The state of Menlo Park: Good - for some

Mayor calls on residents to fight social injustice

Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline found himself doing something he'd never expected on Thursday night – delivering the annual state of the city speech for the second year in a row.

A small crowd gathered at the Stanford Park Hotel on Sept. 22 to hear the speech before the Golden Acorn Awards ceremony began.

"We [usually switch mayors every year," Mayor Cline told them. "I figured someone else would be stuck with the promises I made."

He won re-election to the City Council last year, then rapidly found himself also re-elected as mayor after colleague Kelly Fergusson resigned the position in the wake of a Brown Act scandal.

He acknowledged Menlo Park's accomplishments during the past year – passing a balanced budget, maintaining a healthy reserve, welcoming Facebook to its new campus in the city, fighting to keep redevelopment funds out of the state's coffers, and paying down debt.

"Things are really good," Mayor Cline said. "But not for everybody. They should be good for everybody."

He described a city fractured by social injustice – "take a 10 minute drive across the freeway" – and kids in east Menlo Park who attend schools ranked worst in the state, while those on the west side go to schools ranked best. "I'm pleading for people to look beyond their home value and do something about it."

Facebook's arrival on the east side heralds a new era of revitalization for the Belle Haven neighborhood, but only if school boards and other community leaders step up. "Otherwise we're quietly sweeping social injustice under the rug, saying 'if we don't even go there we won't see it.' That's not good enough."

The mayor touched on other key issues, for instance, saying that the high-speed rail authority hasn't provided enough valid information to let the city make informed decisions. "Give us answers so we can make informed decisions. Until then, we're worried. That's our position."

He also reminded listeners that the budget, while balanced, is not yet sustainable. Further cuts to expenses and services lie ahead, he said.

Mayor Cline finished by thanking community volunteers past and present for making the city what it is today, singling out Ernst and Betty Meissner, recipients of a 2011 Golden Acorn Award for community service, and fellow council member Peter Ohtaki for creating a state-certified emergency preparedness plan that the mayor hopes leads to a "choreographed system" of response by residents when disaster strikes.

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