East Palo Alto Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary
By Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
July 2, 2008
Some people try not to look back. But at the East Palo Alto City Council meeting this past July 1, looking back provided a backdrop for an evening celebration. It was a time for reminiscing, a time for honoring those who led the way and a time for noting important steps that had been taken in a city’s journey.
While the evening event was technically described as a regular meeting of the East Palo Alto City Council, the meeting was devoted exclusively to acknowledging the 25th anniversary of East Palo Alto’s incorporation, which took place officially on July 1, 1983.
So, with a unique occasion and cake and food to go around, the council’s regularly scheduled session became a birthday bash. The chairs in the room were filled with onlookers, many of whom brought their own memories of the city’s first birthday with them, since they had worked actively to bring the city’s incorporation about. Those who filled the council’s meeting room seemed as delighted with the evening’s presentations as they were later with the food which was served buffet style after the last speech of the evening was made.
Audience at celebration of East Palo Alto's 25th birthday
East Palo Alto’s Mayor Patricia Foster set the stage for the evening with a presentation that focused on the city’s momentum. East Palo Alto “is strong and growing even more so, almost on a daily basis,” she said. “This growth is not just occurring in the city organization, but in the broader community as well.”
As signs of this growth, she cited a long list which included: the passage of Measure C, the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Ballot Initiative; the East Palo Alto Police Department’s community policing initiatives; the city’s inclusionary housing policies; its Rent Control & Just Cause Eviction ordinance; the great strides the city had taken in securing its environment as seen in the role played by the Youth United for Community Action group (YUCA) that led to the closure of ROMIC. Foster also cited the role played by the city, the non-profit group Canopy and volunteers who worked to install more than 1,000 trees throughout the city.
Not to be forgotten in the list was the city’s staff. A special commendation was given to the city manager, attorney, department heads and other city employees for their outstanding job performances and their dedicated work and experience.
“The momentum we have built in the past years – and the strong history we have developed over the last 25 years as a city – stand us in good stead for the future. We recognize that there is much to be done, but today we celebrate where we are,” Foster said.
The city’s celebration was capped by the awarding of three city proclamations. The first was given to East Palo Alto’s first city manager, Frederic Howell, who created, among other things, the city’s first budget, its first general plan and it’s administrative departments. The second city proclamation was given to Irma Moore who designed the city's first and only logo, which is still the official city seal. The third proclamation was presented to Michael Lawson, who served as the city’s attorney for 15 years. In honoring Lawson, Foster said that we can thank him for most of what’s here.
Omowale Satterwhite, one of the driving forces behind the incorporation movement in East Palo Alto, ended the official presentations by gifting to the city four volumes of records and documents which he had kept in his personal archives. The four notebooks he presented included some of the original papers which now document East Palo Alto’s quest for city hood.
David Woods, a current East Palo Alto city council member, said that he was a Marine in bootcamp 25 years ago when East Palo Alto became a city. Woods said that he doubted that there is any other city – small or large – that has come as far as East Palo Alto has in its first 25 years.
When all was said and done, East Palo Alto’s City Manager Alvin James said, “It was fun to sit in the audience and watch the meeting unfold.” Several others said that it was truly a joyous occasion.