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April 21, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

LETTERS LETTERS (April 21, 2004)

Writer disputes conflict charge in editorial


The April 14 Almanac editorial smearing Menlo Park Mayor Lee Duboc and City Council member Mickie Winkler for giving "special treatment" to John Conway on the issue of public art is hardly worthy of you or your paper. It is hard enough to convince good people to run for City Council without having them subjected to attack by the press over unsubstantiated claims.

Was Mr. Conway really given significant "special consideration" as you claim? He still has to pay about $4,000 to a city art fund. He just doesn't have to put the art at his gas station. Big deal.

Furthermore, regarding the implication of Menlo Park Matters in your purported "conflict of interest:" at no time at any of our meetings did John Conway raise the subject of his problems with the city over the new commercial art fees and project. Nor, according to Lee Duboc, did he ever bring the subject up privately with Ms. Duboc or Ms. Winkler.

His objections to the art fee extortion were all made openly and in public. I personally feel that public art should be paid out of public funds and not laid solely on the shoulders of business owners.

Finally, as you were frank to admit, "the answer is not clear," so why print such damaging opinions on such a trivial matter? Just maybe the council decided to cut Mr. Conway some slack because it was the right thing to do. We need to support business in these times; not drive them away with poison pen editorials and unnecessary city fees.

Perhaps you didn't mean it this way, but the partisan political nature of you editorial causes more harm than good in the community. It's time to pull together in Menlo Park and not continue our past "us against them" attitude.

Reg Rice
Tioga Drive, Menlo Park

Editor's Note: Mr. Rice is vice president of Menlo Park Matters, a political action committee.

Priory trustee explains schools plans


As a member of the board of trustees and chair of the community relations committee at Priory School and a Portola Valley resident, I would like to respond to Bernard Bayuk's April 14 letter concerning the Priory's proposed performing arts center.

Mr. Bayuk makes an excellent point, with which I agree, concerning the preservation of Portola Valley's rural environment. However, some details regarding the Priory's proposed project should be clarified.

The Priory does not seek to increase the number of students and faculty or increase activities significantly from current levels. Instead, it seeks to update the old conditional use permit to reflect current enrollment of 339 students with a permit for a total enrollment of 350 students; and to improve facilities to support the existing educational programs.

The proposed performing arts center will be used for school events. The only, infrequent exception will be uses such as a town meeting, at town officials' request. The facility will not be rented. This will be specified in the use permit.

Our students and faculty currently number 390. We have a booming performing arts department making do with inadequate facilities. In order to rectify this situation the Priory is proposing the 400-seat auditorium and four classrooms that comprise the performing arts center. An option that included up to 530 folding chairs was considered at one point, but subsequently rejected, and the proposal now has a 400-seat maximum.

Mr. Bayuk is correct when he states that competition among highly regarded college prep schools makes it necessary for the Priory to continually improve and change to meet ever more rigorous educational standards. Many of the Priory's students also have families living in Portola Valley. Many members of the board of trustees, the planning committees, the school's parent community and alumnae are Portola Valley residents. We have a stake in Portola Valley's future, and we take that seriously when we exercise our school responsibilities. We do not believe that these proposals are in conflict with the goals we have for Portola Valley.

I would encourage anyone interested in getting more details about Woodside Priory School's proposed master plan to talk with a parent or trustee, or call the headmaster, Tim Molak, at 851-6117. A three-dimensional model of the plan is available in the front lobby and an informational brochure can be sent to you in the mail. Priory trustees who are also Portola Valley residents have visited many of the town's committees and held two information sessions on the campus. We would be happy to communicate with any individual or group about our plans.

Stuart W. Young
Trustee, Priory School

Sad to see shuttle on chopping block


As a long-term Menlo Park citizen, I recognize the hard choices facing the city in the current budget crunch.

Clearly belt-tightening is called for, but I am saddened to see Menlo Park's shuttle service on the chopping block. The shuttle provides a vital link for those in our community who cannot drive due to age or disability and rely on this service to reach their appointments.

Essential to that service is Debbie Helming, the transportation services manager, who is responsible for writing the grants that support the shuttle program and two-thirds of her salary. Her position is being cut, leaving no one on staff to support the shuttle service and write the grants. This cut will reportedly save the city a total of $19,000.

I have to wonder, looking at the numbers, how the choice was made to eliminate this position while maintaining the $35,519 car allowance program for the city manager and eight department managers. Perhaps the load could be shared, shifting some of that car allowance over to the shuttle service so that we can continue to support the disabled in our community.

Rhoda Alexander
Central Avenue, Menlo Park

Please save the Menlo Park Shuttle


I was a member of the transportation commission five years ago and saw the Menlo Park Shuttle come into being for the benefit of seniors as well as the general public.

The shuttle has provided a way for seniors, veterans and the public to get to the library, Safeway, Stanford Hospital and the Menlo Park Senior Center. This service has been a great benefit to us all and makes it possible for many Menlo Park residents to get around who would not otherwise do so. Please help save the shuttle.

Paul Wirthin
Crane Street, Menlo Park

Appropriate words on Atherton tennis courts


Cat Westover's April 7 letter about fixing Atherton's cracked tennis courts was a positive thought where one seems needed.

A Menlo Park resident, I signed an agreement with others to pay multi-year dues in advance if the six decaying Holbrook-Palmer Park courts were brought to the standards of others on the Peninsula. Atherton's are still used despite their deteriorating condition. Alan Margot's classes are popular with all ages, and it's great to see fathers and kids playing alongside 70-year-olds getting their favorite exercise in a wonderful setting.

An unwillingness by the Atherton Town Council to do anything to resurface the courts would display, in my view, a management deficit. If nothing is done, it's only postponing the day those courts will be unplayable, with revenues going to zero. Padlocked for safety, this valuable property would descend to an eyesore. A hue and cry would go up for a major expenditure (with no revenue return) to dig up the courts, remove the fences, and do something useful with the resulting dead acres. I hope the council doesn't make tennis in Atherton just for the few who can afford courts at home. As Cat suggests, the Town Council should keep this healthy sport as a community activity, by making a clear, long-term decision Athertonians can be proud of.

John Straubel
Sand Hill Circle, Menlo Park

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