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Menlo Park City Council appoints Maria Doerr to District 5 seat

Original post made on Jan 10, 2023

The Menlo Park City Council has a new member. Maria Doerr was appointed to represent District 5 at a special Jan. 9 meeting, to fill a vacancy left by Ray Mueller who was elected to the county Board of Supervisors.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 9, 2023, 6:12 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by MP Father
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2023 at 12:13 am

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Another Council Member who appears to have a personal agenda and little-to-no interest in learning what is important to her "constituents" - just what we need. I see nothing above that indicates an interest in listening and representing. What a shocker that Nash, Wolosin, and Taylor boxed out former Council Member Mueller from the decision making process and installed a candidate who has virtually no resemblance to the District 5 families and homeowners she is supposedly representing. I hope I am proven wrong but I wouldn't bet on it.

Posted by smallbusinessownerCZ
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 10, 2023 at 8:04 am

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Congratulations Maria! You will be a great addition to a wonderful City Council. Thank you for also choosing housing as a priority.

Posted by Michael
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 10, 2023 at 10:00 am

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Yay! Congratulations. Very happy to see the council make a fantastic appointment.

Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2023 at 10:10 am

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congrats. but unfortunately I have to agree with MP Father. I hope she realizes that most of MP, and especially her district, is a desirable place to live because of council members that represent the best interests of their constituents.

great to have personal priorities, but truthfully I think most MP residents would be happy with council focusing on basic civil needs, boring stuff like stormwater management, traffic, crime/safety, parks/playing fields.

perhaps once the town can handle a few inches of rain without flooding, we can then begin to discuss adding more people.

Posted by Michael
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 10, 2023 at 11:53 am

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@newguy There is no "begin to discuss adding more people" we've been having that debate for 50 years. Now is the time for progressive voices, and just maybe we will have some say in what it looks like, before the State just has builders come in and do it for us. #YIMBY #thewaroncars

Posted by Frozen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 10, 2023 at 12:50 pm

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Another ideologue on the council who prioritizes a mythological future instead of focusing on the real needs of actual residents. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately, there is no accountability for council members, and she will never have to take responsibility for the damage she inflicts on the city.

Posted by Michael
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 10, 2023 at 1:33 pm

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It’s not be possible to inflict more damage than has been done by 50 years of NIMBY/neoliberal nonsense. I welcome a progressive, under 30, non home owning voice to help lead us into the actual future. This should be celebrated and replicated everywhere. #YIMBY #thewaroncars

Posted by Private citizen
a resident of Laurel School
on Jan 10, 2023 at 1:46 pm

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So being a true progressive, you’ll be advocating for affordable, dense housing in the Willows, along with Sharon Park, right? Maybe on the field at upper Laurel?? Or, on open space In Sharon Park?
Just kidding. That’ll never happen.

Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 10, 2023 at 2:47 pm

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Ms. Doerr was elected from Distruct 5, and that’s where her district role ends. She may informally be the go-to for her area, and more knowledgeable about D-5 issues. But once appointed or elected, she’s responsible to everyone in the city and every vote or city issue which arises. So all residents are free to call on or lobby her, just like any of our five Council members.

Posted by Michael
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 10, 2023 at 2:52 pm

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@privatecitizen 100% yes to all of those and not will be but have been. I’d love to outlaw R1 zoning, require medium to high density public/social housing with interwoven transit. I know change and sharing is hard but I know we can do it ;). #YIMBY #publichousing #socialhousing #thewaroncars

Posted by Happy Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 10, 2023 at 2:53 pm

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What a disaster! She has no interest in representing the people of District 5. She does have an agenda that has nothing whatsoever to do with the best interests of those who live in District 5.
What a shame and missed opportunity.

Posted by HeatherHopkins
a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Jan 10, 2023 at 3:39 pm

HeatherHopkins is a registered user.

Welcome, Maria!

Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 10, 2023 at 5:03 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

"Doerr will be at the Woodside Bakery, at 325 Sharon Park Drive, by the Sharon Heights Safeway, on Wednesday, Jan. 10, from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. to meet residents and talk about what District 5 residents want to for their community."

Sounds like Happy Resident and others will have a chance to tell her about their priorities this week. Missing out on that would be a real shame/missed opportunity.

Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2023 at 2:12 pm

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Thank you to those making welcoming posts to our newest Council Member Maria Doerr. Yesterday was her first Council meeting after being sworn in on Monday! I attended her office hours this morning outside Woodside Bakery, where she was visited by multiple District 5 residents. I also point out that she had graciously purchased and sliced a coffee cake to offer those who visited her. The cake was placed on a platter that she appears to have brought herself and she had napkins. These details may seem minor, but it shows a general graciousness and kindness in her spirit and demeanor.

At her office hours, I saw her taking notes, listening carefully and asking good questions. She seems response by nature, conscientious and highly motivated to serve the District 5 residents well. She also appeared to want to serve all of Menlo Park. In other words, she had heard about some of the unintended consequences from our City’s move to district elections.

The Menlo Park Council members, I believe, are paid about $7,000 per year. They might get some additional benefits, but their role is mostly a very time-consuming volunteer one.

I was very disappointed to read anonymous Ad Hominem attacks already starting. Again, this is Council Member Doerr's first week! To those posting this way, please use your real name to model the kind of transparency you appear to want in others. Next, supply the facts/evidence for your negative assertions. Better yet, give Council Member Doerr a chance. The kind of chance you would like for yourself, a neighbor or one of your family members.

The personal attacks on our elected officials, and those serving our democracy in other ways, need to be spoken about and addressed. If we want to see good people running for office, and to have contested seats, civility needs to be elevated.

Posted by MP Father
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2023 at 2:20 pm

MP Father is a registered user.

Good points, Lynne Bramlett.  My post above was somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction to what took place at the Jan 9 City Council (CC) meeting.  Please let me explain.

As a District 5 resident, I am very disappointed - but not surprised - about what happened at the Jan 9 and December CC meetings.  At the Jan 9 meeting, Council Member Combs correctly appealed to his fellow Council Members to allow District 5 to vote for their own candidate rather than have the Council appoint a candidate.  To her credit, Council Member Taylor concurred but then chose to appoint a candidate.

Additionally, former District 5 Council Member Ray Mueller was supportive of former Council Member and Mayor Catherine Carlton to fill the vacant spot and requested to hold the appointment while he was still in office. Both his and Council Member Comb's requests were denied by Council Members Nash and Wolosin.

Maria Doerr is absolutely not the issue.  She is without a doubt a very impressive recent grad.  The issue is that not only did Council Members Nash, Wolosin, and Taylor choose to ignore pleas for a District 5 election as well as Council Member Mueller's input, they then appointed a member who reflects their own positions and who, more importantly, has little resemblance to her new constituency.  

I'll go out on a limb and guesstimate that District 5 is largely made up of homeowners who are either families or retirees and who are relatively longer-term residents of Menlo Park.  Maria, on the other hand, is single and a renter and who previously lived in MP sometime as an undergraduate and returned to Menlo Park sometime within the last 1-to-2 years after living in Colorado.  Based on Council Members Nash and Wolosin's past actions, I suspect this may have been by design. I don't have the space here to document their past actions but will in a future post.

As a District 5 resident, I am upset that District 5 was effectively boxed out of the process as was former Council Member Mueller.

Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 12, 2023 at 3:53 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

I think the time to lobby council for a district election was in the fall when they twice discussed the process and ultimately opted to appoint. I didn't hear a resounding outcry from D5 residents then; perhaps MP Father was in the meeting or watched it and can correct my memory. I also don't believe CM Combs appealed to his fellow council members to change the process that all five of them had previously agreed to (an appointment). He rather registered personal discomfort with the process (as others had at various points) and abstained. Doerr may be a more recent addition to our city but she had considerable support from a diverse selection of D5 residents. I think at this point there's little point in rehashing and politicizing the appointment. There will be another election in less than two years. Let's move on and support our new council member as she learns the ropes. It would be a far better use of energy with a stronger likelihood of positive impact.

Posted by PH
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 13, 2023 at 9:23 am

PH is a registered user.

Maria deserves a warm welcome, good will, and skepticism. I agree that criticisms are premature. And, yes, she's stepped into a context not of her making.

I disagree that the criticisms are "ad hominem." They are not "to the woman", they are "to what the woman said" --her stated priorities-- in light of how she got the job.

Maria didn't win an election. She has no real voter permission to enact a platform. Her "platform" is vulnerable to the very valid criticism that it may not be that of her constituents. That's not an attack it's a plain fact. It's completely understandable that many would react negatively to Maria's discussing "her" priorities with no prior deference to the constituency.

The other criticism, her priorities tilt at windmills, might be debatable, but it is certainly not "ad hominem." I was regularly criticized by Sharon Heights octogenarians for this.

Outreach is a good response. If fierce criticism of "Maria's priorities" encourages her to reach out farther and faster it is completely functional.

Criticism of public officials who are also women is not inherently ad hominem or misogynist though some in this forum seem to think it is. Council members are not now and have never been snowflakes. They are Power to whom we may speak our Truth. We get the benefit of the doubt not them.

Menlo Park has a tradition of competitive elections with fiercely critical leaflets, mailers and hit pieces, amateur and professionally orchestrated. Neighbors, Unions, developers, gardeners(!), political consultants, women, PACs and POCs dished it out and took it without a single one ever playing the identity card.

What Menlo Park has now are non-competitive district elections and a milquetoast political climate in which valid criticism of council is prosecuted as an identity crime.

Grow a thick skin. Maria is Power. She regulates a $10T land-use industry. Criticism of her is fair game, and a sign of political respect.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 13, 2023 at 10:04 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Grow a thick skin. Maria is Power. She regulates a $10T land-use industry. Criticism of her is fair game, and a sign of political respect."

Absolutely correct.

I'm so tired of the usual suspects complaining, anytime someone questions the actions of a council member that isn't white and/or male, that they are racist or misogynists. It's nonsense. And the claim is a very poor defense as there is usually never any factual basis for the complaint.

Posted by Dawn1234
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 13, 2023 at 12:56 pm

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I find the criticism of the process used to select CM Doerr a bit hollow. I agree with Kbheroozi that there was more than one council meeting devoted to what process city council would use should a seat be vacated. Once that process was decided upon, and a vacant seat appeared, CC followed the process they very publicly declared they would. To change that process in a non-agendized manner that didn't include public comment would be the opposite of open and transparent. If I remember correctly, it was CM Combs who initially suggested that they not select a new council member at the meeting where Ray would have had a vote. If he didn't want to follow the appointment process decided publicly by CC in 2022, then why suggest moving the selection to a meeting where the existing councilmember for D5 wouldn't be able to vote? It's a curious position to hold. And to conclude at the end of that process that it was somehow CM Wolosin, Nash and Taylor who were following some non-public agenda is just ignoring the facts that don't fit the narrative certain commenters want to make. I watched the interviews with all the candidates and Maria is more than qualified for this spot. I've had about enough of this idea that homeowners should somehow get more voice than renters. Residents are the constituents. Go back in time if you wish for homeowners to be the only voices. I thought CM Doerr's interview was great. She actually had answers to all the queries as opposed to the folks who thought they'd just learn all that as they went. In addition, she was specifically asked what her priorities would be at the initial interview. To now be bothered that she has restated those very same ideas - that we expected a potential candidate to arrive with seems like a petty response from commenters who didn't get their first choice. We have a process. It isn't secret. Its a disappointing, but predictable response from commenters.

Posted by Stuart Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 13, 2023 at 2:16 pm

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Let give a prospective as a long term resident, a former planning commissioner, former finance committee member, and former Citizens Police Academy student (where I first met Drew Combs, I recall). (My comment to Drew at the time was: "You should run for council.").

I've offered the following observation previously:

I consider first serving on the Planning Commission or Finance Committee prerequisite steps to council so that candidates has already learned much of the technicalities, like zoning law, like the annual city financial statements (CAFR's) and how they're produced. And offered their own public comments sitting from the Dais on issues and resolutions.

City Manager Justin Murphy was Chief Planner of the Planning Department when I was on the Planning Commission. He was thus the city contact for the Planning Commission.

When potential candidates for council comes forward with concrete, observed, municipal experience, it's a better bet than shown this week.

(Old joke: Stu, why don't you run for council? Answer: Because I might win.)

Posted by Frozen
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 13, 2023 at 3:25 pm

Frozen is a registered user.

PH, I wish everyone in the city understood that key point: buying a cake to share is very sweet, but there's a lot of money on the line. Although we residents may care primarily about maintaining a decent quality of life, the developers understand the monetary value of getting council members aligned with their vision, sugarcoating their profit motives with phrases like "more housing!" and "environmentally-friendly" and "ignore the NIMBYs! -- they're just a vocal minority and everyone else in town supports you." Council members may not realize they're being played...until it's too late.

Maria isn't a complete enigma: she has a website where she lays out her philosophy. I read the pieces she's written. I have no doubt that her intentions are pure, but I also see her kowtowing to the developer juggernaut without asking any hard questions, just as other current members are doing, because it feels politically correct and expedient.

Posted by GHF
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 14, 2023 at 6:35 am

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Absolute power corrupts absolutely. They don't need to pretend to show any restraint in their use of power, and they are not.

They had the power to exclude the District 5 Councilmember from the vote. So they did.

They had the power to appoint whomever they liked to "represent District 5" without explanation to District 5 residents how their votes made sense. So they did.

They can take the parking spaces in front of your home or business. So they have and will.

They can tell you what type of appliance and energy you can use in your home. And they have tried - and were sued. But will try again.

They can change the zoning in the neighborhood. And they plan to in the housing element.

They and their friends know best, and they have the power to do what they want, how they want.

And if you fight back, you will be labeled.

This Council loves to be powerful. Look out.

Posted by Stuart Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 14, 2023 at 10:16 am

Stuart Soffer is a registered user.

I read Maria's background. Very impressive.

Posted by MP Father
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 14, 2023 at 11:24 am

MP Father is a registered user.

“'I find it that it's incredibly troubling that the availability... of council members who don't represent the district is trumping whether or not the district has a representative in the meeting,' Mueller said.  Nash and Taylor did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Mueller's statement."

Web Link

This situation feels like what transpired with the planned Closed City Council Meeting that violated protocols and arguably California's Brown Act.

Web Link

Posted by Rob small business owner
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 14, 2023 at 12:11 pm

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So a majority of the council subverted the democratic process by not allowing Ray Mueller or District 5 voters any say in the process? Sounds like the shenanigans in San Carlos when it came to selecting their mayor. Is this the new progressive democracy? we know what's best for you attitude and nothing personal against Ms Doerr but the process matters.

Posted by MiddleAged Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 14, 2023 at 6:43 pm

MiddleAged Menlo Parker is a registered user.

[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
I'll give Maria a chance BUT am not impressed by her views thus far.

Posted by An Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 16, 2023 at 5:31 pm

An Observer is a registered user.

Far better would be it be for district 5 to have no pretense of an elected voice on council. It'll take great courage from the appointed representative to act as a representative of the district rather than a representative of their owns views or the views of their collective friends that helped appoint them. Being properly elected will give credence to one's platform, until then an awkward position. I hope they carefully consider that position.

The elected official for district 5 was the direct voice for the district residents and was completely ignored by the council. A few council members who voted went on to, in a way, blame Mueller for running for country governance to cover their own actions of coordinating on a single choice that best aligns with their views over those of the elected voice of district 5.

Would those council members be okay with other districts appointing the representative for their own? Imagine if district 3, 4, and 5 were able to appoint the representative for district 1 without assenting to Taylor's opinion? Could they justify that? Why can they justify this?

Shame on our council.

Posted by Dawn1234
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 19, 2023 at 12:34 pm

Dawn1234 is a registered user.

The elected representative of district 5 was one of the voices that chose to have council appoint someone in the event of a vacancy before the term ends. To now be mad about that process former CM Mueller helped select seems like just pettiness that someone else was chosen. And, should the seats from other districts become vacant before the scheduled election, I assume they will live with the same process that their current representative chose while on council. It's all been public. And to dismiss a well qualified candidate's appointment as just "choosing friends" is something that often happens to women (which is not to say that is behind all these comments, just that it's par for the course of being a female seeking leadership). Also, just because one makes a lot of noise does not mean that one is in the majority. I think the last 6 years have highlighted that quite well.

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