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Town Square

Atherton: Parcel tax opponents miss deadline for ballot argument

Original post made on Aug 27, 2013

There will be no ballot argument against Atherton's parcel tax renewal measure in November — but not for lack of trying on the part of several civic-minded residents, including former mayor Kathy McKeithen, who want assurances that tax proceeds won't enable the town to overpay its police officers.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 28, 2013, 12:00 AM

Comments

Posted by Jim, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm

According to stories the Council has been discussing Outsourcing since 2010:

Uploaded: Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 7:16 AM

"Atherton residents get nervous over outsourcing

by Renee Batti"

Uploaded: Friday, May 17, 2013

"Atherton residents address police contract issues, from outsourcing to pensions by Renee Batti


Here is the ballot argument in favor of the measure. It is signed by all 4 councilmembers:

"The parcel tax is not a new tax. It is a renewal of the Town's existing parcel tax which has been supported by the residents for the last 30+ years. As before, this tax will last four years and raises approximately $1.86M annually, equaling $7.5M over the four year term. The tax is about about $750 per household for most residential parcels.

All parcel tax revenue goes directly to the Town, while only 9% of regular property tax revenue is received by the Town. Parcel tax revenue will continue to be allocated as a budget supplement for our public safety and crime prevention services and also fund capital improvements for street, drainage and flood control projects which have often been ignored.

While it is true, that the Town's financial situation has improved over the last two years, the parcel tax remains a critical funding source for many pressing capital improvement projects while also helping to maintain our current police services and the critical 9-1-1 capabilities.
Atherton receives little sales tax revenue and has few other sources. Whenever possible, grants are obtained to help fund capital projects; however grants are scarce in this economic climate. The Town acts prudently with your money and has received clean Audits. The Town scrutinizes budget expenditures to reduce costs where appropriate including the elimination of our long term liabilities.

Without the parcel tax our current reserves, which are for future economic uncertainties and emergencies, would be depleted.

The parcel tax renewal requires a two-third's majority. Please renew the parcel tax so that your local government can continue to provide the safety, security, road repairs, drainage and flood control work necessary to maintain the quality of life we all enjoy.

Please vote Yes for Atherton."

The unsolicited endorsement brought attention to the fact that the council had outsourced Public Works and Building and that the council could demand 20% reduction in salary and pension for Police or outsource.












Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 27, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Let's see, you've outsourced just about every service in your town yet you won't even consider doing it with police services? Why?


Posted by reality, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 28, 2013 at 12:55 am

So odd - the article is about missing the opportunity to inform the voters and how that opportunity was missed, yet the posters above launch into a rabid argument that has nothing to do with the article.

Someone screwed up. Is the rest of their debate as flawed?


Posted by reality, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 28, 2013 at 12:57 am

And the menlo park fella is so vociferous! Have a bad experience doing 50 in a 35, coming though Atherton? Get over it.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 28, 2013 at 7:22 am

reality:

no, I've never had a bad experience with the Atherton Police, but I know at least a couple Atherton residents that have. Falsified police report anyone?


Posted by Jim, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 28, 2013 at 7:22 am

To Reality,

By not submitting their Argument Against by August 15th and having the Almanac print and post it on line, those in favor of the Parcel Tax do not get the opportunity to respond. The result could be more effective for the Opposition than being in the voters guide with a response by the council.

The council had meetings in July and early August to draft the ballot measure by August 15th. How is the Opposition was not aware of the August 15th deadline? Did the town do something to hide the August 15th date or was the Opposition not wanting to give the Council the chance to respond to their viewpoint by just submitting a Rebuttal to the Pro?

A Council Rebuttal might look like this:


The council has been discussing Police Outsourcing since 2010. At the May council meeting only three people spoke in favor of outsourcing.

Outsourcing would likely reduce costs, but a majority of the residents oppose Outsourcing. Therefore we have been in contract talks with the Police aware of the financial problems unfunded pensions have placed on the state and other towns. Should more residents want to outsource the police, comments can always be made during public comments.

As a showing of financial concerns the council has not asked for an increase in the Parcel Tax in eight years.

Forty percent of the Parcel Tax or more than $700,000.00 will go to needed Capital Improvements, this was not mentioned in the Argument Against.

A benefit of the Parcel Tax is that it is Tax Deductible.

The Council did outsource Public Works and the Building Department in recent years. We will seek a fair and competitive contract with the police.







Posted by Fiscally responsible, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 28, 2013 at 7:55 am

"We will seek a fair and competitive contract with the police."

There is no reason, none, that the council can't prove this point before a vote is taken on the parcel tax. I would point out the council hasn't even promised this, but even if they did, they can do so, and then ask for the parcel tax renewal in the spring.

Currently, the parcel tax vote is set up as an end run against voters actually being able to verify that the one item (police contract) that is negotiable and the main purpose for the parcel tax will be handled appropriately.

Right now there is no question, absolutely none, that the police in Atherton are grossly overpaid. Atherton is the only city in California making the pension contribution for the officer in addition to Atherton's own. In Menlo Park, the cop makes part of the city's contribution also. The officer's pension contribution is at least 10%, and close to 20%, of salary.

On top of that, Atherton is paying cops a salary more than 70% of other cops in the bay area.

(I know union supporters want to not make that part of the discussion, and just restrict it to whether the rebuttal was late...how transparent is that).

Given that history of freewheeling spending of taxpayer money, it's time for Atherton to prove something before getting more.


Posted by Scotty, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm

poor poor atherton! can't afford their cops. Want to cut workers compensation to save a hundred bucks a parcel.

F Scott Fitzgerald was correct. Them folk IS different.

Good luck, athertonians!


Posted by Scotty, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 28, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Jim: are you saying it might not be procrastination, or a stupid mistake to not inform the voters in the handbook?

Possibly an egregious error designed with duplicity in mind?

Duplicitous? Or a dumb error? Dishonest, or disingenuous?

Hmmmm...


Posted by Keep going for it, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm

The constant references to that Fitzgerald quote point to llikely police union association of these posters, and paints a grim picture of how they actually feel about the members of the community in which they serve. One thing is for certain: as Fiscally Responsible pointed out, they do not want to debate the merits of the rebuttal, and certainly do not wish to discuss the police compensation structure currently place


Posted by Scotty, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 28, 2013 at 2:09 pm

what the ????

"The constant references to that Fitzgerald quote point to llikely police union association of these posters" where does that wild assumption come from? Paranoid much?

"and paints a grim picture of how they actually feel about the members of the community in which they serve." I don't SERVE you, or anyone in that community, thank you very much!

How degrading! Now I know this is a class issue. A few select athertonians versus their "servants". You couldn't pay me to work with someone like the anonymous poster above. I will give the town the benefit of the doubt and assume most are good folk, and not like the above poster.

"One thing is for certain:" YES. ONE THING IS CERTAIN -- for whatever duplicitous reasons, a rebuttal was not placed in the handbook for voters to see!

I thought my town was messed up. You all take the cake!


Posted by Scotty, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Uh-oh! I used a code word, now the posters will know what I really am!!

I said: "take the cake"

Therefore, in the mind of poster "Keep going for it" I must obviously a union cake baker!

An organized paid cake-baking union thug!


Posted by Edward R, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 28, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Holy Toledo - those cake-bakers!

So what's the real reason that the rebuttal wasn't put in voter pamphlet? Seems like quite the failure to be just a mistake.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 28, 2013 at 5:05 pm

As far as debating the merits of the Rebuttal.

Had the Rebuttal been filed on time, the Opposition Group would have forced the council to call a second meeting in August to draft a response by August 22nd.

At that meeting anyone Pro or Con could have spoken and a second debate would have happened (there already was a council meeting in May on the issue).

The town should put the item on the September Agenda anyway: "Response to Rebuttal"











Posted by S F, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Aug 28, 2013 at 10:04 pm

"Seems like quite the failure to be just a mistake."

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.


Posted by Cal, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm

still no answer on why they missed the obvious deadline, and failed to inform the voters in the traditional manner?

if the other side was so cavilier, there would be screams of "the town is running a scam!!" or "union bosses have no respect for voters!"


Posted by On solution, a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm

to have the city look at outsourcing is by rejecting this parcel tax.

750$ per parcel is very high.

Unions will eventually break the govt bank with all there overpaid personal and pensions and med costs. No wonder everything is outsource. Can't wait till the Jails are outsourced to 3rd world countries.

Detroit is not an isolated happening, it is already happening in cities all over.


Posted by Otto, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:04 am

View from the hills:

Atherton will ever get that story as to how the deadline was missed.

McKeithen wants people to vote against the Parcel Tax because the current Police contract she voted for pays too much. ????


In 1999, McKeithen lead a campaign to defeat the Parcel Tax claiming Nan Chapman as Mayor had a budget that was wasteful.

Fourteen years latter, a campaign to defeat the Parcel Tax claiming Elizabeth Lewis as Mayor has a budget that is wasteful.

How long can a Circus Club Horse be beaten?




Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:09 am

Jon Buckheit is a registered user.

I have already answered the question, multiple times, of how the alleged deadline was missed: there was a confusion over the rules. Atherton sent an e-mail soliciting rebuttals although now some people are (anonymously) stating that it was so obvious no rebuttal was permitted (notwithstanding Atherton's own solicitation of it) that the act of submitting one is some sort of clever ploy to gain some sort of strategic advantage. It never was discussed, and never happened. If you anonymously post when to show up to the Circus Club to take a polygraph on this, I'm happy to do so.


Posted by South townie, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:26 am

So Jon wasn't in on the devious plan to keep voters in the dark, or at least claims so and he will take a polygraph. Smart. Have someone in the dark who has plausible deniability. How Nixonian, or Kennedyesque.

We are supposed to believe it's simply "we made a big boo-boo"

I somehow expect the next one will be "but, the dog ate my homework"

Why would anyone buy that?


Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:34 am

Jon Buckheit is a registered user.

You're either trying to have fun with this, or you're nuts. I'll assume the former. We didn't "make a big boo-boo". Atherton did. If Atherton believes the rules are no rebuttals are permitted unless you made a direct argument (which is arguable, but not air-tight), don't send out an e-mail asking for rebuttals in a situation in which only one direct argument was made. But Atherton did send out that e-mail. It's not too hard to understand, but certainly continuing to harp on it is a good way to divert attention away from the actual content of the rebuttal.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:41 am

If things ever get quiet in Menlo Park, we can always count on Atherton for a little intrigue.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:55 am

Jon,

Thanks for offering, but no need for a polygraph. You are trusted.

I do not know the election laws. Council should put this on the agenda to discuss and inform the residents.

You have a point that staff shouldn't have sent out an email asking for Rebuttals since there was no one who qualified to write a rebuttal.

For this post just advise:

Why did the Opposition Group decide not to submit an Argument Against by August 15th and just plan to submit a Rebuttal by August 22nd? Did no one think to check with the Elections Office back in July to see if that was acceptable?











Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:17 am

Jon Buckheit is a registered user.

"Why did the Opposition Group decide not to submit an Argument Against by August 15th and just plan to submit a Rebuttal by August 22nd? Did no one think to check with the Elections Office back in July to see if that was acceptable?"

Because we were not following this issue extremely closely. We got the e-mail soliciting rebuttals and decided to write one. I agree, we could have been more on top of it, gone to every meeting, dotted every "I" and crossed every "T". We didn't. We made a good faith effort at submitting a rebuttal that under circumstances we thought were appropriate to do so. There was no scheming. The content of the rebuttal is still very timely and valid for discussion. I am being provided with additional facts by the city manager and am analyzing those presently.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The content of the rebuttal is still very timely and valid for discussion"

I agree - let's shift our focus to the Pros and Cons of the proposed parcel tax renewal.


Web Link


Posted by Jim, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:44 am

Jon,

Thanks for the answer. I noticed you quoted Code 9285 a few days ago.

Code 9285

(a)(1)When an elections official receives an argument relating to a city measure that will be printed in the ballot pamphlet, the elections official shall send a copy of an argument in favor of the proposition to the authors of any argument against the measure and a copy of an argument against the measure to the authors of any argument in favor of the measure immediately upon receiving the arguments.

(2)The author or a majority of the authors of an argument relating to a city measure may prepare and submit a rebuttal argument or may authorize in writing any other person or persons to prepare, submit, or sign the rebuttal argument.

(3)No rebuttal argument may exceed 250 words.

(4)A rebuttal argument relating to a city measure shall be filed with the elections official no later than 10 days after the final filing date for primary arguments.

Jon, it appears the your Group missed step 1 and tried to pick up the process at step 4.

Since your group had not informed the council or staff you existed, and elected not to submit an Argument Against by August 15th, staff cannot accept your Rebuttal.

In fairness the process is both sides submit arguments and both sides submit rebuttals. If you had submitted an argument against, the council would have planned a meeting to answer your questions by the Rebuttal cut off date. You did not give them that opportunity.













Posted by South townie, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

Whoa Nelly! Hold on a minute... First it was nothing to see here: "or you're nuts. I'll assume the former. We didn't "make a big boo-boo"."

Then: "Because we were not following this issue extremely closely. ... I agree, we could have been more on top of it, gone to every meeting, dotted every "I" and crossed every "T". We didn't."

So it was not "a big boo boo" according to Jon, it was "the dog ate my homework" according to Jon.

Or scheming by others.

To keep voters in the dark? To not allow the 'Pro' side a chance to address the rebuttal? Will the real answer ever be revealed.

As said above by Scott: "hmmmmm...."


Posted by Transparent, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm

No actual refuting any point made in the rebuttal, but just attacking the messengers.

Even us "different folk" in Atherton can figure that out.


Posted by James "Brown Act", a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 30, 2013 at 3:04 pm

There are points in Jim's "Response" refuting the "Rebuttal".

Members of the Council may have more to add, but would violate the Brown Act by posting their comments here and then putting the "Rebuttal" on an agenda. So the people you most want to respond- you have prevented from responding.

So if I understand correctly, the "messengers" formed sometime before August; decided to skip the August 15th Argument Against deadline and thought they could submit simply a "Rebuttal" to the Pro Statement which attacks current council members.

The Pay Plan being debated was approved by one of the "messengers" years ago and not approved by some of the current council members being attacked for the plan "overpaying" Atherton Police.

When they failed to get their "Rebutal" printed, the messengers called the Almanac to report an employee of the town for causing confusion.

All this is for $750 income tax deductible tax used to repair roads which prevent damage to their expensive cars and have their own police force?

That is "different folk."





Posted by Colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 30, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I don't understand all the ins and outs of this issue. It makes me sad that people in this country gave their life's for the freedom to only be told one side. Tell that to a parent that lost their child. A child without a parent. Why are people giving their live's for this country if one of the wealthiest cities in America only wants to put one side on the ballot. The town I love I thought was better than that. The people I voted for I thought cared about doing the right thing not about dates. I am and always have been freedom of choice. What kind of choice is only telling one side on a ballot.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 31, 2013 at 6:25 am

Colleen,

Both sides have the freedom to present their opinion through websites, letters to the editor, mailings, coffees, newspaper stories, etc. The ballot will offer a choice--- Yes or No.

Just like newspapers and magazines have deadlines, the State has an August 15th deadline date for having an opinion in Favor or Against printed in the Voter Guide. The deadline allows the Voter Guide to be printed in time to be delivered to the voters. The Voter Guide covers more than Atherton.

The Opposition Group missed that deadline. Neither The City Council, the City Clerk, nor the City Manager can override the State's deadline. Efforts were made, including a special meeting in early August to inform residents of the August 15th deadline.






Posted by dealing with windmills, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 8:14 am

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."
"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza.
"Those you see over there," replied his master, "with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length."
"Take care, sir," cried Sancho. "Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone."


Posted by South townie, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 31, 2013 at 8:27 am

What rebuttal - they MISSED the deadline to have it included in the most common place voters turn for information!

How could that happen with supposedly intelligent and supposedly accomplished folk? Was it part of a plan, supposedly unbeknownst to Jon? A plan set in motion to deceive or deny information to the voters?

It's so fishy in Denmark that some are even tilting at windmills!


Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 31, 2013 at 10:05 am

Jon Buckheit is a registered user.

Jim says "it appears the your Group missed step 1 and tried to pick up the process at step 4", ignoring section 2 of the election code 9285 which states: "The author or a majority of the authors of an argument relating to a city measure may prepare and submit a rebuttal argument or may authorize in writing any other person or persons to prepare, submit, or sign the rebuttal argument."

Authorizing the clerk to solicit rebuttals may have amounted to de facto permission granted by the city council (the author of the direct pro argument). Decisions by city councils qualify as writings under the law.

I say "may" because that would ultimately be up to a judge, not Jim, nor I, nor South townie, and currently there are no plans to seek that decision, but I'm sure a lot of the invective here might cause some people to change their minds about that. It's a really short motion to write.

Bottom line is it's not as clear cut as Jim or South townie make it out to be. Colleen's concerns cannot be dismissed on that basis.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 11:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Nobody, not even a judge, can now change was is and isn't in the Voter's Guide so PLEASE let's focus on the PROS and CONS on renewing the parcel tax.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 31, 2013 at 11:39 am

Jon,

Unfortunately someone in your group should have sat down with the City Clerk months ago and had them explain the process to you and advise you skipping step 1 would cause problems.

With all the expertise in the Opposition Group, someone should have expressed a concern about the plan to skip step 1 and hope their was some logic to go straight to step 2?

The Council should place this on an agenda to explain.

1st you are skipping Step 1. Each side had until August 15th to submit either a Pro statement or a Argument Against. At that point the City Council could have named 5 other individuals to write a "Rebuttal" to your statement. Since you did not submit on time, they are not allowed to write a Rebuttal to your Argument Against.

It would make no sense for the City Council to be able to name 5 people to write your Rebuttal or write the Rebuttal themselves. They could just pick five supporters of the Parcel Tax to write a weak Rebuttal.

Such a Rebuttal could be as short and simple as: "We oppose the Parcel Tax because we do not want Atherton Roads repaired to prevent damage to our cars because we like going to the tire shop."











Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 31, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Jim, if I understand you correctly, the onus was on us to resolve the rules and ambiguities, especially since this was an educated group of people. The case law that exists makes it really clear you're wrong about that. It puts the onus is on the government not to create confusing situations that prejudice voters. It wasnt our job to be the electioms official. It was the clerk's job. No one, yourself included, has come up with any rationale for why the clerk solicited rebuttals under an assumption none were permitted. In this particular situation, we were trying to rebut the government, which I would say heightens its responsibility not to create ambiguous situations.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 31, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Nobody, not even a judge, can now change was is and isn't in the Voter's Guide so PLEASE let's focus on the PROS and CONS on renewing the parcel tax.

None of the above "who shot who" discussion is any help to Colleen and others who would like information upon which they can make an informed decision.


Posted by Jim, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 31, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Jon,

You do understand me 100% correctly. I wrote: "The council should place this on an agenda to explain." and I think they should do that before every Parcel Tax election to prevent confusion in the future. Even hold a training class to explain the rules.

If you post the clerk's email to you, I might be able to come up with a rationale.







Your Group skipped step one by not submitting an Argument Against.


Posted by Election fraud, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 31, 2013 at 7:29 pm

[Post removed. Accusations seem unwarranted.]


Posted by real deal, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm

"If you post the clerk's email to you, I might be able to come up with a rationale."

Seems like an offer to help explain is being ignored.

What's the real deal here? How can one trust an opinion against the issue, when the 'against' side can't settle on why they screwed up? Or if they screwed up?