Menlo Park mayor addresses state of city


Drawing a larger crowd than attends most City Council meetings, Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline delivered his state of the city address to about 70 people on Thursday (Sept. 23) at the Stanford Park Hotel. The speech was given as part of the 38th annual Golden Acorn Awards, which may have explained the crowd.

"Hello, I'm Rich Cline, and I have potholes on my street," the mayor said, who is running for re-election after serving on the council since 2006. "My street expected more of me for these four years."

The theme of holes that need filling wove throughout the speech. Some of those holes could be labeled "city finances," "downtown planning," and "emergency preparedness."

He also introduced several ideas for filling those holes, among them a team of business owners working with city staff to streamline the permitting process, and an energetic recruitment drive to bring more businesses to Menlo Park. "It's a big, big strategic plan," the mayor said.

Mr. Cline reminded the audience of the downtown specific plan, which should be coming before the council later this year, a plan which he hopes will stop "planning by politics," where litigation can shut down prospective business, and allow more consistent development.

Later referencing the Sept. 9 San Bruno gas pipe explosion, he said, "It's not if, it's when, we have a disaster in Menlo Park. I don't feel the community is as ready as it should be."

Mr. Cline asked city staff to prepare an updated emergency plan in coordination with other local agencies and neighborhood volunteers, and release it to the public by the end of 2011.

Belle Haven also needs greater attention, according to the mayor, who said he was frustrated with the neighborhood's distance from city services. He suggested getting a police substation up and running there, and asked why Belle Haven Elementary School is not part of the larger Menlo Park City School District.

He described the city as being in transition as it tries to stop expenses from outstripping revenue, and spoke up in support of the Bohannon Gateway project as a potential source of $1.5 million in hotel revenue per year. New revenue won't be enough to balance the budget, however, and the mayor said difficult cuts are coming.

The speech ended where it began. "I've been talking long enough here for those potholes to be filled, but they'll still be there when I get home," Mr. Cline said, and then yielded the floor to the awards banquet.

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Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Sounds like a campaign speech. Let's hope no one falls for it. If the Mayor hadn't supported a big pay/retirement increase, many potholes could have been fixed.

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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:16 pm


The unanimous decision to which I believe you are referring - and that yes vote was nipartisan and INCLUDED John Boyle - actually saved the City money. The council also unanimously cut positions and pay recently in addition to imposing a package on SEIU that calls for cost sharing that saves the City money now (not 14 years from now which is how long Measure L will take to generate any savings.) And they avoided more lawsuits over violating the labor negotiation laws, which would have cost the City tax money too.

I'd call Cline quite fiscally moderate. Heck he's the only guy on that COuncil who has to make a payroll every two weeks for the employees who work for him in the small business he owns - that makes someone pretty pargmatic pretty fast.

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Posted by menlo voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:17 pm

As I listened to him, I too thought it was a campaign speech.

He talks about what he wants to do in the future. He has been in office for 4 years now, so many of the issues he and rest of council created.

Years of un-balanced budgets and bleeding down of the general fund reserve. All he wanted to talk about was raising revenues. Other Cities around us cutting staff and salaires. Not Menlo Park.

He talks about keeping the Menlo Park AAA credit rating. With him in office much longer, that won't survive.

He is going to fix the pension problem. He created the pension problem when he voted for raising it rate three years ago.

Major increases in police pay and other raises, including especially more upper level staff positions have increased expenses.

In spite of Rosewood coming on line, in spite of major increases in the fees changed on the master fee schedule, further and further into deficit.

Boyle dropped out. Cline and Robinsion running as a team. Neither going to get my vote this time --- they both did 4 years ago.

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Posted by Maria
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Heyward Robinson does not listen to us residents, except when he wants to be re-elected. Always has an excuse why he can't.

I'm voting for Ohtaki and Bernstein -haven't decided on the 3rd one.

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Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 25, 2010 at 10:11 am

It's unfortunate that the nonsensical Heyward Robinson claim of "saving $200,000" keeps popping up. When council committed the city to a 35% increase in retirement benefits for non-safety employees (2.0 multiplier raised to 2.7) it was represented as being in lieu of granting yet another raise to staff. Whatever happened to No raise, No more pension, We can't afford it? So to "save" 200K we didn't need to spend, we committed to over $6M in increased benefits.

Newly elected council members bit on staff's recommendation for the increase that year, they were only human - thats why we need Measure L to put boundaries on what a future quasi-volunteer council might agree to.

As for Mr Robinson, who still defends what others have admitted was a mistake - well, that's why we need some new faces on council.

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Posted by dharma
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2010 at 10:15 am

Didn't Heyward Robinson say we need to give our (well paid) city employees raises and pension boosts to keep up morale and get the best in staff? How does it affect morale when he publicly disses the City Manager to the Daily Post?? Not cool.

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Posted by Outside looking in
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Seems to me that with a Council majority, usually of 4-1, absolutely nothing got done in the last four years, until there was pressure from the residents on important issues such as pension reform. This 4-1, sometimes 3-2, majority had every opportunity to fix Menlo Park's infrastructure, revitalize the local economy, and even put together a disaster preparedness plan. All they did was waste time in long and dragged-out meetings and accomplished virtually nothing. They can't even work together with the impressive Menlo Park Fire Protection District to deal with disaster preparedness and who has tried to work the City Council. Menlo Park's City Council is the laughing stock of San Mateo County!

Now, two incumbents, part of that easy majority, want a second chance. For what??? To prove themselves???? It's obvious that if they couldn't get anything done in the last four years that they probably won't get anything done in the next four years. Menlo Park deserves much better than what they have in Cline and Robinson, and I hope Menlo Park residents realize this.

For all you Cline and Robinson supporters from four years ago, if you don't feel like you can justify voting these two incumbents, please don't. They have not proven themselves worthy of your vote and don't deserve to be in office another four years. And, they certainly do NOT deserve to be in higher office beyond the Menlo Park City Council, which seems to be their stepping stone.

Exploiting a Chamber awards dinner for political expediency is business as usual! I'm not surprised by Cline's self-promoting speech. If you really want positive change, throw out the incumbents! They are not worthy of your vote!

To Maria-- if you haven't decided on candidate #3, please do not dilute Peter Ohtaki and Chuck Bernstein's votes by voting for someone you don't even want. Your voice will be heard loudly and clearly by voting only for Ohtaki and Bernstein! Voting for just the two of them will give them the best chance of winning. Just my two cents....

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Posted by Also outside looking in
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 25, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I disagree with the statement that "absolutely nothing got done in the last four years"

We added an assistant City Clerk. We now have a deputy City Manager, as well as a full time (not part time), assistant manager. The city hired an outreach person at around 90K / year and then promoted her to about 140K per year.

They hired an assistant business development person who quit after about one year, after accomplishing absolutely nothing along with the present manager.

We had a mid year $400K problem discovered with the budget, which required that much more deficit spending. We seem to have lost 2 large sales tax producers, whose identities have thus far not been identified, but which are causing another $500K hole in the budget.

We raised the police sergeants pay about 35% with 3% per year benefits causing another huge hole in the budget.

And, oh yes, the master fee schedule was revised, raising extra revenue to try and sustain the "out of control spending" by this council with higher fees all around.

We embarked on a downtown/ El Camino visioning process, which is months late, has cost over 1.2 million thus far, and which should be killed off, but city staff wants to keep it running so that no layoffs in planning will occur.

So, I would say this council has done plenty. Time to "reset". I voted for both Cline and Robinson last time. My mistake. I won't again.

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Posted by Outside looking in
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2010 at 3:35 pm

To Also Outside looking in:

Great points! And, I stand corrected. One other thing that is worth mentioning... not only is "Cline's Council" unable to manage the budget and finances of Menlo Park, "Cline's Council" is incompetent to hire the "CEO of Menlo Park", which is essentially what the City Manager is. Overall, I would give "Cline's Council" an F for gross incompetence and mismanagement of the City of Menlo Park.

You are right, it's definitely time to reset! Vote out the incumbents! The two incumbents are not worthy of your vote, so I am glad to hear that you won't vote for them again. With Ohtaki and Bernstein on the Council, there will be some hope that Menlo Park will recover from four years of incompetence by the Council majority.

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Posted by interesting
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 25, 2010 at 4:54 pm

[Post removed. Please discuss the topic rather than attacking other posters.]

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm

[Post deleted because it comments on another deleted post.]

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Posted by Curious
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2010 at 7:05 pm

So, your argument is that because you call everyone else names that Cline and Robinson must have accomplished something?

Heyward sold out the enviro-left big time. He's absolutely clueless about how to regulate carbon emissions using city regulatory powers. Many of his enviro supporters are disappointed. He can't even spell CEQA, but it could be his best friend.

Heyward doesn't understand how to run a service business with a structurally balanced budget, hence the post above alluding to many high-priced positions which produce no value. I'm not against government or government services. The biz dev guys have now presided over a $6M+ free fall in sales tax. The city could have made more money over that time by simply firing them. What they do is nothing, and then try to take credit after the fact for anything that does happen. The city could have saved itself over $300k per year counting benefits and retirement.

There is a second city clerk, but the first clerk doesnt even do minutes anymore. Explain how this is more efficient.

What's his vision and direction for the city? Why have sales taxes failed to recover under his leadership, does he even care? Does he understand how much power the city actually has to regulate carbon, its quite a bit. Does he know how to turn that power on? Not a clue.
Why did it take him four years to not implement a Climate Action Plan or energy element, or even a downtown plan?

What else has he not implemented in four years.

These guys hold five hour meetings in which they don't even make motions. I watched them review a use permit appeal, and was embarassed that no-one was willing to make a motion that would indicate that they actually had a position one way or the other.
No-one on the council even understands what a motion is and how use the formality of motions and Robert's rules to drive the public dialogue over an issue.

Say what you will about all those others, they knew why they were there and what they wanted to do, and they either succeeded or failed. Heyward is a plastic bag blowing in the wind with no direction and no purpose.

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Posted by Outside looking in
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

Curious: You ask a really good question about Robinson-- "why did it take him four years to not implement...? That is an interesting and important questions.

Being part of a majority, both incumbents have had their opportunity to accomplish something-- in the way of revitalizing the local economy, dealing w/the pension mess, and preparing for disasters. However, Fergusson's, Robinson's, and now Cline's Councils have only made a mess in Menlo Park. They couldn't have had an easier situation accomplish something positive-- with an easy majority vote. They're just not qualified to do the job. Menlo Park cannot afford another four years of incompetence! Menlo Park voters have a great opportunity to vote out the incumbents this year and then vote out Fergusson in two years. Take the opportunity and run-- vote out the incumbents!

We don't need more anger management problems and indiscretion with Robinson and indecision and/or group think with Cline. That doesn't help Menlo Park. Stop the incumbents in their tracks and ensure that they do not seek higher office. They are in public office for the the wrong reasons-- their own political ambition.

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Posted by Just the facts
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Excuse me, curious? I am curious what you base your opinions on.

For example, the City, under both Robinson and Cline has indeed implemented over 2 dozen recommended cost-effective measures from teh Cliamte Action plan, which combined are saving the City over $100,000 a year in energy bills. They did this by securing hefty rebates for the City and hacve already put in much higher efficiency retrofits in many of our City Buildings. This is like "found" taxpayer money that is available every year for other priorities. ANd taking these cost-effective steps definitely cuts down on our GHG emissions profile.
They are setting an example -- all the commercial buildings in town would ideally do likewise.

I am definitely voting to re-elect Rich and Heyward.

In challenging times like these, we don't need newbies taking 1 - 2 years to ramp up on all the diverse things an effective Councilperson needs to know about, and skills they need to develop.

If you like the dysfunctional and embarrasing outbursts we've had from Councilman Andy Cohen in the past year or two -- both from the dais and around town -- just imagine him being joined up there by the even hotter-headed and polemical Chuck Bernstein. The horror. We need consensus builders and good listeners. Cline and Robinson are respected around the Region as effective and capable. We need them to re-elected, especially given that some of the other candidates fall far short.

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Posted by more facts...
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 27, 2010 at 7:36 pm

wow, Cline and Robinson's initiatives saved $100K in energy costs. That will go a long way towards the HUGE increase in pension and pay they gave to the employees and the police. Gosh, what else should we spend those savings on?

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Posted by confused
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Hank, you have indicated that Ms Keith is "much better qualified than Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline". On what evidence do you base this? Are you suggesting that 6 years on the planning commission is "much better" that 4 years on city council? Ohtaki, Bernstein and Peterson were never on the planning commission. The only qualification should be to "repudiate Gail Slocum’s support".

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Posted by your kidding
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm

"Just the facts" writes

"We need consensus builders and good listeners." Anyone who believes that Robinson is a good listener obviously hasn't seen the council meeting. Look at his dis-interest in what speakers and other council members have to say.

Anyone who has attended or listened to the meeting would know the meetings will shrink by about 20% in length of time, if Robinson is no re-elected. He loves to talk and not to listen.

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 28, 2010 at 6:26 am

I am being put in an awkward position of having to defnd Ms. Keith. Heyward & Rich are just occupying space on the Dais. And that is on a good day. On a bad day they are raiding our reserves to hand over to the SEIU, engaging in frivolous lawsuits that cost the city money, or funding meaningless studies that that perpetuate their indecisiveness. These guys are nothing more than Gail's court jesters and Union lackeys.

At least Ms. Keith gives the appearance that she actually cares about the residents. And she does listen. Now all she has to do is to repudiate Gail's support.

Heyward would be better suited for a career in televised cage fighting or be a bouncer in a bar (that guy can fight!) and Rich would be better suited to be the Pillsbury Dough Boy hawking the company's products across the country.

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm

Hank, you are the expert when it comes to biscuits I would imagine.

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Posted by Pay Attention
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Regarding Hank Lawrence’s suggestion that Kirsten Keith repudiate Gail Slocum’s support: If Hank takes a look at Kirsten’s endorsement list, he won’t find Slocum’s name. Checking more, he won’t even find Heyward Robinson’s name. Why is there no endorsement from these two? Could it be that there’s nothing to repudiate?

Candidate Keith has been on the city’s Planning Commission for six years. She has a voting record and those who understand the immense responsibility of planning commissioners can check out her numerous votes.

This is a strange year and the old political lines of growth and no growth are blurred. I’ve never seen Steve Schmidt, Lee Duboc and Anna Eshoo on an endorsement list for the same candidate!, Maybe this election, we’ll see less division in the city. Voters need to pay attention to the platforms of each of the five serious candidates and pick the most thoughtful and experienced. The city needs leadership, not soldiers fighting a war.

This is not a year to make a lot of hay over mere conjecture. Pay attention, voters. Don’t listen to the old rants of them versus us.

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Posted by the real story
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Pay Attention, wonders why Slocum and Robinson aren't endorsing Keith.

The reason is Kelly Fergusson --- there is very bad blood between the two and it is well known. Perhaps becuase they are both politically ambitious, having gone through the Democratic Emerge program. Whatever, Fergusson and Keith don't get along. If Keith gets elected, and she is indeed backed by Duboc et al, because they see her as a replacement for Boyle, it will be a really hostile group on the dias.

Slocum, Robinson and Fergusson are tied together. That's the behind the scenes story. Just thought you would like to know.

So, less division on council if Keith gets a spot --- no way.

The big reason for the funny political scene now, is the Measure T, Bohannon project. Here is Gail Slocum, turning her back on the Green community and the slow growth residentialists, by supporting Bohannon's huge project, with all its negative aspects. Talk about flipping on issues, Slocum takes the cake here. The "greenies" should kick her out for supporting a project with so many climate change negatives (70 -80% of emissions will come from autos in this auto-centric project)

Cline and Robinson are trying to ride Measure T into victory, just as they rode the Derry referendum into victory 4 years earlier.

This year,however, they have to face up to their dismal record while on council for the last four years. They should not be re-elected; I voted for them last time --- I won't again.

Hank Lawrence has a hard time defending Keith, as indeed he should. He understands the Bohannon project for what it is and it should be stopped. Keith is in full supports. I guess she also sees this as the winning strategy. Big money buys an awful lot.

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Posted by Outside Looking In
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Real Story: thanks for enlightening us with more facts, such as the hypocrisy of Slocum, Fergusson, Robinson, and Cline. Talking out of both sides of their mouths seems to be par for the course for the two incumbents running for re-election-- Cline and Robinson. You are correct that they have a dismal record over the last four years they were on the City Council-- they've only really helped public employee unions by increasing pension obligations by about $6 million.

One thing to keep in mind is that Kirsten Keith may have received Slocum's endorsement, which just may not be listed. My understanding as to why Robinson will NOT endorse Keith is that she supports Measure L and he does not.

I doubt that Duboc et al see Keith as Boyle's "replacement." Keith did not endorse Measure L until after the judge issued his opinion that Measure L should go to the MP voters. This is not a sign of conviction in support of any kind of pension reform, let alone Measure L.

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