Candidate and challenger Cecilia Taylor came fairly close to winning a seat on the Menlo Park City Council on Nov. 8, receiving 5,489 votes and coming in third after incumbent Catherine Carlton, who received 6,174 votes.
Ms. Taylor raised just $3,709 for her campaign, according to reports that were filed. This compares with $17,077 for Ms. Carlton and $15,247 for incumbent Ray Mueller, who came in first with 6,706 votes, according to the tally as of Nov. 17.
"I didn't know what to expect," Ms. Taylor told the Almanac on election night, expressing excitement, surprise and hope when she saw the initial counts released at 8:05 p.m.
The following morning, she conceded in a written statement.
"I am disappointed that after 30 years of waiting, Belle Haven must carry on without representation on the Council," she wrote. "My commitment is even stronger because of this loss. We have waited 30 years but the Chicago Cubs waited 108 years. With the increased participation and vocalization of our residents, we won't have to wait that long."
The 30 years refers to the last time a resident of Belle Haven served on the council – in 1986.
"We will not carry on as we have for past 30 years, waiting for equality, waiting for justice. We will make our voice heard," she said. "I am grateful to the voters who believe, as I do, that it is time for Menlo Park to come together as many neighborhoods but one city."
Ms. Taylor says she plans to maintain an "advisory board" she assembled during her campaign, which will break into smaller groups to work on specific problems in Menlo Park. To start, she said, she plans to coordinate volunteers who will serve as crossing guards on Willow Road near schools. She also plans to keep attending local meetings and learn more about local government.
Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline said Ms. Taylor campaign pointed out the "under-representation of a number of people who haven't ... or feel they have not been heard."
In Menlo Park elections, council candidates run citywide and can live anywhere in the city. Some areas, such as Belle Haven, don't have a council member living there. All five current council members live west of U.S. 101, and four live west of El Camino Real.
Mayor Cline said he is interested in examining whether there's a way to structure the council to deal with this sense by some people that they lack representation on the council.
He suggested the possibility of expanding the council to seven members, or establishing districts whose voters would elect a council member living in that district.
As he sees it, the process would start with discussions at community gatherings, such as homeowner association meetings, or at people's homes and local cafes. "I think we should start it before the end of the year," he said, citing disparities in the way people live and in the schools.
"I'm grateful to Cecilia for having courage to step up and run," he said. "It's a very difficult thing to do."
At a campaign volunteer party held at her home in Belle Haven, several attendees said this was the first time they'd gotten involved in a political campaign.
Willy Beasley, who has lived in Belle Haven for 50 years, knocked on doors and distributed literature and signs in support of Ms. Taylor because, he said, he believes the residents of his neighborhood need representation on the council.
Belle Haven, he said, has for too long been considered a "thumb" sticking out of Menlo Park, that has been "never really included or fit in within the politics of the city." he said. "Now, it's a new day."
"To support her is to support myself," he said.
Julie Shanson, a Willows resident, was at the party with her 12-year-old daughter, Leah. The pair had worked together to write and design campaign fliers.
She said she learned about Ms. Taylor's campaign at a Cafe Zoe event and was impressed with her passion, integrity and knowledge of the issues.
Sally Heath, a Belmont resident, got involved in politics for the first time when asked for help by Ms. Taylor's mother, Pam Jones. She helped organize an email database and prepared emails.
While campaigning, Ms. Taylor said, one thing that struck her was: "There are so many people in this city who feel the same way – unheard and voiceless."