubt about this, just visit the Mountain View store.
Issue No. 2 has to do with who runs city council meetings and who is in charge. A little history might help. The city was incorporated in 1952. The public elected a five-member council. The first woman to serve was elected in 1964 - Audrey Fisher. She served for 16 years with no term limits. She was elected mayor in her 15th year.
In 1978, along came Kallshian again. He served for one four-year term (1964-1968), but did not run again until 1978, after retirement from Ma Bell. He made two motions to change the rules - they still apply. Council members are limited to two, four-year terms. Mayors are elected by council for a one-year term.Whoever has been on the council for the longest time without being mayor gets to be mayor.
The mayor supervises council meetings but has no more authority than any other council member. One vote, no veto power.
When controversial issues were on the agenda, the public was given the opportunity to express its position first. After listening to the public, the council then expressed its position on the issue. Then the council voted. It was rare for a council member to express a position prior. His job is to listen to all who have an opinion on the issue, then listen to the four council members, give his opinion and then ask the council members to vote out loud.
There is no limit to the time allotted to the mayor, but he (or she) has one vote on the issue.
It is improper for the council to express their position on an issue prior to listening to the public.
The real message is that council members are elected by the voters. Each member, including the mayor, has one vote.
Can you think of anything more divisive than electing the mayor by a 3-2 vote? Kallshian fixed that, too. Everyone gets to be the mayor by rotation!
Kallshian, a former Los Altos mayor, is a longtime Los Altos resident.