Viewpoint - October 20, 2010

Endorsements from the public

Vote for experience


Whether one agrees or disagrees with the decisions made by Menlo Park City Council incumbents Rich Cline and Heyward Robinson, it can't be denied they have four years of experience in the trenches. Likewise Kirsten Keith has six years of experience on the Planning Commission, which is another trench where at times the decisions that must be made can be uncomfortable.

All the candidates running for City Council are more than qualified. The critical difference is that only these three candidates have years of experience in dealing with city issues and have had to make many important decisions in our council chamber.

Rich Cline, Heywood Robinson and Kristen Keith have grown over the years and are familiar with the issues. They don't need on-the-job-training. Elect them to sit in the big chairs in the council chambers for the next four years.

Matt Henry

Belle Haven Neighborhood Association

Incumbents not the best choice


After reading the Almanac's endorsements for Menlo Park City Council, it is clear that the editor wants us to vote for the status quo, with the same four members making up the council majority and replacing John Boyle with Peter Ohtaki.

Quite frankly, it might not matter if the new member is Mr. Ohtaki, Kirsten Keith, Chuck Bernstein, or Russell Peterson. If you only replace one of the five existing council members, it's not clear that much of anything will change.

Peter Ohtaki is a great choice, but he alone isn't going to change the council. After six years of Kelly Fergusson and Andy Cohen and four years of Rich Cline and Heyward Robinson, isn't it time for a change? "Experience" and "continuity" make for great simplistic campaign slogans, but sometimes what we really need is "new ideas."

El Camino has been blighted for six-plus years, the city's budget has worsened each year to the point where it now appears this past year will show a deficit of over $1.5 million (and growing), sales tax revenue is down, and we're still stuck in "study and analyze everything to death" mode. Hiring consultants and doing studies is not the same as actually making decisions.

Voting for Mr. Robinson and Mr. Cline will continue the status quo of indecision and inaction. If we want change, we need new council members. Peter Ohtaki's a great start, but voters should elect two of the other challengers from among Ms. Keith, Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Peterson.

Frank Tucker

Politzer Drive, Menlo Park

Families work hard on council picks


We are a group of families that represent a number of neighborhoods across Menlo Park who are taxpayers, homeowners, and parents of children in the local schools. We want our City Council to: improve our community, demonstrate fiscal responsibility, and achieve reasonable development in our downtown corridor. More specifically, we support:

• Timely, reasoned development to address the blight on El Camino, increase business, and eliminate retail vacancies by adopting and implementing a specific plan for the downtown and the El Camino corridors. Much work has been done in this area — it's now time to finalize discussions and make a decision on the future of our city's downtown.

• Measure T to boost tax revenues and improve neighboring Belle Haven and surrounding communities.

• Responsible management of our city budget, looking for ways to increase revenues and reduce expenditures to address our structural budget deficits.

• Measure L as a reasonable starting point to address the escalating cost of our pensions, which threatens to impact the city's ability to deliver services in the future.

• A common-sense approach to high-speed rail that is financially sound and supports the interests of our residents.

• Our local police department's high level of service, while ensuring it is based on a sustainable financial model.

We recently invited the six council candidates to two informal forums at a local Menlo Park home. The candidates did not fill out any surveys nor make a pledge to a position on any of the issues. The forums were open to all candidates, and allowed the candidates to interact directly with us to discuss their civic experience, why they are running and their views on various issues facing Menlo Park.

After careful consideration, we believe the three candidates who are best equipped to address Menlo Park's critical challenges are Peter Ohtaki, Rich Cline and Kirsten Keith. We do not endorse them as a "slate" but as three individual candidates we believe will bring decisiveness, relevant and varied experience, and a sense of urgency to the Menlo Park City Council.

Jeff and Diane Child and 19 other Menlo Park families

Exaggerated traffic claims against Measure T


There has been a lot of talk about the expected traffic increase caused by Measure T (allowing Bohannon to build office-hotel complex). The opposition is exaggerating when referring to traffic.

What they don't tell you is that U.S. 101 and Highway 84, not service streets, will handle 90 percent of traffic related to this project. According to the draft environmental impact report, after this project is built and before mitigation is implemented, the amount of time you will wait at major intersections during peak hours will increase by only a few seconds.

To mitigate the traffic caused by this project, improvements will be made to seven intersections, including additional traffic signals, right-turn lanes, left-turn lanes, and merge lanes. The Bohannon Development Company will be paying $2.5 million to make these improvements.

The development company has also established a transportation demand management (TDM) program which includes shuttle services to Caltrain, a vanpool program, subsidized public transit passes, and bike lockers and showers for employees.

Now that you know the truth about traffic, you need to know the truth about the benefits. When built, this project is projected to generate $1.67 million in net annual revenue for our city, and create 1,900 temporary jobs and 2,500 quality permanent jobs with many having first priority hiring preference for Menlo Park residents.

This is a huge opportunity for our city and will put fellow Menlo Park residents back to work. To me, that is worth waiting a few extra seconds at an intersection. Please vote "Yes" on Measure T.

Katie Ferrick

Planning Commissioner

Bay Road, Menlo Park

Belle Haven group supports Measure T


The Belle Haven Neighborhood Association supports Measure T, the Menlo Gateway proposal.

The anticipated jobs and revenue are indeed the important centerpiece, but there are other factors to consider. Measure T represents an opportunity to upgrade an outdated, unattractive corner of our city. Most of Menlo Park is aesthetically attractive and we wish to see that quality extended to all areas. After all, it's our town as well.

Like other communities, Belle Haven is concerned with issues that directly impact us and like other communities we have the right to prioritize what we feel is important to us. To those who wish to maintain the status quo, we say: You have that right.

We also say maintaining the long-time status quo is not an acceptable standard in all parts of this city. Menlo Gateway is looking to the future, but knowledge of the future is unknown to all!

We do believe that it is safe to say that change will occur whether we are ready or not. So, as a city, let's choose to be ready and vote yes on Measure T.

Matt Henry

Belle Haven Neighborhood Association

Measure T jobs a long way off


As I drive around the Belle Haven community, I notice myriad signs in favor of Measure T, the Bohannan project, but the subtext of these signs confuses me. "Jobs" are touted as a reason for supporting this ill-conceived measure.

Given the fact that the developer has negotiated an agreement with Menlo Park that the project need not be started for eight years, and that construction of the final phase can begin as many as 20 years hence, no jobs appear on the horizon in the near term.

Perhaps in a better economic climate many years from now the project may offer temporary jobs to construction workers. And when the development is finally complete, those who take office jobs or patronize the hotel will drive their cars through our neighborhoods and add congestion at our freeway exits.

My logic warns me, no on Measure T.

Nancy Barnby

Spruce Avenue, Menlo Park

Don't be fooled by Measure L


In the spirit of full disclosure, I am eligible for a California Public Employees Retirement (CalPERS) pension. I have worked in municipal government for long time, but am not asking for more than I think I deserve.

I have contributed to the system since I began working for the city of Menlo Park in 1991. I agree that California's pension system needs reform. Unfortunately, Measure L does not achieve its stated goals and could cause irreparable harm. The only real way to solve the state's pension crisis is to put pressure on the governor and legislators to get the job done in Sacramento. This is not an issue that can be solved piecemeal, one city at a time.

Read the impartial analysis in your sample ballot booklet: Menlo Park could be dropped by the CalPERS retirement plan, and thus incur lower investment returns and higher administrative costs.

City employees receive no Social Security, only CalPERS benefits. The average employee who retired in the last five years gets $16,750 a year in benefits — hardly the huge benefits depicted by the proponents of Measure L.

The state Legislature has decided that for general law cities such as Menlo Park, only a city council may make the final decision about employee compensation, including retirement benefits. The measure is non-binding. This initiative is illegal. If this measure passes, the city should expect to be sued for violating state law that allows only city councils to set compensation. Legal costs will be borne by Menlo Park taxpayers.

Measure L does nothing to reduce current expenditures since it would only apply to future hires. Savings would not begin to accrue for 14 years; the full benefit would take 30 or more to be realized. The Menlo Park City Council's solution to require all non-safety employees to share health care costs and, if contribution levels rise, pension cost increases, created immediate budget savings.

Measure L does not address public safety (police) salaries and benefits, which is the single greatest escalation problem in the budget.

Don't be fooled. Measure L is not the solution. Vote no on Measure L.

Michael Taylor

Menlo Park resident and former city employee

pstyle:newitem>Mandelkern for county treasurer


Dave Mandelkern is the best candidate for county treasurer-tax collector. I've known Dave for 15 years and have served with him on the Community College District board for seven years.

Dave has high integrity and unquestionable ethics, he works hard, and he takes his responsibility as a board member very seriously. He asks tough questions that get to the essence of the issues before us.

Taxpayers and students in our community college district lost $25 million in 2008 due to the current county treasurer's lack of attention to investments entrusted to that office. Local school districts lost $38 million, leading to teacher layoffs.

Our county treasurer made national headlines because of San Mateo County's dubious distinction as having losses on a scale unmatched by any other local government agency in the U.S.

Taxpayers deserve a county treasurer with a commitment to change failed investment policies. Dave Mandelkern will safeguard our investments as San Mateo County's next treasurer-tax collector.

Richard Holober

Trustee, San Mateo County Community College District


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