I do not support the existing parcel tax, and believe it will fail. However, I would rather light a candle than curse the Town of Atherton's darkness. Here is a list of reforms that, if implemented, will win my support for a revised parcel tax next spring:
1. Leverage the enormous talent we have in Atherton from the legal and business worlds (founders of major law firms, CEOs, retired judges) to form an emergency legal committee to both settle all existing litigation and decide whether new conflicts proceed to litigation or get resolved according to guidelines set by this committee. We can't trust the opinion of the city attorney because they simply make too much money when litigation occurs, and a reasonable view is that the resulting legal mess is simply that process in action.
2. Commission a study from an unbiased, professional consultant to determine whether Atherton can afford the existing police department or outsourcing/combining with Menlo Park, Redwood City, or the Sheriff makes sense. The results of the study will be sent to residents, and residents will vote on the issue of outsourcing or the status quo at that time. Note this is an issue study, not an opinion survey.
3. In the meantime, a new civilian police oversight board of residents will be established to investigate and resolve, in conjunction with the Chief of Police, any issues in the police department related to human resources and community relations. The chairperson of this board will be the civilian Police Commissioner of Atherton, and will jointly make recommendations to the entire committee with the Police Chief. The committee will have final word.
4. Any raise for the city manager or any individual reporting to the city manager, in excess of 10% above the annual cost of living as measured by the consumer price index, will be submitted to a vote of the residents of Atherton.
5. Any conflict with a resident of Atherton regarding zoning, improvements, urns, etc. will proceed to mediation that the Town of Atherton will pay for. This will be far cheaper than lawsuits, and mediation has a very high success rate. Any conflict with an employee of the Town of Atherton may be referred to similar mediation by the legal committee recommended in item #1.
6. The Town of Atherton will hire a retired judge from either Santa Clara or San Mateo County to supervise composition of these committees (and consultants for the survey) and make appointments based on the recommendations of residents, staff and council members. S/he will have the final word on composition of these committees and consultants and will retain supervision over the committees. This must be done to avoid stacking these committees with people who will pursue pre-defined agendas.
7. A new parcel tax will be calculated next spring based on the cost savings of #1, #2 and #4, and submitted to the residents of the Town of Atherton for approval.