Town Square

An Anonymous Questionnaire about the Utility Tax

Original post made by Martin Engel, Menlo Park: Park Forest, on Jun 10, 2007

The other day, my wife and I each received an email containing a questionnaire pertaining to Measure K, the UUT. The questionnaire was sent anonymously, signed only by the names Henry and Elizabeth. We don't know any couples named Henry and Elizabeth.

My first question is, why would we respond to an anonymous questionnaire? My second question is, why would anyone send a "push poll" type of political questionnaire when there are no elections going on?

Clearly, this questionnaire is not seeking information. It is a biased political document masquerading as a questionnaire. These shadowy senders appear to have a strong anti-Council bias. That would be OK. But, be up-front and honest about it and don't try to us with phony questionnaires. If you're against the UUT, come out and say so. If you favor it, say that. IF you were legitimately conducting a survey or poll, Henry and Elizabeth, you would pose your questions in as neutral and unbiased a way as possible (unlike the present snide tone) and you would certainly identify yourself, name, rank and serial number!


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Posted by UUT Watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 10, 2007 at 11:41 pm

Martin, why it is anonymous when the survey has authors names? Second, why do you think they send it to your knowing you are their political enemy?(since you are so famous these days)
if the people who sponsored the survey wanted a biased result, they would not have sent it to you. think it thru. UUT is controversial and please don't deny that.

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Posted by Debbie
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Jun 11, 2007 at 7:15 am

'anonymous' is ambiguous: is it the senders who are anonymous or are the responders' responses anonymous?

The senders of the survey only used their first names (Henry and Elizabeth) (if real). Which Henry and which Elizabeth?

Since the respondent is automatically directed to the Almanac website when finished, the Almanac web server logs information on the respondents. So much for anonymity of responses. Maybe it was the Almanac's survey?

The whole effort was amateurish.

Oh yes, the emails came from ''. Not very professional.

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Posted by Tacky, tacky
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 11, 2007 at 8:14 am

I agree, a very amateurish attempt to stir up trouble using the old Mickie Winkler/new John Boyle email list (hardly a scientific sampling of MP residents).

Some of my neighbors who received the survey have emailed Duckman to ask who he is, and have received no response.

My guess is that Henry and Elizabeth plan to run for council in 2008, and this is their "test the waters" effort. If sending out an anonymous, slanted survey is any reflection of their style of governing, they are not going to capture many votes.

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Posted by keep_to_the_point
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 11, 2007 at 9:09 am

Who cares who is duckman, henry, whatever! What matters is our pockets were PICKED by the city. two plus two is four, no matter who said it. Sure the survey more than suggests that the sponsors have a viewpoint and I sure hope the results, whatever they may be, are shareed with a council that IS NOT listening. Scientific sampling? Is the council, the commissions and every crazy busybody windbag that spews at council meetings a scientific sample? My pocket, my family's budget, was picked by a clever unscientific survey at the beginning of last year with the view to convincing us that we should raise taxes. Lo and behold, it happens, and then city staff gets a 30 percent increase in their pensions. WOW, that is the big picture!!!

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Posted by we're not that dumb
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 11, 2007 at 1:38 pm

Henry Riggs is now boasting of his achievement on the council's email log. See Web Link

Several points in his survey (and conclusions) are wrong. Nicholas Jellins did inform the community that there would be a surplus, not a deficit, weeks before the election. See Web Link

Jellins asked voters to continue to support Measure K.

Riggs also notes that he sent the survey to 4,000 of the 7,000 registered voters in Menlo Park. There are 18,000 registered voters in the city. He also says that the survey could not be forwarded. In point of fact, I and many others responded to a forwarded link.

Now, there IS a problem with our city's finances: no one seems to know how much money is in which account. Are we running a surplus right now, or aren't we? Apparently the finance department must use antiquated systems that make it nearly impossible to conduct an accurate accounting in a timely manner. If fingers are to be pointed, I'd direct them toward our former city manager who did nothing to rectify the situation during his term.

If you want to do something constructive, write the council and implore them to select a competent city manager this time around. As for Henry Riggs, I'd love to see him on the ballot in 2008 because he'd be sure to lose.

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Posted by shafted
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 12, 2007 at 12:01 pm

FYI, there were 8,368 votes cast in the last election. There may be 18,000 adults in MP, but nowhere close to that level of voting.

Why not run for council in 2008, Mr/Mrs Smarty Pants. It seems you know a whole lot about local politics, but why only single out Jellins? What about others involved? What about our current mayor? She was the head of Measure K/UUT Committee and helped make sure that her union cronies will add Menlo Park to growing list of Bay Area cities with FAT pensions. Wouldn't we all like to retire in our fifties with eighty percent of our final year's (inflated) pay? How about counting all our un-used sick days as a credit towards our health care package? How about every other Friday off? I ain't got nothing against employees protecting their turf and pay, it's understandable, but the fact that money grubbing politicos use MY money to buy their office gets me MAD.

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Posted by also not dumb
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 12, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Point of fact: the city reports the number of registered voters to the California Secretary of State. That number is over 18,400. Turnout may have been low last November, but that is irrelevant.

Nicholas Jellins was mayor of the city in 2006, and therefore he issued the statement about the surplus in October.

Whether or not employees are overpaid has nothing to do with whether or not the city's finance systems are antiquated. Anyone who thinks the city pays its employees too much is welcome to apply for a job with Menlo Park.

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Posted by not dumb either
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 12, 2007 at 5:14 pm

Legitimate questions have been raised about the city budget, and whether there really is a long term structural imbalance. Why don't we find out more facts rather than make uninformed conclusions before insisting that the UUT be removed altogether? I don't like to pay taxes any more than necessary, but frankly this tax is extremely modest and it could help the city get some things done that keep getting deferred such as fixing streets, hiring traffic cops, putting in sidewalks, and so on. Let's face it - most people are willing to spend more on a couple cups of designer coffee a week than they would have to pay out at the full UUT rate.

City staff and the prior City Council insisted that there is a long term structural problem with the city's finances. Even then, it was somewhat artificial because certain expenses had not been included in the budget that year. Then-Mayor Jellins and Fergusson were the initial volunteer leaders from the Council to lead the UUT effort. Inexplicably Jellins bowed out well before the budget surplus was known, leaving Fergusson the full burden of enlisting support for Measure K. Some people DID know that the forecast had improved for that year, and that may well be why the vote was so close.

The current budget forecasts assume a modest UUT rate just to stay above water longer term, and they omit a number of big ticket items. Last year's citizen budget group seemed to agree that there could well be structural issues - including certain compensation areas - and recommended that they be allowed to dig into the budget issues since the city does not seem to have staff or inclination to do. Neither the old or current Council has allowed that to occur.

The current budget has been presented as well as I have seen one, but there remains considerable room for improvement. Rather than gripe about raises that were granted, at the recommendation of both the old and new Councils I understand, let's focus on getting a better analysis of the longer term forecast and THEN make appropriate decisions about whether the UUT is needed and how much if it is.

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Posted by shafted
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 15, 2007 at 4:51 pm

dumb and dumber, WHATEVER the details of budget, and however justified the tax was due to our financial situation, the near fraud perpetuated by the city was that we would be having cuts in core services due to a phantom deficit. Therefore, the UUT money is ill gotten gains however worthy the projects it is intended to fund.

As for Mr Riggs' survey, the council had better listen because three times the number of people felt defrauded as the margin that passed the tax. Thanks Mr Riggs, for opening our eyes. BTW, Mr. Riggs presentation is here Web Link
move the slider to 16 minutes into the video.

The rest of the council meeting is the weirdest council session i've ever seen. Me thinks Kelly Ferguson is trying give the impression of a substantial body of accomplishment, e.g. $50,000 for another bike tunnel study, $25,000 for a green ribbon something or other, $XXX for this weird council session/party to honor staff. can sainthood be far behind?