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Bohannon vs. Bernstein: Menlo politics inspire hit pieces

 

Politicians aspire to stand out during campaign season. One way to do that? Mention "sabotage" during a public forum while discussing a controversial development project like the Bohannon Gateway.

The man behind the unfortunate choice of words is educator and City Council candidate Chuck Bernstein, who, yes, opposes Measure T, a ballot measure that would let David Bohannon build his huge hotel-office complex in Menlo Park.

To be precise, while speaking at the League of Women Voters forum on Sept. 29, Mr. Bernstein said, "...what I pledge to both Mr. Bohannon and the people of Menlo Park, is that I will abide by whatever that vote shows. No more sabotage, no more delay, move forward to the next things we have to deal with."

But a mailer sent out by the Bohannon organization says the opposite: that Mr. Bernstein "said publicly that he is out to 'sabotage' Menlo Gateway and Measure T" during the forum. Therefore, according to the mailer's logic, he would "cost Menlo Park taxpayers over $1.6 million per year" by "sabotaging" the city's annual revenue expected from Gateway.

It's clear how Mr. Bohannon spent some of the $150,000 invested in his Measure T campaign. A second mailer sent during the third week of October also depicts a photo of a smiling Mr. Bernstein surrounded by text that repeated "sabotage" in bold font over and over, and claimed the candidate "would be very expensive for Menlo Park schools" based on the same logic.

"I've heard him say things that are inaccurate, misrepresenting the facts about the project, the housing impacts, the school money," Mr. Bohannon told The Almanac. "I would interpret those misrepresentations, those untruths to voters, as sabotage."

The developer said the forum comment implied that the sabotage would only stop after the election, and that he doesn't find the candidate's pledge to respect the voters' decision credible if Measure T passes, since the council will still have input on how construction proceeds.

"I don't look forward to working with Chuck. Why would I think he would be credible in that, if he's not credible in how he presents the project to voters?" Mr. Bohannon asked.

What does Mr. Bernstein think of all this?

"First, it makes me feel very powerful. Second, I am mystified by his rationale; this issue would be resolved by the time I would be elected and I think he is jeopardizing his project with a nasty mailing," he said, suggesting that Menlo Park voters' sense of fair play may rebel against smear campaigns.

"I don't do sabotage: I am up front and have been speaking out against this project for a very long time." What he intended to convey, he said, was his opposition to such tactics.

A press release circulated by Mr. Bernstein called the mailers "false attacks" and emphasized his educational and business background. The release quoted a fiscal impact analysis by Bay Area Economics that stated the housing demand created by Menlo Gateway would lead to $12,000 to $45,000 budget deficits for three local school districts.

Bohannon spokesman Patrick Corman called the quote from the analysis an example of the candidate's misrepresentations.

"It's a hypothetical, not a likely scenario. It could happen, but the moon could turn green, too," Mr. Corman said, since those deficit calculations assume that the new housing would be built within a single school district.

Go to Menlo Park forum to view the complete League of Women Voters candidates forum.

Comments

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Posted by Put a fork in it
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Although I don't like the form or approach of Mr Bohannon's "Bernstein" mailers, their basic substantive point seems sound.

Chuck Bernstein is out of touch with Menlo Park's mainstream in opposing T and losing its benefits for the City and local schools. (Russ Peterson opposes T too.) More broadly, Chuck represents a very small swath of folks who really want no growth on a range of issues in Menlo Park (and the most extreme no growthers are running his campaign, too).

In contrast, all indications are that the vast majority in Menlo Park want Gateway and recognize the importance of its future net revenue stream of $1.6 or more to the City.

Bernstein's version of fiscal responsibility is too willing to cut muscle (not fat). At the same time he says no to these revenues, he would (instead) make deeper cuts in our services than the Council has already had to and will probably continue to need to do in these challenging times. This is the opposite of what the results of the "Your City Your Decision" survey found people citywide wanted done.

We all paid a lot to live here; it's reasonable for us to expect that we'll continue to get excellent services. These include keeping our wide variety of plentiful and well run after school rec programs for our kids, and senior health and well being programs, not to mention having revenues for basic infrastructure projects we all take for granted (streets, sidewalks, storm drains, park maintenance etc). In the Your City survey - people were supportive of even a Utility Users Tax to fill such gaps.

If Chuck wants to try to point to Measure L to save us -- he and the L leaders well know that it doesn't yield our City any savings for 14 years. In fact, it is likely to *cost* us precious tax dollars in the short and medium term, according to the independent analysis.

This is a basic point that anyone serving on the Council must meaningfully grapple with. Chuck is willing to make cuts without really pushing for more revenues, such as from Measure T's tranient occupancy fees that don't affect Menlo Park residents' pocketbooks.
Most of the rest of us see it the opposite way -- we need economic vitality to support continuation of our services, especially in an age of the State raiding Cities to close its own budget deficit.

Chuck isn't the right leader for Menlo Park, even though he is a fine human being and can and should make a difference as a private citizen.

Besides, we already have Andy Cohen holding down that small minority viewpoint for the next two years, anyway. Having two like them up there would not be representative of the views of our populace.


Like this comment
Posted by more truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm

How is it that a quote from the city's consultant about the negative impacts on Menlo Park's K-8 school districts is a "misrepresentation"?
Bohannon's paid advisor Corman says "It's a hypothetical, not a likely scenario. It could happen, but the moon could turn green, too,"

Bernstein's materials point to cutting current costs and encouraging sales tax producing businesses. Both of those actions could yield positive and stable results pretty quickly. What we don't need are massive office buildings that don't provide revenue but add huge traffic impacts.


Like this comment
Posted by E. Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Mr. Bohannon,

I write you as a person who spent 35 years writing public messages and creating corporate images. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??!!

You have spent over 18 months running all the political gauntlets to get approval of your project that is now on the Menlo Park election ballot as Measure “T”. I admire your patience. From all the people I talk to in town, Measure “T” will be a winner.

So why did you feel it was worth the risk to attack one candidate for the City Council just before you cross the finished line? Your fear, no paranoia, of candidate Chuck Bernstein just oozed off the page of the flyer that arrived in my mail today. This move may have actually put your project at greater risk.
1. You’ve given Chuck and his support base the reason they need to down six bottles of “5 Hour Energy” and knock on every door and gather every vote. You’ve now defined yourself as EVIL and provided a center of energy.
2. Do you remember what happened when the unions sued the City and the Pension Reform group (yes that was my name on the Union lawsuit)? People were angered by this attack. Our donations doubled and they kept interest in Measure “L” as high as possible during the doldrums of summer vacations.
3. If Measure “T” looses, the no-growthers will have a feast on you, and you will have turned on the oven to cook your own goose.
4. Mr. Bernstein has publicly promised not to interfere with your project if Measure “T” wins. But if I were Chuck I’d think this hit piece changed the rules and would release me from any obligations of past promises. Whether elected or not, Mr. Bernstein is still likely to be active in our community.
5. You’ve also done a serious disservice to every other developer in Menlo Park. They will now have to fight an even more difficult image.

D-U-M-B..... That’s how you spell the union suit. That’s how you now spell the name of your political advisors.

Let’s hope the rumors you have additional hit pieces ready to mail are not true and you return to the high road.

I’ve already sent in my mail ballot. I voted yes for Measure “T”. We need to start building again in Menlo Park. And I also voted for Chuck Bernstein.

Edward Moritz


Like this comment
Posted by 21 year resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm

"No more sabotage, no more delay," implies that there has been sabotage and delay. Since his statement indicates there will be "no more" after the election that implies Bernstein was involved, or exercising some level of control over whatever it was that he was characterizing as sabotage and delay. I think the Bohannon characterization of Bernstein's statement was within the range of normal campaign puffery.

The "No on T" crew is not straight in their literature either. Claiming noise pollution at 74db, and giving as a comparison a vacuum cleaner at 100 db. Very misleading because the decibel scale is logarithmic. 74 decibel is not 74% of 100 decibel, but far less (one chart indicates a 20 db difference is about a four times as loud difference). A better reference - normal conversation from 3 to 5 feet is in the range of 60 to 70 decibels. Chamber music in a small auditorium 75 - 85 db. A telephone dial tone is 80 db. In short, the Bohannon project, is not going to cause any noise pollution at 74 db.

"No on T" crew is also inconsistent in their complaints. On the one hand they complain that it won't provide enough revenue for the city. On the other hand they claim it will increase traffic. If you want more revenue (via sales tax) you would have to have far more traffic. So which is it?

And where is the traffic supposed to be coming from? Traffic flows like water, taking the easiest route. Given that the development is bounded by 101, Marsh, and the Bayfront expressway, I do not see where this traffic impact is going to spread beyond those already busy streets? Residential cut-through is unlikely as that would be a slower route.

There is no project that the No on T crew would approve, except, perhaps, an orchard growing pots of gold, quietly and cleanly, for the city.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

""No on T" crew is also inconsistent in their complaints. On the one hand they complain that it won't provide enough revenue for the city. On the other hand they claim it will increase traffic. If you want more revenue (via sales tax) you would have to have far more traffic. So which is it? "

Seriously? More traffic WITH more sales tax would be fine as it would provide funds to pay for some of the impacts the project will generate. It's not an either - or. The Gateway project provides little to no sales tax revenue, but will significantly increase traffic and other impacts. Get it now?


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Posted by a bad project either way
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Oct 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Menlo Voter, you have precisely identified the problem with Bohannon's project. Once the development agreement has been ratified, we're all in trouble.

Either he doesn't build it (and he's repeatedly said in public that he has no intention of building any time soon, though privately he's assured council members that he will begin immediately!) his promises of revenue and jobs are empty.

Or he does build it, thus incurring significant and irremediable negative impacts on the city.

Whichever timeframe occurs, the city gets very little money (NO sales tax -- only hotel occupancy tax, IF he builds the hotel, which he has indicated he does not want to do! He only threw it in to get permission to build his gargantuan office towers.)


Like this comment
Posted by nonsense
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm

@ "a bad project either way"

You don't know what you are talking about Please read the Development agreement and don't propagate lies.

There is no IF to his building the hotel... he must build the hotel first in order to get the outrageous entitlements for his 140 foot high office buildings. He certainly has not told anybody he will build now. If he was able and going to start now, he would be broadcasting that far and wide -- why keep it a secret?

He is not a fool. He can't rent the office space in this environment and he can't get financing to build now.

You are right that all the revenue basically comes from the hotel, and that is what the Council thinks they are going to latch onto.

Measure T must be voted down. The area need a real plan, not a scheme by a lone developer to make many millions for himself.


Like this comment
Posted by Boo Hoo
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 19, 2010 at 7:16 am

Chuck's whining about 'hit pieces'? That's rich- that's been Andy's Kitchen Cabinet's bread and butter for years. At least Bohannon put his name on these mailers. Besides- Chuck shouldn't complain about outside influences, given how much he's using the Couperus/Flegel/Draeger non-resident alliance to prop up his flagging campaign.


Like this comment
Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 19, 2010 at 8:19 am

I got that mailer too - and all the bullet points intended to bash Chuck Bernstein made me want to vote FOR Chuck Bernstein. Bohannon's efforts at bashing Bernstein completely backfired on me. Go Chuck.


Like this comment
Posted by pjp
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm

That flyer bashing Bernstein was so over the top that it pushed me over the fence and against the proposition! Thanks! Anyone who uses techniques like that deserves to start over and fail this round. Besides, giving so many variances to something that may not happen for years was not quite convincing. The alleged money for the schools seems to be negligible because of the location of the project and the state's 'back-fill' policy. I read the arguments for, against and the rebuttals, and it seems pretty clear that NO on Measure T makes sense. I wish there were candidates other than Bernstein who are against the measure so that I could vote for them!

The arguments are in your voter handbook, but here's a place where you can read them online if you prefer: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by trynig to find
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 19, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Hey pip...

The link you gave has no information. Can you fix?


Like this comment
Posted by brandy
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

The hit pieces convinced me to vote against T. It's far in the future anyway,


Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 19, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I've had the opportunity to observe Chuck Bernstein in action in his own behalf over a number of years, most closely with his pre-school/childcare operation in South Palo Alto, on the Elks Lodge property. Those of us involved with allowing his use of that property were "confused" by his changing promises & conflicting commitments in a number of areas, depending oin what he thought his audience would best like to hear.

Perhaps a face-to-face Q & A with Chuck and a small audience would reveal the nature of this candidate?

I won't be voting for Chuck or anything he supports. Maybe I'll vote for everything he opposes.


Like this comment
Posted by poster
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm

To "Trying to find": the Web link posted by pjp is now fixed. And it's here: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 19, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Mr. Corman says "Bohannon spokesman Patrick Corman called the quote from the analysis an example of the candidate's misrepresentations.
"It's a hypothetical, not a likely scenario. It could happen, but the moon could turn green, too," Mr. Corman said, since those deficit calculations assume that the new housing would be built within a single school district."

The numbers cited by Chuck Bernstein come straight from the city consultant's report that assumed the new students would be equally spread across Menlo Park's school districts. There is an appendix showing even greater costs to individual school districts if the new students only live in a single district. Time to look for that green moon.

To "21 year resident" - 85% of the project generates virtually no sales tax revenue to the city. Without changing anything other than the allowed uses for the offices, the city could have had the chance of business-to-business sales tax revenue. The Planning Commission suggested an in-lieu fee to provide some incentive for such uses (or pay the fee). Neither were acceptable to the developer.


Like this comment
Posted by Not the same old song!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 19, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I think Chuck should be judged by his record, and by "record" I mean the unintentionally hilarious song that's on his web site! Seriously, you all need to drop everything and go to chuck4council-dot-org and listen to it. It's filled with references to 'New York slums' and all the Forces of Evil that are conspiring against him. Hoo boy.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 20, 2010 at 6:10 am

[Post removed. Off topic.]


Like this comment
Posted by Andy Cohen
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Here we are, less than 2 weeks from election day, and suddenly it's no longer about the issues, but about personal motives: according to Mr. Bohannon, Bernstein is a saboteur, and yet he has nothing to gain personally by working to defeat Measure T, and everything to lose, because he is running for council in a wide field. Mr. Bohannon, on the other hand, has quite a lot to lose, which makes these personal hit pieces patently motivated by his economic interest in an immense project, the specifics of which his experts virtually wrote and the council accepted as "the best we could get," (Heyward Robinson).

Andy Cohen


Like this comment
Posted by interesting
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Andy walked out of the Rosewood Hotel debate in June 2006. He voted against the project and now that revenue has saved our city from falling off the edge.

Chuck's comments on that project are below and this is from the minutes of the meeting on June 13th, 2006.

Sound familiar? Oppose it all and admonish those who bring it forth.

"Chuck Bernstein has been a resident of Menlo Park for 38 years and is a double alumnus of Stanford, but said he is embarrassed by Stanford's behavior as a landowner and believes the proposal is filled with cynicism as the hotel is a smoke screen for an office development for which Menlo Park gets nothing. He added that Stanford has barely completed the widening of Sand Hill Road to alleviate massive congestion and already it is prepared to consume the additional capacity with more development. In his opinion the traffic issue is virtually ignored in the EIR, and he believes the zoning change will allow a lot more occupancy."


Like this comment
Posted by I'm with you
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Downtowner:
I'm with you-- I have seen outrageous behavior from Chuck Bernstein and will vote for anyone but him. I will also vote for measure T. His logic is very concerning.
He is great at spreading fear.


Like this comment
Posted by Ano Nymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 8:43 am

Given that this project will not be off the ground for so many years, why are we in such a hurry to approve it now? Provide future City Councils more time to negotiate better terms than those in the horrendous deal (for Menlo Park), that Bohannon has strong-armed our government into. The only advantages I see to the current arrangement are 1) Allowing the current Council to say it got SOMETHING done, no matter how detrimental to the city's long-term interest, 2) Providing yet more ridiculously high-paying jobs for city workers/management. [Portion removed; unsubstantiated personal attack.]


Like this comment
Posted by Ano Nymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm

[Post removed. Terms of use.]


Like this comment
Posted by Ano Nymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:03 pm

[Post removed. Corruption is not the topic.]


Like this comment
Posted by Boohannon
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Gotta agree with Chuck on both sets of issues! Thanks for sharing, "interesting!" (See above)

"Chuck Bernstein has been a resident of Menlo Park for 38 years and is a double alumnus of Stanford, but said he is embarrassed by Stanford's behavior as a landowner and believes the proposal is filled with cynicism as the hotel is a smoke screen for an office development for which Menlo Park gets nothing. He added that Stanford has barely completed the widening of Sand Hill Road to alleviate massive congestion and already it is prepared to consume the additional capacity with more development. In his opinion the traffic issue is virtually ignored in the EIR, and he believes the zoning change will allow a lot more occupancy."


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

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