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Are Winkler/Duboc/Boyle REALLY Kid-Friendly???

Original post made by Take Back Menlo Park! on Nov 2, 2006

From Take Back Menlo Park! www.TakeBackMenloPark.com

REALITY CHECK: Are Winkler/Duboc/Boyle REALLY "Kid-Friendly"? - Not Exactly!

A slick flyer recently mailed to residents by Winkler/Duboc/Boyle in support for Measure J (the advisory measure on Playing Fields at Bayfront) stresses the supposed "kid-concerned/kid-friendly" nature of Winkler/Duboc/Boyle, complete with a sickly-sweet picture of the three holding sports equipment. But just how "kid-friendly" have Winkler/Duboc REALLY been while in office?

Well, look no further than the playing fields issue itself along with the city's childcare programs (both at Belle Haven and especially at Burgess) to get your answer:

PLAYING FIELDS AT BAYFRONT PARK

What Winkler/Duboc hope you won't stop to think about is that their FIRST CHOICE for Bayfront Park was putting in a GOLF COURSE - not exactly a "kid-friendly" plan. The DEVELOPER was the one who proposed putting in some playing fields as a means to attract public support for the project. Now, of course, Winler/Duboc want you to think that they REALLY wanted to JUST put playing fields in the park all along. And even worse, it certainly appears that Measure J is merely a thinly-disguised political ploy by Winkler/Duboc/Boyle aimed at getting themselves elected and that they have NO REAL INTENTION of ever putting in playing fields at Bayfront (unless it is tied into some other development project like the original Bayfront Golfcourse Proposal).

BELLE HAVEN CHILDCARE PROGRAMS

What many people may not be aware of (or may have forgotten) is that when the specific budget-reduction strategies were released by the city manager back at the beginning of this year, the proposals listed included both:

-- Eliminating either 1 or 2 classrooms at the Belle Haven Child Development Center (which provides full-time licensed childcare services to children ages 3-5 years old) - equivalent to cutting up to one-half the entire program!

-- "Restructuring" the Belle Haven School Age Child Care Program (which serves young children in K-6 grades). And what did "restructuring" actually mean - well, instead of a quality licensed childcare program, it would have become a "recreation camp-style program" - basically, an extended open-recess program devoid of the educational aspects (such as a homework assistance/reading program) that were being offered under the original program.

As you might well expect, Belle Haven parents were (rightfully) outraged and packed the city council chambers at their next meeting (which was standing-room only) to fight the proposed cuts. And led by the efforts of Councilman Cohen, those cuts were "taken off the table."
Now you may say, well that's just what the city manager proposed and Winkler and Duboc had nothing to do with it. But think about it - do you REALLY think that the city manager is going to publicly propose specific budget cuts without at least the tactic approval of those cuts in advance by the Winkler/Duboc/Jellins council majority? Would YOU propose something to the general public without at least getting an approving "wink and a nod" from your boss beforehand?

Oh, and by the way, another proposed budget cut targeting Belle Haven that would have significantly affected kids as well was the call to either reduce the Belle Haven pool schedule by 50% - or close the pool entirely! Now THAT'S not exactly kid-friendly!
BURGESS CHILDCARE PROGRAMS

Unlike the Belle Haven case, where outraged parents easily beat back the draconian cuts proposed for childcare, Burgess childcare parents have been fighting Winkler and Duboc for years over the childcare program, first in terms of getting a new childcare facility built (with "new" then being replaced by "cheaply renovated") and then in terms of turning over operations to a private contractor - a fight that Winkler/Duboc/Boyle have already vowed to continue, "however much the currents users (parents) object," according to a Sept 2 Winkler email to her supporters.

While there are many different aspects to this story, which is also full of mystery and intrigue, here are the condensed highlights:

-- Prior to moving into a different - but not completely new - facility this May, the city's full-time licensed daycare program was apparently housed for years in "Menlo's Children's Center" (MCC) which was nothing more than a couple of old construction trailers wedged together (a "trailer park," if you will). It was classic "temporary" housing that became semi-permanent.
In 2001, Measure T (the $38 million bond measure aimed at updating the city's deteriorating recreation facilities) was being put up for voter approval that November. Seeing that, based on a telephone survey of residents, the addition of a "new" childcare facility to the list of projects to be funded under the measure would help ensure its overall passage, such a facility was added to the list of projects to be undertaken. And as a member of the Measure T Steering Committee, Ms. Duboc apparently personally recruited childcare parents to help gain passage of the measure, with the "carrot" of a "new" childcare facility thrown in front of them.

-- Well, once Ms. Duboc become a council member in 2002, she started changing her tune and, along with Ms. Winkler, started arguing - in a classic President Clinton hair-splitting fashion – that "new" didn't really mean "new" at all but rather "refurbished." As a result, the "new" childcare facility that opened in May is actually just the OLD police headquarters (complete with a firing range in its basement), cheaply refurbished (the "new" extension, the part closest to Laurel street, is apparently just a "temporary"-type building - there's no foundation flooring there, so the floor is literally "bouncy" - gee, just what you want for housing a bunch of young kids!). And to add insult to injury, the so-called "toddler" portion of the program (serving the youngest kids) has been effectively eliminated with the move, as there apparently is inadequate space available to offer that particular program.

-- And at the same time that "new" became "cheaply renovated" under Winkler/Duboc, the "privatization fight" reared its ugly head, first offered up by Ms. Winkler as a means to help pay for the new/refurbished facility and more recently this year due to the supposed budget crunch (see more on the overall alleged budget crunch issue here). This led to the absolute farce that took place this summer when Winkler/Duboc/Jellins bypassed actually examining the issue and its relative merits and instead dove right in to trying to privatize the program ASAP with the issuance of a formal Request For Proposal (RFP - the standard process used by cities to obtain formal bids from private contractors to provide a service or product).

-- The RFP timing itself was very revealing: It came right after the "new" facility was opened in May (thereby allowing potential bidders a good "look-see" at the facility which, being newly refurbished, likely looked quite spic-and-span and certainly must have looked much, much better than the old MCC trailer park), but was rushed ahead (at Ms. Winkler's insistence) to be finished up by the end of September - thereby allowing just enough time to complete and sign a long-term binding contract with a private contractor BEFORE the November elections when Winkler/Duboc/Jellins seats were all up for election.

-- However, as has been seen before with other "rush-jobs" attempted by Winkler/Duboc/Jellins, things went horribly wrong. First, likely due to a combination of a bad RFP document being put out in a haste by the city, along with a spreading word on the street that the parents were dead set against privatization as they loved the care provided by existing program, just two "firms" ended up submitting a formal bid to take over the program. Then it turns out that one "firm" wasn't really a firm at all, but just something on paper - plus their "bid" didn't even include cost figures, so it wasn't even a "bid" at all. Then it was revealed that the one real firm that actually submitted a real bid had major problems, having apparently been written up eight times over the previous two years by social services - not exactly a record that would make a parent comfortable sending their kid to. And this revelation came forth NOT from the city (who you would think would have done a background check here), but rather by the union (which might well account for all the union-bashing that Winkler/Duboc/Boyle have been doing this election campaign). But did all this deter Winkler/Duboc/Jellins from their quest? No, as even in light of all this, they voted to continue the process in late August. And Mr. Boyle? As part of the RFP Committee, it turns out he was the ONLY one on the 9-person committee (which included several childcare experts) to vote for the private firm in a preliminary vote. No, in the bitter end what finally did everything in was that the lone private firm that bid pulled their bid just before a formal interview was to take place - likely because they didn't want to talk about those pesky violations, although

-- Winkler/Duboc/Boyle tried to make a huge stink over an anonymous letter apparently sent to the private firm warning them of what they were getting themselves into (the letter was subsequently posted on the city council's email log for public viewing by the writers after Ms. Winkler apparently tried to get the city attorney to somehow sue them for writing the letter in the first place - you can still read it there today, if you want). To top it all off, Ms. Winkler then tried to link the anonymous letter to the union, who took great offense and threatened to sue her for the implication. (All-in-all, just another day in Winkler/Duboc/Jellins' neighborhood, it seems.)
Lost in the shuffle of all this was the collapse of the original rationale for privatization of the program in the first place - it turns out that after Ms. Winkler and Duboc loudly proclaimed cost savings of $444,000 with privatization (which made headlines and was included in every news story), the official savings estimate by city staff subsequently came in at just $72,000 - mere peanuts in a city budget of some $30 MILLION.

-- Incredibly - and showing absolutely no shame after ALL that occurred - Winkler/Duboc/Boyle have none-the-less pledged on their campaign website to "rebid the child-care center," with Ms. Winkler going a defient step farther writing in a Sept 2 email to her supporters: "Should we re-bid this childcare program, however much the current users and unions object? I think we should." All we can say is: WOW!

DOES ANY OF THIS SOUND EVENLY REMOTELY LIKE THE ACTIONS AND ATTITUDES OF PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY "KID-FRIENDLY"?

LESSONS LEARNED:
-- Don't believe what you read from Winkler/Duboc/Boyle: Look at their real record and use common-sense when evaluating things.
-- A picture of them happily smiling while holding some sports equipment DOESN'T make them "kid-friendly" - it's just a photo-op, after all!

Comments (8)

Posted by MPworkingMom, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2006 at 5:36 pm

Another reason why Belle Haven childcare programs escaped the chopping block Besides the fact that beating up on poor kids makes for bad PR?
Many Menlo Children's Center parents are not US citizens, and cannot vote in the upcoming council election.

Working parents, foreign Stanford graduate students and high tech professionals from around the world send their kids to MCC because they believe in the value of high quality child care. They are targeting MCC's wonderful international community because they know it will cost them relatively few votes on election day.


Posted by MPTaxPayer, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 3, 2006 at 11:59 am

Why do the people of Menlo Park have to pay for foreign Stanford graduate students and high tech professionals from around the world child care in the first place. It would seem more fair to me if they did not drive the 2nd BMW and went ahead and paid for their own childcare.


Posted by MPworkingMom, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:11 pm

Actually, MPTaxPayer, they are Menlo Park residents and tax payers just like you and I, regardless of their citizenship.

They are the people of Menlo Park.

Non-residents pay substantially higher childcare fees than Menlo Park residents do -- I have yet to meet any nonresidents who have kids at MCC, if there are any, because priority goes to residents.

So you might want to step off your xenophobic soap box on this one.

If you want to talk about fair, why don't you try to get some numbers out of the city that shows the size of the taxpayer subsidy of for-profit developers using the planning department? I bet it'll dwarf the small amount the city is paying to give its youngest residents safe, healthy child care.

I'll ignore your ridiculously snippy comment about driving a second BMW. Clearly, if you feel the values of a retired millionaire running for council are more in line with your own, you're not going to understand the concerns of working parents struggling to do the best they can for their kids.


Posted by ChildcareDad, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 3, 2006 at 2:06 pm

MPTaxPayer:

I've REALLY gotten tired of you and your "Mickie Winkler ilk" still trying to spread the BIG LIE that childcare is "heavily subsidized" or - as you imply - totally free. I PAY THE CITY $1100 A MONTH FOR DAYCARE FOR MY KID - DOES THAT SOUND LIKE A SUBSIDIZED FEE TO YOU!

The fact of the matter is that - as reported in The Almanac - our fees pay all but $4500 of the program costs and that means that the city is recovering some 99% of program costs!

And by the way, those rich folks with a BMW (like council candidates Boyle and Duboc) have a NANNY that watches their "gold-spoon-in-the-mouth" kids - they'd NEVER let their kids mingle with mere commoners like my kid in dreaded city daycare.


Posted by mptaxpayer, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 3, 2006 at 3:57 pm

Blah, blah, blah, it still is in fact subsidized. Where is the mandate that the city needs to be in the childcare business in the 1st place?


Posted by ChildcareWatcher, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 3, 2006 at 9:34 pm

"Blah, blah, blah, it still is in fact subsidized." That's one HECK of a convincing arguement there against ChildcareDad, MPTaxpayer.

As for your second statement, "Where is the mandate that the city needs to be in the childcare business in the 1st place?":
That mandate came back when Measure T was passed. Childcare was relegated to a couple of piss-poor trailers on the "back 40" when it was determined through citizen polling that Measure T would pass IF a new city childcare facility was added to the list of projects. So Lee Duboc (as head of the Measure T committee) got childcare added to the list and Measure T passed overwhelmingly. There's your mandate.



Posted by MeasureTWasTheMandate, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 4, 2006 at 12:28 am

Measure T was the mandate for the community to spend public money on the facilities. The facility was advertised openly as part of Measure T, and recieved nearly 70% of the vote.

Was is untrue is that the *SERVICE* is subsidized. Is it not. It is false information spread by Winkler and Duboc that the service is subsidized. To read Almanac articles debunking this read here Web Link and here Web Link

One last nuance:

Since 1996 MCC child care programs and gymnastics were both programs, the only city programs to fully recover their costs.

When new city manager David Boesch came on board, he was hired, in part because he promised to bring a new "service-based" budgeting approach to Menlo Park, which has been implemented recently.

In a traditional "department-based" budgeting approach, there is a community services department, and all costs associated with child card services were within that department. But with a service-base budget approach, some portion of city overhead --management, city hall electricity, the computer department, etc-- is also factored in to the costs of the program.

In other words, recently the entire budgeting system was changed over.

Winkler and Duboc haven't really told anyone about this. Instead they quote the new service-based figures, particularly the unrecovered overhead costs, to prove that MCC is not full cost recovery, but this is dishonest, and they do not apply that same new standard to every other program in the city, including for example gymnastics.

Under the new system, no program recovers its costs.


Posted by Kid Friendly, a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Nov 6, 2006 at 1:38 pm

I agree with the thoughts of most of these readers, and I want to add another election development that has really made me realize the slate candidates are NOT kid friendly at all:
The endorement highlighted in the Almanac newspaper and on a postcard slick by a Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation Co President was used to try to influence school families to vote for them. Did they not realize this could do significant damage to the MPAEF? I think they did, but chose to use the title with the name for their own political gain, regardless of the price to the very kids they say they are friendly to. They say they are kid friendly but their actions say otherwise in so many ways.


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