Peets don’t fail me now

Palo Alto, a Thursday late morning early afternoon in June — Strong coffee brings out the inner-Mencken in me, unleashing the inner-Stalin in Stephen Levy, who keeps deleting my attempts to civic-engage him

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Peets don’t fail me now.

Yowza there must be something mighty strong in my morning local-chain-high-end coffee this morning:

I started researching the allegation about Karen Holman in bed with real estate speculator Steve Pierce, as reported in today’s Daily Post by Breena Kerr, but paused just long enough to unload on Dr. Steve Levy who writes a pollyana “greed is good” column for the Weekly — and by the way, the Weekly had not bit on the Holman story, yet.

{Editor’s Note: I pulled this shortly after posting, only to find that a cache lingers. Such is the nature of the internet. I would say, as the Palo Alto Weekly reported, that Karen Holman broke no laws in her actions toward the Arastradero site, and I would hope to hear from her directly before pontificating on that little incident. Maybe she was played, as in the industry wants to discourage her from running again, and set her up. Or it could just be a lapse in judgment. Or she really does think upzoning that particular site is the best utilitarian outcome, regardless of the fact she collected a consulting fee from the developer on a completely unrelated project more than a year prior.}

Here is what I said to Steve:

I voted against AA, and hope the final count shows that it fails. I am voting against any future bond measures on infrastructure. This is all a bunch of pork. The builders are great at swaying the public and swinging the votes, and laughing all the way to the bank. It seems that everybody with a cement truck wants his day in the sun or another couple victory laps.

Why don’t you invest in East Palo Alto, or Ventura even?

I’d like to see a park at the former Fry’s property — that would raise the values of the non-conforming Ventura neighborhood homes, a more savvy and delicate type of gentrification.

I am certain you would disagree, Dr. Levy.

Until it is more apparent that leadership here responds to people and not merely money, I look askance at almost anything said by experts and advocates and pollyannas and Gordon Gecko’s who speak like Barney the Dinosaur.

Go invest in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where Americans have died to make it safer for your money — 7,000 and counting. At least then it’s like Harry Lime and all his little dots: Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?

Or: don’t shit where you eat. (Ok. I’m going to stop this one right here. Even channeling, after multiple viewings, Llewyn Davis’ frustration and helplessness regarding the reduced state of his father Hugh Davis, in the recent Coen Brother’s film, I never say this in person; one citation traces its use to a 2011 film, and even there it was more for shock value than actual rhetoric use. I am saying that for people who live in Palo Alto but do not make our livings in real estate, real estate development, real estate law (like our mayor-past H. Gregory Scharff), or the building trades, it is an entirely different matter, to be at ground zero of a Real Estate Boom; we want to live and work in different realms.; it is indirectly accusing the industry of being callous to our reaction to their externalities, if overstating the quality of the effects. See this. -Ed. I’m expecting it to be deleted).

The last thing I want to see is $300 million in pavement leading masses of people towards a sign that says “One Tree” (which has actually already been done, by Rigo23, in San Francisco).rigo

Maybe we should change the name of the city from Tall Tree to Big Money. Then at least the monument to greed proposed at 27 Uni would make consistent sense.

Your proposed title is a false dichotomy, and self-serving. The most obvious retort would be considered uncouth.

It’s not funny if you have to explain it, but here are my footnotes:

I voted against AA(1), and hope the final count shows that it fails(2). I am voting against any future bond measures on infrastructure. This is all a bunch of pork(3). The builders are great at swaying the public and swinging the votes, and laughing all the way to the bank. It seems that everybody with a cement truck wants his day in the sun or another couple victory laps.(4)

Why don’t you invest in East Palo Alto, or Ventura even? (5)

I’d like to see a park at the former Fry’s property — that would raise the values of the non-conforming Ventura neighborhood homes, a more savvy and delicate type of gentrification. (6)

I am certain you would disagree, Dr. Levy. (7)

Until it is more apparent that leadership here responds to people and not merely money(8)(9)(10), I look askance at almost anything said by experts and advocates and pollyannas and Gordon Gecko’s (11)who speak like Barney the Dinosaur(12).

Go invest in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places where Americans have died to make it safer for your money — 7,000 and counting(13). At least then it’s like Harry Lime and all his little dots: Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?(14)

Or: don’t shit where you eat. (15)

The last thing I want to see is $300(16 ) million in pavement leading masses of people towards a sign that says “One Tree” (which has actually already been done, by Rigo, in San Francisco(17)(18).

Maybe we should change the name of the city from Tall Tree to Big Money.(19) Then at least the monument to greed proposed at 27 Uni would make consistent sense.(20)

Your proposed title is a false dichotomy(21), and self-serving(22). The most obvious retort would be considered uncouth.(23)

1) The three-county tally is, as of 1o a.m. on a Thursday, reading a local rag at least, 48,699 for and 24,137 PLUS ME AGAINST, or a winning 66.86 super-majority margin. Supposedly ahead by 141 votes, with some provisional ballots yet uncounted. Which makes me wonder, (2),  how to go about demanding a recount, or to reread the articles about all the spending, $800,000 behind this. Or: who spend that money, developers? It falls into my general concern that 40 years into the environmental movement what we actually see is an amazing greenwash movement.

3) When I say bunch of pork I am thinking about: Gunn School bond and improvements, in two or three stages, new library, new gym, new math; Mitchell Park library and center; Main Library, College Terrace red0s, various Cubberley redos that did little, especially in the theatre; Stanford’s $5Billion hospital; Stanford’s power plant; Stanford has become just just the MIT of the West but the Bechtel of Academia, et cetera. New Police Station?

4) this goes below: Cake “The Distance” (musical interlude) — you can play it and scroll back up to continue reading. It’s not about development per se, but about racing. Or going in circles. Cake, by the way, debuted this song at Cubberley before it ever went on radio, to become their first big hit. I’m also thinking about Randy Newman “Red necks” a version in my head that I change it from “rednecks” to “developers”: “they don’t know Degas from a whole in the ground/They’re keeping the residents down”

5) and 6) I walked the other day from former Ventura school site to Cali Ave, having been to a certain number of hearings and meetings about various projects and proposals in that area, and wonder about holding the line against the Very Powerful South Bay developer who supposedly eyes Fry’s for buku housing and trying to establish a park there. It would be number 2 in park behind Foothills. Revenge for Heritage Park debacle (and kudos for the lady who said Monday about how the former PAMF could have been saved and used to house all of our non-profits. How much would 100-acre park in Ventura raise the values, which about at about $2 million each in a city where everybody else is about $3 Million each. I would say: trade the Ventura school property to Sobrato and hold the line or down-zone to “park” or whatever for the Fry’s spot. And try to relocate Fry’s to 456 University– I would accept that. Not that I’m ever polled. (like a chess game: sacrifice a queen but mate: sacrifice historic and beloved theatre but get a great park, which could become world class, somewhere between a public Gramercy and Central Park, or High Line.

7) Dr. Stephen Levy is the founder of the Center for The Continue Study of California, Economy, the CCSCE. Check that, he is the CCSCE. The think-tank center that used to be on Hamilton next to a Russian kettle-bell center and is now in an office center next to a lady who teaches piano, but he has a Ph.d from either MIT or Stanford or both. I wrote about this role in the dog-and-pony show and $325,000 slush fund called Our Palo Alto and the inevitability of adding infinitely more office space AND high density housing. Someday there will be machines, nanotechs even, that will continue to build more office space and high density housing in Palo Alto even after all other life forms on earth go ashes to ashes dust to dust (the dust will be nanotech dust).

8)9) and 10) I was thinking George Packer, Clements, McChesney and someone who wrote a nice column in the Merc yesterday about State initiative I may uncharacteristically report, fighting back against “Citizens United” and “McCuthcheon”, Richard Hobbs.

11) Gordon Gekko is the financier played to Oscar-winning acclaim by Mike Douglas in the 1987 Oliver Stone film “Wall Street” who said “Greed is good”. My misspelling is poetic license — or the too strong coffee working it’s mojo, literally — perhaps morphing with the Geico Gecko on millions of dollars of tv ads, heading towards the pseudo-reptilian talking purple dinosaur (who some right-wing asshole tried to out as gay, or were those the teletubbies?) 12) Barney.

I’m backing off my Barney-gay theme, but found that it was Jerry Falwell of Moral Minority who complained about Tinky the Teletubby or whoever not being Ray Nischke enough for his tastes in child-rearing.

I guess I should gloss Pollyanna as well. I was writing that Sid Espinosa, Steve Levy and David Harris of Our Palo Alto were too optimistic and seemed to be reading from a script. Pollyanna is a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter, I learn, compared to Biblical naysaying female Cassandra or male prophet of doom Jeremiah — people sometimes use these as terms to describe someone’s dialectic. Is this a jeremiad?

At this point, and partially bracing against his response, I revisited his column at the Weekly and added a link back to these further notes. Plus I added this:

And at Dartmouth in the 1980s, when I was studying government with Denis Gartland Sullivan, he argued, after Richard Neustadt, that the problem with Democracy, even back then, is the problem of imperfectly informed voters, which is similar, in my mind, to Noam Chomsky, speaking in 2009 in Palo Alto talking about a “Democracy gap”. So even though I am in the super-minority or whatever, about Measure AA, and not to sound elitist, but I worry that many voters don’t do the legwork, even in Palo Alto.

Palo Altan Jim Newton, by the way, wrote his thesis with Sullivan and continues on with this study and writing, and is the editorial page editor of Los Angeles Times, has biographies of Earl Warren and David Eisenhower, is friends with newly re-elected by 40 points with 1.2 million votes State Attorney General Kamala Harris, who came to his reading here, and was my editor, at the Daily Dartmouth.

You should debate Jim Newton on money in politics and greed is good.

You could challenge Robert Reich to some Indian wrestling. I’d back you in that, at least.

for 14) I actually cut and pasted from a quick search for the correct spelling of the Orson Wells character in “The Third Man” which is actually a Graham Greene story. He is sitting atop a ferris wheel in a closed amusement park and imagining as a form of distancing all the little people below him as dots. This is the same scene that contrasts the Italians and Swiss and their contribution to society, bloodshed and masterpiece art versus harmony, chocolate and cuckoo-clocks.

13) The Times has this update for today:

The Department of Defense has identified 2,310 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the death of the following American recently:

JONES, Jason B., 29, Capt., Army; Orwigsburg, Pa.; First Battalion, Third Special Forces Group.

plus I was adding the roughly 5,000 dead in Iraq, and that is not counting merely injured, or foreigners. Oh, yeah, I meant to add above that the Barney song is sometimes used in the Middle East as psy ops to freak out our opposition, they say. And not that all investment is the same, in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto (my argument) or Middle East reconstruction; my point, obliquely made if at all, is that all things are connected and the reason I want more from Democracy locally is that I want more from Democracy nationwide, and I worry that I am complicit in these deaths that to say the least are excessive. I am not saying that Dr. Stephen Levy has blood on his hands. I am saying maybe if he got more dirt on his hands he would feel some connection to the land beyond how to optimize it for short-term financial gain. I should take my own advice, I admit.

Maybe I am out of bounds to picture Levy and Reich in a physical contest, although if Stephen is related to former Palo Alto Mayor (and another pro-developer voice) Leland Levy, I noticed and I think wrote about once his physical prowess at least in ping pong, (the night of the State of the City, at JCC). Reich, the former Clinton advisor, a current Berkeley professor and of course fellow Dartmouthian, is 4′ 11″ and has joked that he should not be addressed as “your highness” but rather “your shortness”, almost too much. In any case, I’d love to see Reich lecture here on “inequality” or any topic, maybe even at one of these Our Palo Alto shows.

20) regarding 27 University Avenue, I have written previously about the flaws in the project, which can be seen, in my opinion as a play by a very powerful man, a Stanford alum and donor, to leave a legacy project for himself, damn the cost to we little people, putting up with the construction disruptions, noise and the traffic,not to mention loss of parkland and moving of a historical asset, plus several War Monuments, that never get mentioned.

Getting back to Karen Holman: I had flagged her in my notes on the May 8 meeting for saying she supports up zoning 687-693 Arastradero to create quote “company-town” housing for nearby employers – she mentioned a software company thereabouts who according to the developer (who owns 691 Arastradero and has a tenant there on notice to leave) has 3,700 employees (and this was at least parroted back if not independently confirmed by staff Tim Wong, in his report). The committee voted against her motion, but I thought it odd to advocate something that sounds like Matewan in the 1930s or worse Mussolini’s Italy, the bundling of business interests and public policy. Would the inhabitants of up zoned to RM-30 from R-1 “company-town” “88 dwelling units” be paid in scrip? (which, although way off topic reminds me of Palo Alto’s Downtown Steets Team, the ones who push brooms and rat each other out, then get paid in coupons to Starbucks but not Peets — and this is where I came in.

edit to add, or playlist:

I was thinking Little Feat (“There’s a fat man in the bath tub with the blues”) but it is Rockin Dopsie credited with reviving the traditional folk saying and song, “Feets Don’t Fail Me Know”

 

edit to add, a couple days later: meaning to check back to see what he, Steve Levy, columnist for the Weekly, did with my esoteric Corey Harris quote, from “Plantation Town” not to be confused with “Pauline” commentary in “Salinger” by Shields and Salerno. Also, mulling over the dissonance and irony of rah-rah-American Milton Friedmanite Steve Levy and his Stalinesque tactic of purging all dissent from his column/comments. Which reminds me of Dr. Evil “Zip” (based on Ernest Stravo Blofeld, an Ian Fleming character, before Mike Myers) mixed with Peter Sellers from Hal Hartley’s “Being There” trying to mute street thugs or change the channel with a remote. Try that in real life, buddy.
The term “Pauline” occurs on page 344 of Shields/Salerno, attributed to S.J. Rowland, on J.D. Salinger (compared to my quoting of a Corey Harris lyric — the reference is St. Paul): These granted, he has an almost Pauline understanding of the necessity, nature, and redemptive quality of love. Steven Levy meanwhile deletes all reference to my post, not just the content, good Stalinist he, and not very Paulinesque move. I will re-post the content, which is just the first verse of the song.
edit to add, moments later:
Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North
0 minutes ago

Mark Weiss is a registered user.
I was at the same meeting as Mr. Dubois and Mr. Levy said they were, about Karen Holman’s curious comments, that the Post splashed on headlines and the Weekly buries in above.I am glad the Palo Alto Weekly clarified Karen Holman’s role in the discussions of the housing element and most specifically the proposal from realtors Steve Pierce and Adam Touni doing business as Zane McGregor to upzone the property they own across from Gunn High and next to Alta Mesa cemetery. At the meeting earlier in May, apropos of the staff report by Tim Wong of City of Palo Alto, which included a letter from Pierce about his desires — which I paraphrased as “our greed is good for you”– I was rather concerned by Karen Holman’s statement about a “company-town” opportunity. Pierce and Touni claim that a nearby software company might want to build apartments for up to 88 of their workers, if only we the people would upzone from R-1 to R-30.The term “company-town” to me sounds like something out of Matewan, West Virginia in the 1920s where the workers are paid in scrip, or maybe even Palo Alto in the 1960s when H-P did not build but tear out 100 homes to create an Expressway on Oregon Avenue, to save precious time, for their gain and not necessarily ours. Results, of course, triggering the Residentialist movement here.

It troubles me that Karen Holman, generally one of the view council members in recent years to be even partly residentialist, –that is, not an obvious shill for the real estate industry or always pro-corporate — would not see a problem with this, “a company -town” proposal, in this era of inequality, dollarocracy, “Citizens United” and McCutcheon.

That she walks a tight-rope in collecting fees from applicants then being careful about recusing herself in matters of potential conflict, and within a time period, to follow the letter of the law, is problematic, but given her longtime service, as Planning Commissioner before Council, she knows what she is doing, even playing with fire.

If Karen Holman and or other incumbents want to be re-elected, they should take more obvious steps towards showing which side they are on, and step to the step.

Some of the other posters seem to want to frame the debate pretty narrowly, as in Growth vs. Slightly Less Growth and still call themselves “residentialist”. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware!

I respect Karen and think she fought the good fight on many cases for the people but with due respect I think she should, in a super bon bon kind of way, step aside.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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