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About this blog: I have lived in Belle Haven since 1997, and work as an interpreter in the emergency department of a county hospital. My main interest is to help improve society by way of giving families the support and information they need to ra...  (More)

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Menlo Gateway: Our Council is in the pocket

Uploaded: Mar 9, 2015
Today, the Mercury News ran the story about Mr. Bohannon's newfound partnership to build a 250-room hotel at the corner of Frontage and Marsh Roads. The story included the expected praise from 3 Menlo Park councilmembers.

It is now very clear that us mere citizens have nothing else to say on what will become an even bigger traffic nightmare for those who live close to this monstrous development.
The project is being touted as a money maker and a job creator. Both of which would be great if we were talking of jobs capable of at least providing half of what one family needs to sustain itself.

One of the most evident signs of the gentrification of Belle Haven is the number of families who in the last 3 years have had to move into what already were crowded households.

Now, I am not suggesting that it is the developer's obligation to house families who can't compete in the exclusive real state game playing out around us. But if our city's councilmembers invested at least half the energy and attention now currently lavished on developers and their limited interests, maybe a few solutions would emerge to at least alleviate part of this housing crisis.

For the last year I have been witness to the troubles of a young family that lost their housing in one side of Belle Haven, and had to move back to his parent's home in another side of the neighborhood.

It would not be so bad if the house was big enough for 2 families, but in this case, the young couple had no alternative but to adapt the laundry and storage room in the back of the house to move into with their 2 teenage sons. Maybe one of these days things will get better and they will be able to get their own place around here, but good luck with that. What makes this even sadder, is that this man has lived in Belle Haven since he was born. His parents, since long before that.

As I mentioned a couple of blogs ago, all 3 incumbents voted into office last year received some of their biggest donations from Mr. Bohannon. I don't know much about laws and ethics, but it would seem to me that in view of this, at least those 3 should be disqualified from having anything else to do on this decision.

If Mrs. Carlton and Mr. Mueller were also products of Mr. Bohannon's purchasing power when they ran for office, they should also be excluded from voting on his project.

One more problem: We are finding out that in spite of the city resources this monster development will gobble up, and its effect on the quality of life around here, our councilmembers don't seem too interested in at least negotiating some meaningful benefits for the city, and specifically for Belle Haven.

To illustrate just one aspect of this, Mr. Peter Carpenter has been asking important questions regarding the new demand on Firefighting and Rescue services that Gateway will represent, with no funding to make up for it. At least not from the main beneficiaries of the project.

Fellow Citizens: Please keep this in mind the next time they put a Bond on the ballot to subsidize public services for the developers.

Cancel the hotdogs and the soda; no need to convince anymore.
Our Council is in the pocket, and nothing else matters.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Move on..., a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Mar 10, 2015 at 9:55 am

Around and around we go. It's bad, its good. It's being built, accept it and move on.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Mar 10, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Martin, I appreciate your perspective. Contributions from developers to campaigns can have a corrosive effect on good governing. Although there may not be any explicit quid pro quo, it can't not affect decision-making on key projects brought before the Council. Anyone who says otherwise is just not being honest with themselves.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by interested, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Mar 12, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Martin, you're again either unable to find the information to make truthful commentary, too lazy to get or you would rather create your own reality.

I don't really care at this point. But if you would like me to show you and the editors how many blogs you have written that are complete nonsense (if you care at all about the fourth estate), I would be glad to list each one.

For this one, let's start with the first point. This project was voted on by the public in 2010 and won that vote with almost 70%. The council at that time voted 5-0 to approve the agreement (four other council members that are not on this council, Cline is the only one remaining). They voted 4-1 after approving the agreement (they did have to do this) to put it to a vote so that the public could have a voice. Boyle disagreed with putting it to the public. I agree with Boyle.

The hotel will pay the city 13% TOT vs. 12% the other hotels pay as part of the deal. The hotel had to be built first before the office buildings.

Your community was out front cheering this project on. the Belle Haven Homeowners Association was behind it as were many community leaders. Where were you? Hiding?

Traffic is the issue of the day. Every new development will bring negative impacts as it relates to traffic. The issue is regional as much as it is our city.

Finally, your claim that our leaders are bought and owned.

Look at the data closely. I have. Keith and Ohtaki took large donations from many developer interests, but other interests as well. Cline had a couple but he barely raised money from what I see. He funded his own campaign with more than 50% of the money.

Ray and Cat, look at the money they raised two years ago. Any issue with that? I see some developer interests there as well. But nothing outrageous.

Why would a developer with an approved project and one voted on by the public need to buy a vote?

Get a clue. Respect the facts. Criticism is great and needed by our local papers. But not slop. This blog is slop and begs for another divisive fight. Don't pander.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Martin Lamarque, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Mar 12, 2015 at 9:29 pm

@ interested

Please know that I take your criticism seriously.

Sounds like you have some disturbing disagreements with the way I explain things.
It is the beauty of our democracy, isn't?

Councilmembers get the luxury of cozying up to the developers, shouldn't I at least have the right to question their motives?

If a developer has the right to make money by increasing the tailpipe emissions that my family will have to breath (the wind from the bay blows directly into this neighborhood), shouldn't I at least have the right to wonder why are the interests of one developer Councilmembers rally behind, but not to advance the common good?

As Mike Keenly put it very well above "Contributions from developers to campaigns can have a corrosive effect on good governing... Anyone who says otherwise is just not being honest with themselves."

We just had an election that saw a developer plop $200k to defeat a citizen's initiative, and you don't see a problem with it?

The slogan for all this new development is that "it is a win-win" proposition. Don't you wonder for who?
Because believe me, developers are not into charitable deeds.

I will venture to guess that you don't have to sit in this gridlock every day. I want to invite you to do so with me for one week. Only one week. And when we finally make it to Hamilton, I will even buy you dinner.

Please forgive me for not further addressing here your grievance with me talking about campaign money. Allow me until I get a hold of the final reports. Unfortunately, what I saw in the first 2 wasn't reassuring at all.

Thanks for reading my blogs.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Mar 15, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Martin:

you say mere voters have no voice, yet measure T was passed by 70% of voters. Seems like "mere voters" had quite a voice. It just wasn't the "voice" you wanted to hear.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by C. Gordon , a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Mar 18, 2015 at 7:24 pm

Menlo Park voters are smart and do their homework. 2010 Measure L (pensions) had plenty of shiny "vote no!" mailers from the unions, but it passed 71.3% YES! That's because people talked to their neighbors, looked at the initiative words themselves, and made the right call.

Martin Lamarque above manages the impressive feat of simultaneously overvaluing his own intelligence and undervaluing the collective smarts of Menlo Park. When 2014 Measure M failed, that's because it was a bad idea, written by a one-term Planning Commissioner and a playground blogger. When sub-par Council candidates like Kelly Fergusson, Chuck Bernstein, and Vince Bressler lose, that's because voters met them and made accurate judgments. Think I'm wrong? Can't wait for your 2016 candidacy! May I suggest: "Marque your ballot for Lamarque! He thinks you voters are gullible and stupid."


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Martin Lamarque, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Mar 19, 2015 at 7:09 pm

@ C Gordon.

Sorry. Me no comprende.

Don't worry. I will not be running for anything.

Thanks for reading my blog; please come back.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Mar 21, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Martin ---
Thank you very much for your well-reasoned and insightful blogs. I really appreciate them. Your point of view is very refreshing and should be taken seriously.

As for Measures T and M: Isn't is possible the they passed because most of those who voted for them were not really aware of or did not care at all about the many drawbacks of the developments those measures allowed, and/or the pro-Measures T and M voters would never be likely to experience any of the bad effects that building all those new office buildings and hotels will cause?

Or are we all supposed to blindly support every single project these billionaire developers propose -- without carefully considering all the bad effects of those developments? Or is approving the building of every single new office building and hotel the only acceptable way to increase our city's tax revenues? Aren't there other better ways to do that?


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Martin Lamarque, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Mar 21, 2015 at 5:04 pm

@ Louise68.

Thanks for you kind words.
By the comments I've been getting, anyone would think that I have been preaching heresy.
Wait, maybe I have, and the chastising is well deserved.

Interesting that none of those defending the current version of democracy ever stop to notice that in all these elections, it is almost always those with the big money who end up winning.

It is here where elected officials would be very helpful if they used their positions to level up the playing field. But of course, their interests more often than not happen to be aligned with the interests of those with money to invest in self serving projects. Pure coincidence, I am sure.

To be fair, the working class abdicated their responsibility to at least wield whatever little power we have been left with. For this, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Most of us are too busy following sport "heroes", or otherwise wasting time and money on things that have nothing to do with improving our lot.

We have a lot of work cut us for us if we are ever going to turn this ship around.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by fair, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jun 10, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Martin Lamarque wrote, "it is almost always those with the big money who end up winning"

Just to be fair, it was Cline who raised the least of all the candidates in this past election. In previous city council elections, the top fundraisers have actually lost the election.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Martin Lamarque, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Jun 13, 2015 at 5:07 pm

Dear fair.

Thanks for reading my blog. I have been so busy, that I haven't had time to write.

To be fair, you are right: Of the 3 incumbents in the last election, Richard was the one who raised the smallest amount. Maybe I wasn't clear enough when I referred to big money.

However, as someone pointed out in another comment here, it gets to a level where is not so much the amount a candidate gets, but where the donations come from, and the tacit implication that it is just a token of gratitude that down the road will result in more benefits for both parties in such alliances.

The incumbents' biggest donations (and granted, in a "democracy" like ours, the amounts in question can be considered spare change) came from two big developers who spent a lot a money to buy votes, and whose projects will be voted on by those same incumbents.

And such mockery is what should give us all pause.




 +  Like this comment
Posted by Another MP Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Jun 16, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Martin, I wish you would consider running for city council.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Martin Lamarque, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Jun 16, 2015 at 4:34 pm

@ Another Menlo Voter.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I would need to learn English.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by donations, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jun 30, 2015 at 10:13 am

Martin wrote, "The incumbents' biggest donations came from two big developers who spent a lot a money to buy votes, and whose projects will be voted on by those same incumbents."

If this is your concern, you can relax, you have been misinformed.
* Bohannon's Gateway project will NOT be voted on, the voters approved it in 2010 at the ballot box.
* Facebook's various projects will be voted on, but Facebook did not make political contributions.
* The Stanford project will be voted on, but Stanford did not make political contributions.
* Greenheart's various project will be voted on, but Greenheart did not give money directly to any candidates.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by donations, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Jun 30, 2015 at 10:38 am

The biggest single donation to a candidate was from Rich Cline, to his own campaign, so Rich is in his own pocket.

The "nonmonetary" contributions from Greenheart had an estimated value of about $900 for each of the candidates (Web Link), and each of the candidates received other direct contributions of $1000 and $950, therefore the Greenheart "nonmonetary" contributions were not the biggest donations.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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