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Letter: Atherton's own Robin Hood story — in reverse

Original post made on Mar 6, 2020

Menlo Park resident Jim Lewis argues that a town of Atherton newsletter about the town's possible separation from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District is "misleading."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 6, 2020, 8:48 AM

Comments (17)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2020 at 9:33 am

The headline is misleading if the detachment would lead to other county agencies gaining most of the redistributed tax revenue.

The Menlo Park Fire District is extremely well-funded. Our school districts and other local agencies keep asking for more and more tax increases due to funding shortfalls.

This seems like the rich giving to those in need to me.

Also, the Menlo Park Fire District has sent out its own mailer to educate the public on detachment. Reading that mailer, I don't see an unbiased perspective either. Each agency has its own point of view, which is fine. Jim has his own point of view and it will be a matter of minutes before Peter shares his point of view. None of it has to be neutral or unbiased. Residents can soak in all this information and make a decision on their own.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 6, 2020 at 10:02 am

"The headline is misleading if the detachment would lead to other county agencies gaining most of the redistributed tax revenue."

THat is a BIG IF. Atherton has NO idea what would happen to the property tax revenues that it wants taken away from The Fire District - and thereby dramatically reducing the fire services to the other residents of the Fire District. Any such redistribution would be decided by the County and those funds could go anywhere in the County and would not necessarily benefit Menlo Park or East Palo alto or the school districts.

Atherton is rolling the dice and has no idea what the rules of the game are. Ignorance in Action.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 6, 2020 at 10:23 am

This is what I told the Town Council:

You are pursuing an effort which has zero chance of success

You are pursuing an effort which is based on a faulty and incomplete analysis

You are pursuing an effort which very few Atherton residents support

You are pursuing an effort which will not lower the property taxes of Atherton residents by a single penny

You are pursuing an effort which is an embarrassment to Atherton residents

You are pursuing an effort which is fundamentally immoral in that you wish to somehow benefit the Town of Atherton by seriously damaging your neighbors

Please do what you were elected to do – manage the affairs of the Town government

Peter Carpenter

Former Director MPFPD 2002-2018
Former President Atherton Civic Interest League
Former Atherton Resident 1982-2018
Current Menlo Park resident




Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 6, 2020 at 1:25 pm

It seems to me that the City Council, which represents the people of Atherton, is responsible for seeing that money collected by the residents is used to benefit them. That means they should point out cases where they are not getting what they pay or (or are being over charged). Seems to me that is what they see happening here. Atherton residents are paying more for what they get than other town and are in fact subsidizing the Fire Department for other cities. That is all well and good if the residents of Atherton choose to do that. Separating the city from the fire district should be their choice.

I would point out that the Menlo Park Fire District is not known for spending money wisely. Year after year they are noted as having the highest average pay of any government organization in California.
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

The district went on a spending spree picking up Properties around Menlo and Atherton that they May need several years in the future.

There are other cases of them spending because they have the money not necessarily because they needed to buy something.

Given this reputation all the relevant information should be presented to the residents of Atherton and they should make the decision on whether to stay with the Menlo Park Fire District or move on. There is an election in November, it might be a good time to put the question to a vote.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 6, 2020 at 2:30 pm

"It seems to me that the City Council, which represents the people of Atherton, is responsible for seeing that money collected by the residents is used to benefit them.

Wrong. The residents elected the Town Council to run the Town government - a simple task that seems beyond the ability of the current Council.

The residents also elected school boards, the Fire Board, the Harbor Board, the County Supervisors, a State representatives and a Senator, a Federal Representative and two Senators to represent them in each of these areas of government.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Mar 6, 2020 at 3:16 pm

Such hate for the Atherton town council here on this board by a few self interested posters. Those elected representatives were put in place by the people to represent all the members of town or district. The Town council is asking the right questions and have faced a fairly hostile and demeaning Fire Board who appears to have issues with anything they have done being challenged. Maybe nothing changes, maybe the status quo is the best option for all, but when one side pays more and gets less the elected officials representing everyone have to ask the questions. Let the Town do their job a and run the process.

Perhaps we should also be looking at the Fire Board of oversaw the pay raises and spending that opened this issue in the first place. I am sure our friends and neighbors here will have a quick rebuttal but when the agency you oversaw has the "highest average pay of any agency in California" and is called 'excessive" by the one member of the board it is worth asking the questions about where the money is going.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 6, 2020 at 3:20 pm

"Perhaps we should also be looking at the Fire Board "

Absolutely - that is our job as residents of the Fire District!!


But it is NOT the job of the Atherton Town Council.


Posted by Observer II
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 6, 2020 at 3:29 pm

The residents of Atherton pay more in property taxes to nearly everyone than they receive back. Thus, why are they singularly picking on the Fire District? Perhaps they would receive even a larger refund by demanding that the School District REFUND part of their property taxes, along with a REFUND from the Hospital District, Mosquito District, the Harbor District and a host of others. The Town may also be HYPOCRITICAL inasmuch as they use Resident's property tax dollars UNEVENLY throughout the town, with some neighborhoods receiving very little while others receive a lot. Thus, should the City Council REFUND to some neighborhoods that are over paying. Frankly this whole issue should simply go away. A lot of time and effort is being spent with little return, not to mention tax payers dollars going into Consultant's Reports, Studies, Application Fees, Newsletter educational pieces, etc., perhaps $100,000 or more on something that is a non-starter. My advice to the City Council, ADMIT YOU ARE WRONG, and move on to more important and more urgent matters.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 6, 2020 at 3:40 pm

" My advice to the City Council, ADMIT YOU ARE WRONG, and move on to more important and more urgent matters."

Unfortunately Wiest and Widmer are incapable of recognizing, much less admitting, that they are wrong.

The only resolution will be when Lempres finally realizes that there is nothing in his power that he can do about this situation so he will join Lewis and DeGolia and they will move on to managing the Town's affairs leaving Wiest, Widmer and Roderick to rant on and on and on.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2020 at 4:15 pm

@Peter

If the money goes to other parts of the county that need the money, then detachment is helping the greater county good. If the Menlo Park Fire District is the agency that really needs the money, you can make your case to LAFCO. LAFCO will then decide if the fire district needs the money more than other agencies.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 6, 2020 at 4:24 pm

"If the Menlo Park Fire District is the agency that really needs the money, you can make your case to LAFCO"

This will never get to LAFCO.

The Town is incapable of completing a Detachment Petition as it will be unable to get a Memorandum Of Understanding from another entity that that entity would provide the same superb level of fire services to the Town residents as they currently receive from MPFPD.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2020 at 5:54 pm

Well, Peter, if you feel that way, you have nothing to worry about.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 6, 2020 at 5:57 pm

"Well, Peter, if you feel that way, you have nothing to worry about."

Just the $150,000 of taxpayer money that has been wasted on this futile effort plus the ill will and poor morale that it has created.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 7, 2020 at 12:26 am

The money is not wasted. It has produced educational material about fire and emergency services for the community. The two government agencies are doing more outreach to better educate the public and get feedback.

For example, the fire district board meetings now rotate around the different stations with Atherton's station being one of the first. That improved level of engagement is a direct result of Atherton's fire district review.


Posted by Woody Shackleton
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 7, 2020 at 9:37 am

I would think the town council would have the sense to have a dialogue with the County Board of Supervisors who would have to approve any changes before wasting any more money on this matter as I suspect they will find it is a non-starter.


Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:09 pm

Peter,

As a former member of the Fire District Board and arguably the one person who did more to sour the relationship between the Fire District and the Town of Atherton I have a hard time believing anything you have to say on this subject.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 8, 2020 at 9:21 pm

Brian - It is your choice in life whom you believe.

As for the relationship between the Town Council and the Fire District souring that occurred because of the Town Council's selfish behavior.

My role was to simply call them out on that selfish behavior. They are very privileged people who are attempting to inflict harm on their less fortunate neighbors for no benefit to the residents whom they are supposed to be serving.


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