Measures better funded than council campaigns

Menlo Park ballot measures backed by donors

Measure T, the ballot measure that would allow the Bohannon Menlo Gateway to be built if approved by a majority of voters, has a supporter with deep pockets, possibly to the envy of the six candidates running for Menlo Park City Council.

According to the finance report for the "2010 Citizens Committee for Menlo Gateway, Yes on Measure T," David Bohannon has sunk $150,000 into getting the measure passed -- more than 10 times as much money as any council candidate has collected in his or her campaign.

Mailers, volunteers, public relations, and $25,225 telephone polls are expensive, even when the polls indicate 68 percent of the 400 people surveyed would probably vote in favor of Measure T. Another $48,064 in bills remains outstanding.

Mr. Bohannon plans to build Gateway, a roughly 950,000-square-foot hotel and office complex, on 16 acres located east of U.S. 101 that span Independence Drive and Constitution Drive.

The opposition, "Measured Growth for Menlo Park" (also known as "No on Measure T"), is running a less costly campaign. Of the $4,050 donated by people including David Speer, Andy Cohen, and Paul Collacchi, less than half has been spent -- $1,262 for pamphlets, copies, and postage. That leaves a couple thousand dollars still in the piggy bank.

Pension reform

The financing of the opposition to Measure L, the pension reform initiative, remains murky. The initiative seeks to raise the minimum retirement age for new public employees, excluding police officers, by five years to 60, and also decrease their maximum pension benefits by 0.7 percentage points to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years

The "No on Measure L" website reveals no names, although Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson and former mayor Gail Slocum have publicly decried the measure.

Two local unions, which lost a lawsuit in August to keep the measure off the ballot, likely funded a citywide telephone poll conducted in September that attempted to discredit Measure L. So The Almanac asked the Service Employees International Union Local 521 (SEIU) for a copy of the "No on Measure L" committee's Form 460 finance report.

"We don't have a 460 available because our committee didn't incur any expenses before October," said Jerry Jimenez, communications specialist for SEIU. "Our committee was formed October 1, which was the cutoff for the filing period. Our next 460 form will be filed when due on October 21."

On the other hand, the "Yes on Measure L" crowd got a jump on the competition by forming an official committee in February. Its latest finance report shows $23,994 in contributions since then. Council candidates Chuck Bernstein and Russell Peterson each donated $100. Local certified public accountant James Benzel gave $2,500, as did banker Colin Stewart.

Those bright yellow "Yes on Measure L" signs spattered across Menlo Park yards cost the committee $2,750. But the biggest expense by far was the cost of defending the ballot measure against the unions' lawsuit -- $8,450. Those convinced Measure L will face a post-election legal challenge if it passes may be consoled by the $6,100 remaining in the committee's bank account that could go towards a second court fight.

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Like this comment
Posted by L No
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 12, 2010 at 1:16 pm

There are far more people against L than your article mentions.

And there is no way that $6,100 listed as being in the Yes on L kitty as of Oct 1 will still be there at the end of the campaign. The CItywide slick mailers that came out recently did not appear to be reported in the Oct 1 report. And they will have to do more mailers once the No on L starts to come out with its mailers.

No on L may have been slower out of the blocks, but it is gaining ground once people realize that the City will be on the hook for the legal costs if it passes, the City could be kicked out of CalPers which would cause additional costs, and its selective nature is disporportionately affective women and minority positions.

The Council did it the RIGHT way, and there is really no need for L at all. It's not fair and it's not smart. No on L.

Like this comment
Posted by Headcount
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Easy to say there's a lot more people, when everything's done anonymously. At least the Yes on L people are out in the open.

Like this comment
Posted by Lawsuit
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Just so we are clear. The city will only have to defend itself in a lawsuit if it's employees sue them. So if the employees want to bite the hand tha feeds them, we will have to defend our right to not pay them $60,000+ per year in pension.

Are you kidding me? The city already gave them $6,800,000 in 2007 when we raised their pensions by 35%.

Also, Roy Sardina clearly pointed out on another post (se link below) that the City Attorney told the city council, that we woould not be thrown out of CalPERS, since the issue could be fixed with the Yes on Measure L committees approval in a court appearance.

How is this against minority and women? the highest paid employee in Menlo Park is minority, and half of our employees are women (much higher than the US private workforce). Every NEW employee will be getting 60% of their pay as a pension (our current employees will still get 81% of their final pay as pension), as opposed to the MUCH LOWER social security they would get in the private world. How is that hardship?

[Portion removed. Please avoid attacking other posters.]

Like this comment
Posted by Lawsuit
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Web Link

That is the link to the other thread with the comments by Roy

Like this comment
Posted by Charles
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I've met some of the Yes on L backers, including that ex-council member who I voted against when she was ousted. Let me just say these aren't the kind of people I enjoy drinking a cup of coffee with. They have so much animosity that it seems nothing will ever make them happy or content; the core of their argument is anger-driven. This past weekend, I was visited by a volunteer for the No on L folks, who explained that L is at its core an attack on the City Council. I believe that the City Council should make these complicated decisions...and if they do something that I don't like, I'll vote them out, just like Menlo Park voters voted out Duboc and Winkler.

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

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