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Backers, opponents of Atherton measure react to election returns

Supporters of a ballot measure allowing more public funding to build an Atherton civic center were celebrating Tuesday night after hearing that 61.1 percent of the voters approved the measure.

"It's going to be a wonderful addition for the town," said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, noting that after decades of discussion and work the town center is about to be built.

She said the center will transform what is now an "asphalt jungle" into "an ecological garden" – a meeting place for residents and functional work places for town staff.

She promised the council would carefully manage the project. "We're not going to bankrupt the town," she said. "The council is very fiscally conservative."

While the yes vote easily surpassed the simple majority needed for passage, Ms. Lewis said she would like to hear from the 39 percent who voted no to learn why they opposed it.

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Former Atherton mayor and council member Kathy McKeithen is one of those opponents.

"We did what we could to shed some light on the potential effects to the town of the civic center project," she said in a statement. "The Atherton council has throughout its Measure A campaign promised no new taxes. Now it is up to the Atherton council to recognize fully the potential effect this percentage vote against the measure may mean for new tax measures like a renewed parcel tax this fall and for the "fees" it has delayed considering until July, as it begins to spend millions of taxpayer dollars from the general fund over the next few years and plans to move many millions more from the existing capital improvement fund in order to build this project."

City Councilman Rick DeGolia, who was a member of the Civic Center Advisory Committee before he was elected to the council and now, along with Ms. Lewis, is a council liaison to the committee, promised the council will not treat the vote as a "blank check."

"This council will be very prudent in the allocation of funds to do this," he said.

Mr. DeGolia said the election results "have confirmed the judgment of the city council that this is the most important project we have on our plate and we need to build it."

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"I'm very happy that we will remain on schedule and break ground at the beginning of next year," he said.

Atherton resident and former Park and Recreation Committee member Howard "Sandy" Crittenden, who had opposed the measure, said his opposition was in the most part "to inform the residents (of) what I felt were major shortcomings" in the existing civic center plans and funding plan.

"Offering the different view matters most for the system to work," he said. "The supporters of Measure A are neighbors and friends of mine and I respect their opinion and vote. It is their town and tax dollars also. Together we will move on regardless of the results."

Didi Fisher, a former Atherton council member who was part of the Atherton Now group that attempted to raise donations for the civic center, said the vote showed "there is a real will to get the job done."

Fundraising will continue, she said, with the goal of raising about $2 million more to ensure the town does not need to take on any debt to complete the project.

"It's an excellent outcome," she said, but "we still have a ways to go."

Steve Dostart, who headed the Civic Center Advisory Committee, a group of residents who guided the design of the new complex, said: "It's so rewarding to see that the people of Atherton supporting the Atherton town center."

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• Related story: Atherton voters OK public funding to build civic center.

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Backers, opponents of Atherton measure react to election returns

by Barbara Wood / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 7, 2017, 11:52 am

Supporters of a ballot measure allowing more public funding to build an Atherton civic center were celebrating Tuesday night after hearing that 61.1 percent of the voters approved the measure.

"It's going to be a wonderful addition for the town," said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, noting that after decades of discussion and work the town center is about to be built.

She said the center will transform what is now an "asphalt jungle" into "an ecological garden" – a meeting place for residents and functional work places for town staff.

She promised the council would carefully manage the project. "We're not going to bankrupt the town," she said. "The council is very fiscally conservative."

While the yes vote easily surpassed the simple majority needed for passage, Ms. Lewis said she would like to hear from the 39 percent who voted no to learn why they opposed it.

Former Atherton mayor and council member Kathy McKeithen is one of those opponents.

"We did what we could to shed some light on the potential effects to the town of the civic center project," she said in a statement. "The Atherton council has throughout its Measure A campaign promised no new taxes. Now it is up to the Atherton council to recognize fully the potential effect this percentage vote against the measure may mean for new tax measures like a renewed parcel tax this fall and for the "fees" it has delayed considering until July, as it begins to spend millions of taxpayer dollars from the general fund over the next few years and plans to move many millions more from the existing capital improvement fund in order to build this project."

City Councilman Rick DeGolia, who was a member of the Civic Center Advisory Committee before he was elected to the council and now, along with Ms. Lewis, is a council liaison to the committee, promised the council will not treat the vote as a "blank check."

"This council will be very prudent in the allocation of funds to do this," he said.

Mr. DeGolia said the election results "have confirmed the judgment of the city council that this is the most important project we have on our plate and we need to build it."

"I'm very happy that we will remain on schedule and break ground at the beginning of next year," he said.

Atherton resident and former Park and Recreation Committee member Howard "Sandy" Crittenden, who had opposed the measure, said his opposition was in the most part "to inform the residents (of) what I felt were major shortcomings" in the existing civic center plans and funding plan.

"Offering the different view matters most for the system to work," he said. "The supporters of Measure A are neighbors and friends of mine and I respect their opinion and vote. It is their town and tax dollars also. Together we will move on regardless of the results."

Didi Fisher, a former Atherton council member who was part of the Atherton Now group that attempted to raise donations for the civic center, said the vote showed "there is a real will to get the job done."

Fundraising will continue, she said, with the goal of raising about $2 million more to ensure the town does not need to take on any debt to complete the project.

"It's an excellent outcome," she said, but "we still have a ways to go."

Steve Dostart, who headed the Civic Center Advisory Committee, a group of residents who guided the design of the new complex, said: "It's so rewarding to see that the people of Atherton supporting the Atherton town center."

--

• Related story: Atherton voters OK public funding to build civic center.

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