Vicki Veenker, former Assembly candidate and patent attorney, jumps into City Council race

Vicki Veenker, former Assembly candidate and patent attorney, jumps into City Council race

BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer

Lawyer Vicki Veenker, who lost a hotly contested race for state Assembly to Marc Berman, announced her campaign today (July 20) for Palo Alto City Council.

Candidates typically fall into one of two camps — pro-neighborhood Residentialists and supporters of more housing and development. Veenker did not say which camp she is apart of.

“I believe in the people of Palo Alto, that they can really come together despite past disagreements,” she said in a phone interview

Veenker, who worked as a patent lawyer for 30 years, said her priorities are to meet the city’s housing needs, reduce carbon emissions and revitalize city centers, parks and services.

Veenker, 59, already has endorsements from several local leaders, including Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, state Sen. Josh Becker, former opponent Berman, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and Mayor Pat Burt.

Veenker ran for state assembly in 2016 and lost to Berman by a 54-46 margin.

In an interview, Veenker had a lot of knowledge about what’s going on at city hall, but she said she wanted current plans to develop before she took a strong or specific position.

On housing, Veennker said that state law has made people of all different viewpoints come up with ideas for how to build more housing, rather than arguing if it should be built. The state is requiring Palo Alto to plan for 6,086 new homes over the next eight years.

“I believe the conversation has changed, and we’re at a unique moment because the law requires us to add housing more quickly than before,” she said.

Veenker said she is looking forward to what a group of residents working on the plan comes up with. She didn’t say whether she supported recent state laws taking away local control of housing, which have been opposed by the majority of Palo Alto City Council.

On climate change, Veenker said the city “should explore transitioning” residents from natural gas appliances to electric appliances. The city has to speed up its goal of reducing carbon emissions, she said.

Veenker is also in favor of the city putting a business tax on the November ballot. Again, she said she is looking forward to the City Council discussing the specifics in August.

Veenker joins an increasingly crowded field, with six candidates filing paperwork exploring a campaign. Here’s who else may run:

• Ed Lauing, planning commissioner

• Lisa Forsell, utilities commissioner

• Alex Comsa, realtor

• Hope Lancero, medical researcher

• Julie Lythcott-Haims, author

Only Lauing and Forsell have announced their campaigns. There are three open seats: Councilwoman Alison Cormack isn’t seeking re-election, and Councilman Tom DuBois and Councilman Eric Filseth are termed out.

Veenker worked with DuBois last year through her nonprofit, Sibling Cities USA, to establish a partnership between Palo Alto and Bloomington, Indiana.

Palo Alto has six sister cities in other countries, but this was the first domestic partnership.

Veenker said she formed Sibling Cities USA to break stereotypes.

“The bottom line is many Americans don’t really know each other, and that is contributing to our problems today,” she said.

Veenker said one of her recent accomplishments is bringing together disagreeing health policy leaders in Sacramento to come up with a consensus recommendation addressing healthcare affordability.

The group recommended increased transparency, set cost targets and a new Office of Health Care Affordability. Their recommendation was mirrored in an assembly bill, and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law along with this year’s budget.