Midpeninsula Post

Pat Burt and Lydia Kou elected mayor and vice mayor of Palo Alto, rotating election system to be considered

Palo Alto City Hall in November. (Emily Yao)

Pat Burt and Lydia Kou were elected mayor and vice mayor, respectively, at Tuesday’s Palo Alto City Council meeting. 

Burt was elected into office with a 6–0–1 majority, with all Councilmembers except for Greg Tanaka (who abstained) voting for Kou’s nomination of Burt. Kou, who turned down Councilmember Alison Cormack’s nomination for mayor, was unanimously elected to the vice mayor position. 

A veteran of local government, Burt will be leading the council as mayor for the third time over his roughly 15-year career with the Palo Alto City Council alongside Kou, who will be serving the council as the vice mayor for the first time in her six-year city council career. 

Councilmember Alison Cormack originally nominated Kou, who declined the mayoral nomination, saying she thought Burt was better suited for the job.

“I really believe in the progression system,” Kou said during the meeting. “Pat [Burt] has … 8 years in the planning and transportation commission … he was elected to the city council, where he spent 9 years. [Burt was also] reelected again in 2020, having served 1 year, is on to 18 years.”

Despite the generally undivided votes for the new positions, Cormack raised questions about the efficiency of voting protocols at the meeting.

“This process is opaque, and it’s frankly become odious and it’s unnecessary,” Cormack said during the meeting. “Councilmember Kou every year suggests that we have a rotation process for mayor, and I will be supporting that this year at the retreat as I have before … It’s more straightforward.”

The specifics of such a rotation process are unclear, as different cities have varying term limits and procedures, but the council may clarify the specifics after its annual retreat on Jan. 30. 

(As a side note, Palo Alto residents can input priorities they think are relevant for the council to discuss during the retreat here.) 

Rotation processes in city council elections usually cycle councilmembers through the mayor and vice mayor slots every term,  ncreating a greater possibility of equal mayor terms amongst the council.

Tanaka supported this idea, saying he thought it made “a lot more sense” and resulted in “a lot less drama.” Former mayor Liz Kniss, who made a statement during public comment, also voiced her support for a rotational process for mayor during the election.

“I very much support the idea of a rotation,” Kniss said. “Greg [Tanaka] mentioned it tonight [and] it’s been mentioned many times in the past, maybe this is the year it will happen.”

Leave a Reply