News - October 20, 2010

Bohannon vs. Bernstein: Menlo politics inspire hit pieces

by Sandy Brundage

Politicians aspire to stand out during campaign season. One way to do that? Mention "sabotage" during a public forum while discussing a controversial development project like the Bohannon Gateway.

The man behind the unfortunate choice of words is educator and City Council candidate Chuck Bernstein, who, yes, opposes Measure T, a ballot measure that would let David Bohannon build his huge hotel-office complex in Menlo Park.

To be precise, while speaking at the League of Women Voters forum on Sept. 29, Mr. Bernstein said, "...what I pledge to both Mr. Bohannon and the people of Menlo Park, is that I will abide by whatever that vote shows. No more sabotage, no more delay — move forward to the next things we have to deal with."

But a mailer sent out by the Bohannon organization says the opposite: that Mr. Bernstein "said publicly that he is out to 'sabotage' Menlo Gateway and Measure T" during the forum. Therefore, according to the mailer's logic, he would "cost Menlo Park taxpayers over $1.6 million per year" by "sabotaging" the city's annual revenue expected from Gateway.

It's clear how Mr. Bohannon spent some of the $150,000 invested in his Measure T campaign. A second mailer sent during the third week of October also depicts a photo of a smiling Mr. Bernstein surrounded by text that repeated "sabotage" in bold font over and over, and claimed the candidate "would be very expensive for Menlo Park schools" based on the same logic.

"I've heard him say things that are inaccurate, misrepresenting the facts about the project, the housing impacts, the school money," Mr. Bohannon told The Almanac. "I would interpret those misrepresentations, those untruths to voters, as sabotage."

The developer said the forum comment implied that the sabotage would only stop after the election, and that he doesn't find the candidate's pledge to respect the voters' decision credible if Measure T passes, since the council will still have input on how construction proceeds.

"I don't look forward to working with Chuck. Why would I think he would be credible in that, if he's not credible in how he presents the project to voters?" Mr. Bohannon asked.

What does Mr. Bernstein think of all this?

"First, it makes me feel very powerful. Second, I am mystified by his rationale; this issue would be resolved by the time I would be elected and I think he is jeopardizing his project with a nasty mailing," he said, suggesting that Menlo Park voters' sense of fair play may rebel against smear campaigns.

"I don't do sabotage: I am up front and have been speaking out against this project for a very long time." What he intended to convey, he said, was his opposition to such tactics.

A press release circulated by Mr. Bernstein called the mailers "false attacks" emphasized his educational and business background, and quoted a fiscal impact analysis by Bay Area Economics that stated the housing demand created by Menlo Gateway would lead to $12,000 to $45,000 budget deficits for three local school districts.

Bohannon spokesman Patrick Corman called the quote from the analysis an example of the candidate's misrepresentations.

"It's a hypothetical, not a likely scenario. It could happen, but the moon could turn green, too," Mr. Corman said, since those deficit calculations assume that the new housing would be built within a single school district.

Go to to view the complete League of Women Voters candidates forum.


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