Vicki Veenker launches campaign for City Council | News

Vicki Veenker, a local attorney and mediator who recently launched the Sibling Cities USA program to create partnerships between cities in different regions of the country, announced Wednesday that she is planning to run for a seat on the Palo Alto City Council.

With the announcement, Veenker became the fourth candidate to enter the race for the three seats that will open up at the end of this year. Ed Lauing, chair of the Planning and Transportation Commission, Hope Lancero, a medical researcher at Stanford University, and Lisa Forssell, a member of the city’s Utilities Advisory Commission, also said they will seek council seats this fall.

A patent attorney who spent nearly 20 years as director of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and who helped launch the Women’s Professional Soccer, Veenker isn’t entirely new to local or state politics. In 2016, she ran for state assembly against Marc Berman in a tight race that split the democratic establishment. Berman, who prevailed with 53% of the vote, is now among the local and state officials who are endorsing Veenker’s council bid.

More recently, she worked with health policy leaders in Sacramento on a health care affordability bill that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this year. She also worked with city officials in Palo Alto and Bloomington, Indiana, on a “sibling city” partnership that the two municipalities approved last year.

“Palo Alto’s extraordinary residents, tradition of innovation and physical beauty are the making of a vibrant and successful community,” Veenker said. “Too often, our city is mired in disagreement that gets in the way. I am running to bridge our divides and unleash Palo Alto’s potential.”

If elected, she said her priorities would include meeting the city’s housing needs, fighting climate change and revitalizing the local economy. On housing, she said she would like to help facilitate a community discussion on the best way to add residences, a goal that has become more urgent over the past year because of state mandates. Under the Regional Housing Needs Assessment process, the city is required to plan for 6,086 new dwellings by 2031.

“I believe we’re in a unique moment in the housing conversation where we can reset and come together on how to meet our needs because now the law requires it,” Veenker said in an interview. “So let’s figure out how to do it.”

She also said she would like to accelerate local programs to convert residents to clean electricity and to make electric-vehicle chargers more readily available. She also wants to work with economic development experts to come up with the best ways to boost the local economy and increase revenues. She supports the city’s current effort to explore a new business tax, which the council is preparing to place on the November ballot.

“It’s been under discussion for a long time,” Veenker said. “I think we need to join the other cities on the Peninsula to have one.”

Veenker has already secured endorsements from some of the Peninsula’s leading Democrats, including Rep. Anna Eshoo, State Sen. Josh Becker and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian. She also has the backing of former mayors Lanie Wheeler, Larry Klein and Karen Holman, as well as current Mayor Pat Burt and council member Tom DuBois.

“Vicki has the vision and skills that we need for today’s challenges,” Burt said in a statement. “Her exceptional ability to build bridges and solve problem will be invaluable in making real progress on our housing, economic recovery, and climate protection priorities.”

Veenker is looking to fill seats that will open up at the end of the year when DuBois and council member Eric Filseth term out. Council member Alison Cormack is set to complete her first term and has opted not to run for reelection.

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