I support the Conservation Committee's efforts to promote Portola Valley's natural environment. We need to make their documents more widely known. We received a Native and Invasive Plants list on arriving in Portola Valley.
I supported Portola Valley Neighbors United (PVNU) on its efforts to save the Frog Pond from having affordable housing placed nearby by creating a Photoshop picture of what housing could look like alongside this rural gem.
Risky Brush and Trees
What Do You Reuse?
, butWe are a very wasteful society, and when populations were small we didn't really care. Now we don't have enough for everyone, so we need to conserve resources and reuse items. On the other hand, it's good to support businesses by buying new products.
Each individual needs to decide what is sustainable for them. Sustainable doesn't just mean is it green, environmentally friendly and non-toxic. It means is it something I can afford?
So I encourage initiatives like PVForum and Freecycle.org (where we can use Menlo Park, Redwood City or Palo Alto sites) to find and offer goods. I encourage residents to compost their leaves and garden waste on site where possible. As a town we need to consider what happens to food waste - both for commercial establishments and in homes. Are there people in our community who are facing hunger? Many support food banks like Second Harvest, but what can we do locally? We had a Saturday plant sharing, many have excess fruit, how can we share it with those locally who live or work here and are in need?
California's AB-793, now law, requires 15% of plastic bottle material to be recycled by 2022, and 50% by 2030. I would like Portola Valley to follow Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley and ban plastic straws which don't degrade easily and cause problems for sea creatures.
We Don't Know What the Next Disaster Will Be
We don't know what our next crisis will be as a town. However, we can be agile and flexible and ready to meet the moment. So I prize being flexible. This means having the ability to change one's mind based on emerging facts, law changes and new discoveries. It is traditional to think of politicians who change their position as being wishy-washy or weak-minded.
However, we have seen recently it is weak-minded politicians who cannot embrace facts and change their mind. For example, some politicians refused to advocate mask-wearing as evidence mounted that it was beneficial in reducing the effects of COVID-19.
I cannot predict the future, but I can say that I will be flexible to adapt to new requirements of town government as they emerge. At the start of my career I had 14 addresses in 15 years and had to live in many different neighborhoods and cultures, so honed an ability to adapt quickly to new environments.
PVCares is a volunteer initiative to help vulnerable households during COVID-19. I hope that the program, or a similar one can continue after the pandemic is over and we can have a team of volunteers to help those unable to help themselves in Portola Valley.
Empathy For the Elderly
We have a wonderful facility for older and incapacitated adults in The Sequoias. In normal times they occasionally offer events open to the public like concerts. Given that Portola Valley has an older population than most towns, we need to increase support for the elderly. Portola Valley Women's Club has been holding online sessions about downsizing, aging-in-place and Continuing Care Retirement Communities, like The Sequoias. Many older adults enjoy town seminars, so I hope to encourage them as a town council member.
Empathy For The Less-Able
Not many of our trails are designed for people with disabilities. As I found out before a hip replacement in 2019, not many of our trails have places to rest, although occasionally residents do put a bench on a trail. I'd like to see more benches put on trails to help those with limited mobility.
The paved trail alongside Alpine Road is suitable for a wheelchair, but there are not many places the wheelchair-bound can go. Also the town center campus is accessible, providing a place where elders can go to enjoy our town. Sidewalks in Portola Valley Ranch might also be a place to push out one's older relatives. As a town we need to think about where we can support outside activities for those whose movement is restricted.
What Does Excellence Mean For Portola Valley?
"Striving to better, oft we mar what's well." Albany, King Lear, Act I, Scene IV, William Shakespeare. We need to find a balance between striving for excellence and being paralyzed by perfection. I believe in aiming for excellence, perfection and the best outcomes, but then being pragmatic to get a solution.
A Vision for Excellence Drives a Good Solution
In my many years of consulting, I have learned that a pragmatic approach to solving a client's problem is to aim for an excellent report, then conclude it in a timely fashion to solve a problem. It may not make perfection, but it will be good enough and well-accepted. The same with town decisions. We may want the perfect place for low-income housing, and work for excellence in fire protection, terrain suitability, transportation analysis, wildlife preservation, yet have to make some compromises. By working through a framework devoted to excellence we can arrive at very good solutions.
What Is An Excellent Town Council?
An excellent town council needs to be trusted to:
Trust also comes from being responsive to residents' inputs, needs and safety. It is vital for the Town Council to carefully consider the budget. Inputs include taxes and permit fees paid to the town. I want to ensure that these funds are used wisely to keep our town beautiful and safe.
To help reduce town costs we rely on many volunteers. Many hands make light work - so we need volunteers of all ages to help our town so nobody feels overburdened with volunteer activities. I plan to encourage town committees who help residents thrive through exercise, the arts and town events.
Trust is built with clear communications and an eagerly embraced vision. Every employee at General Magic, where I worked in the 1990s, learned about the value of having an excellent vision. Some would argue it was the most important failed company in Silicon Valley. Be inspired by watching General Magic, the movie. The first products from Sony and Motorola failed, but engineers went on to develop iPhone and Android smartphones, as well as many other technologies that control our lives today. Clear communications come from having a clear vision which we can articulate in the town's General Plan. We need clear communications in emergencies. I can help the town communicate clearly to residents, as mayor Jeff Aalfs did in his letters to residents during recent fires.
Support Town Low Income Visitors
I am delighted the town has initiated community conversations on race and equity. Together with the library, the town is addressing prejudice with a talk from author Jennifer Eberhardt on her book Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think and Do at 6:30 pm on Tuesday September 29th. On October 19th at 7:00 pm another event is planned with the County Sheriff's Office and other panelists on policing and justice.
In Portola Valley, we have many low income workers - gardeners, cleaners, construction workers, pool cleaners, garbage collectors. How can we make them feel included? Can we help them achieve their dreams by encouraging support for their families, holding events for them and helping them use energy efficient tools? As residents we can think individually or collectively about actions that will help regular visitors to our town feel valued and encouraged.
The Library and County Agencies Can Help Us
How can we reach out to those who feel marginalized? We have library programs to help people access computers and learn. Let's make sure that those who are discriminated against because of race, gender, ethnicity, language or disability can join town events by working with our committees.
I support favoring the natural environment over the built environment in most situations. Design-thinking requires us to consider the impact of a new build on the quality of life, the rural ambience of Portola Valley and wildlife impacts. Occasionally, there will be situations, where we have to compromise, for example if commercial properties near the corner of Alpine and Portola Roads are rebuilt, we may need to favor pragmatic solutions for parking cars, increasing building height or illuminating interiors at night that favor the building architecture over vegetation, for example. Portola Valley's Conservation Guide for Residents goes into more detail.
The vigilance of Portola Valley's Architectural and Site Control Commission (ASCC) means that houses are designed to fit in with the natural environment. The Commission helps the town avoid "the erection of structures or additions or alterations thereto of unsightly or obnoxious appearance or which are not properly related to their sites". I support these objectives.
The Portola Road and Alpine Road scenic corridors need to be preserved as well as possible. The Land Use Element in the Town's General Plan aims to "minimize the need for non-local traffic to penetrate the planning area". Residents of other cities do come to hike and cycle in Portola Valley. Trucks deliver goods to businesses and residences. As more people order items online, the number of delivery vehicles has increased. Rush-hour traffic that is directed by Waze and other routing apps, has made the roads busier. Solutions might include displaying informative messages on the town's speed sign trailer, encouraging ride-sharing and pushing Caltrans to consider metering lights for Sand Hill Road on ramp (see Mr Roadshow's 2015 comments that says Caltrans would need to meter the entire corridor and there are no funds for that).
On a clear night you can see the stars, planets and space objects because the town has chosen to restrict lighting. The ASCC and town ordinances regulate the use of outdoor lighting. There are no street lights in Portola Valley. Let's keep it that way, so we can enjoy the night sky. I support keeping the town dark at night. I also encourage those walking or cycling at night to be well-lit.
The town's noise ordinance helps make Portola Valley a place of rest and relaxation for residents and visitors. Chippers and chain saws can only be used on weekdays, gardeners can only use power tools between 8:00 am and 5:30 pm on weekdays and between 10 am and 5 pm on Saturdays. Residents can use power tools from 10 am to 5 pm on Sundays as well. Holidays are when domestic garden tools are prohibited. There are exceptions for removing flammable brush and grass between April 15th and June 15th from 8 am to 8 pm. Given, the risk of wildfire, I'd consider extending these dates, for two weeks prior to when the Woodside Fire District chipper program for scheduled areas only.
Helping wildlife find trails and habitat requires us to be vigilant to preserve open space areas.
Diverse ideas, cultures and behaviors can cause friction and stress. However, I believe in respecting people, even if their thoughts differ from mine. This means being kind. It means not insulting people.
What does it mean to respect people in Portola Valley? It means treating people of all backgrounds and income levels well. It means driving carefully, to respect other road users. It means welcoming visitors and helping them understand trail use. Admonish a mountain biker or dog walker on a trail restricted to hikers only, but treat them kindly with respect.
A destructive, mean action can be hurtful, cruel and devastating, but one can still respect the person, while condemning the deed. We need to foster a culture of forgiveness and kindness, at the same time insisting on justice and fairness.
Whether someone comes from a different lifestyle, has different views or has different origins, they deserve respect. It's sometimes hard to respect everyone. It's useful to have training, as we had extensively when I worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories, to recognize biases and prejudices against certain segments of the population. Confessing prejudices and telling of injustices we had observed, help clear the way for actions to hire, in some cases, a less-obvious candidate.
We've recently seen the impact of people not respecting the lives of people of color in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In Portola Valley, we have residents with the capacity to hire and promote the less-obvious candidate, showing them respect for their skills and abilities.
In high school, we discussed for an entire afternoon the question "What is the educated man?" - where man, means mankind (I attended a girls school). After great debate and discussion, we came up with the following "The Educated Man, is able to engage in a meaningful conversation about something with whomever they meet." This might be an enemy who says nasty things about you, a child who cannot read, an elder who cannot hear well or someone you've never met before. This is just one of the many aspects of respecting someone. You may disagree vehemently with their ideas, despise their morals and be repelled by their looks, yet each person deserves some respect.
For a town council member, this means encouraging participation in town dialogs by residents, listening to comments, being well-prepared for council meetings and engaging with town committees. Sometimes, there's a fear to let people speak up lest meetings go on too long, veer off topic or give them false expectations that their requests will be honored. By taking time to collect citizen input, and then decisively providing a response, challenges get addressed fairly and respectfully.
Angela Hey is a candidate for Portola Valley Town Council. She is an experienced technology marketing consultant who serves nonprofits, as a volunteer.