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Mayor wants to go her own way on Cool Cities

Original post made by Serious about Global Warming, Oak Knoll School, on Feb 14, 2007

Tonight Mayor Fergusson made it clear that Menlo Park's environmental strategy was not something that is open for public discussion. Rejecting councilmember Boyle, Cohen, and Cline's suggestions that the city establish a formal “green ribbon panel” to develop a green house gas reduction strategy, the mayor opted for a private "mayor's advisory panel" with the explicit intention or circumventing the Brown Act. The Brown Act requires city commissions and task forces to hold open and inclusive meetings. She also rejected public and staff suggestions that the city establish a budget and hire outside experts to develop a range of options for the city to consider. Council member Robinson, who campaigned on his commitment to open government and the Brown Act, reversed his past position and stated that having our Green Ribbon Panel be subject to the Brown act would be “unnecessarily constraining.” The Mayor also refused suggestions that Menlo Park work with other cities on the peninsula by joining Sustainable Silicon Valley – a regional environmental coalition. As someone who has taken the time to understand the long-term global challenge of reducing our green house gas emissions, I am disappointed that the Mayor does not seem to understand that this matter requires cooperation at all levels. Council members Robinson and Fergusson are either hopelessly naive or insincere in their commitment to greenhouse gas reduction if they believe that a closed-door committee can in a few weeks or months come up with meaningful solutions to this critical global challenge. If they were serious, they would be establishing a standing commission to deal with this long-term challenge, building consensus with our neighboring cities as to how we can influence our regional utilities, and setting aside the permanent funding necessary to provide expert support and emissions monitoring. Council member Cline should be ashamed of himself for kowtowing to the Mayor after making it clear that he felt the Mayor’s private committee violated the spirit of the Brown Act and their campaign promises for more open and inclusive government. In the end, council members Cohen and Boyle were over-ruled 3-2 and the Mayor got her way.

Comments (15)

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Posted by Anti-Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Feb 14, 2007 at 9:03 am

Beware of zealots. And the mayor is a zealot on left wing environmental issues. The end always justifies the means for these type of folks.

I am sure that the panel will cost us a lot of money in the end. Let me guess, Gail Slocum is on the mayor's advisory committee.

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Posted by Suspicious
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 14, 2007 at 9:15 am

What do you expect given that our council is chosen in a manner more befitting a beauty pageant? We elect people who have few if any qualifications to run a city. Kelly means well, but she is way out of her comfort zone as mayor, and therefore she is retreating to a place where she feels safe. She is less of a zealot than some we've seen in that office, but she's wasting time and resources, alienating those who do care about global warming, and diverting attention from other pressing city issues.

I agree with A-SS: given that Ms. Slocum was the whispering voice who encouraged Kelly to form her private committee, she will assuredly serve on it and most likely chair it.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 14, 2007 at 11:03 am

"Kelly means well, but she is way out of her comfort zone as mayor."

I think the cat is out of the bag on Ms. Fergusson and I'll put it more bluntly than Suspicious did:
She is in WAY over her head as the Mayor.

She was relatively harmless as a regular council member, particularly when Jellins kept her in check, but given full rein as Mayor, it is looking more and more like a disaster - different from the disaster that was Jellins et al, who accomplished their agenda of serving developers' interests and cutting/privitizing city services - but a disaster nonetheless in terms of actually getting anything accomplished.

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Posted by Responsible Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 14, 2007 at 12:39 pm

Let me say it again. "Put your money where you mouth is." Are you really serious about Environmental Stewardship? Do you want to reduce the carbon “footprint?” And, you want a utility tax? Well, the first step is simple, direct and immediate: call the UUT a carbon tax or an energy tax. Tax all businesses, homeowners, and internal combustion vehicle owners in Menlo Park, based on their energy consumption. Remember, electricity is mostly the product of coal and oil power generation. Put a real price on greenhouse gas and pollutants production. We are all involved, we all should pay for it. Would this modify our CO2 production behavior? I believe it would. Would this make Menlo Park a model for other cities? Of course. Here’s another action we could take if we were serious: With these suggested tax revenues, we could invest in a solar turbine and photovoltaic “energy farm” on top of Bayfront Park, further reducing our carbon footprint. Unlike “establishing task forces,” or “studying,” or “considering,” these would be concrete steps with measurable results. That way, we walk the walk, not just talk the talk!

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Posted by Responsible Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Feb 14, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Sorry, make that wind turbine, not solar turbine. What was I thinking!

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Posted by Former-kelly-supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2007 at 5:01 pm

As an initial supporter of the Mayor, this latest action is just too much for me. She is obviously way over her head as mayor; she many times was over her head in the past council, letting Jellins make her look the fool while he played off her inability to respond adequately.

There are many rumors that she is not going to seek re-election and is looking for higher office. She doesn't seem to care about what any of her supporters want, but just goes her own way.

I would advise Mr. Cline and Mr. Robinson, to reconsider their votes and bring back this terrible decision. This is starting to look like the DuBoc - Winkler clan all over again. This should not be tolerated.

Former supporter.

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Posted by Wake up the complainers
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 16, 2007 at 12:20 am

I am amazed at the negative tone in many of the comments concerning the Green Ribbon Task Force (GRTF). This is a massive project that will require serious research and document generation; a volunteer effort that will distribute the workload across many individuals; an effort that will require significant collaboration. The citizens of Menlo Park should be happy that free volunteer labor will perform the majority of this high talent work. Anyone who has participated in collaborative work efforts can attest to the need to have open communication channels between collaborators. The Brown Act would significantly limit the ability of collaborators to communicate.

Once the GRTF submits its report, then maybe some people will have something real to complain about. In the meantime, however, everyone should be happy that volunteers are providing MP with significant value. Maybe the complainers can even contribute something positive by volunteering for the GRTF...

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Posted by Elizabeth Lasensky
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 16, 2007 at 8:46 am

The complaints in this "thread" aren't about the GRTF, the complaints are about the private nature of the task force. I am disappointed in the direction the council took on this issue, if indeed the decision was to have a private task force.

First, that violates the Brown Act and second, the public is so behind the idea of community involvement on global warming.It would be a shame to exclude the community. We have so many talented, knowledgeable, committed citizens, what a waste of a golden opportunity.

I hope the council reconsiders this decision. We owe it to ourselves to bring the best ideas to the table and these ideas aren't necessarily goign to come from some privately selected group.

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Posted by Anti-Steve Schidt
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Feb 16, 2007 at 8:52 am

Most "experts" who develop global warming plans really have no expertise at all (see Al Gore). Just emotional opinions. This is why the task force should not be secret. We need to know the credentials of the people involved, the methodology used in developing the reccomendations, the ability to understand the quality of the data and how much "expert" research goes into the product.

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Posted by Public meeting proponent
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 16, 2007 at 10:13 am

I'm really confused. Just because this new task force doesn't have to meet strict Brown Act requirements doesn't mean that its meetings won't be open to the public. Does anyone know whether the mayor intends to allow the public to attend these meetings?

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Posted by Wake up the complainers
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 16, 2007 at 2:38 pm

The decision was that anyone who wants to participate on the GTRF is welcome to do so. It is open to all, but hopefully the flat-earth, anti-reality, progress-impeders will opt to stay home.

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Posted by Rory Brown
Almanac staff writer
on Feb 16, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Rory Brown is a registered user.

Public meeting proponent:

All council members stressed a need for the meetings to be open to the public. John Boyle was the only council member adamant about making the task force a Brown Act body, meaning it would be subject to the state's open meeting laws. Richard Cline expressed a similar concern, but still voted to go ahead with Kelly Fergusson's plan.

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Posted by Seth Duncan
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 17, 2007 at 6:28 am

Having just watched the meeting, several things need to be said.

Rory above does not have this quite right.

Only Cohen voted against setting up the committee in this fashion. Cohen stated he was all in favor of the objectives, but would not abide by a committee being formed in this manner; he asked and confronted McClure about why the committee would not be subject to Brown act restrictions.

Boyle abstained, rather than vote no; apparently taking the now infamous approach of departed councilman Jellins. He was very effective in stating why the committee should be subject to Brown act restrictions.

At the very end of the meeting Elias Blawie delivered a stinging rebuke for this process.

So here is a topic that should be acting to bind together the political factions of the city and instead it is dividing them. Why? Because Ms. Fergusson apparently sees this as a political opportunity to advance her own ambitions.

Listen to the meeting. She says "my committee" .... her committee, not the council's, not the cities but her committee is ..... going to be the blue ribbon green city committee.

Come on Mayor, make this an open committee for all comers; make it subject to the Brown act.


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Posted by Rich Cline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 17, 2007 at 8:19 am

I did support this task force after urging the Mayor to ensure that this is "done right" and meetings are public and open to everyone. There are many examples of successful task forces or subcommittees that were not subject to the Brown Act but that were conducted in the light of day.

The most recent example is the small group run by council members Boyle and Cohen who reviewed recruiting firms for the city manager search and reported the findings to council.

I respect the concern voiced in this string -- some of it very similar to my own position Tuesday night. I was comfortable with the response from the Mayor and Council Member Robinson that these meetings will be public and posted. I would now urge you all to join the task force if you are interested -- and if you can't join -- do what you are doing and keep it honest.

But again, I expect the meetings will be posted and public.

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Posted by Elizabeth Lasensky
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 19, 2007 at 1:58 pm

I have been assured that the meetings will be open to the public and that anyone wanting to serve on the task force should contact Mayor Fergusson.

I have signed up, I hope others do as well.

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