Atherton: Garbage rates, ethics panel

Meeting in Jennings Pavilion, Holbrook-Palmer Park

The Atherton City Council will review and possibly approve higher garbage rates, and discuss proposals by two council colleagues that would create an ethics and oversight board for the town, and establish rules on private donations made to the police department when it meets on Wednesday, May 18.

The meeting, which includes a public hearing on the proposed new garbage rates, begins at 7 p.m. in Jennings Pavilion in Holbrook-Palmer Park, 150 Watkins Ave. in Atherton.

The garbage rate issue has been a contentious one since the town first proposed increases ranging from 63 percent to 98 percent late last year. With many residents up in arms over the proposal, and many questions raised about the need for rates that would have made Atherton the most expensive place on the Peninsula for trash pickup, the council voted in March to significantly lower the proposed rates.

Although council members at that time agreed to a rate schedule that would reflect a 39 percent increase for all service levels -- from a 20-gallon can to a 96-gallon barrel -- the public notice sent out that month inadvertently reflected higher rates than the council endorsed.

Theresa DellaSanta, the town clerk, said the council could still, for the most part, approve the lower rates it endorsed when it acts this week.

The council will also consider two memos from council members Bill Widmer and Kathy McKeithen, the first of which would require that specific donations made to the police department be made anonymously, and channeled only through the city manager and city attorney.

The memo notes that several donations have been made to the department recently, which has led to "citizen concerns ... that they may result in favoritism."

The proposed requirement comes at a time when a community group is "looking into ways to assist our community in minimizing the impacts" of budget cuts, according to former mayor Didi Fisher, who is part of the group. She said the group will look for sources of income such as grants and private donations to see the town through its financial crisis.

Mr. Widmer and Ms. McKeithen are also asking their colleagues to consider establishing an ethics oversight board consisting of one council member, one citizen who is a judge or lawyer, and the town's human resource manager or town manager. The board would hear and investigate citizen complaints of actions by town employees.

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Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Ex Atherton Council member Didi Fisher has not attended a single council meeting since she stepped down from office about ten years ago.
I wish she would stop trying to continue to micro-manage the Town's affairs via the Circus Club which only subverts a healthier process of governance, and that she will please find some more productive venue for indulging her old grievance against McKiethen.

Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

From: Peter Carpenter
Date: May 15, 2011 11:58:05 AM PDT

Dear Council Members,

I realize that there is widespread opposition to the proposed increases in refuse and recycling rates but I would add a contrary view - the increases are not nearly enough to cover the actual costs which the Town will eventually have to pay.

Under the current multi-year contract Recology is essentially guaranteed its costs plus a profit. There is no way that the proposed rates will cover the cost of the services being provided and the Town will be forced to make up the difference. At this point I suspect that you feel that there is no alternative but to approve the new rate schedule but I hope that if you do so that you also go on record that these rates are insufficient to cover the actual costs and that the Town will be forced to pay the shortfall via the truing-up clause in the contract.


Like this comment
Posted by Alice
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 18, 2011 at 6:30 am

The Council needs to recognize that funding for the Town Center will come from a wide variety of constituents. Former political leaders still have supporters. These community leaders can either work for or against the Town's desire to fund raise for the new Town Center or renew the parcel tax.

Wasn't Peter Carpenter advocating no anonymous donations at one point? Now, Widmer & McKeithen suggest it be done out of public view.

The bottom line is the Town has a financial problem. Private funding for capital improvements or operational needs is part of the solution.

The effort by these two Council members may have unintended consequences.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 18, 2011 at 6:39 am

Alice asks:"Wasn't Peter Carpenter advocating no anonymous donations at one point?"

Yes, and I still do. Transparency is a much better solution than anonymity, however the Council should still reserve to itself the acceptance or rejection of any donation including any conditions imposed by the donor. We have a great, wealthy, civic minded community and individuals who wish to contribute to the Town's welfare without accruing any special privileges for themselves should be encouraged to do so.

Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I don't believe that it is true AT ALL that Widmere and Mckiethen seek to keep "private donations out of public view".
I believe instead that they are seeking a solution to the question of how the Town might accept contributions from individual residents without creating an environment that might continue to raise questions about special treatment for those contributors. After all, special gifts to the Building Dept and Police Dept with far too much ensuing litigation as a consequence, would appear to explain the financial problems that Town is experiencing today.
The town is so small that trying to keep designated gifts to specific departments anonymous would be impossible.
My suggestion would be that all gifts be given ONLY to the Town in general, and then be distributed ONLY according to City Council designation, by unanimous vote (NOT committee), and according to need--other wise the money should remain in a general, and YES ANONYMOUS fund.

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

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