Gateway ballot measure argument criticized


Menlo Park City Council candidate Chuck Bernstein inspired a look at how ballot measure arguments get written last week when he challenged the accuracy of a rebuttal argument supporting the proposed Bohannon Gateway office/hotel project. The argument will be included in the voter information publication that the county sends to all registered voters.

Turns out the only way to revise a ballot measure argument is to get a court injunction, according to City Clerk Margaret Roberts after consultation with the city attorney's office.

Mr. Bernstein said a court challenge would cost him at least $10,000, according to estimates from local attorneys. He said he can't afford to risk his family's welfare on a quest that would cost at least half as much as his council campaign.

It's puzzling as to when the public has a chance to ask for corrections of factual errors, since by the time the arguments are made available, the deadline for making revisions without requiring a court order has passed.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rich Cline and Councilmember Kelly Fergusson, who helped write the pro-Gateway argument, flatly disagreed that any factual errors existed. But Mr. Cline said that if they did, he would be willing to correct them.

Mr. Bernstein submitted a letter to the City Council on Aug. 23 asking them to allow the city attorney to correct the language describing how the Gateway project would benefit Menlo Park schools. If the council agrees, he said, he hoped the correction could be made without requiring a court injunction.

He wants one sentence reworded in the rebuttal to indicate that the project will not generate $600,000 for schools in Menlo Park; Mr. Bernstein maintains that the money will instead go to either the Redwood City School District or Sequoia Union High School District.

Mr. Bernstein's hope was dashed by City Attorney Bill McClure, who told him that the elections code did not allow for such correction, particularly since the Aug. 19 deadline for review had passed.

Go here to see the city's elections website and the arguments and rebuttals for both the Gateway and pension ballot measures.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 2, 2010 at 6:45 am

Gail Slocum, Chuck Kinney, Patty Boyle, Ted Shlein, and Allan Bedwell put their names to a rebuttal argument on Measure T that is factually incorrect.

Their rebuttal argument states: "FACT: Menlo Gateway is projected to net Menlo Park $1.4 million annually and another $600,000 annually for schools in Menlo Park."

The fact is that if the measure passes no money will go to schools in Menlo Park. The money will instead go to the Redwood City School District and/or the Sequoia Union High School District.
[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 2, 2010 at 7:03 am

I forgot something. My apologies. Chris Thomsen, a Trustee of the Sequoia Union High School District signed the argument in favor of Measure T. And no person from the Menlo Park School District did.

Read the ballot measure and the arguments pro and con. Then ask yourself why does the measure get endorsed by the someone represeting the Sequoia Union High School District and is not endorsed by anyone from the Menlo Park School District?

Web Link

Then after you read it ask yourself this question: Who do I believe? Gail Slocum or my Lyin' eyes.[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment.]

Like this comment
Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 2, 2010 at 8:09 am

The statement about the money going to Menlo Park schools is absolutely incorrect. I don't know how the signers were misled, but the councilmembers should know better because the correct information was readily available in staff reports and presentations, and even discussed by the council. The facts are quite clear in the Financial Impact Analysis Report.

I am hopeful Mr. Cline will set the record straight with an acknowledgment of the incorrect information, as he offered.

Like this comment
Posted by serial voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 9:35 am

Can someone explain to me why the individual council members are even getting involved in a campaign to develop private property that will benefit a private company? Their role, or so I thought, was to promote the public interest. If they think that rezoning the land and amending the General Plan is in the best service of the city, then they should be voting to do so, but for them to get involved at the level of writing arguments in favor of the project...well, to me that smacks of corruption.

I appreciate Chuck Bernstein bringing this up.

Like this comment
Posted by Inconvenient Truth
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Money will flow to Menlo-Atherton High School as well as Menlo College, both of which are located in Menlo Park. For Mr. Bernstein, the ballot argument reading "Menlo Park schools" is an inconvenient truth to his own self-promoting campaign for city council. However, it remains the truth.

Like this comment
Posted by serial voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Why on earth would a private college in Atherton get any of the money?

The "inconvenient truth" is that the ballot statement is horribly misleading. Here's why.

There are four public school districts that serve Menlo Park residents, but no district serves them exclusively.

* Las Lomitas (k-8) includes kids from MP, Atherton, and adjacent areas.

* Menlo Park (k-8) primarily serves MP and Atherton; district offices are located in Atherton.

* Ravenswood (k-8) serves children from the city of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park east of 101; two of its 12 schools are located in Menlo Park.

* The Sequoia Union High School District has six schools in southern San Mateo County. One of the schools is located in Atherton and a significant percentage of those students live in Menlo Park.

None of the Bohannon money would go to any of the three local elementary districts but rather to the Redwood City elementary schools. A much smaller amount of money would be given to the SUHSD, headquartered in Redwood City, but to say that money will be "flowing" to M-A is a distinct exaggeration.

It's pretty clear that Bohannon's claim was carefully worded to mislead voters,when in actuality only a tiny percentage of the school funds would benefit Menlo Park students -- probably less than $10/Menlo Park student.

Like this comment
Posted by Ch-ch-ch-changes
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm

The link Hank included has the line "Provide more than $600,000 annually for our local high school district," which sounds accurate given the discussion here. Did the 'pro' signers voluntarily amend it? If so, good for them. Now they can turn to parsing through all of Chuck's wacky statements from the last 10 years of public comment. Hope you can take it as well as dish it out, Chucky.

By the way, I like that the 'anti' argument leads off "Menlo Park's leaders negotiated a bad deal," and the first signature is Andrew Cohen, Councilman- who was on the Council subcommittee that guided the negotiations. Nice accountability, Andy! Also, their rebuttal and argument make a stink about the project not providing housing near transit, while they're simultaneously taking potshots at the downtown plan for having too much housing near transit. Stay classy, Andy's Kitchen Cabinet!

Like this comment
Posted by Inconvenient Truth
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2010 at 7:49 pm

What's clear is that Mr. Bernstein and his supporters are willing to trash ANY and ALL funding for Menlo Park students at High School and Community College Districts...only to promote his own candidacy for City Council.

The inconvenient truth is Mr. Bernstein is guilty of that which he accuses others...using City resources to promote his own agenda.

Like this comment
Posted by Morris Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 2, 2010 at 11:32 pm

The pro rebuttal argument that will appear on the Nov ballot, written by the City, for Measure T indeed has the blatant lie

....and another $600,000 annually for schools in Menlo Park."

This statement was put in to counter the argument against Measure T


* Provides no revenue for Menlo Park K- 8 schools.

This is a true statement. Furthermore, Council members sat though the meetings and heard all the facts about school funding. The Council cannot claim ignorance of the issue.

I talked with City Attorney McClure and asked that the City remove this lie. The only way to do that was to go to court and file a writ to have that done, and the City was not willing to do that. The City suggestion was that we file a writ to get it removed. The City as a public body, posts a lie on the ballot measure arguments, and was un-willing to correct it, and asks private citizens to spend their limited resources to correct their error. REALLY!

Chuck Bernstein is rightfully angry about this and has certainly made this known publicly; he is not alone with these feelings.

A new group has been formed

Measured Growth for Menlo Park

and will be seeking to defeat Measure T, a ballot measure seeking public approval of the Council's approval of the Menlo Gateway Project, otherwise known as Bohannon Towers. (140 foot high towers)

Those wising to help in this effort should e-amil

Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 3, 2010 at 6:44 am

Dave Bohannon, Gail Slocum et. al were using a sleight of hand to deceive the voters into believing that Menlo Park schools were getting a benefit that they were not.

There is no question that the Bohannon-Slocum team engaged in an intentional deception of the public.

And Inconvenient Truth's assertion is patently absurd. Mr. Bernstein has devoted his life to the betterment of education. And to be accused of wanting to undermine education in Menlo Park because he has exposed a fraud takes real Chutzpah. Mr. Bernstein has devoted significant time and energy to sustain and improve Menlo Park Schools.

I am a firm believer in individual property rights. I believe that people should become wealthy due to providing a benefit to the consumer. Someone creates something that the consumer wants and the entrepreneur and the consumer both win. But this development puts a huge strain on the Menlo Park infrastructure and Mr. Bohannon has done very little to address how he is going to relieve the infrastructure burdens.

If Measure T passes Bohannon wins and the public is saddled with traffic congestion, noise pollution, air pollution, strained water resources, strained energy resources, reduced fire protection, housing shortages, and an overall deterioration of the quality of life in Menlo Park.

If Mr. Bohannon can put forth a plan to address these infrastructure issues I will be the first person to be on board to support him. But until then we should send Mr. Bohannon back to the drawing board. Make him come up with a better plan.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 10:10 am

Some fact clarifications.

Proponents stated the fact correctly in their "Argument For" and then incorrectly in their "Rebuttal to the Argument Against."

Ch-ch-ch-change is into smudging. Opposition statements make no stink about "providing housing near transit" since there is no housing in the project, (or transit), that is irrelevant. Opposition statements make two (2) disjoint factual observations about the project; namely the project provides much housing demand, but no housing, *AND* the project is not located near transit.

The hypocrites are those who vociferously advocate "mixed-use work/housing" and "transit-oriented" development, yet support this configuration which is neither.

Opposition ballot statements take no position on downtown, which is also irrelevant.

And, in anticipation of the future smear, some of the signers, like me, INTRODUCED (ca. 2000) and supported the 40-unit acre standard at the appropriate locations in downtown, and, yes we also opposed the stealth 52-unit acre Derry standard, and continue instead to advocate open, community-wide planning processes, like the downtown plan, and oppose ad hoc zoning by a majority of council or stealth counting rules.

What Andy and Kelly negotiated was a two-page term sheet. The two-page "term sheet" morphed suddenly into a 51-page Developer Agreement which containing objectionable and material items never prevoiusly discussed or negotiated by council or mentioned in the term sheet.

Finally, Mary Jo Borak and I both "negotiated" the final expansion of the bridge segment of the Sand Hill Road Widening, and both voted against it. There is no necessary relationship, between acting in good faith in a role as city negotiator, and voting your conscience as a constituent decision maker. It speaks well of those who know and recognize what their colleagues will approve, and do not, like some, use subcommittee assignments as a way of stalling or sabotaging outcomes.

Like this comment
Posted by of interest
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Paul, you support the el camino and downtown plan?

Morris does not and Chuck wants to kill it, Russ wants it killed too. So does Nancy and David Speer and a host of Andy's buddies. Since you are the captain of Andy's campaign against incumbents, perhaps you can explain how you claim to supportive when your entire team has come out against it, before it even has been reviewed publicly?

Once you reconcile that, then we can talk about other "facts" in your opposition arguments to Gateway and whether you are seeking transparency or just political favor.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I have a long, transparent public track record that I stand by, and I'm happy to address anything accurately and responsibly cited from that record.

At issue here is the veracity of facts that appear in ballot statements of Measure T. I presume the subject is being changed to distract from the self-evident fact that proponents mis-stated in their Rebuttal, a fact that they stated accurately in their Argument in Favor. Basically, they impeached themselves, in plain view, on the public record, and because they clearly once knew the correct fact, of course they know the incorrect fact.

My friend, Rich Cline, was once a journalist. This nit rises to that level only because Rich promised to correct any mistakes, and the self-contradicting public record is clear evidence of a mistake that Rich has failed to acknowledge or correct. He knows correct practice, and should just correct the statement. It's no big deal.

Like this comment
Posted by Oh, Please!
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 4, 2010 at 11:06 am

What a mess. How could our city attorney, our council, developer Dave Bohannon, Bohannon's attorney, Tim Tosta, and former council member, attorney Gail Slocum allow this incorrect statement to be made a public argument in favor of Bohannon's project? Who checks these things? Maybe this is a product of Bohannon's marketing guru, Ed McGovern. When these people twist words, exaggerate the facts and use slick practices, errors are easily made.

That said, there is still the undeniable truth that there is an election coming up and candidates are prone to find any kinks in the armor of their opponents, call a press conference and wave the American flag.

Perfection is hard to find. Mr. Bernstein should tread lightly when he calls people out. He has a record of speaking before the council and nonsense is his language. Someone with time on their hands could have a field day dredging up Bernsteinisms.

Paul, step away from the microphonne. This is no longer your fight. You are not a resident of Menlo Park and your version of your time on the council is merely that: your version. The transparency you brag about did not guide you when you convinced the novice council members Cline and Robinson to join Fergusson and Cohen to give the Derry project negotiations to you and your cronies. Behind closed doors, you, David Speer (another non-resident of Menlo Park) Morris Brown and Patti Fry badgered the Derry owners into paying a $2 million dollar fee just to stay in the game. Where was Bill McClure to advise the council that the remedy for the success of the referendum was the project would be taken back to the council for a fair and public hearing?

So you see, we are all flawed and whoever throws the stones must also take a look at their participation in Menlo Park's failures. At the end of the day, the City is becoming a joke.

Like this comment
Posted by reality check
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 5, 2010 at 9:46 am

Having looked at the information provided to the council, I can confirm that Chuck Bernstein's concerns are valid. It is quite clear in the staff report and presentations that the required fees do not go to schools in Menlo Park. The annual fees benefit only the Sequoia Union High School District because the Redwood City Elementary district does not net any additional fees because state funding is reduced by the same amount.

With a number of signers of the ballot statements, I find it difficult to understand that none of them validated the information. Particular responsibility goes to those who are or have been elected Menlo Park officials (Cline, Kinney, Slocum) and those who serve (or have served) the schools (Thomsen, Schlein). It is appropriate to set the record straight.

Like this comment
Posted by joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 6, 2010 at 8:46 am

Weren't there two council members appointed to come up with the ballot language? I think that's the case, but I can't remember which two. I'm curious about that, and the details of the entire process because I'm having a hard time believing that inaccurate information can get into a ballot argument accidentally. Where does this buck stop?

Like this comment
Posted by Menl Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2010 at 10:00 am

Reality Check:

Kinney is working for Bohannon, so don't expect him to set the record straight.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2010 at 12:06 pm

The precise facts are on page 4 of this presentation: Web Link

Bohannon collateral being passed out at the farmer's market spins an even bigger whopper. It says,

"$1.5 million in revenue for local elementary, high school, and junior college districts."

But on April 9th, 2010 before the Planning Commission, Bohannon states the facts clearly: (see p. 177 of the this Web Link transcript.)

COMMISSIONER KEITH: … You know, the impacts on the schools, we talked about that in an earlier meeting. Looking at it now. I guess it's page 55 of the Fiscal Impact Analysis, but it looks like -- so Redwood City Elementary is unaffected, and then Sequoia High School gets about 611,000 a year; is that right?
COMMISSIONER KEITH: Yes? And Menlo Park, I mean, wouldn't get any?
MR. BOHANNON: The -- the Menlo Park School District does not.
MR. BOHANNON: So the grammar schools in Menlo Park are not part of the taxing boundary for the project.

Bohannon acknowledges that Redwood City Elementary is “unaffected” and that Sequoia gets “about $611,000 a year.”

Probably based on advice from Ed McGovern, Bohannon is trying to confuse “local” districts to make it appear that they are Menlo Park districts, and he is counting the property tax money that goes to Redwood Elementary without noting that because that district is a “revenue limited” district, the State withdraws funding, dollar for dollar, for each tax dollar that goes to Redwood Elementary so that district gets no net benefit.

The precise facts are on page 4 of this presentation: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Hypocracy...
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 7, 2010 at 10:47 am

Chuck's assertion that the $600K to Menlo schools statement in the Measure T rebuittal argument is a "blatant lie" is his own reaction and he has a right to it.

But by that same token, shouldn't he be taken to task for failing to ask the opponents of Measure T to take out of their argument their "subregional housing allocation" assertion (which incorrectly applied the 6.18 percent to the 3099 rather than the 1799 number to come up with Menlo Park's housing impact)? By Chuck's own rationale, shouldn't he be screaming that the signers of that No on T ballot argument assertion be called "liars" too?

Are we to be searching for the most shocking name to call each other? Feels like Chuck has started a race to the bottom of ideologically blind name calling at a very early stage in the Council campaign.
This behavior is not befitting of Menlo Park at all and not indicative of a suitable temperment for an effective Councilmember. I'd expect that kind of namecalling from someone like Hank Lawrence, but am saddened to see Chuck serving as the hatchet man this way. Shameful. I am sure he has lost a many more potential votes than he has gained.

The facts are that if one applies the subregional calculus to the housing number that ABAG assigns to MP it comes to 111 to 180 housing units for Menlo Park over 25 years. Yes, that's right: 111 to 180 -- not "1799 new homes, adding pressure for unsustainably dense housing projects, locally (downtown, Allied Arts, Belle Haven) and regionally (Cargill)" stated in the No on T rebuttal. SO that argument at least risks misleading voters who would see the figure 1799 "new homes" near the words "locally (downtown, Allied Arts) and fail to understand that only 111 - 180 new housing units (such as condos) are projected to be in Menlo Park.

However since the No on T folks seem to think this slanted use of the 1799 housing figure is okay, then please help me see how they have any basis to justify their point on the $600k for Menlo schools?

FACT: If Gateway goes forward, $600K a year will go to schools that serve Menlo Park students (The Sequoia Union High SChool District, which includes Menlo Atherton High as well as an Adult Ed center on Middlefield in Menlo Park). That $600,000 amount per year is a fact that is supported in the official documents and independent analyses on the City's website.

FACT: Those same independent analyses show that $266,000 per year will go to our local Community Colleges which many Menlo Park students attend. So actually, one could say that $866,000 per year would be to schools that serve Menlo Park students.

Yes, it is true that the parcels Gateway would be built on are currently in the Redwood City School District's boundaries. Thus that is where the funding for elementary and middle schools is currently expected to go. But the Council got the Gateway Development Agreement to include a provision that Bohannon would help the City seek to change those boundaries. That is part of the public record too, and is not inconsistent with the ballot arguments as I read them.

Seems that the above funding for schools points, as well as the other revenue benefits that Gateway would bring to our City, have not really been overstated. But methinks the opponents are getting pretty desparate already, and their rebuttal argument's implication significantly overstates the "housing" impacts on Menlo Park, which are very modest indeed.

Well -- who's surpsized? I think we all assume a certain amount of clever wording and slanted implications are to be expected in politics. In the end, I trust that Menlo Park's voters are smart and can figure this out for themselves like the COuncil and the Planning COmmission did with their majority votes for the project after many many noths of careful study of the facts.

This ballot argument brouhaha is surely a tempest in a teapot. Time to move on.

Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Have you never noticed when the opposition can't sustain its argument it says "It is time to move on". Translation: "My argument does not hold water so lets move on before I get more embarassed than I already am".

Fact 1: No Menlo Park elementary schools are getting a dime
Fact 2: Sequoia Union School District gets money and the the vast majority of that money will go to Redwood City Schools.

Fact 3 Menlo Park schools are getting screwed.

Like this comment
Posted by Inconvenient Truth
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 7, 2010 at 11:26 pm

I did not even realize the wording on the No on T ballot argument was flawed. But apparently neither did the writer of the Alamanac article, Mr. Bernstein, or even Mr. Lawrence (judging by the conspicuous silence in his previous post).

This absurdly false statement of the No on T supporters--and blatant hypocrisy thereafter--is appalling.

The Inconvenient Truth is that the No on T (aka Bernsetein) supporters will stop at nothing to promote Bernstein himself.

Like this comment
Posted by Paul Collacchi
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2010 at 12:34 am

I have no problem saying that housing analyses in the EIR put the local impact at about 100 plus or minus 25 and state that the local impact to Menlo Park is deemed to be insignificant. We can all have our opinion about what it will really be, but that is the official pronouncement.

The Argument against Measure T says, “[Menlo Gateway] builds no new housing but creates new demand for 1799 new homes, adding pressure for unsustainably dense housing projects, locally (downtown, Allied Arts, Belle Haven) and regionally (Cargill).

That statement is correct, and is not “tricky” or meant to be “tricky.” In particular it does not say “ … creates demand for 1799 new homes IN MENLO PARK” nor is that its point. Nor does it try to say that a FUTURE project is responsible for PAST development projects. It is a compound statement. The project does generate demand for 1799 new homes, and that demand does add to market pressure locally and countywide (and region wide). The statement also tries to provide examples of each.

Yes, we try to do too much work in too few words. I don’t think we need to mislead people, most neighbors will tolerate housing projects up to a certain point, but even "hypocrisy" is already apologizing for housing demand trying to explain it away and make it okay. Don’t worry, we’re dumping on someone else’s backyard.

We just need to describe the phenomena accurately. I will now say in many words what we tried to say in a few.

We are trying to point out land-use karma: what goes around comes around. It’s no coincidence that housing demand comes around as housing projects. EVERYWHERE, not just in Menlo Park.

The most subtle point, which does appear right now on the fuller version of the same statement on the website Web Link is that the “indirect” housing demand in particular is likely to be located far away, in the greater nine-county super-region, not locally, and unfortunately it’s likely to be SPRAWL housing.

The statement is intended to point out the karmically self-defeating policies of advocating dense development as a method of reducing sprawl, without realizing that imbalanced dense development, nowhere near transit, that creates housing demand without housing, adds to the very sprawl that dense development is alleged to prevent. Badly applied infill policies are destructive. Menlo Gateway is bad infill.

The statement also directly confronts the self-contradictory land-use policy of those who both support the Menlo Gateway housing demand project yet oppose the Cargill housing project, a few of whom are writing anonymously (and quite bitterly) in this forum. If you advocate Menlo Gateway and oppose Cargill then you are slapping yourself in the face and don’t even know it.

If “hypocrisy’s” point is that its okay to approve projects that create 1799 units of unmitigated total housing demand so long as the local impact is only 100 units, then that’s coming around too, because all the other cities in the region are trying to do the same thing. It’s an unsustainably, irresponsible housing policy.

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

Be the first to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

First Sunnyvale, then Australia: Mountain View's Le Plonc plots expansion
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,445 views

Juggling Renewables
By Sherry Listgarten | 35 comments | 1,933 views

Premarital and Couples: Living as Roommates?
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,399 views

Homestead Faire at Hidden Villa 4/27
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 678 views

A trial run
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 523 views


The Almanac Readers' Choice ballot is here

It's time to decide what local business is worthy of the title "The Almanac Readers' Choice" — and you get to decide! Cast your ballot online. Voting ends May 27th. Stay tuned for the results in the July 17th issue of The Almanac.