As one of the two City Council members on the Finance Committee in the spring of 2010, I know exactly why Mr. Maltbie (City Manager of San Carlos, which had recently outsourced its policing to the county Sheriff's Office) was at our meeting. First, the town was facing an almost $1 million budget deficit in the upcoming year, with much larger deficits to come. Second, the council charged the Finance Committee with the task of developing a five-year plan to avoid such budget shortfalls.
As part of this directive, we looked at every conceivable means of lowering general and employee costs, including outsourcing any and every possible function then being delivered by the town. We believed that was part of being thorough. In the end, the building and public works departments were selected to be outsourced by then Interim City Manager John Danielson and we ultimately ended with a balanced budget. It is a choice which has been well received and, in the ensuing year, been given high marks by the community.
As for the recent mailer and robocall sent out by the APOA, I believe the community should take note of what I perceive is really happening.
Protecting the right to vote is a fundamental right of our democracy. I believe it has been challenged in this Atherton election. Years ago laws were passed on the basis that people were denied their right to vote if there was intimidation, critical falsification of facts and fear of repercussions. Today I see that in Atherton. A recent telephone call by a representative of the APOA indicated that if one did not vote for the two City Council candidates endorsed by the APOA our town would be less safe, implying that the other two candidates supported outsourcing. This is intimidation. The falsification of facts lies in the implication that the council is considering outsourcing and that the other two candidates endorse it. Moreover, there is a clear absence of information given in the form of conveying to the listener the fact that the police are part of the Teamsters Union and that their contract is up for renegotiation this spring after five years (see Mayor Widmer's YouTube presentation for details).
Finally, while receiving this robocall and within minutes thereafter, I received several telephone calls from residents concerned that if they endorsed candidates other than those selected by the APOA would they receive differential treatment from the police? Could they be targeted? They had always previously supported our police and highly respected them but could their name associated with a different candidate make a difference?
It is these three elements — the intimidation effect, the critical factual failings coupled with the fear of retribution that I fear poses a serious threat to our right to vote and makes this more than a simple legal endorsement. When I ran for City Council I refused to meet with the police, my reasoning being that they were not residents to whom I was responsible but rather employees answerable to the town. It seemed inappropriate for me to allow employees to direct how I would represent the town. It seems far worse for employees to direct voters how to vote based on fear and misinformation.