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Does our City Council Deserve a Passing Grade?

Original post made by smarter voter, Atherton: Lloyden Park, on Jul 1, 2010

In 2000, Jerry Carlson wrote a short essay on why he intended to vote no on Measure C.

As reasons for voting against Measure C, a proposed renewal of the Parcel Tax, Mr. Carlson cited a need for cost cutting, improved financial controls and an expectation of greater community involvement.

As we all know, Mr. Carlson was appointed to the City Council to fill the late Bill Conwell\'s seat in 2005. In late 2006, he was re-elected without opposition.

In his six years on the City Council, Jerry Carlson has enjoyed stays at four star hotels at taxpayer expense while trying to promote his business. He has voted to use taxpayer money to finance a lawsuit against high speed rail so that his home will not decline in value.

Jerry Carlson has presided over a nearly 50 percent increase in the Town\'s cost of doing business while giving the budget nothing more than a perfunctory review.

Instead of promoting volunteerism, Mr. Carlson chose to exclude from the Finance Committee one of the brighest, most innovative and energetic young entrepreneurs in Town because this individual expressed a legitimate concern over the conduct of the Town\'s police force.

Mr. Carlson also stood idly by as the Town\'s best finance director in generations was run out of town on a rail in retaliation for an audit that Mr. Carlson spearheaded.

The Atherton City Council, might,just might deserve a passing grade. If Mr. Carlson were in grade school however he would more certainly than not be held back.

Comments (1)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Evidence
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm

The full text of Carlson's letter. JERRY, CAN YOU SAY "DO AS I SAY AND NOT AS I DO?"

Jerome W. Carlson
95 Mt. Vernon Lane
Atherton, CA 94027

February 12, 2000

Re: Why I am Voting NO on Measure "C" [Parcel Tax]

The continuation of the parcel tax should be deferred until the town council has considered other alternatives, including a) implementing cost cutting recommendations of acting City Manager Ralph Freedman; b) implementing an effective system of internal controls to avoid past errors in fund expenditures; c) implementing other potential revenue sources; d) implementing a program to encourage broader community "volunteerism" in various town functions; and e) continuing to build on the acting city manager's "openness" with the town's citizens.

The Council needs to follow-up on the City Manager's recommendations for cost cutting and improved program efficiencies as presented at the last budget review meeting. The town council needs to commit to its citizens that it understands and accepts its responsibility for ensuring there is an adequate system of internal controls. It has the responsibility of "setting the tone" for the type of internal control environment the town adopts. The council needs to demonstrate it is listening and heeding the comments and recommendations made by the town's outside accountants, consultants and citizens who have presented detailed findings of significant internal control weaknesses. During the past year significant tax dollars were spent to "fix" problems created by control weaknesses, including deficient hiring procurement practices and policies.

The City Manager has suggested possible additional revenue sources to fund current community services, including charging for "free" security alarm monitoring service. Some maintain the original parcel tax enactment was to cover such "free service". If so, this benefit has been used by half the house holds. The non-using households are basically subsidizing the users for a substantial benefit not normally offered by other community police services. A commercial monitoring service is charging my home $37 per month. This additional level of optional police service should be charged to users based on market rates and not subsidized by the rest of the community. The combination of recommended cost savings and revenue enhancements would allow those community services benefiting all the town's citizens could be maintained without a parcel tax.

Encouraging active involvement in helping to serve the community through volunteer efforts would not only enrich the lives of the participants, but also help to accomplish some much-needed tasks for the community. The former City Manager discouraged such volunteerism because of his concern about potential town liability. Since many other towns encourage active citizens to volunteer, they most certainly have found a way to address this issue satisfactorily.

Credibility in the town's governing process has suffered during the past couple of years and needs time to be restored. The City Manager's program of reaching out to the citizens to hear their concerns it to be commended. His willingness to share information and to confront tough issues head-on is commendable. Since there is no "guarantee" that the interim city manager's replacement or the town council will be of the same mind set, if the parcel tax is approved, the only leverage citizens have is to defer its approval.

If, at a future time, the town leaders have demonstrated to the citizens their implementation of the above measures, the community should seriously address the enactment of a parcel tax for use solely for capital improvements in the town's infrastructure (roads, streets, drainage, etc.). The parcel tax should be used as an "investment" in the city's future and not as a source to augment general on-going operations.

The proponents of Measure "C" would lead you to believe that services will have to be curtailed and the town will be in danger of dire consequences, but nothing could be further from the truth. Fortunately, will [sic] have an interim city manager who has a credible plan for keeping Atherton a special community for all of us to live in, but the town's council must confront the issues that are still unresolved and implement needed reforms in the governance proces.s

Sincerely,

Jerry Carlson


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