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Unions file lawsuit to keep pension initiative off ballot

Original post made on Jun 23, 2010

Two employee unions filed a lawsuit today (June 23) against the city of Menlo Park and a resident involved in the effort to place an initiative on the November ballot that would alter pension benefits for new employees. ==B Photo:== Menlo Park resident Katy Rose, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, spoke against the initiative at a press conference June 23 at the Menlo Park Civic Center. ==I Photo by Josh Falk.==

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 23, 2010, 1:58 PM

Comments (78)

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Posted by Chuck Bernstein
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 23, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Shame on the two unions involved, as well as the resident!

This is a form of intimidation, requiring a resident to pay for legal representation. If the "bad bank deal" has substance, then it should be examined; however, it has nothing to do with pensions.

The unions cannot be allowed to tell Menlo Park residents what they, the residents, are going to pay for city services and what service cuts they will have to endure because the pension costs are too high.

More than that, this action shows how arrogant the unions are in their relationships with the clients they are serving. It is the same sort of action that led to aerodynamic Caltrains running backward (because turning the train around required a new crew).

I hope the Menlo Park city council will have the courage to stand up to their intimidation.

--Chuck Bernstein
444 Oak Court


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm

This lawsuit is a sad commentary on the SEIU. Instead of trying to be part of the solution, they chose to dig in their heels.

Heaven forbid we should let voters decide. Sounds like they are very afraid of public opinion. This won't help.


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Posted by Poisner
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 23, 2010 at 4:34 pm

This is an egregious and desperate act. I hate unions.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Wow. According the SEIU the citizens of Menlo Park aren't allowed to exercise their fundamental right to vote now?!? These are the same citizens the SEIU is supposed to serve. Who does the SEIU thinks ultimately hires them (and everyone else in Menlo Park).

And suing the private citizen that brings the initiative? That takes an astounding amount of arrogance.

I look forward to the voters reminding the SEIU who they work for.


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I look forward to this completely backfiring and perhaps the town applies additional pressure to terminate, when terminations are necessary. If the union thinks it has an issue with NEW hires taking a very small hit, just wait until their increased pressure brings about even more aggressive and creative ideas like sub-contracting for safety, sub-contracting for planning, terminating entire departments for the city, etc. Keep it up unions, make yourself hated, you will be going the wrong way......


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Posted by an idea
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2010 at 6:30 pm

There have been a few news articles about the City of Maywood, CA. It just fired ALL of its City's employees and outsourced everything! I believe this may be an interesting idea.


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Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 23, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Based on the comments above it would appear that the SIEU legal action has already backfired.

I like the idea of outsourcing! Time for another initiative?


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 23, 2010 at 9:12 pm

You can't negotiate with pestilence and vermin, and you can't negotiate with public sector unions. The only solution is expulsion. Congratulations to Maywood; they illuminate the path.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 11:29 pm

So Government employees are now Vermin and Pestilence? Why does it always have to go to such extremes......The Union is wrong and so is Sad Sack Davis.....There has to be a middle ground


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 24, 2010 at 6:54 am

What Rich, Heyward and Kelly will probably do, in consultation with a former mayor and current member of the California Bar, is to claim that the cash well is too deep and the break even point is too far out to defend the lawsuit. So they will just throw in the towel. The vote will probably be 3 to 2 with John Boyle and Andy Cohen dissenting.

Or better yet, Rich, Heyward and Kelly will shop around for barely competent counsel who is sympathetic to the poor Unions' plight, pay him/her a pittance, and while not directing him/her to actually do so, hope that he/she will take a dive or put up an inept defense. That way they can claim "We put up a valiant effort but those union lawyers were just too good".

The bottom line is that it is a forgone conclusion that the majority membership of the City Counsel will carry the Unions' water again much to the detriment of the public it is supposed to serve.

So everyone, we need to contribute to the Pension Reform Group, to defend this specious and meritless lawsuit. And while we are at it vote out Heyward and Rich. Heyward can clip coupons and cash them in, Rich can get a job with the SEIU, and Kelly can spend her last two years on the dais continuing to be "Gail-Lite".


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

Comments like "I hate Unions" "Vermin", "Pestilence", "Outsource everything" etc. These are the reasons unions don't want "The People" to vote. From these comments one could see why there are unions.
BCPW


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Posted by Mark
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 24, 2010 at 7:52 am

Interested, a middle ground would be nice but this area is difficult.

Seems to me that the City has taken on pension commitments that they cannot reasonably fulfill, and this situation has also appeared at many levels of government thoughout the state and country. Some people want to fix the problem by taking the money away from the union employees, some want to take the money away from the financial folks, and some simply want to change the government officials.

I think a simpler approach--though a difficult change--is to eliminate the pension mechanism altogether. The trend in private industry is away from pensions, freeing employees to pool/invest their retirement money as they wish, without being tied to a specific employer, and freeing employers to avoid all the issues associated with funding future pension payments. Full pay now and no pensions later should work for public employees as well, and things like 401k matching can also work for them.

Unfortunately, neither the unions nor the pension initiative proponents seem to be headed in this direction and seem likely to continue to fight about who gets which dollars in the current broken system.


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Posted by Lulu
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 24, 2010 at 9:31 am

We're paying way too much for what we're getting, and the pension situation is out of control.

Fire the lot of them. Bring in contractors to handle the work that's got to be done (contractors are doing a lot of this already, e.g. street sweeping). There's simply no need for Menlo Park employees to belong to unions; it's not as if our city were running a sweatshop and the employees are skilled professionals.

The unions have overplayed their hand here: if they hadn't gotten so greedy, they might have continued this scam indefinitely. Time to end the union tyranny. Council, do you have the courage to act?


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Posted by Dharma
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 24, 2010 at 11:08 am

BCPW

The all-too human anger that is raised by stubborn union greed is not at the employees, its at the SEIU and AFSCME "leadership" that have persuaded employees they are "threatened" by a change in benefits for NEW employees that haven't even been hired yet. This so-called leadership is taking the workers for a ride that leads to San Jose: where without a workable budget, needed staff get laid off and everyone loses. Sometimes commitment to a cause is a fine thing, but what union leadership is doing is not honorable.

D


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

Lulu,

I am sorry to disapoint you. But in the summer of 2006 the SEIU held a candidate's forum in the recreation bulding. Heyward Robinson, Vince Bressler and Richard Cline showed up. So did I. The SEIU would not allow me to witness the candidate's forum. Vince refused to commit to being an SEIU stooge and did not get the endorsement. Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline received the endorsement and months later Richard Cline and Heyward Robinson voted to give the SEIU a 35% increase in pension benefits retroactive to the day they started work while simultaneously reduced the retirement age from 60 to 55.

The City Council will hold a special meeting on Friday at 4 PM to address the lawsuit. Public comment will be allowed. Then the Council will go into closed session. It will do one of two things. Either it will not defend the lawsuit or it will defend it on the cheap virtually guaranteeing a loss.

Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline are both beholden to the Unions. And while Kelly Fergusson is not up for re-election she is a solid Union supporter as well.

The only way we are going to stop this union tyranny is for residents to dig into their pockets and pay for an adequate defense of this specious lawsuit. We can win this but don't think for a minute that you can depend on the Council to do the right thing. Only Andy Cohen and John Boyle have the courage to do what is right for the City. You are just wasting your time with the other 3.


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Posted by John Donald
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

This is shameful behavior by the unions.


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Posted by greg gaffney
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 24, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I'd love to see Unions disappear, compensation and benefits should be based on what the market will bear using comparisons and competition as benchmarks....no one should need a Union or a Union rep to handle that for them at the time of hire or review with an employer. I'm all for the worker getting what the job deserves and saving for retirement, not for Unions strong-arming or benefitting.


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Posted by Some new information
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm

According to another local paper, the City Attorney has stated that even if the City were to be able to renegotiate a lower interest rate on redevelopment bonds, and thus recoup the money that the unions state would then pay for the unfunded pension liability, this money, by LAW, cannot go towards employee costs: salaries, benefits, anything related to employee costs.

The City Attorney then states that the legal issues the union uses are not as clear cut as they think.

So, I'd say this is all smoke and mirrors by the union reps. They are ill serving the employees they are supposed to be representing. They will waste the dues money that these City employees contribute on a frivolous law suit. I would say, City employees -- wake up! Your money is being squandered by your "leaders". If you are presently employeed, your benefits are safe (unless, of course, the City runs out of money). The pension reform only applies to new employees, that is the State law. If your union reps have lead you to believe otherwise, then you have been duped.

This is not a war on the City's employees. This is a way the residents can begin to make sure that City services, long-term and short-term, are protected. We can no longer trust our politicians to do the right thing, and, city employees, I don't believe you can trust your union reps anymore as well.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 24, 2010 at 1:38 pm

There IS an alternative - THe Maywood Plan:

Maywood, CA Plans To Disband ALL City Services

MAYWOOD, Calif. — The small city of Maywood south of downtown Los Angeles plans to lay off almost all its employees, disband its police department and contract municipal operations to a neighboring city.

Facing a budget deficit of at least $450,000 and unable to get insurance because of a history of lawsuits, many involving the police department, the Maywood City Council said Monday night it had no choice but to adopt the plan.

The 1.2-square-mile city will hire the Los Angeles County sheriff's department for law enforcement services, and the neighboring city of Bell will handle other city services such as finance, records management and parks and recreation.

Experts told the Los Angeles Times the decision appeared to be unprecedented among California cities.

___

Information from: Los Angeles Times, Web Link


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Posted by Sam
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Lets see, drive out the unions because they protect lower wage employees from slave labor wages. Hire contractors who will employ workers who will accept the lowest wages from out of town with no reverence to our city, congest the roads, spend their income elsewhere. Next will be the police union...say good bye to safety. Menlo will receive in direct proportion for what it pays. Just raise property taxes.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm

"There IS an alternative-the Maywood Plan"

The article referenced by Peter states something that is very important. "....The Maywood City Council said...it had no choice but to adopt the plan" Jumping up and citing a desperation move on the part of a city with no ability to even get insurance, does not, in my view, represent an alternative that a city with the financial reserves and revenues of a Menlo Park should embrace. I'm not saying that outsourcing some services is a bad idea; far from it, I believe such opportunities thoughtfully implemented are the way to go. However, to do so just to avoid dealing with the union related issues is short sighted and likely not the most cost effective solution. Even Maywood did it as a last resort.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2010 at 3:02 pm

[Post removed; disrespectful language violates terms of use.]


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Posted by Lulu
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 24, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Do most non-union employees work for slave wages? I seriously doubt it! I have never worked for a union, and I have generally been adequately (or better) compensated. And my first jobs as a teen most assuredly fell into the unskilled blue collar category!

As for safety issues, that whine doesn't pass the straight face test. Most professionals who work to assure our health and safety do not belong to unions, and I for one am completely underimpressed by the Menlo Park police force. They have no motivation to do quality work because they are assured of job security unless their flaws are egregious.

Face it, unions serve primarily to protect workers who are not qualified. People who do their job well will always be able to negotiate a decent salary and benefits. If you can provide value to your employer or your customers, you will be compensated for your efforts. (If all you know how to do is complain, then it may be a little harder for you to find gainful employment without the union's help.)

Hank, I hear you. I remember the campaign materials produced by the union in 2006, and how effective they were (hence, the relatively weak showing of Bressler compared to Robinson/Cline). SEIU has a big war chest, and can easily outspend any candidate they don't like. I can understand Rich and Heyward's reluctance to confront them. Our council members are volunteers, and what individual resident is willing to incur the unions' wrath?

Nevertheless, it has to be done. Do we need to have the unions not only drain our city's finances but dictate who serves on our council? Who is brave enough to stand up to the unions, and how can we convince those people to run in November?


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Posted by Sam I Am Not
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm


So just because the citizens of Menlo Park want to rationalize costs, reasonable wages for reasonable work, and efficiency from government, the whole city will go to Hades in a handbasket. Apparently, unless the city is willing to pay 60 to 80 thousand for a park worker, this city will not get the quality of life it deserves?

Well, FYI, the big reason our city's and private wages have so diverged in recent years is that the city will only recruit from the existing public worker pool in the Bay area. You could be a well qualified worker from the private sector, but they won't even consider you. Thus, by eliminating candidates from the private sector, public sector employees can chase better deals and up wages. City management understands this, benefit from this policy and are effective in implementing it. Let's not even get into how incredibly management top heavy city government is.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 24, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Did the council impose a 2 @ 60 contract? Yes.

Did the council begin those negotiations long before the initiative? Yes.

Gimme a break tea baggers. Run whatever candidate you want, but trust me, if he or she builds a platform on BS like Hank throws out, you are doing the incumbents a huge favor.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I wonder if Gibboney knows what his employees are doing to his readers...


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Well he does now


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Posted by Lulu
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 24, 2010 at 5:06 pm

truth, I don't know what axe you are grinding here, or how you knew that I was drinking tea (trying to cut back on coffee for health reasons) but on this issue, Hank is correct. He also identifies the only two council members -- who are ideological opposites in most ways -- that seem to understand the enormity of the situation. I don't agree with Hank on much of anything, but at least he has the courage to sign his name, which neither you nor I do.

For the most part, this current council seriously lacks much sense of fiscal responsibility or a willingness to rein in the city management. Whether the electorate realizes this is a different issue. Whether we can get viable candidates who are willing to hang tough is yet another. But...if we continue on the path we're on, armlocked by the union, there's a >95% probability that our city will be facing dire financial consequences in the not-too-distant future. If it were my money -- hey, I guess it is! -- I would do something to improve those odds. We've got to get out from under the unions.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 24, 2010 at 9:08 pm

I fully support Sam's plan. Drive out the public unions; they are ripping off the average citizen. Hire contractors who will work as cheap as possible commensurate with a quality job. Abolish the police union as well. Excellent ideas all, Sam!

Public sector unions should be illegal - they inevitably result in corrupt bargains with the politicians in their pocket, at the cost of each taxpayer. In fact, they were illegal until the 1970s, when Jerry Brown legalized them, starting the slow motion train wreck which we are viewing today.


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Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 24, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Right on for outsourcing city employees.

And while we're at it, let's outsource our city attorney. He's in the pocket of the staff and unions.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 24, 2010 at 9:48 pm

The axe I am grinding is the need for reality. All of these folks have been posting the same garbage for three years. It is either don't build in our town or fire employees.

The sad state of affairs is that the next post will be a condemnation of me (the only single source of objection to this same crew), and then some rhetoric about leftists, some bland regurgitation of how simple it is to solve all this (and a blatant disregard of the facts that council has bargained responsibly this year) and then a cut and paste job from some city that is not our town.

Over and over. The same garbage by the same 10 clowns.

That is my axe.

Lying, disembarking from the real story, taking information out of context, misrepresenting articles and facts is all the same stuff. This town rots from these people.


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Posted by frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 24, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Message to "truth"

Like it or not, the truth is that retiring at 60 is financially untenable. The Germans are now raising their retirement age to 67.


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Posted by I Am #11
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I guess I'm #11 "truth", I am also an individual that is concerned about MY tax dollars going toward over the top pensions. I see nothing wrong with being concerned about that, and fighting it. I also do not see any problem with being skeptical of this union loving council. Let's face it, there is a long donation history, and lack of leadership history from this council. They still cannot say "no". I listened to the interview of the mayor yesterday regarding the counter suit, and again, he said nothing, nothing at all, just a bunch of rhetoric. It goes on and on and on, all of them just trying to say the right thing to stay in office. They need to say "no", "no" to the unions influence, their frivolous lawsuit, and "no" to continued frivolous spending. Call me a teabagger, fine I'm a teabagger, and proud of having a concern for overspending, and unsustainable budgets. By the way, I may be #11, but I can guarantee you there are thousands of people just like me.


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Posted by Lulu
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 25, 2010 at 11:09 am

truth, I am a fan of your articulate, thoughtful posts, but you do have a bias that you bring to this forum, and that's that you lump all of us together in the same pot.

I personally am not a big believer in labels (left, right, teabags, etc) probably because most of us, at least in MP, are not so easily pigeonholed. I know politics loves black and white bifurcations, but if we could set those labels aside, I think we could make some progress here.

In 2002, the residents elected a council from one "party;" since 2006, the council has been dominated by members of the other camp. Both councils have struggled, so it's not ideology or labels that create the problem here. Seems to me that it's about money, and that too many decisions have been controlled or influenced by the groups that have it, one of them being the unions. When a special interest group can reach into its deep pockets to override the better judgment of the council majority, that is a problem.

No one said that it is easy to fix this problem. (Where is that bland regurgitation?) Didn't I say it would be hard? That it would take council members with far more courage than most of our council members seem to possess? Council members who are not beholden to any special interests or political parties, and who are brave enough to stand up and let those special interests use them for target practice. Who is willing to take on that "volunteer" job? You?

I agree that the council has made some effort to negotiate a reasonable agreement, but pitting our amateur negotiators against the professionals has proven over and over to be a lose-win, with MP on the left side of that equation. My sense is that most of the council welcomed this referendum because it spared them from personal attacks from the unions (who next to be flushed down the toilet?)

So, who is going to step up to the plate and face the unions -- right now, our city's biggest challenge -- in 2010? Ned Moritz? truth? Somebody's gotta do it, lest our city be the next to be flushed away.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 25, 2010 at 12:05 pm

You both are acting like you have proof of a union council conspiracy. Do you? If so, let me have it. If not, why don't you run for office so your "facts" can be equally challenged?

It is always the same in this forum. I cannot and will not allow you to make fact of some garbage theory about collusion or bias or union fear.

Then you toss in disrespectful crap about the mayor, that he says nothing and so on.

The city is named in a lawsuit and you want our mayor to start making comments that could risk some outcome? What is wrong with you that your ideology has to overrule your logic?

I want my mayor to proceed with caution when facing union lawyers.

I don't need some hot head tea bagger who makes great three minute rants.

Run for the seat so I can see how much contrast you would have with the mayor and others on all the issues. I'll take the bet he and others would love the chance.


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Posted by Lulu
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

No conspiracy. None. But an individual council member or aspirant can be easily crushed by an adversary with money. We saw it happen in 2006 (used, by the way, against candidates I did not support, but I don't advocate a win-at-all-costs strategy). The council knows it has to tiptoe around the unions.

Re the lawsuit: that's a reality, and what I've read on this thread is that most people hope the city will step up and counterattack. If we lose this kind of challenge, we're perilously close to handing over the keys to city hall. I am sure McClure has told the council members to keep their mouths shut, though anyone who isn't living in a tabloid world would know that "no comment" is the only prudent response to such questions.

However, the discussion on this thread has not been about the nuances of defending the lawsuit but rather how we deal with the unions long-term. We need a strategy. Our council should not have to exist in fear of the unions playing whack-a-mole with them.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm

The unions have a very interesting view of democracy - only people whom they can control can decide how the taxpayers' money is spent.

Normally a law has to be passed before it can be declared as unconstitutional.

Until this initiative is voted on it is difficult to see what harm is done to the unions by having the proposed initiative on the ballot. Perhaps the union fears overwhelming support of this initiative by the voters.


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Posted by Compensation Professional
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 25, 2010 at 8:25 pm

This really is intimidation by the Unions -- particularly naming one of the supporters of the reform initiative in their lawsuit. They deserve all the disgust being heaped on them.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 25, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I have just read the actual lawsuit - it is stunning in that the union clearly wants to have the court prohibit the City Council from putting this initiative on the ballot, as is required of the City Council by the Elections Code section 9214 (b). Specifically, the union asks that "this Court issue a Premeptory Writ of Mandate directing the respondent City and all persons acting to is control and direction to refrain from taking any further actions to present the Act to voters..."

If the citizens cannot vote on a properly certified petition then where is our democracy?

Will the unions next ask the court to block the right of the citizens to elect the City Council and just give that fundamental right to the unions?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 25, 2010 at 10:02 pm

The Menlo Park City Council met in Closed Session today to discuss this lawsuit and then adjourned without reconvening in Open Session and reporting their action- in violation of the Brown Act which specifies:
"Report at the Conclusion of Closed Sessions
Once a closed session has been completed, the legislative body must convene in open session. (§ 54957.7(b).) If the legislative body took final action in the closed session, the body may be required to make a report of the action taken and the vote thereon to the public at the open session. (§ 54957.1(a).) The report may be made either orally
or in writing. (§ 54957.1(b).)"

At what point will the citizens demand to take back their right of governance?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm

As a result of my challenging the absence of an Open Session report following Friday's Closed Session, I received the following email this morning:

From: "Cline, Richard A" <RACline@menlopark.org>
Date: June 26, 2010 10:22:02 AM PDT
To: Peter Carpenter <peterfcarpenter@gmail.com>, _CCIN <councilmail@menlopark.org>, "McClure, William" <wlm@jsmf.com>
Subject: RE: Brown Act requirement for reporting out after a closed session

City Council voted 3-2 in closed session (Boyle, Cline and Fergusson ayes) to direct staff to collect more information related to the SEIU litigation and to reconvene in July to take the final action. City Council took no direct action related to the litigation.
****************


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, 7 hours ago

As a result of my challenging the absence of an Open Session report following Friday's Closed Session, I received the following email this morning:

From: "Cline, Richard A" <RACline@menlopark.org>

Date: June 26, 2010 10:22:02 AM PDT

To: Peter Carpenter <peterfcarpenter@gmail.com>, _CCIN <councilmail@menlopark.org>, "McClure, William" <wlm@jsmf.com>

Subject: RE: Brown Act requirement for reporting out after a closed session

City Council voted 3-2 in closed session (Boyle, Cline and Fergusson ayes) to direct staff to collect more information related to the SEIU litigation and to reconvene in July to take the final action. City Council took no direct action related to the litigation.

****************




You have got to be kidding...Cline not only told you the City Council took a vote in Closed Session, he also disclosed that vote.....

Unbelievable.........You can't make this stuff up......


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 27, 2010 at 10:17 am

So the council reports out of a closed session and now the tea baggers want to criticize that?

This is the best proof I can find that these guys are interested in only one thing, getting their own ideology on council.

Interested, care to step up and actually explain your comment?

I have no idea what you are talking about.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2010 at 10:30 am

Certainly......First I had initially disagreed with Peter Carpenter that the City needed to report out of Closed Session other than to say it took no action.

However according to Mr Cline, the City Council did indeed take action.If you are going to report action taken in Closed Session it should be reported out when the meeting reopens. Not in a private email to an individual.


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Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Hank Lawrence above wrote:

".... Richard Cline and Heyward Robinson voted to give the SEIU a 35% increase in pension benefits retroactive to the day they started work while simultaneously reduced the retirement age from 60 to 55. "

Hank (while trying to protect his favorite councilman John Boyle) doesn't tell the whole story of course.

The vote, as recorded in the Feb 27,2007 minutes was 5 - 0 (unanimous approval). That is Cline, Boyle, Fergusson, Robinson and Cohen all approved of the new contract.

Come on, Hank, your hero, John Boyle also approved the contract.

As I recall, if you will remember, Chuck Bernstein spoke with some passion about this --- he was ignored by all on the council.







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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 27, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Interested states:".If you are going to report action taken in Closed Session it should be reported out when the meeting reopens. Not in a private email to an individual."

I agree. However, it is not clear that such a report would have been made had I not raised the violation of the law in failing to report any consensus or direction or action. They in fact voted on what to do and in failing to immediately return to open session and report in that open session that action the council violated the law. The email which I received also went to others and may constitute proper notice - but I doubt it.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Yes Peter...Frightening though it may be, you and I are in complete agreement.....

If the action taken in Closed Session was not reportable, then Mr. Cline acted inappropriately in contacting you and relaying what occurred.

If the action was reportable, emails to individuals reporting that action does not meet the requirements of the Brown Act.


You and I may not agree on much, but I certainly share your belief that the Brown Act be adhered to, to the letter.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 27, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Posters are reminded that elected officials avoid reading this Forum like it is the plague. IF you want to get their attention you need to contact them directly with cc's to all of the local press.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Peter.....This IS the local press.....They read these forums like hawks...If Renee is not interested in this violation of the Brown Act yet, what makes you think an email from me will make her do her job.....


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 28, 2010 at 7:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interested states:"This IS the local press.....They read these forums like hawks.."

Sorry to disappoint you but very few people read this Forum compared to the readership of the weekly Almanac. This Forum consists of about 20 people who post and read each other comnents and then another 40-50 people who simply read what others post.

And my point was that elected officials avoid reading this Forum like it is the plague, not that the Almanac staff doesn't read the Forum.

If you want to reach elected officials this Forum is not the way to do it, you need to contact them directly. And the reason for cc'ing the press on your contacts with elected officials is so that the elected officials know that your communication with them has been shared with the press. Try this approach, it does get results as illustrated by this matter.


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Posted by Ann Haley
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jun 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Good for Peter Carpenter. We need more informed sources like him.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jun 28, 2010 at 2:22 pm

I find it interesting that some on this string call the law suit being filed by the union an intimation tactic. I thought this was a land of laws so if your not happy with something you file suit and so on. Intimidation is when you put the salaries of public employees on the internet and in the news paper along with their names, so you expose them and their families to all kinds of crazies, that is intimidation.......
BCPW


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Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 28, 2010 at 3:33 pm

How about a counter suit naming a few of the rank and file union members?


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Posted by do the right thing
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 28, 2010 at 4:15 pm

IF the city wont't/can't defend the lawsuit then who else are the citizens of menlo park supposed to turn to? The union is 75% of the city's general budget and is now bullying the citizens (who pay their salaries and outrageous benefits) who gathered the signatures to put a ballot initiative on the November.

The city should stand up for US for a change and remember WE are their constituents NOT the Unions who give them money to run for election. Enough already, do the right thing! Defend us against our own employees!


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm

BCPW, "truth", and other Union voices,

Having reviewed this thread ( I was out of town on business for a long time), it is amazing how fixed you all are. Ther constant messages appear to be:
"There is no problem"
"Anyone who thinks there is a problem is a teabagger"
"Taxpayers are all antiunion, and therefor unions are necessary"

In all the rantings, I hear what can only be described as insulting, divisive rheotoric and a refusal to make even a token effort to acknowledge that your wages are paid for by taxes from others. The overwhelming sense of entitlement that oozes from each post appears to defy a reasonable sustainable solution.

Collectively, your posts have convinced me that having a vote regarding the pension issue is not enouigh, there should frankly be a vote about maintaining any public services. In an economy where many are happy to have a job at all, your greed and sense of entitlement remains unbounded. You do a disservice to the number of good, decent people who are also public employees. Shame on you all.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 28, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Concerned parent:

you are absolutely correct. The Unions don't want this to go to the voters as they know they will lose. The fact is, in this state you CANNOT stop a proposition from being voted on due to "unconstitutionality." It has to be voted on and passed, THEN it can be ruled on. What this is, is a cynical ploy by the unions to intimidate voters.

The funny thing is that what they've most likely done is shot themselves in the foot. The courts won't rule in their favor and the electorate will see this for exactly the bullying tactic that it is. Ultimately they will lose and lose big. Any good feeling those of us in the middle of the road had for the unions just went down the toilet.


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Posted by gps
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 29, 2010 at 12:52 am

There is no such thing as a pension that can be properly funded. They are a stupid idea.

Give employees a 401k option like the rest of us have and stop lying about the future.


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Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2010 at 8:34 am

Concerned Parent and others,
So when the intimidation act doesn't work then you switch up to the "Same, Blame, Game". I have said before I am not a member of any union but this is why one is necessary. I believe there are some in Menlo Park and other Cities who would have their employees work for slave wages. A deal was made and a deal is a deal, the end, pay your bills. If you don't pay your bills you get sued right?
BCPW


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 29, 2010 at 9:20 am

BCPW states:"A deal was made and a deal is a deal, the end, pay your bills"

And when the deal is completed, or the current contract expires, then you negotiate a new deal/contract. All this proposed ordinance says is that there are limits as to what the citizens will accept in any such new deal/contract. So what is the problem? Do you think that the union has the right to the same benefits, not the ones that they have already earned but their future benefits, forever?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 29, 2010 at 9:30 am

For those of you who think "there is no problem" and have ignored post after post about the unsustainability of these pensions, you may wish to note the latest victim. Last night, the city of San Carlos, right here in San Mateo County, voted to dispand its police force. Web Link

Mr. Carpenter is correct. This initiative is about FUTURE benefits. BCPW, a deal's a deal and, for better or worse, taxpayers appear to be willing to live with it. Unfortunately, the unions do not appear to be willing to accept lower benefits for new employees that have yet to be hired.

The union is going to go down in flames on this one.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 29, 2010 at 10:11 am

As Pogo notes, San Carlos has decided to contract out its police services.

Look at this comparison and ask why Menlo Park should not do the same:
Menlo Park
As of the census of 2000, there were 30,785 people
17.4 square miles (45 km2), of which 10.1 square miles (26 km2) is land and 7.3 square miles (19 km2) is water. The total area is 41.88% water.
Police services budget $14,689,025
$477.148 per capita

San Carlos
The population was 27.238 in 2008
5.93 square miles
Police services via proposed Sheriff's contract $6,772,000
$248.62 per capita


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Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 29, 2010 at 10:19 am

BCPW,

For one who claims to be not a member of a union, you sure seem to have a rather strong pro-union bent. I'm confused as to what you considered to be intimidating about what I wrote. As far as I understand it, putting things up to a vote is hardly intimidation. Filing a suit to prevent future actions would appear to be much more intimidating. In terms of blame, there is plenty to go around. Politicians in collusion with public union leaders have created a "negotiation" in which there are not opposing forces. Both are in colusion against the public. Hence the need for all these closed sessions. As with the Wall Street mess, when peoiple find out what's been going on behind closed doors, they don't like it. In this case, the major costs for public employees have been obscured so they don't come due until the people making these committments are long gone. Union leaders appear to have a strategy of always asking for more with the apparent hope that if there is a need for any concessions that that will be further down the road. Neither party in these "negotiations" has a real incentive to take a long term responsible approach assuring sustainability and have not done so. This is what prompts my call of "Shame on you."
BCPW, your argument that public employee unions are necessary to avoid hardship is not supported by any fact. As best as I can tell, public employees are given a monopoly for certain work (note the sensitivity when anyone brings up outsourcing certain functions?). With the fixed pensions, the compensation can hardly be described as in the same neighborhood as the private sector. Just as a comparison, if one is contributing to a 401K plan, there is a limit as to how much you can save for retirement with tax advantage. If you want to save otherwise, it's after federal and state taxes (call the total 40%). That means that for the public worker getting a fixed pension based on 90% of their highest salary, who might have contributed $200K pre-tax over 30 years, and gets out >$2 million, they have received the equivalent of $@ million AFTER taxes, meaning a private sector worker would need to earn 40% more jsut to save the same amount. Hardly a level playing field and hardly what is fair to those who are actually paying the taxes. The more people learn about these generous pensions, the more people resent public employees and the unions who have raided the public coffers for their benefit and judging from the supporters on this board are shameless in wanting to continue to do so. Shame on you.


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Posted by I Told You So
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Just a little history for all of you. It's quite tragic, and comical at the same time, that two individuals namely Lee DuBoc and Mickie Winkler were ousted aggressively by the very people that are backing unions, and the unions themselves. These two voted down the increase in city pensions in 2006, the unions knew this and spearheaded a very nasty, aggressive campaign to get rid of them. In addition, both DuBoc and Winkler called for privatization of the pool, to save the community $500K annually, and they got "thrown under a bus" for that. These two individuals have fought hard to attempt to reduce our taxes, not toeing the union line, and for that they have been bashed on this blog continuously. Politics aside, we should be ashamed that this happened. I don't honestly care whether someone doesn't like their personalities, or they talked down to someone etc., they did the job, they in effect decreased our taxes!


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 29, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Fundamentally wrong. Why waste time with revisionists like the poster above? These two were perhaps the most disliked incumbents in decades. You have to work to lose like they did as incumbents.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Mickie Winkler and Lee Duboc were disliked because the SEIU, ASFME, and the San Mateo County Labor Council engaged in a campaign of lies, distortion and deceit that would have made Goebbels proud.

Mickie and Lee assiduously did the people's work. But that conflicted with the SEIU's and ASFME's avarice. So those two unions and the San Mateo County Labor Council deployed a huge war chest of funds extorted from their membership and purcased the election for Wayward Heyward and Ridiculous Rich. And months later Heward and Rich paid back the Unions with an egregious increase in pension benefits and a huge roll-back in the retirement age that in a few years will have the City of Menlo Park tottering in the brink of financial ruin.

The Unions and the far left lied and unfortunately enough people bought those lies. Jon Corzine did the same thing in New Jersey. He was the Chairman of Goldman Sachs and bought the New Jersey Gubernatorial election only to get bounced out 4 years later by Chris Christie. Goodbye and Good riddance to Corzine and may Heyward Robinson and Rich Cline suffer the same fate.


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Posted by I Told You So
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 29, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Great response Truth, if I had made a bet I would have had you down as the #1 individual to respond. Always ready to pounce on more negative comments about these two. And yet again, no facts or numbers to support your ridiculous comments. Thank you again for your support of unions, and the pensions that are running this town, this state, into the ground.
Nice job.


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Posted by Lulu
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm

The unions did their best to polish off Lee and Mickie in 2006. That in itself is disturbing, but on the other hand, the two had to go. Apart from the pool fiasco (refusing to charge rent on our brand new pool when the contractor had offered to pay it!) they were notoriously rude to the residents. If the council chambers were full of people who came to protest a particular ruling, Mickie, Lee, and Nicholas would openly scoff at the speakers and then ignore everything that had been said.

Lee was fond of referring to the "silent majority." Her stance was that if 300 people came to a council meeting to complain about a council action, that meant that 29,000 residents supported the action because they hadn't come to the meeting. Twisted logic, eh?

They had no problem accepting the union endorsement when they ran in 2002, by the way. Many of us worked on their behalf to help them get elected then and lived to regret our support.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 30, 2010 at 6:24 am

The pool rent would have been a pass through. Everyone using the pool would have had to pay more. The Council decided, like it has with gym and othe city wide programs, that when a large number of resident use that service the City will absorb some of the costs. It is the old fee based vs. tax based argument. You can go either way and there is no great harm to doing either. But to portray a common city government practice as unsavory just does not hold water.

These are desparate people attrmpting to create a diversion from the real issue and that is Mickie and Lee saved the residents about $400,000 a year even with no rent. The unions were outraged because Mickie and Lee temporarily thwarted their empire building which, as always, comes at the expense of the residents.

Good for Mickie and Lee for standing up to Union corruption.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 30, 2010 at 8:27 am

Stay focused - this is a very important issue, perhaps the most important local issue of our day.

This thread is not about former politicians and swimming pools, it is about the unions filing a lawsuit to prevent voters from having a say in pension reform. This attempted subversion of democracy is truly breath taking.

Fortunately, I think their day has finally come. The union leadership just may have succeeded in killing their golden goose...


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Posted by Lulu
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Note that in Palo Alto the unions have conceded. Web Link

@Hank: in many peninsula cities, the pool is a profit center. No reason the same couldn't have been true here. The old pool was expensive because it was falling apart; that's no longer the case. And by the way, I do believe that users rather than the taxpayers in general should foot most of the costs.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I support the 2@60 arrangement. I don't support a group of you who's sole intent is to take cheap pot shots at council members past and present. It is disgraceful. Lee and Mickie lost by a large margin, that is the fact. To blame unions is just ridiculous.

I don't support revisionist history and that is my point. Lulu is 100% right. By law you have to run an open RFP for contracts on outsourcing. The pool did not go through an RFP.

Back to the topic, times have changed and unions need to change with the times. Nothing I have written has been other than that.


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Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm

The entire area the ALMANAC serves is loosely referred to by outsiders as SILICON VALLEY and it is not far fetched to say that people responding to this long debate, have no idea what a beating union members have taken in the past 15 years and have slowly had attempts to deregulate them when they were at their weakest in Las Vegas and Hollywood.
What people do not realize is that union members are mostly way more patriotic and involved with the country based on their camraderie and their long standing "close to the right" AMERICAN values, because most of their members are now older, and during their time of memberships (it is extremely difficult to get into a union and sometimes takes a long time to take the rigid tests)Granted, the majority of these people are NOT college educated, or sophisticated in the worldly sense, BUT, they are accountable for all of their actions and back by their memberships.
Unlike councils, which have more flakes in this SAN MATEO COUNTY and environs,they are loyal and stand their grounds based on their laws.
Unions used to have the stigma of being "mob organized", but that was not different than our government, which profits 1000% more than the average hard working or union card holding member.
Peter Carpenter is an intelligent and thoughtful person who does not agree with the support I have for this situation in favor of the unions, who were struck in more than economic ways like the "elitist" members of the Peninsula, who vote in the most overrated and innefectual members who affect the lives of all who are not part of the "group" which is coming down on them for demanding their rights. I find the attitude of most posters condescending, not informed, and straying away from the basic truths of what these members of unions represent. I have asked which unions are involved, and gone ignored. I don't care. I know that when the country gets back on its feet, it is going to want to have the Unions on their side.
A neighbor, TESLA in Palo Alto, is an example of how the uneducated mind sees the IPO's of the future and how they will make money building an exclusive auto which saves gasoline(not for the environement in most cases)BUT, because they want their stock to grow like it has by doubling since a post I mentioned that was never put online. My personal opinion is that it is racist in parts, elitist all over, and appears to be supported by the GREEDY and even this online paper.TESLA without unions, has not a chance of success as long as it appeals to the upper 1% whose voices are to be found right here before this post of mine. THE most important story dealing with the economy and "venture capitalism" is made into a magical wunderkind but NOT A WORD has been mentioned here in regards to the economic analysis of the future of this company.Just that the venture continues in spite of the death of one of the locals.
What crap.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm

"What crap."

pretty much sums up Mr. Gordon's posts.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 1, 2010 at 6:49 am

There is something wrong with Rich Gordon's circuitry. The Unions are ruining this country. They have accelerated the exodus of U.S. manufacturing jobs. The were needed 100 years ago; but are an anachronism today. All the Public Unions are doing is bankrupting cities statewide and nationwide. This avarice has to be stopped if cities are to remain viable.


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Posted by I Told You So
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 1, 2010 at 10:43 am

Maybe Rich Gordon needs to go to a Union Electrician to fix his bad "circuitry", but then again, he probably can't afford their outlandish hourly charges. Bottomline: I don't care what union it is, they demand, fight for, and assume it is their right to get paid inflated compensation because "they're union". I purposely spend extra time looking for ways NOT to pay union wages, on anything I do in life. It's a very simple concept, why buy an apple at Whole Foods for $2.00, when you can buy one at Safeway for $1.00? We now have generations of people [Portion removed, terms of use] off at the government for destroying industries like steel, textile, auto etc.? Was it REALLY the government's fault that these companies paid overinflated costs for their products, because the union's demanded it? Where is Norma Ray now?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 1, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Unions per se are NOT the problem. The problem is union leadership which has demanded far too much in the way of salaries and pensions and the elected officials who have given it to them without looking at the long term costs.

Wise union leaders across the country are renegotiating the inflated salaries and benefits in order to survive; those that don't will hang on awhile longer but they will then will go the way of the Detroit automakers and the airlines.


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Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Mr. Carpenter, as usual, makes the most profound comment about the subject and does not eliminate the leadership just as much as you all ignored Dubya Bush for his disastrous presidency and the loss of out airline industry along with our auto industry..TESLA, locally is going to heal THAT. At $100,000 a pop, if you want an electric car now, it is because those of you who can afford one are not concerned who builds it, or how and what the assembly workers will get paid or if they will demand healt programs....La Ronde, for those who speak French and know the cynicism of your own thinking.
There are a lot of union members who worked for 30 years and are now getting ready to retire and know that IF America is going to recover even a fraction when building HSR, roads, bridges,and repairing delapidated structures across the U.S., you will not even be able to get your Latina nannies brother to help, or your illegal gardener's who you fired, be able to help. Just our lazy computer wimps who have never had a job in their lives....your kids who got in college with the lowest scores in history.
If nothing else, tie what will happen to your children by going to the following site:
Web Link
Surely, none of you can deny the truth in this entertaining piece which does not mention hatred about anyone, but makes a valid point about all of your progeny.


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Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Correction on that link address. IT IS FANTASTIC.

Web Link

Please enjoy what you have contributed to our youth and do not bother to thank me.


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