http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2013/07/17/editorial-council-should-appoint-new-member


Almanac

Viewpoint - July 17, 2013

Editorial: Council should appoint new member

Atherton residents are closely watching their four elected town officials' next move in filling a vacant seat on the City Council after watching them divide down the middle during a special meeting last week. The council had met that night in an attempt to appoint one of the seven candidates who applied for the vacant post. The seven candidates included residents who have proven their commitment and involvement with the town through years of service on advisory committees, including transportation and finance, and one who came in third in last November's race for two seats. The council's inability to find common ground even with applicants with such a high degree of qualifications and commitment is troubling, and disappointing.

The day after the July 11 meeting, which ended in calling a November election after the council failed to agree on an appointment, the town announced that the council may revisit the matter at this week's meeting, on July 17. We hope they seize the opportunity.

Some residents attending last week's meeting weren't all too happy with the 2-2 vote that seemed to be set in stone after three rounds of balloting. When it appeared that the four council members had slipped into their pattern of alliances — Jim Dobbie and Bill Widmer on one side and Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest on the other — several residents urged them to try harder, appoint an applicant who could be sworn in this week, and avoid an election in November.

A vacant council seat, said resident Valerie Gardner, would "inhibit the town's ability to move ahead" on issues the council needs to address between now and mid-December, when a new member would fill the seat should an election be held. She's right. There is no reason to believe that council members who couldn't agree on a candidate from among the impressive field of applicants before them will be able to effectively address the town's business during a time when important matters are at hand or on the horizon. High on the list is negotiating a new contract with the town's police officers — an issue that already has had a polarizing effect on residents.

That said, appointment of a new council member must be done with great care, putting politics aside in the public's interest. Any appointed member who chooses to run for election in November 2014 after serving out the term of Jerry Carlson, who resigned July 1, will have an incumbent's advantage at the ballot box. If an applicant shows signs of having a political bent that reflects that of either camp on the council, he or she should be disqualified.

Ms. Gardner, speaking to council members as they appeared to be heading for a stalemate, said the council should consider first and foremost the candidate's mindset, not politics. A collaborative spirit and the ability to hear and consider what others say are critical, and would help the council work through potentially divisive issues.

Of the seven candidates, surely there are some who meet those criteria and, as Ms. Gardner also noted, appointing one of them is the responsible thing to do. Other residents who added their two cents to the discussion agreed. We do too.

Comments

Posted by Town Council Watcher, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Greg Conlon should be appointed. He came in third in the last Town Council election. The two other candidates whom the ATC wanted were only considered for their ability to forge an alliance. No wonder the deadlock. Neither side was willing to let the other side become the majority.

Last week's charade was very disingenuous and very self serving on the part of all 4 Town Council members. Conlon has no desire to forge an alliance with the Town Council. He just wants to serve the best interests of the residents.

Conlon was the only person in the current field of candidates who mounted a campaign for Town Council.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 16, 2013 at 3:43 pm

While I agree that it would be preferable to fill the Carlson vacancy now it is unlikely, given the current dysfunction on the council, that they will be able to muster a majority vote for anyone who have ever expressed an opinion on a local issue. Sadly, I think that only the voters will be able to select someone on the basis of the candidate's skills and abilities. Hopefully there will be individuals who are prepared to stand for the election who are not beholden to anyone except the citizens and who refuse to accept either endorsements or support from those parties who will then appear before them and expect favors in return.


Posted by J Q Adams, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm

The Council needs to put this decision in the hands of the voters. Given the library debacle, two members have demonstrated that they are out of touch with the desires of their constituents.

More importantly, incumbents have an enormous advantage when running for election. The Council will be putting their choice ahead of the others potential candidates in the next election.

There is business to be done. But, Atherton has in the past suffered through 3-4 months with no City Manager and ill Council members. It's not the end of the world. And, there's no business so pressing that it can't wait for Democracy to run its course.

It's clear the Council is split. It's clear that the person who fills this spot carries the swing vote. All the more reason for the electorate to be heard.

The argument that it's too costly to run for a 1-2 year term doesn't hold water. The person who gets in will likely be reelected until they chose to end their tenure.

Those who are really interested need to step up and campaign. They need to be vetted by the voters. They need to make their positions known and defend them. Of the seven applicants, it unlikely all will have the conviction to run for office. We need to know who wants the seat.

Since this is the swing vote, it's critical that the electorate have a say. They choosing a direction for the Council.

Do they want to continue to get criticized by the Civil Grand Jury for overstepping their bounds in the City Manger form of government? Do they want to elect someone sympathetic to outsourcing? Are the interested in drama; do they want another Council member who seeks attention from the dais and podium?

The answer is the Council needs someone who is fair, balanced, well educated, and invested in the Town's priorities -- priorities dictated by the voters at the last election.


Posted by Michael G Stogner, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 16, 2013 at 8:24 pm

One of the hurdles for the election is that it will be for a 1 year period. That is not very long when asking candidates to run a campaign.

I was surprised to hear Cary Weist's position on election vs. appointment and I personally asked the council to make the extra effort to appoint someone that night for the benefit of the residents. That is also why I made the promise to not run for the seat in 2014 if appointed. It was asked if anyone else would match my promise and I don't think anyone else did, I could be wrong on that.


Posted by Conlon qualified?, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 16, 2013 at 10:01 pm

When Greg Conlon says he cannot answer a question about police benefits being curtailed since he hasn't studied the issue, one of two possibilities emerge:

1. Since he's been on the finance committee for at least three years, he was asleep during the meetings and therefore is not qualified to be on the council.

2. He doesn't want to answer the question since saying they should be – which even the Lewis/Wiest/APOA hand-picked candidate DeGolia he stated – runs the risk of the APOA not supporting him. This disqualifies him also.

Currently there are two APOA hand-picked candidates on the council, Lewis and Wiest. The police contract is supposedly being re-negotiated.

Is it really fair to the residents of Atherton that there be yet a third APOA hand-picked candidate, DeGolia or Conlon?


Posted by Conlon qualified?, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 16, 2013 at 10:12 pm

"The answer is the Council needs someone who is fair, balanced, well educated, and invested in the Town's priorities -- priorities dictated by the voters at the last election."

Neither Lewis nor Wiest possess a college degree (re: "well educated").


Posted by Atherton Voter, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 17, 2013 at 6:21 am

This statement by the Editor really troubles me:
The seven candidates included residents who have proven their commitment and involvement with the town through years of service on advisory committees, including transportation and finance, and one who came in third in last November's race for two seats. The council's inability to find common ground even with applicants with such a high degree of qualifications and commitment is troubling, and disappointing.

None of the qualifications listed are what Atherton government needs. Because one runs for election and comes in third indicates the voters are not confident in that person's ability. Because one attends many council meetings over the years does not qualify one being appointed and serving on a committee probably only indicates you are one of the like-minded functionaries of the power block currently in control of the council. A glaring example of this was the Atherton Library Steering Committee producing the candidacy of Denise Kupperman. Everyone knows how that ended.
The Editor has the process wrong. Atherton voters should decide by themselves and not trust the council to do the job for them. The exercise of democracy in this fashion is neither troubling nor disappointing but the way it should be.


Posted by Follow-the-dollar, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Atherton Voter is absolutely right in comments regarding the Almanac's editorial Fact is, this will be largely a one-issue election: the APOA and it's cost to the residents. Everyone agrees that we prefer having our own home-town police. The rub is that they know it and thus have managed to gain the highest wages of police departments in the Bay Area in the town having the lowest crime rate and therefore the least danger or difficult work. Three of the council candidates are clear rule-outs for their APOA bias: Lewis, Wiest and Conlon, although the latter carefully avoids giving a meaningful opinion on that or any other subjects like High Speed Rail, etc. Ruggiero was a career cop; how loyal will he be to his fellow officers? Unfortunately, It's easy for politicians to spend other people's money. The council has done so to reward the union that supported their campaigns. We need representatives at the table who will put their foot down on the already excessive salaries and benefits of the APOA paid by the "Parcel Tax" on Atherton residents. Do we have one??


Posted by Conlon qualified?, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

Follow-the-dollar has one of the best summaries of the current situation I have seen, except for his/her inference that John Ruggeiro will pamper the APOA. Not a chance. He knows they are overpaid and underworked. He has a son who's a cop in San Francisco. He knows what real police work is and what real police officers are paid. As Follow-the-dollar has pointed out, the APOA wants the highest police pay in California (not just the Bay Area), with the least difficulty and danger of work. The conflicts of interest and manifold, including the prominent role an APOA sergeant's father played in the Lewis and Wiest campaigns. [Portion deleted by Almanac staff.]