News

Atherton voters OK public funding of new civic center

Atherton voters have approved an advisory measure asking whether the town should spend more public money to build a new civic center.

In the final election night count, 61.1 percent of voters favored the measure. A simple majority (at least 50 percent of voters plus one) is required for passage.

With 1,808 votes counted (36.9 percent of registered voters), a total of 1,103 supported the measure and 701 opposed it.

While not all votes are counted, the final tally is not expected to change the result. Ballots postmarked by June 6 and received by June 9 will be counted.

The ballot question was: "Should the Town of Atherton supplement private donations with available non-dedicated General Funds to meet the funding shortfall, where one exists, for construction of the new Town Center?"

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Atherton's council put the question to voters because a 2012 ballot measure, approved by more than 70 percent of voters, said the design and construction of a new town center should primarily be paid for with private donations. Exceptions were for the library, which has its own library-only tax funds, and for money set aside for new building and planning offices.

So far, the town has not been able to raise enough private funds. At the same time, town officials estimate a robust economy means they have, or expect to have by the time construction would be completed, enough public money to pay the remaining estimated costs to build the civic center based on a design the council approved in February. The town has also considered short-term borrowing if needed.

The measure's opponents argued that the plans for a new civic center were too elaborate and they feared the town would spend money needed for other capital projects.

More vote totals are scheduled to be released by San Mateo County at 4:30 p.m. on three dates: Thursday, June 8; Tuesday, June 13; and Friday, June 16.

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Atherton voters OK public funding of new civic center

by Barbara Wood / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 8:11 pm

Atherton voters have approved an advisory measure asking whether the town should spend more public money to build a new civic center.

In the final election night count, 61.1 percent of voters favored the measure. A simple majority (at least 50 percent of voters plus one) is required for passage.

With 1,808 votes counted (36.9 percent of registered voters), a total of 1,103 supported the measure and 701 opposed it.

While not all votes are counted, the final tally is not expected to change the result. Ballots postmarked by June 6 and received by June 9 will be counted.

The ballot question was: "Should the Town of Atherton supplement private donations with available non-dedicated General Funds to meet the funding shortfall, where one exists, for construction of the new Town Center?"

Atherton's council put the question to voters because a 2012 ballot measure, approved by more than 70 percent of voters, said the design and construction of a new town center should primarily be paid for with private donations. Exceptions were for the library, which has its own library-only tax funds, and for money set aside for new building and planning offices.

So far, the town has not been able to raise enough private funds. At the same time, town officials estimate a robust economy means they have, or expect to have by the time construction would be completed, enough public money to pay the remaining estimated costs to build the civic center based on a design the council approved in February. The town has also considered short-term borrowing if needed.

The measure's opponents argued that the plans for a new civic center were too elaborate and they feared the town would spend money needed for other capital projects.

More vote totals are scheduled to be released by San Mateo County at 4:30 p.m. on three dates: Thursday, June 8; Tuesday, June 13; and Friday, June 16.

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Related story: Backers and opponents react to election returns.

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Comments

Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 7, 2017 at 1:09 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 7, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Hopefully the Council sees this as a serious heads up - 61% would not be sufficient for renewal of the parcel tax.


Percentages
Atherton: other
on Jun 7, 2017 at 2:18 pm
Percentages, Atherton: other
on Jun 7, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Some of what we've heard:

98%+ approval of having Atherton's own police department

=

overwhelming approval of (any) parcel tax

=

spend $50M+ on town center.

The percentages are a lot lower than people have figured and are going down. If and when the city council does not keep its word about no new taxes plus money available to pay for existing improvements like drainage without new taxes (I've archived DeGolia's exchange on the other thread), this will result in the dismantling of the Atherton Police Department.

It should have happened a long time ago.


Bart
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 7, 2017 at 3:06 pm
Bart, Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 7, 2017 at 3:06 pm

I hope the Town Council sees this underwhelming support as a good reason to scale back the project. I have always supported the parcel tax. I will not do so next year if the Council moves ahead with the current plan.


The WINNERS
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 7, 2017 at 9:41 pm
The WINNERS, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 7, 2017 at 9:41 pm

The WINNERS here are the opposition led by Kathy McKeithen. At 61% that's enough to stop the parcel tax. This battle is far from over.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 7, 2017 at 9:47 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 7, 2017 at 9:47 pm

The Missing In Action on this vote were the Town Council.

They stood virtually silent on this issue even though they were warned that a less than overwhelming vote in favor of this project would both jeopardize the project and doom a parcel tax renewal.

Where was their leadership on this issue?


THE WINNERS
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 7, 2017 at 10:12 pm
THE WINNERS, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 7, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Let me take a stab at answering that question, Peter.

Since the town council opted to try to get this passed without the full disclosure and backup that would have been needed, their seeming "missing in action" stance made sense. They didn't have the facts to back up a strong showing by the opposition group.

What would the full disclosure and backup have meant? Firm, fixed bids to substantiate a real cost. That's what you go to voters with. Not "we think it's going to cost about this, and we're really hopeful and earnest that we're going to be able to do it for no more money than we want to spend."

Looks like enough voters saw through the smoke to doom the parcel tax. That's too bad. With the proper town center (i.e., one scaled down, way down, after the private donations failed), and the accurate and honest diligence materials, this could have had a shot. In fact, Kathy McKeithen and the opposition may well have supported that type of earnestness.

Moving forward now, with not enough support to justify a parcel tax, is a huge financial risk. It's the wrong move. Instead of throwing the faux victory party with Elizabeth Lewis slapping Steve Dostart on his back, complete with Almanac photographers, the city council should do the right thing, admit defeat, and scale the project back to reflect the insurmountable gap with the 75% vote that was required.

I also have to say, if the town had not railroaded the opposition group by publishing the city attorney's "impartial analysis" after it was overdue, where such "impartial analysis" was obviously ordered by Lewis, I don't even think 50% would have been reached.

They had to cheat, and still couldn't get the threshold.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 7, 2017 at 10:16 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 7, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Clearly we need NEW Council Members - three seats will be up for election in 2018 and three new minds/faces would constitute a majority.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 7, 2017 at 10:21 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 7, 2017 at 10:21 pm

As a point of reference when the Fire District, which the current Town Council wants to detach from, last went to the voters to seek approval for raising its Gann tax limit it received 79% voter approval.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 9:33 am
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 9:33 am

Peter - Just because council members do not engage in these news blogs doesn't mean they failed to show leadership on the issue. The full council in its entirety voted in favor of Measure A and putting it on the ballot. They were active in engaging the community. The full council has been consistently in favor of the project. The town website is chock full of information on the project that is both informative, accurate and transparent. You yourself advocated for the project and a yes vote on the measure and now you are advocating for new council members as if validating the incorrect information in the post from "the winners"? Then you tie the positive vote on the issue in a comparative way to the Fire District vote on a Gann Limit - a far less controversial topic during an election cycle with far less turnout - 24% turn out in Atherton. Of Atherton's nearly 5000 registered voters - 858 Atherton residents voted yes and 245 voted no - I don't read that as overwhelming support. I read that as apathy.

I think your call for new council members is not only inappropriate but petty.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 9:41 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 8, 2017 at 9:41 am

" They were active in engaging the community"

I have not encountered a single Atherton voter who was personally approached by a sitting Council member on Measure A.

I did not see a single ad by the sitting Council members on Measure A.

Election are decided by voters - as they should be.

I will work to ensure that we have a Responsible Town Council.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 9:52 am
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 9:52 am

"I have not encountered a single Atherton voter who was personally approached by a sitting Council member on Measure A."

If that's true, you need to get out more.

"I did not see a single ad by the sitting Council members on Measure A."

There was a deliberate email and walking campaign. There were campaign signs up in the community. There were articles in the Almanac and Mercury News based on deliberate interviews with the press. There was an editorial.

"Election are decided by voters - as they should be."

Absolutely. At whatever threshold is required for success. Measure A required just over 50%.

"I will work to ensure that we have a Responsible Town Council."

Good for you. Come to a meeting. I'm sure they would like to hear from you.


wow?
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 8, 2017 at 10:51 am
wow?, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 8, 2017 at 10:51 am

@Wow – yes, it is appropriate to ask the question about new council members. The council members first failed to get private funding. Now they failed to get the majority needed for parcel tax approval (yet are throwing a victory celebration instead of dealing with that sober reality). At what point do they acknowledge their vision of things is not matching up with what the residents are willing to do? I don't doubt they sincerely want to build this town center and believe in it, but it's really not what they think that counts.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 11:06 am
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 11:06 am

@wow? - Council members themselves were prohibited by law to directly solicit one-on-one private funding for a project they would ultimately approve. The Measure A vote did not require the same majority needed that the parcel tax vote requires. Measure A required just over 50% - the next iteration of the property tax requires 66 2/3%. At present, Measure A has 61% votes are still to be counted so that might change in either direction, but as of now, Measure A passed successfully. As Peter said, elections are decided by voters. As of now, voters passed Measure A - by the same # I might add that voted entirely yes AND no in Peter's Gann Limit item comparative.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 12:44 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 8, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Leadership is about leading and if the Council can only get a 61% Yes vote on a crucial that is not leading.

"There was a deliberate email and walking campaign." I never saw anything from the Council members themselves.

The campaigning was all handed over to others as the Council sat back and worked on things over which they have no control - like HSR/electrification and SurfAir.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 1:08 pm
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 1:08 pm

You are correct. Leadership is about leading and if the Fire District Board cannot get more than 24% of registered Atherton voters (a scant 1103 people) to vote on an issue of vital importance to their operating budget ability with no active opposition and still ends up with 22% of the votes - 245 voters - as NO - that's not leadership.

The electorate voted. Measure A was successful. Just like the Districts Measure. It was successful even though not very many residents even voted.

Let the parcel tax stand on its own. Continued attacks on people and process are not productive. I am sure that the Council is aware of the message sent by the vote and they will respect it accordingly. There is already a Mercury News article with quotes from Mayor Lempres on that point.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 1:10 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 8, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Wow - elections are about results.

I will take 79% over 61% any day.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 1:12 pm
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 8, 2017 at 1:12 pm

On that we agree.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm

To put both the vote totals and percentages in context here are the results of the last parcel tax election:
Atherton

Measure X
Parcel Tax
Town of Atherton
2/3 Approval Required
Pass: 1,466 / 73.4% Yes votes ...... 532 / 26.6% No votes


The Truth
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 5:39 pm
The Truth, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 5:39 pm

Given what people know now about the MPFD budgets I am not so sure the Gann wrote would turn out so well should it be taken today. Don't go tooting your horn too much Peter as it may be a New Fired District Board coming next November 2018


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 5:44 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 8, 2017 at 5:44 pm

" Don't go tooting your horn too much Peter as it may be a New Fired District Board coming next November 2018"

Having served our community as a Fire Board Director for almost 14 years I have no intention of running for reelection in 2018.

Fortunately there are a number of well qualified District residents who will step up to the mark.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 8, 2017 at 5:49 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 8, 2017 at 5:49 pm

"Given what people know now about the MPFD budgets"

The District's budgets are balanced with no construction bond issue, no parcel tax and carefully developed reserves for new construction, apparatus replacement and unfunded pension liabilities .

The District's budget is the envy of less well managed local agencies who would love to get their hands on the District's revenues and reserves.


THE WINNERS
Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 8, 2017 at 10:10 pm
THE WINNERS, Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 8, 2017 at 10:10 pm

Wow, I read the Mercury News article with Lempres' comments. I read the Almanac article with Lewis' comments. Both cases, the lack of 2/3rd majority heard loudly, and the opponents voices will be heard.

OK. So, since it at least seems you're involved with the project, let us know what the changes are going to be. For example:

* Square footage reduction
* Elimination of the police gym? (giving them a 24 Hour Fitness membership would be a helluva lot cheaper to Atherton taxpayers; better yet, they are paid handsomely and can certainly afford that cost themselves IF they want to work out in a gym)
* Elimination of the cafe?
* No more copper gutters?
* Much smaller lobby?

Maybe Lempres and Lewis have other ideas about how to reduce the costs to try to achieve some broader consensus.

We're all ears.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 6:00 am
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 6:00 am

@The Winners - I am not directly involved with the project, just an interested party that stays in the loop. Currently, the Police use 400 square feet in the current garage area as their training facility for hand to hand, weapons, batons, K9 training, etc. - required by law - the space doubles as a workout area using donated equipment from the community and officers. The training space is not something that they can "do at home" or secure a membership at 24 hour fitness. That space is being replicated in the new facility using the same equipment. That question was asked and answered in prior communications and blogs.

The copper gutters are already listed as a deduction in the approved plans posted on the towns website and the City Council directed the project team to find more. The last I heard this was coming back to the Council for consideration soon. I suspect this will include the reductions in square footage as well as design changes.

The Library is separate and fully funded. The option for a cafe is part of the Library. I say "option" because the plans show the space as an empty room in the current council chambers area - in other words, the cafe is not designed out, it's only a vacant room for the future that already exists.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2017 at 7:32 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 9, 2017 at 7:32 am

I disagree with the cost cutting approach. This building will have a service life of 50 years. Let's build something that we can be proud of and which will not need constant repairs.

For example, over a fifty year life cycle copper gutters are less expensive and much more attractive.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 7:41 am
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 7:41 am

@Peter

Again, we agree. Although a deduct alternate is not something that has to be done. It is a design alternate that can be turned on or left off depending on how the bids come back from the open and competitive bid market. In today's climate, bids may come in over the professional's estimate. If so, the Council needs some things they can take out or change to reduce the cost at bid. These have to be designed up front as alternates so the bidders can bid them. The Council has tasked the project team with finding more things to add to that list. I have yet to see the added items but the current plans include the copper gutters and landscaping. I agree that our new buildings need to last more than 50 plus years and we should not be short-sighted in their design.


Apple
Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:01 pm
Apple, Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:01 pm

I'm not sure why people think the upcoming parcel tax measure is going to make a difference in the civic center project.

Parcel tax money cannot be used for the civic center project. Measure A only permits adding non-dedicated general funds as funding source for the civic center. Measure L prevents any parcel tax monies from being used on the civic center. Measure A did not repeal that part of Measure L.

A parcel tax win or defeat would have no effect on the civic center project.

If the parcel tax did lose, that would lead to a reduction of police services and delays in other capital projects, such as drainage, road repairs, and bike lanes. Atherton's capital project plan lays out which projects the parcel tax funds.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:19 pm
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:19 pm

@Apple,

With respect, the two are tied together and it is a valid connection. It is true that the parcel tax cannot be used for the civic center project. But it is also true that non-dedicated general funds can be used for drainage, road repairs, and bike lanes. It is a simple IF-THEN that shouldn't be glossed over.

IF the Civic Center Project continued to be restricted to the use of non-dedicated general funds the city theoretically would then have to either abandon the project (not a good option), use donated funds only (a delay of unknown time and ultimately cost), or significantly reduce the design (not necessarily the size) to use a more limited funding source. THEN the city would have additional non-dedicated funds that it could use for drainage, road repairs, and bike lanes. Potentially eliminating reliance on the parcel tax in the short term - but not the long term.

The problem, however, is that all of those things are needed and are priorities - to include the Civic Center Project. The city roads are in good shape (mostly). Drainage needs some work. But the city buildings - falling apart. Literally. They are not safe.

So, the two are tied together. The city council and the community made a choice recognizing that the city buildings are falling apart - they are a priority. But the city also needs to keep the parcel tax going because roads and drainage are a priority. The tax really isn't all that much when one considers what the city gets from property taxes in general - a pitiful 8.5 cents on every dollar of property tax. The parcel tax helps cover the significant gap in funding. Good graphics and explanation on the city website.

Maybe someday the parcel tax may go away or be reduced, but only if there is a funding source that maintains the same level of funding to the city - whether that's the property taxes or some other source. The city has become reliant on the parcel tax. The continued argument of reducing costs only goes so far. The community continues to express support for a local police department. Contracting for that service provides lesser service (no offense to the Sheriff) - but I have enough friends in Woodside and Portola Valley to see the impact - I for one want to continue to have my local police department.

We have to be honest and up front about all those connections.


Apple
Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:41 pm
Apple, Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:41 pm

@Wow

I was commenting more from the political perspective. If the city council wanted to delay or significantly reduce the civic center, they could. Measure A was non-binding after all.

However, this would be terrible from a political perspective. 60%+ of Atherton voters approve of the civic center plan to move forward using non-dedicated general funds if fundraising and other funds fall short. For the city council to then change the plan would be disrespectful to the voters.

The town council has said that the Measure A vote was unnecessary from a legal perspective. According to the town attorney, Measure L did not have any legal effect. However, it did have a political effect. The town council was wary about going against the will of the people without seeking their opinion again. That was the purpose of Measure A.

Ultimately, the purpose of any measure should be unambiguous. Otherwise, people don't really know what they are voting on. Plus whether it wins or loses, political leaders can't interpret what the citizens meant.

That's why I go back to the language of the measures and the supporting documents.


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:44 pm
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:44 pm

@Apple,

I agree with that summary. The Measures and their purposes are distinct and should stand on their own merits.


Percentages
Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 4:46 pm
Percentages, Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 4:46 pm

I'm glad the two of you agree among yourselves that lacking enough voters to approve the parcel tax is good enough to go forward with the town center.

Back in reality-land, it's not. The promises made in this measure were that the other services of the town can continue to be fulfilled without new taxes while building this center. Without the parcel tax, that predicate is no longer true. For example, drainage issues plagued the town during this winter's high rain. It needs to get fixed. It's going to cost a lot of money.

Perhaps it would be better to wind up outsourcing the police and still build the town center. It would cost the taxpayers less in the long run.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 9, 2017 at 7:54 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 9, 2017 at 7:54 pm

if the Council can only get a 61% Yes vote when no taxes are involved how we it get 67% Yes vote when there is a tax increase involved?


Apple
Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 11:54 pm
Apple, Atherton: other
on Jun 9, 2017 at 11:54 pm

@Percentages

The council members committed to no tax increases, not no new taxes. They can renew the parcel tax at the same level and keep that pledge.

The parcel tax measure should spell out exactly which projects will be funded if it passes. If people don't feel those projects are worth funding over the next four years, they will vote against it. The council will then delay those projects based on the will of the people.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 10, 2017 at 9:51 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 10, 2017 at 9:51 am

Parcel taxes are only valid for 4 years.

At the end of the four years an approved parcel tax expires.

To impose a new parcel tax at that point 66 2/3% of the votes must be in favor of a NEW parcel tax.


Percentages
Atherton: other
on Jun 10, 2017 at 10:39 am
Percentages, Atherton: other
on Jun 10, 2017 at 10:39 am

@Peter – yes, I'm sure the council will try to play the game of saying the parcel tax is for everything but the town center to try to get it renewed.

But the truth of the matter is we wouldn't need the parcel tax BUT FOR the extravagant $50M (and it will become much more than $50M) plan for the Town Center.

Fortunately for the Atherton taxpayers, the opposition group will be pointing all of this out to prevent the vote from reaching 2/3rds, just like it did this time.

What the council can do (but I predict, unfortunately, won't), is try to work with the opposition between now and then, scale it back to something we can all agree on, and then move forward. Sandy Crittenden has estimated it can be done for far, far, far less, of the prefab variety. That's all that is needed, though I understand much more is wanted.

(Yes, I know you personally believe we should build a monument that will endure for many, many future generations…but that's in the sphere of personal donations and how people choose to spend their personal money, not taxpayer money. Why should the current generation of Atherton taxpayers shoulder the financial burdens of many future generations?).

Everyone seems to say when watching TV "boy, why can't people in congress, etc. work together instead of bicker." But then it doesn't happen in their own backyard either.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 10, 2017 at 10:43 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

"Why should the current generation of Atherton taxpayers shoulder the financial burdens of many future generations?)."

Perhaps to offset the huge pension liabilities that we are giving to future Atherton generations.


Percentages
Atherton: other
on Jun 10, 2017 at 6:52 pm
Percentages, Atherton: other
on Jun 10, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Peter, you're absolutely correct. The unfunded pension liability Atherton has is unconscionable. It really bothers me, because in my view it's a result of corruption. Unions interfering in politics, and politicians bartering favors in exchange for patronage, high pay, higher pensions, and a cost structure that is unsustainable in terms of Atherton having its own police department.

But, the solution Is not to double down on existing bad fiscal strategies and build a $70M (yes, that is what it will turn out to be, not $50M) town center.


Apple
Atherton: other
on Jun 11, 2017 at 2:29 pm
Apple, Atherton: other
on Jun 11, 2017 at 2:29 pm

@Percentages

If the opposition has a plan to reduce costs and meet the needs of the town, then by all means they should work through the civic center committee to discuss the ideas and include the ones that make sense. Moreover, the public could review the plan and ask questions. Without more details, it's not possible to conclude whether he has a viable, detailed plan or not.

One question I had about Sandy's plan is whether it meets the building requirements for an EOC and police station. California has some stringent building code requirements for public buildings intended to function in a disaster, such as after an earthquake. A prefab structure may not meet those requirements or perhaps it could at greater cost.

I'm curious whether the opposition even attended a city council or civic center committee meeting to present their ideas. Good public policy doesn't get done by talking to each other via the press. That's a strategy for political posturing. Good public policy gets done with direct discussion.


Percentages
Atherton: other
on Jun 11, 2017 at 7:06 pm
Percentages, Atherton: other
on Jun 11, 2017 at 7:06 pm

@Apple, without intending to be rude, whom are you trying to kid?

The civic center committee is a clique of friends appointed by a political faction of the council. They specifically excluded people who applied who were not like-minded. For example, a very active participant in the library. And yes, the opposition did voice opinions in public. They were ignored.

To make matters worse – and this is documented in multiple places on these forums (I can index it for you if you insist) – even after it became apparent private donations weren't materializing, THEY REFUSED TO ACKNOWLEDGE THIS TO THE PUBLIC while holding public input meetings. Obviously there's a difference between "Are you interested in coming to discuss the scope and cost of a town center other people are paying for" vs. "you're paying for it."

I believe this was an intentional decision to obfuscate matters that should have merited full disclosure. For whatever reason, the opposition group did not include it in their ballot opinion, which I think was a mistake. It was their best argument.

But let's give the council/committee every possible benefit of the doubt. There are multiple data points now that there is not enough buy-in for the cost, size and scope of this proposed town center. First, the private donations couldn't be garnered. Next, the vote couldn't pass the parcel tax threshold.

What the council should do is appoint a few members of the opposition group to the civic committee to go back to the drawing board, hold public input meetings with the full disclosure the public is going to be paying for this, and come up with a plan that has much broader consensus.

Of course, they won't. The question that should be asked is why not. The onus is on the council to redress the lackluster vote and the failure to raise private donations.


Apple
Atherton: other
on Jun 12, 2017 at 6:01 pm
Apple, Atherton: other
on Jun 12, 2017 at 6:01 pm

@Percentages

To provide input into the civic center plans does not require committee membership. All committee meetings are open to the public. All materials they review are disclosed to the public. The committee must allow the public to provide input.

On top of that, the civic center committee includes an open forum before every meeting for the public to provide more detailed input or ask questions.

If there are important issues to discuss brought up by a resident, the committee can agendize those issues for discussion. I would be surprised if the committee was approached with a plan that saves money, but did not discuss the plan in the forum or more formally during the meeting. Then again, I haven't seen Sandy's plan yet.

Does he plan to make it public? If so, where can I download a copy?


Percentages
Atherton: other
on Jun 13, 2017 at 8:23 am
Percentages, Atherton: other
on Jun 13, 2017 at 8:23 am

@Apple, I don't know, you'd have to ask Sandy, but given his many years of experience as a successful real estate developer/builder, I'm sure what he has to say is very relevant.

Getting back to your post, yes, I agree with you that California law requires the committee to sit through public comments sessions. Your post seems to imply that no relevant comments were made, since if "better" ideas had been offered, they would have been adopted.

Of course, this is not true, either factually or logically. As I said above, members of the opposition group did make public comments, which were ignored. They were ignored because the committee was hand-picked to be a doctrinaire proxy for the vision of Elizabeth Lewis with respect to the town center.

When the group was confronted with such issues as the gym for police that is supposed to cost Atherton taxpayers millions, they portrayed it as not really a choice. After all, a training center is required, the police have some exercise equipment in a room now, so it's just a fulfillment of what the law requires. This ignores the obvious solution of simply allowing one of the existing rooms (e.g., the council chambers) to serve double duty as a training center, with no need for the police having their own multi-million dollar gym.

Choices like this benefit the Atherton taxpayer, but are inconsistent with the compact (you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours) Lewis and the head of the town center committee have made with the police department in terms of campaign contributions, running police database checks on persons of interest dating their family members, etc.

But, the above is simply just my own opinion. You're entitled to yours also. What we really can't argue about is that there is not the required consensus to move forward, and there have been several objective data points (lack of private donations, lack of 2/3rd vote) to indicate this.

Again, what the council should do is aim to achieve much broader consensus so the project can be a success. I've suggested some ways, for example, adding different points-of-view to the committee.

Do you disagree the council should try to achieve much broader consensus, or do you believe the existing consensus is sufficient?


Wow
Atherton: other
on Jun 13, 2017 at 9:01 am
Wow, Atherton: other
on Jun 13, 2017 at 9:01 am

@Percentages

We are all entitled to opinions. Everyone has one. But, there is only one set of facts.

1) Measure A required a 50%+1 vote to pass. Not 66 2/3%. It passed successfully. While there may continue to be differences of opinion on the project, attempts to reframe the facts and even threats on council members from dissenters - shame, the vote passed successfully.

2) Relevant comments were made during the process and many of them were incorporated into the project. You can see that just be watching the meetings of the City Council in their deliberations about design changes.

3) The Committee was appointed by the entire Council not one singular member of the Council. For the current committee, this occurred in 2013. The members of the Council at that time were Jim Dobbie, Elizabeth Lewis, Bill Widmer, Jerry Carlson and Cary Wiest. Dobbie and Lewis were the two Council representatives on the Committee when it first started.

4) The cost of the training room is not "multi-million" dollars. That is a significant exaggeration. The space is approximately 800 square feet that doubles as a multi-purpose meeting room, training room, workout space, and storage room. This is about the same amount of space currently used. In fact, the entire usable square footage for the police in the new building is approximately that same as what they have today with added corridors, public space and storage. It would not be appropriate to have the police conducting K-9 tactical training, hand-to-hand and weapons training, defensive tactics, riot training and other required training in the middle of a Council Chambers. It is shown on the plans available on the Town's website.

5) To date, private donations have paid for 100% of the design costs and 21% of the construction costs.

6) I, for one, disagree that further delay to reach a broader consensus should be sought. The process has been ongoing for more than a decade. There have been numerous opportunities for public engagement along the way and numerous opinions have been heard and considered. It's time to move forward. The current facilities are failing more and more every day. Government is a democracy and we elect representatives to the City Council to make decisions - for no pay and a lot time. They made decisions in a public process. There will be those that disagree but the process continues to move forward or democracy and good governance stops.


Percentages
Atherton: other
on Jun 13, 2017 at 9:42 am
Percentages, Atherton: other
on Jun 13, 2017 at 9:42 am

"But, there is only one set of facts...The cost of the training room is not "multi-million" dollars. That is a significant exaggeration."

I guess there must be more than one set of facts, because my grade school arithmetic on the $53,564,636.00 current estimated cost and the 33,887 current estimated square feet, along with your claimed 800 square feet for this gym does yield a multi-million dollar number on a pro-rata basis (not even including equipment).

"and even threats on council members from dissenters - shame".

Must be part of the same set of alternative facts. I haven't threatened anyone in any of my posts here, I haven't seen anyone threaten anyone (on either side). What the heck are you talking about?

"I, for one, disagree that further delay to reach a broader consensus should be sought."

What's the town going to do if the parcel tax fails because of the lack of such broader consensus?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 13, 2017 at 5:31 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Jun 13, 2017 at 5:31 pm

I support both the proposed new Town Center and a new parcel tax after the current parcel tax expires.

However, I do not feel that either will happen unless our elected Town Council members become much more visible and outspoken advocates for both of these efforts.


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