When Prop 13 was being widely debated in town, I was serving as president of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce. A member of that board urged the chamber to take a public position on the proposition. (He was recommending endorsement.) The board decided to look into the matter and assigned one of the members to research the proposition. He did so and reported back as follows:
The Legislature in Sacramento was nearly unanimous on desiring to launch the proposition to cap property assessments for private citizens, especially seniors. The leading advocates, Paul Gann and Howard Jarvis, were furious that assessment capping was being proposed only for residences. They believed that totally unfair.
If assessment capping was appropriate for residences, which they agreed was so, it was equally just and right that the same capping take place on assessments of commercial and industrial property. They convinced the Republicans in the Legislature to introduce this expansion in the proposition.
The Democrats in the Legislature, by and large, would have none of that, feeling the proposition was for homeowners' relief. They were unwilling to approve Proposition 13 if commercial and industrial property were added. The Republicans, on the other hand, were equally unwilling to approve Proposition 13 unless commercial and industrial property were included.
This resulted in a long and bitter standoff since neither party could approve the proposition alone. Finally, desiring to have the homeowner benefit adopted with dispatch, the Democrats caved, accepted the expansion designed by Mr. Jarvis and Mr. Gann, and sent Proposition 13 to the public.
The chamber board digested this report and overwhelmingly voted to endorse. There were two "no" votes: mine and that of Jeanne-Betty Crumpler. Jeanne-Betty had been the proprietor of the Welcome Wagon service in Menlo Park; her husband was a teacher in Menlo Park schools.
The very next day after the passage of Proposition 13, I was telephoned by the chief executive of a large publishing firm in Menlo Park. He knew me from business contacts and had read that I had recently been re-elected to the Menlo Park City Council. He asked me to make a delivery for him to the city. He handed me a check for $10,000 (in 1978 dollars) made out to the city of Menlo Park, and asked me to deliver it to the city.
I expressed some wonder. He explained, "Do you realize how much money the passage of Proposition 13 will end up saving my firm? By comparison, $10,000 is a pittance. I know how much Menlo Park will be affected by the passage of Proposition 13."
After delivering the check, I went home and wrote a letter to the editor, complaining that "the citizens of California have raped themselves."
Douglas Dupen, a former Menlo Park resident, now lives at Stanford.