PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) – The Mayor of Palo Alto was still doing damage control Tuesday, two weeks after she made the mistake of dismissing the traffic gridlock many local residents suffer through.
Even though it is home to some of the smartest people in world in a hotbed of tech innovation, Palo Alto still has not solved its traffic problem.
Getting off or on the freeway during commute hours is a major headache and has been for years.
So many of its citizens were puzzled when — during a city council meeting July 30th — Mayor Liz Kniss denied there was a problem. People in the room started to scoff.
“I think some of our reports of traffic are really exaggerated. The same with Alma. I drive Alma,” said Kniss before the grumbling from the crowd caused her to pause. “Please, we’ve listened so politely to you. Listen to us in return.”
The mayor went on to suggest people look for different ways to get to their destination.
“But I think if you’re willing to try alternate routes, not go your normal route, I think you’ll find that the traffic is not as overwhelming as you might think,” said Kniss.
In the following two weeks, the mayor received dozens of emails and phone calls berating her for her comments. Some called for her resignation, while others called her willfully ignorant.
On Monday, she apologized to the city.
When asked if she wished she could take back what she said on July 30th, she replied. “I think whenever you have said something that becomes such a hot button, you wish you said it differently. I made an apology. I said I misunderstood how incredibly impacted the traffic was in certain parts of town. So, I made it and I stand by it.”
John Guislin is a member of the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association. He sees some of the worst traffic go right by his home on Middlefield Road.
When asked if he accepted the mayors apology, Guislin replied, “Yes, because anyone can make a mistake.”
Mayor Kniss said her comments and apology have re-energized the issue and she is planning a community meeting in two months.
“I think we’re the kind of community that learns to move past things to learn from them at the same time,” said Kniss. “And hopefully we’ll end up with some new and good solutions.”
Guislin said after downplaying the traffic and then saying she had made a mistake, expectations for the mayor are high.
“I don’t think people are going to reject Liz Kniss because she made a mistake. But I think people expect her to step up now and work on real solutions,” said Guislin.