There must be an election going on. Absentee ballots arrive this week, buckets of campaign literature arrive in the mail, and yard signs sprout like spring tulips. There are four people running for Town Council and three measures largely centered on Holbrook Palmer Park. It is time for Atherton to make decisions.
In addition, a new Town Manager is waiting in the wings and the Atherton Police Officers Association is concerned about outsourcing and have been told by council incumbents they face contentious labor negotiations next year.
Kathy McKeithen is not running after a four term stint. Someone has detailed her tenure in a multi-page blog:
In 2007 the San Mateo Grand Jury issued a report on government in Atherton with specific recommendations. Apparently these recommendations were not put in place and a dysfunctional town government continues on and on. The report is linked :
So Atherton voters are faced with choosing two council members from a field of four. The voters have the opportunity to change the systemic poisonous relationships within the Council and truly returning to a strong city manager form of government with a new town manager.
Denise Kupperman is largely a single issue candidate with strong connections to Mayor Widmer and James Dobbie as chair of the Atherton Library Steering Committee. Both Widmer and Dobbie have been part of the 3-2 majority on the council voting along with McKeithen on most issues. It would be reasonable to assume Kupperman would align with them as a replacement for the like- minded McKeithen. Both Dobbie and Widmer are strongly opinionated micromanagers and will represent a continuing challenge to the new town manager.
Denise has appeared in the Almanac guest opinions several times and her statements on the library park issue are well known
Greg Conlon is relatively unknown to most Atherton voters and is apparently running because he wants to be elected to any public office as evidenced by his candidacy for many elections. He appears to be largely a single issue candidate against High Speed Rail. An appointee to the Finance Committee by the majority of the current council he has expressed strong opinions regarding the salaries and compensation for the Atherton Police Department in public meetings that were inappropriate and not wise in setting the climate for favorable labor negotiations. Statements like "shove it down their throats" have helped poison the well with the APOA.
Cary Wiest is probably one of the most experienced and well qualified of the potential candidates. He would be a fresh face and would not carry the baggage and animosities currently part of the culture of the Council.
Elizabeth Lewis, the incumbent, has proven to be good for the Town as a council member. Running for a second term she has the depth of experience and moderate views to be an effective leader. If tradition persists she would be elected Mayor and would be an excellent choice to work with the new Town Manager. She is often aligned with Jerry Carlson who also is a moderate and offers well thought out opinions and offers the gravitas of experience and gentlemanly behavior.
This election is truly very important for Atherton. It is time to make a major change in leadership and vision as many important issues are facing the town. Increasing traffic and the carnage on El Camino Real as well as bike and pedestrian use around our schools are serious issues. Rebuilding the Atherton Police Department with adequate funding and financial support will be needed as appeals are made to renew the Parcel Tax next year. War cannot be declared on the police department as most residents want the service and security this agency provides. It is reasonable to assume the Town Center project will be approved funded primarily with private funds. Raising money will be a task and cannot be done with leadership in the council that does not have a positive vision for the town. The library in the park project "ram through" was a lesson in poor governance. From the town website the following statement needs to be repeated as we choose our next leaders.
"The Town of Atherton desires, insofar as possible, to preserve its character as a scenic, rural, thickly-wooded, residential area, with abundant open space with streets designed primarily as scenic routes rather than for speed of travel."