Note: Rich Cline is one of six candidates for three seats on the Menlo Park City Council.
I attended the Save the Pool Rally yesterday. I wanted to listen to what folks had to say on the topic, and I felt that it was important for a city council candidate to respect all opinions and represent. Aside from the fact that no one candidate for council has publicly threatened the Menlo Swim program -- a claim set forth by many slate supporters -- the fact that residents were gathering to voice concern seemed valid.
Needless to say, this event kind of took a different turn. I wouldn't say this was planned, but the end result was an embarrassing collage of anger, finger pointing and shouting matches. Unfortunately there were several children in attendance who were able to see first-hand how not to handle a disagreement. Some of the children even played a hand in the ridiculousness.
I did not plan to speak -- but when I was asked by my slate opponents to answer questions relating to the pool, the unions and child care, I respectfully obliged. I am not sure if anyone heard my answers over the shouting but I tried. If you wish to know my position on these issues, please visit my website at Web Link.
During my Q&A session I had sitting council members shouting accusations, deriding me and cutting me off … yes, just like our current city council meetings. We all witnessed one slate supporter walk up and bump one of the challengers and shout in his face.
The big point here is that at no time did any of the three host slate candidates try to regain control of the event or try to restore civility. All three encouraged the racous behavior.
I asked some of the attendees several times to calm down, stop shouting and just ask the questions, which I was willing to answer. Some folks did settle down, and I thank them for that, others just couldn't get past themselves.
This event was like a small representation of what is wrong with our city right now. There is much resentment and lots of anger. It seems Menlo Park is now more about the politics than the issues, and that is sad. I reiterate what I have said throughout this campaign. When an organization or a community is suffering from dissention, low morale and lack of unity, who do you blame? Do you blame the people in the organization or community?
No. You blame leadership. Good leaders stand up and take responsibility and work to find common ground. Leaders don't polarize for personal gain, and they don't relish in unprofessional shouting matches as the slate did yesterday.
The fact is Menlo Park is listing like a wounded ship. Our rudder is broken and our captain and crew are blaming us.
It is time for new leadership.
We can shout if we want to, that is our right. But we can also express ourselves quietly and with dignity when we vote for our next city council.