Endorsements: Clarke, Mueller for Menlo Park CouncilWhat's next for Menlo Park? With two council seats open, the direction of the city could change significantly next year, or simply make a mid-course correction.
A diverse field of five candidates includes incumbent Kelly Fergusson and newcomers Dave Bragg, Carolyn Clarke, Catherine Carlton and Ray Mueller who are hoping to win one of the two open seats on Nov. 6.
All but Mr. Bragg, a firefighter and contractor, are serving on the council or a city commission, a good training ground for future council members. And all are certainly qualified to serve on the council, making our endorsements a difficult choice.
Who among these five could play a leading role in implementing the city's new downtown plan, making sure that Facebook's expansion conforms to the city's guidelines, and that the city's affordable housing obligations are met? Which of the challengers will work hard to keep employee labor and pension costs in check while negotiating the labor contracts that come up for renewal. Who will support adequate capital improvements for Belle Haven despite the loss of funds when Gov. Jerry Brown took away the redevelopment agency?
How these and many other issues are resolved will have a major impact on the look and feel of Menlo Park. In our view, Housing Commissioner Carolyn Clarke and Transportation Commissioner will best serve all the citizens of Menlo Park. Ms. Clarke, from Belle Haven, would be the first council member to represent her neighborhood since Billy Ray White some 25 years ago. And Ray Mueller has proven that he cares deeply about the city and will work overtime to advance its prospects.
Also, while we appreciate the service of council member Kelly Fergusson, we believe two terms is enough, given her misguided effort to line up votes for mayor — a Brown Act violation — and her changing position on Measure L.
Carolyn Clarke is an accountant who operates her own small business, but also worked for Stanford and the Kaiser Foundation. She is the founder of the Belle Haven Community Foundation and a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. We believe she could bring a city-wide perspective while on the council, but also speak up for the Belle Haven residents who are simply trying to attract basic services like a bank and grocery store to their neighborhood.
She is a strong advocate for affordable housing in the city "for regular working people" and senior citizens who retire and sell their home but want to keep living in Menlo Park. She supports building housing near transit, citing the downtown-El Camino corridor as a good location and serves on the committee that is identifying sites to rezone for additional housing in the city.
Ms. Clarke supports pension reform but said she had a problem with process used in passing Measure L. She worries that lower-tier pensions could be cut, she said, although she has no problem if higher pensions are reduced. Pension reform needs to happen, she said, but she believes the City Council is better equipped to make that decision than voters.
The Almanac urges voters to support Carolyn Clarke for City Council.
Ray Mueller has never been shy about digging into issues confronting the city. For example, ever since he began his campaign for the Menlo Park City Council back in May, he has advocated a zoning policy that would bring more companies to the M-2 industrial zone of the east side of the city. He rightfully worries that while many small start-up companies find a home at the Tarleton incubator park off Willow Road, as they grow and need manufacturing space they leave the city for other areas due to uncertainty about winning zoning approval for their projects. As a council member he said he would work to provide incentives for these companies to stay in Menlo Park, which could create good-paying jobs for Belle Haven.
Mr. Mueller is a strong supporter of affordable housing, which he says encourages supports economic diversity and makes for a healthy community. He is concerned that at least many of the initial locations chosen were not distributed equally around the city.
On pension reform, he favored waiting for further action until he sees more of the state's plan. Rather than have small jurisdictions act on their own, he said he would rather see a more united effort that could produce a long-term solution.
The Almanac urges voters to support Ray Mueller for City Council.