VOTER’S GUIDE 2010 ★ ★ ★ ★ October 13, 2010 ★ Section Two ★ ★ ★ ★
A full plate for voters
oters face lots of decisions on the Nov. 2 ballot. Locally, voters have the opportunity to remake city councils in Atherton and Menlo Park. In Atherton, four candidates are running for three seats. In Menlo Park, it’s six candidates for three seats. (Each council has a total of five members.) Two big measures are on the Menlo Park ballot. Measure L proposes to limit pension benefits for new city employees, excluding sworn police officers. The limits are lower than the benefits received by current city employees. Measure T would amend the general plans to allow the Bohannon Development Company to build a 950,000-square-foot office-hotel complex east of U.S. 101. There are contests for two local school boards: in the Menlo Park City School District and the Las Lomitas School District. In each district, four candidates are competing for three seats. Voters also face decisions about who will succeed Rich Gordon as San Mateo County supervisor in District 3. Since no candidate received a majority vote in the June primary, there is a runoff between former sheriff and Emerald Hills resident Don Horsley and small business owner and coastsider April Vargas. There is also a runoff election for county treasurer/tax collector between entrepreneur Dave Mandelkern and deputy treasurer Sandie Arnott. Two county-wide measures are on the ballot. Measure M would increase the vehicle registration fee by $10 for 25 years. The revenue would be spent on street maintenance, transit options, and other transportation projects. Measure U would change the way vacancies on the San Mateo
County Board of Supervisors are filled. Among special districts, seven candidates are competing for three seats on the Sequoia Healthcare District board. On the state level, Democrat Rich Gordon of Menlo Park and Republican Greg Conlon of Atherton are running for the District 21 state Assembly seat now occupied by Ira Ruskin. There are many other state-level offices up for election, including governor, where Meg Whitman of Atherton and former governor Jerry Brown are in a heated contest. Democrat Leland Yee is seeking re-election in state Senate District 8, which includes Portola Valley and Woodside. His Republican opponent is Doo Park. There are also many important state propositions. On the federal level, Democrat Anna Eshoo of Menlo Park is seeking another term in Congress from District 14. Her Republican opponent is Dave Chapman. Democrat Barbara Boxer is running for re-election to the U.S. Senate, and is facing a significant challenge from Republican Carly Fiorina. The Almanac’s Voter’s Guide focuses on major local contests and issues.
Voter information ■ See the ballot information sent to registered voters. ■ Go to smartvoter.org, the League of Women Voters site. ■ Go to shapethefuture.org for information from the county elections office. ■ Go to voterguide.sos.ca.gov for information from the California secretary of state on state propositions and candidates.
MORE INSIDE ■ Six vie for Menlo Park council seats. Page 22
■ Menlo Park school board race. Page 25
■ Atherton candidates offer ideas for fixing town. Page 23
■ Las Lomitas school board race. Page 27
■ Measure T allows Bohannon to build office-hotel complex. Page 24
■ County races. Page 28
Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac
Yes on Measure L signs line Menlo Avenue, near El Camino Real, in downtown Menlo Park.
Measure L for ‘Limit’ on pension benefits By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer
ublic employee pension plans garnered nationwide attention as the recession chipped away at city financial reserves, and Menlo Park was no exception. With CalPERS faltering, the city could find itself facing a multi-million dollar bill for its pension benefits, because taxpayers must make up any shortfall. The City Council explored pension reform in May, but Measure L is the result of a grassroots drive to let voters decide how to proceed. Changes
Measure L seeks to raise the minimum retirement age for new public employees, excluding police officers, by five years to 60, and also decrease their maximum pension benefits by 0.7 percentage points to 2 percent of their highest annual salary averaged over three years, multiplied by the number of years employed by Menlo Park. Under this measure, a new hire who retired at age 60 after working for the city for 30 years would receive 60 percent of that average salary. Current employees could retire at age 55, and get 81 percent. If a city worker chooses to retire earlier, they would be eligible for reduced benefits. Employees will pay at least 7 percent of their salaries toward retirement, with the city providing
a matching amount. Finally, Measure L prohibits retroactive increases in pension benefits for any employee, current or new. Its supporters say this clause is designed to prevent a reoccurrence of 2007, when the council awarded a 35 percent jump in benefits, retroactive to an employee’s first day on the job. Councilman Heyward Robinson, who voted for the increase, said in exchange public employees agreed to forego a 5 percent raise, which saved the city $200,000. Supporters of the initiative pointed out the “instant pension liability” of $6.3 million incurred by the increase demolished any savings. Who decides?
A key question is who has the legal authority to alter the structure of a city’s pension plan — the voters, or only the City Council? One provision of Measure L is that future benefits could only be increased by a simple majority of voters — not by the council. The Nov. 2 election may indicate how Menlo Park voters would answer that question, although those opposed to Measure L have filed one lawsuit questioning its legality, and may do so again if the measure passes. A pre-election suit sought to keep the initiative out of the hands of voters, but on Aug. 27 San
Mateo County Superior Court Judge George Miram allowed the ballot measure to proceed. The judge said in his decision that the government code that allows voter input on pension systems “raises serious doubt as to whether the Legislature intended to foreclose voter involvement in pensions as the petitioners argue.” City Council candidate Chuck Bernstein helped organize the grassroots campaign by the Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform that gathered more than 3,100 signatures, enough to get Measure L on the ballot. Two unions, Service Employees International Union Local 521 (SEIU) and American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 829 (AFSCME), filed the lawsuit to argue that only the City Council has the authority to change pension compensation. Judge Miram rejected that argument, stating that they didn’t prove that voters aren’t allowed to “instruct their city representatives,” but left open the possibility of post-election review. Menlo Park City Attorney William McClure estimated the cost of defending a lawsuit after the election at $25,000 to $60,000. Those against Measure L find the cost to be a great reason to vote against it. On the flip side, the grassroots See MEASURE L, page 24
October 13, 2010 N The Almanac N 21
★ VOTER’S GUIDE 2010 ★
Six vie for three seats on Menlo Park City Council By Sandy Brundage Almanac Staff Writer
our years ago, six candidates vied for three seats on the Menlo Park City Council, and this year is no different. But breaking the candidates down into camps was easier back then. In 2010 about the only way to divvy up the candidates is by experience: Incumbents vs. Newcomers. Mayor Rich Cline and Councilman Heyward Robinson are fighting for a second term against Peter Ohtaki, Kirsten Keith, Russell Peterson, and Chuck Bernstein. Not to say the newcomers haven’t paid their dues in public office — all have served the community in some capacity, and all, with the exception of Mr. Peterson, know firsthand the headaches and rewards of political service.
Downtown specific plan
Touted as “the” issue for the 2010 elections, the specific plan presents a new vision for downtown, which the city hopes will revitalize El Camino Real and boost new business on Santa Cruz Avenue. The plan, which took shape after a series of community meetings, includes parking garages, threestory buildings and housing along El Camino Real, and a network of paseos and parks to encourage pedestrians to shop downtown. However, a group of downtown merchants and property owners are protesting some aspects, such as opening a covered market in the vicinity of the weekly Farmer’s Market on Chestnut Street. The plan has yet to come before the Planning Commission and
City Council for approval; in the meantime the candidates are making their opinions clear. “The general plan is outdated,” Mr. Cline said. “This part of downtown needs focus.” In response to a question about how to pay for the parking garages, he and Mr. Robinson suggested installing parking meters or pursuing a public-private partnership based on revenue sharing. Planning Commissioner Keith reiterated the need for a detailed downtown plan; Mr. Ohtaki favors the El Camino Real portion of the plan, but isn’t sure about the garages. Then there’s Mr. Bernstein, who said: “There are huge holes — who will pay for the garages, what happens to the Farmers’ Market. There’s no nexus between what was said at the community meetings and what came out in the report.” He proposed focusing on El Camino Real first, then implementing the rest of the plan in stages. “Stagnation is not the answer for downtown,” said Mr. Peterson. “I support the concept of the plan, but would like to see some changes.” Those changes include re-evaluating the building height limits to see whether fewer than five stories may suffice. Measure L: Pension reform
Measure L proposes raising the minimum retirement age for new public employees, excluding police officers, by five years to 60, and also decreasing their maximum pension benefits by 0.7 percentage points to 2 percent of their highest
annual salary averaged over three years, multiplied by the number of years employed. Under this measure, a new hire who retired at age 60 after working for the city for 30 years would receive 60 percent of that average. Current employees could retire at age 55, and get 81 percent. Mr. Bernstein was a driving force behind the campaign to put Measure L on the November ballot. While Ms. Keith, Mr. Ohtaki, and Mr. Peterson support the initiative, incumbents Rich Cline and Heyward Robinson don’t, saying it won’t solve the problem of how the city can afford the benefits and it also ties the hands of future councils, since benefits could be increased only with voter approval. The incumbents also had some explaining to do, given that they both voted to increase benefits in 2007, contributing to the current financial unsustainability of the city’s pension plan. “If I’d known then what I know now,” said Mr. Cline, referring to the economy’s downturn. Three years ago the council “came under a lot of duress” to keep up with other Peninsula cities who had raised their pensions to 2.75 percent. Mr. Robinson pointed out that the increased benefits were in exchange for public employees agreeing to forego a 5 percent salary increase.
70,000-square-foot gym in one multi-story building. Three other buildings will house office complexes and parking garages. Before construction could start, however, the general plan must be amended to add a “business park” landuse category, and apply it to the 16-acre project site on the east side of U.S. 101, near Marsh Road and Bayfront Expressway, and that’s where the ballot measure comes in. If the candidates cast their votes on the Bohannon Menlo Gateway project right now, the breakdown would probably go like this: 4-1-1. The incumbents and the planning commissioner all chose to approve the project. Saying he’s “against it, but barely against it,” Mr. Peterson thinks David Bohannon should be able to develop the site, but expects the environmental and traffic impacts will be bigger than predicted. He also questions whether the city negotiated a good deal by accepting sales tax revenue instead of in-lieu fees. “If only lawyers move [into the offices], what do you get?” he asked. The lone voice crying out against Menlo Gateway belongs to Mr. Bernstein. He doubts the project’s reality will seem as rosy as the way the developer describes it. Since the project may not be built for years, he said, it won’t address one of Menlo Park’s most urgent needs — new jobs.
Budget, budget, budget
The plan for the Bohannon Menlo Gateway depicts a 230room, seven-floor hotel, a 4,285square-foot restaurant, and a
On this, all candidates agree: Menlo Park spends more than it makes each year, leading the city into an ever-deepening budget
deficit. Where they differ is on how to change that, and in a willingness to discuss specific steps. Ms. Keith suggested raising the city’s utility users tax (UUT) from 1 percent, comparing that to Palo Alto’s 5 percent. Voters in 2006 approved a UUT of up to 3.5%, and capped the amount paid by anyone at $12,000 per year. However, in 2007, the City Council set the tax at 1 percent. “Historically we had been running surpluses. The council had to fine-tune [the tax],” Mr. Robinson said, explaining that surpluses plus high taxes make for unhappy constituents. “I think 2 percent probably was the right point to set the rate at.” Raise taxes? Not if you’re Peter Ohtaki. “Menlo Park is a lot better off than most cities. There’s a lot we can do before raising taxes, for example, paying down pension [debt], looking at headcounts and downsizing,” he said. Mr. Cline focused on revenue, lauding the city’s new “business acceleration team” of business owners and city staff working to streamline the permitting process. But he agreed cuts are also necessary. The mayor is willing to consider adjusting executive city staff salaries, putting certain projects on hold, and outsourcing services such as maintenance. Reducing subsides for services like childcare is an option put on the table by Mr. Peterson. As for salary cuts and downsizing, he would want the city staff to come up with the plan. Mr. Bernstein, who runs a comSee MENLO PARK COUNCIL, page 23
Age: 65 Occupation: CEO, Early Learning Institute Experience: Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform; former member of California State Coalition on Special Education, Menlo Park Budget Advisory Committee, Residential Review Task Force, and Child Care Task Force; co-founder Willows Citizen Patrol Education:B.A. Princeton; PhD in languages and linguistics, and MBA, Stanford University Website: chuck4council.org
Age: 41 Occupation: President, Voce Communications Experience: City Council since 2006; Finance and Audit, High Speed Rail Subcommittees; Chair, Peninsula Cities Consortium; former Parks and Recreation Commissioner; former member of Child Care Task Force, Sports Field Task Force, and Off-Leash Dog Park Task Force Education: B.A. in journalism, California State University, Hayward Website: www.clineforcouncil.com
Age: 43 Occupation: Attorney Experience: Planning Commission since 2004; Legal Aid Society since 1997; former member of Menlo Park Housing and Mediation Commissions; County Commission on Status of Women; former board member for League of Women Voters and Sor Juana Inez Battered Women’s Service Agency Education: J.D., Golden Gate University School of Law; B.A. in political science, University of California, Santa Barbara Website: www.kirstenforcouncil.org
Age: 49 Occupation: Executive director, California Resiliency Alliance Experience: President, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board; former member of MidPeninsula Water District Education: B.A. in economics, Harvard; MBA, Stanford University Website: ohtaki.stumpwise.com
Age: 50 Occupation: Stay at home dad; volunteer Experience: Co-founder Community Coalition on High Speed Rail; president of Felton Gables Homeowners Association Education: B.S. in aviation technology, Purdue University Website: forpeterson.org
Age: 52 Occupation: Senior scientist, SRI International Experience: City Council since 2006; Chair, San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority; former Parks and Recreation Commissioner; member of Playing Fields Task Force; Menlo Park Environmental Award recipient Education: PhD in materials science, Stanford University Website: www.voteforheyward.org
22 N The Almanac N October 13, 2010
★ VOTER’S GUIDE 2010 ★
Four Atherton candidates offer ideas for fixing town By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor
awsuit settlements and attorney fees totaling around $900,000 in the past year. Two building officials abruptly retiring in the last four years after coming under intense scrutiny and criticism over their oversight of the building department. A $1 million structural budgetary deficit in a community famous for its multimillionaires and billionaires. And a City Council that’s become almost dysfunctional in the eyes of many in the community because of its inability to find common ground on key issues. Atherton is a small town with big problems. Four candidates, including two incumbents, are running for three seats on the five-member council as the town faces a number of thorny challenges. They include: unpalatable plans by the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority to divide the community by laying tracks above ground along the Caltrain route; replacing the town manager, who late last month announced his resignation; resolving still more existing and threatened lawsuits; deciding on whether to rebuild its Town Center and move the library to Holbrook-Palmer Park; and finding a way to cut spending and erase its structural deficit, largely the result of skyrocketing employee costs, while maintaining services residents expect. In addition, the council will decide whether to continue with the services of City Attorney Wynne Furth, who has come under intense criticism not only from a number of residents but from Mayor Kathy McKeithen as well, and how to replace the top official in the building department after the unexpected retirement last month of building official Mike Wassman. The Almanac interviewed coun-
MENLO PARK COUNCIL continued from page 22
pany specializing in child development, called the city’s number of managers “a little top heavy.” Instead of cutting positions, however, he said initially his efforts would concentrate on reducing compensation. Common ground
The Almanac asked each candidate if they would support a policy requiring council members to disclose all private meetings they hold with anyone who has business coming before the City Council. The answer was a unani-
Years in Atherton: 19 Age: 74 Occupation: Retired; former corporate executive. Civic experience: Member, Atherton City Council, 2005-present; member or past member, various town committees, including audit, finance, rail, transportation; town representative on various regional commissions, including City/ County Association of Governments, League of California Cities, HighSpeed Rail Policy Working Group; member, Friends of the Atherton Library; member, Holbrook-Palmer Park Foundation; former president, Atherton Civic Interest League; board member, Selby Lane School Foundation. Education: Stanford University, MBA; UC Davis, bachelor’s degree. Website: jerrycarlson2010.com
Years in Atherton: 16 Age: 79 Occupation: Retired; formerly, in senior management, high-tech industry. Civic experience: Member, Atherton City Council, 2008-present; member or past member, various town committees, including general plan, finance; past member, Atherton Planning Commission. Education: Arizona State University, master’s in electrical engineering; Glasgow University, bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Website: reelectjimdobbie.com
Years in Atherton: 14 Age: 55 Occupation: deputy vice president, commercial management, Orange Business Services. Civic experience: Member, Atherton Audit Committee; active participant, Atherton Finance Committee; member, campaign committee for 2009 town parcel tax renewal; AYSO board member, coach, referee; volunteer fundraiser, grant writer, Church of the Nativity; member, U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment Defense Diversification committee. Education: Texas Christian University, MBA, and bachelor’s degree in computer science; Northwestern University, Kellogg School, executive program. Website: Bill4Atherton.com
Years in Atherton: 1 Age: 46 Occupation: Real estate consultant; real estate appraiser. Civic experience: Member, Vision 2025 Committee, San Mateo County; member, county Jail Planning Advisory Committee; member, county Charter Review Committee (2010); past member, Crystal Springs County Sanitation District Review Committee; past member, county Youth Services Center Development Committee. Education: Associate’s degree; two-year training program, Coast Mortgage Investors. Website: carywiest.com
cil candidates last month. What follows are summaries of their responses to specific questions, and their ideas and goals for trying to fix what ails the town.
During budget discussions, he has pushed for a five-year financial plan, which would include addressing employee costs, to tackle the deficit. “Everything has to be on the table,” he said. “The biggest piece of the pie is employee compensation.” Before the council decides on any major cuts and changes to public services, Mr. Carlson said, he wants to hear from residents about what they are willing to give up and what is most important to them to retain. That includes their views on police services, which a vocal group of residents has advocated outsourcing to the county Sheriff’s Office or other outside agency. Mr. Carlson said outsourcing isn’t the only option for providing costly services. For example, the town is already sharing Redwood City’s technical staff for its technical needs, and the town can also consider outsourcing only portions of some departments’ services, such as dispatch, investigations and canine patrol services in the police department. Regarding the possibility of building a new Town Center, estimated to cost around $12 million, Mr. Carlson said, “The town must do something” about its aging, cramped facilities. To pay for such a project, however, he favors Portola Valley’s approach; that town financed the building of its Town Center almost completely with private donations. A number of residents have called for a housecleaning in Town Hall, and Mr. Carlson said there is “always room for improvement.” But he also noted that “not every-
thing is wrong” with town government, and one of his goals — to raise the level of professionalism in government — is gradually being met. He favors a “customer response” survey for people who do business in Town Hall as a way to continually monitor the quality of services residents receive from their government, he said. Mr. Carlson said he is “running a fiscally conservative campaign,” seeking endorsements and donations from residents only, not from employee unions or other special interests. “If I can’t raise the $8,000 (he estimates he will spend) from residents, I’ll spend less.”
benefits, and possible increases in employee contributions for them, as a way to rein in costs. While some services might be best provided by outsourcing them, Mr. Dobbie said the town must look carefully at the prospect of outsourcing police services. “Do we want to reduce those services? The voters should decide,” he said. Although some residents have insisted that the Sheriff’s Office could provide police services at less cost than the town now pays for its own police force, Mr. Dobbie noted that the town wouldn’t have any control over future increases after the initial bid by the county agency, and “we’re stuck with whatever happens.” Mr. Dobbie said he supports building a new Town Center “only if we can get all the money via (private) contributions.” He thinks that’s possible, he added. The resignation of City Manager Jerry Gruber gives the town an opportunity to find a strong manager “who will give good guidance to the staff,” he said. Although Mr. Gruber suggested that the town could hire a part-time consultant to replace Mr. Wassman as building official, Mr. Dobbie supports a permanent, full-time staff member in that position. He noted that the building department pays for itself with revenues from fees, and it should be a priority for the town to “make sure that everything (in the building department) is done right ... and everything is totally clean.” Mr. Dobbie said he raised all
Incumbent Jerry Carlson said he’s got the knowledge and experience, both as a longtime community volunteer and a five-year council member, to help the town fix its financial problems, address its concerns about high-speed rail, and maintain the rural character of Atherton. Mr. Carlson has been among those at the forefront of the town’s resistance to the High-Speed Rail Authority’s process for planning the Bay Area portion of the rail line. The town has joined lawsuits against the authority, challenging its compliance with environment impact studies requirements.
mous yes. “I don’t think anyone should feel like there’s anything going on under the table,” Ms. Keith said. Mr. Bernstein was surprised that no such policy currently exists. “It’s a good policy and we should be doing it.” Of course, disclosure can happen even without an official policy — Mr. Robinson said his council calendar is already open to the public. An equally unanimous response — this time no — came when each candidate was asked whether they support the current options for high-speed rail through the Peninsula. A
Mr. Dobbie has served two years on the council, and wants to continue to help sort out the town’s “serious financial problems” and other matters, such as the plan to run high-speed rail tracks above ground through town — a plan he fiercely opposes. Some of his criticism of town government is reserved for the council itself. “I’m a do-er, and I believe we (the council) waste a lot of time at council meetings,” he said, adding that council members need to “talk less, say more, and prevent pontification.” He said that the council now is so divided it is “unable to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.” A member of the town’s Finance Committee, Mr. Dobbie said the town “can’t ignore the elephant in the room” — that nearly 80 percent of town expenses are employee costs. The committee, he said, is looking at employee
See ATHERTON COUNCIL, page 26
October 13, 2010 N The Almanac N 23
★ VOTER’S GUIDE 2010 ★
Measure T: Allow Bohannon to build office-hotel complex? MENLO GATEWAY
When the Menlo Park City Council voted to approve Menlo Gateway, Councilman John Boyle provided the lone dissenting vote, saying that although he supported the project, he didn’t want a complex land-use decision to be spun by political campaigns. Later, colleague Andy Cohen went on to help write the ballot arguments against Measure T, even though he voted for the project. Menlo Gateway became controversial in part because of its environmental impacts, such as carbon
MEASURE L continued from page 21
coalition intends to keep fundraising for a legal defense, and arranging pro-bono attorneys to support the city. “Would you really alter doing what is right because you might have to defend it?” asked Henry Riggs, who helped collect enough signatures to put the pension initiative on the ballot. He thought the potential savings of Measure L made the cost of a lawsuit worthwhile. Support
The City Council voted unanimously in May to switch to a “twotier” pension system with the same
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easure T, the Bohannon Menlo Gateway project, is the ballot measure that almost wasn’t. Despite the 4-1 vote by the Menlo Park City Council on June 15 to approve the project, the council members still decided to leave the final approval up to voters. If passed, the measure would amend the general plan to add a “business park” land-use category, and apply that category to 16 acres on the east side of U.S. 101 that span Independence Drive and Constitution Drive. This change would allow the Bohannon Development Company to construct the mixeduse Gateway on that site. The plan for Menlo Gateway consists of a 230-room, seven-floor hotel, a 4,285-square-foot restaurant, and a 70,000-square-foot fitness club in one multi-story building. Three other buildings will house office complexes and parking garages. At roughly 950,000 square feet, the total floor area of the office buildings, hotel and health club would be roughly equivalent to that of the Sun Microsystems campus at the east end of Willow Road, according to city planning staff.
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Almanac Staff Writer
By Sandy Brundage
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The project would be built between U.S. 101 and Bayfront Expressway.
The Bohannon Organization
Looking across U.S. 101 toward Bedwell-Bayfront Park at the Menlo Gateway project proposed by developer David Bohannon. The project would consist of three multi-story office buildings, a 230-room hotel, a fitness center, and several parking garages.
emissions, traffic, and noise. Opponents also argue those impacts outweigh the city’s financial benefits. “It’s a lousy deal for the city,” said Patti Fry, a former planning commissioner. The city’s projections estimate $1.4 million in annual hotel revenue — a fraction of the $40 million to $60 million Mr. Bohannon would earn, according to the “No on Measure T” camp. The developer also agreed to contribute $1.25 million for improvements to the Belle Haven neighborhood and Bedwell Bayfront Park on Marsh Road, which borders the site. Which schools would benefit from the project’s property taxes remains contentious. A “Yes on Measure T” postcard mailed to Menlo Park residents stated Gateway “also provides $1.8 million in revenue for local elementary, high school and junior college districts.” Bohannon spokesman Patrick Courman broke the numbers down like this: One-time impact fees to the Redwood City Elementary School and Sequoia Union School districts of $343,000; then annual revenue of $925,000 for the Redwood City schools, $611,000 for Sequoia,
and $266,000 for the San Mateo Community College District. However, because the state funds Redwood City schools on a revenuelimited, per-student basis, funding from Menlo Gateway property taxes will be offset by a reduction in state money. And “local” doesn’t equal “in Menlo Park,” although high school students attending outof-town campuses could benefit. Per its conditional development permit, the company must provide documentation showing the hotel is designed to meet LEED silver certification, while the office complex is designed to meet gold certification, based on 2009 standards. Deputy City Manager Kent Steffens said the agreement also requires the company to make “good faith efforts” to meet whatever new standards are in effect when it applies for a building permit. Gateway’s environmental consultant Andrea Traber of KEMA outlined several design aspects that incorporate LEED features, such as high-efficiency heating and cooling; insulated windows; and shade-sensitive building orientations. Software models of energy use show “across the board, for all buildings, they perform 23 per-
cent better than the energy code requires,” she said. As for traffic mitigation, the development permit outlines the use of shuttles during rush hour to Menlo Park and Redwood City Caltrain stations. Mr. Bohannon said money has also been set aside to ease the strain on intersections near the project. Ms. Fry countered by saying Gateway would increase the number of cars from 2,000 to 11,000 at already-congested intersections along Middlefield Road, Bayfront Expressway, University Drive, and Marsh Road. She also suggested the traffic would hinder Belle Haven and Willows residents who don’t drive from being able to travel downtown. In September, a voter survey paid for by Mr. Bohannon showed 68 percent of the 400 participants would probably vote for Measure T. If the measure does win at the ballot box, construction may not start for four to 20 years, according to the developer, depending on when the economy recovers enough to support financing such a large complex. The company will have to pay $300,000 in penalties for delaying construction more
benefits that Measure L provides on public employees belonging to SEIU. However, the switch only takes effect if the city negotiates the same deal with the city’s midlevel managers when their contract expires next year. While all council members and candidates support pension reform, not all endorse Measure L. Only two current officeholders, John Boyle and Andy Cohen, agreed with placing it on the ballot. Incumbents Rich Cline and Mr. Robinson, who are both running for re-election, oppose the measure, saying it wouldn’t solve the problem of how the city can afford to pay for pensions and it ties the hands of future councils. Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson said Measure L may force the
city to switch the pension plan for new hires from CalPERS to another system with higher administrative costs and lower investment returns. However, supporters of the initiative said that was unlikely. Mr. Riggs said the measure is intended to match the CalPERS “2 percent at 60 years” plan. “We can have a judge formally acknowledge that was the intent. [Mr. McClure] said it shouldn’t be an issue.” So if the council already passed a “2 at 60” plan, why does the city need Measure L? Precisely because it ties the hands of future councils, said Mr. Riggs. Without the measure, councils could revert to higher pension benefits whenever union contracts come up for renegotiation. Letting
voters decide reduces pressure on council members to cave in to union demands, and also ensures that people who don’t stand to gain from any increases — the voters — have a chance to participate in the process. Measure L may also have a trickle-down effect that puts pressure on the rest of the system to bring benefits down to a sustainable level. The website for “yes on Measure L” lists many supporters, including former mayors Lee Duboc, Dee Tolles, and Paul Collacchi. Of the six City Council candidates, the four non-incumbents back the initiative. But none of the six candidates received endorsements from SEIU, the AFSCME, or the San Mateo County Central Labor Council
24 N The Almanac N October 13, 2010
than five years. Opponents highlighted the delay as another reason to vote against Measure T, since the estimated 2,300 jobs generated may not appear for years. Support
All but one of the six Menlo Park City Council candidates endorse Measure T. Educator Chuck Bernstein remains opposed. Other city officials supporting the Gateway Project include Chamber of Commerce CEO Fran Dehn, former mayors Gail Slocum and Dee Tolles, and Belle Haven Homeowners Association President Matt Henry. Joining Mr. Cohen, Ms. Fry, and Mr. Bernstein in the campaign to defeat Measure T are Planning Commissioner Vince Bressler, Transportation Commissioner Charles Bourne, former mayors Paul Collacchi and Mary Jo Borak. Community activists Morris Brown, Peter Carpenter, and Don Barnby also signed on with the opposition. A
Websites ■ No on Measure T: Factsnothype.org ■ Yes on Measure T: menlogateway.com
(SMCLC). “Our focus in Menlo Park is on the defeat of Measure L,” said Julie Lind, political director for the labor council. The unions are likely behind a city-wide telephone poll conducted the last week of September that attempted to discredit Measure L, according to Mr. Riggs. He also expects a mid-October surge in attack ads. Others campaigning against the measure include former mayor Gail Slocum, Commissioners Jim Tooley, Carolyn Clarke, and Michelle Wangberg. A
Websites ■ No On Measure L: NoOnMenloParkMeasureL.org ■ Yes on Measure L: MenloParkPensionReform2010.org
★ VOTER’S GUIDE 2010 ★
Four vie for three seats on Menlo Park school board By Renee Batti
Laura Linkletter Rich
Almanac News Editor
Education: Stanford University, bachelor’s degree, psychology; currently working toward master’s in instructional technology. Civic service: Trustee, Menlo Park City School District, 1998-present; past member, Mid-Peninsula Teachers Institute policy board; past president, PTA Council, Menlo Park; past officer, Encinal School PTA, Encinal Site Council; California School Boards Association director, past delegate; San Mateo County School Boards Association, past president; website designer for district and two schools. Experience/occupation: Web designer. Age: 48 Family: Husband, Mark; two children, both district graduates.
Education: Completed studies, civil law. Civic service: Information not provided. Experience/ occupation: Banking professional, 25 years. Age: Information not provided. Family: Husband, Daniel Ruiz; one son in district school.
Education: UC Berkeley, bachelor’s degree, English; UCLA, law degree. Civic service: board member, Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, 2008-present; editorial co-chair, Measure C Parcel Tax Campaign, 2010; co-chair, foundation’s Major Donor Committee; member, Jeanie Ritchie Grant Committee, 2008-present; various volunteer work at Encinal, Oak Knoll, and Hillview schools. Experience/occupation: Attorney Age: 45 Family: Husband, Mark Silverman; three daughters, two still in district schools, one now at M-A High.
Education: Stanford University, MBA. Civic service: Trustee, Menlo Park City School District, 200008; adviser, Measure C parcel tax campaign (2010), and co-chair, Measure A parcel tax campaign (2000); past board member, San Mateo County School Boards Association; past board member, Californians for Improved School Finance; adviser, Ravenswood School District Parcel Tax Campaign; past board member, Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation. Experience/occupation: Management consultant, financial analyst. Age: 53 Family: Husband, Allan; four children.
to think critically and creatively, to know how to be independent learners, and to have the tools to approach problems as they experience them.” Beyond the core curriculum each school offers, she added, the district offers “a program of enrichment through art, music, PE, libraries, technology, and science gardens,” programs that allow students “to experience their learning through meaningful and diverse venues that are not available to most public school students.” The district’s standardized test scores consistently rank in the top 5 percent in the state, but those tests assess only mastery of the current year’s content standards, she said. The district is “rolling out a series of assessments this year which will more accurately assess a student’s abilities and challenges through a computer-based, adaptive test” that scores the student on a kindergarten-to-12th-grade continuum, she said. Ms. Rich said she’s been particularly interested in the integration of technology into the curriculum, saying the district has observed growth in student performance with the addition of an instructional technology coordinator. One area Ms. Rich said the district needs to improve in is “how we are serving our children of color,” an area the superintendent has been focusing on with the support of the board. Growing enrollment, stagnant revenue. Voters earlier this year approved Measure C, a new, sevenyear parcel tax to supplement a tax already in place. The new tax “will allow us to be fully staffed with
classroom teachers at the time of peak enrollment,” Ms. Rich said. She noted, however, that each year the district and the board “need to balance the various needs of the district with projected revenues. We have shown a willingness to cut programs when necessary to keep the district fiscally healthy.” Communication. “Communication has been one of my primary interests and focuses during my tenure on the board,” Ms. Rich said. She added that she created the first district website, and continues to maintain it, “to make sure that information was available and easily accessed.” She also spearheaded the effort to send out district and school communications electronically, she said.
school board and the community. “When changes that have an impact on daily student life are on the table, clear and concise communication to the community is critical,” she said. Curriculum. Even as the district’s students continue to be among the state’s highest performers on standardized tests, the board must always stay focused on the question of whether the district is meeting its mission of “inspiring high academic achievement among all students, serving their needs, challenging their minds, ... enriching their lives, and laying a foundation for success and participation in our democratic society and as citizens of the world,” Ms. Uribe-Ruiz said. The district, she said, needs to give teachers the tools to help students who are not doing as well as they should in achieving their potential. Those tools include specialist support, technology, information and training, she added. Growing enrollment, stagnant revenue. “Menlo Park is a wonderful community, and as a result growing enrollment continues to be a major challenge for our school district,” Ms. Uribe-Ruiz said. She praises the efforts of the nonprofit education foundation that donates money to the schools, and voters for supporting parcel taxes. “That said, it is the responsibility of our board to challenge the administration to attain the most value for every educational dollar, and to develop contingency plans for maintaining quality services in the event that revenue from any source declines,” she added. The board, she said, needs to review areas such as district
contracts with teachers, administrative staff, and vendors; and “overall service delivery models to determine possible efficiencies.” Communication. Ms. UribeRuiz said that the current board and administration “adhere to the law regarding disclosure of important information such as the budget and board meeting minutes,” but finding the information “is not always easy.” She said she’d like to see more accessible information regarding “how children move from one grade to the next one, what a counselor can do to help your child, curriculum changes on the horizon, and what considerations and input are taking place for that change.”
rowing enrollment, shrinking revenue. Increased pressure on school districts to find ways to slash spending without harming classroom programs. Those are challenges confronting most of the state’s public school districts, which are struggling to meet demanding federal and state academic standards while facing teacher layoffs and other threats to their ability to do what they’re in business to do: teach kids. The Menlo Park City School District has done well in meeting many of those challenges, judging by its high test scores, ability to renovate or rebuild its four campuses, and avoid layoffs in the classroom. But with the economic forecast less than cheery for the foreseeable future, the challenges aren’t over. Four candidates are hoping voters give them the chance to work toward meeting the challenges of the next four years by electing them to the Menlo Park district school board. There are three open seats, with only one incumbent, Laura Linkletter Rich, seeking reelection. The board oversees the K-8 district, which includes Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll, and Hillview Middle schools. The Almanac posed written questions to the candidates, pertaining to issues ranging from financial concerns and rising employee costs, to student achievement and the district’s outreach to the community. What follows are summaries of their responses.
Laura Linkletter Rich Ms. Rich is running for a fourth four-year term on the board. Her children are now adults, but she’s not ready to call it quits with the district. “I feel a commitment to seeing some current projects through to completion,” she said. Among those projects, she said, is the rebuilding of Hillview, a project begun in late summer that will reconfigure the campus and create 80,000 square feet of facilities designed to accommodate the burgeoning enrollment. In the 12 years she has served, she noted, the board has implemented class-size reduction, redesigned the academic program at Hillview, hired current Superintendent Ken Ranella, and made changes to the core instructional program that have led to “substantial increases in state testing results” — all while overseeing a 40 percent enrollment growth. Curriculum. The goal of the district’s educational program, Ms. Rich said, “is to teach our students
Ana Uribe-Ruiz Ms. Uribe-Ruiz said she will be a “voice to all families, regardless of their cultural and economic background,” if elected to the board. Her perspective of “the importance of fair and appropriate education” for the district’s children is shaped, in part, by her experiences as the mother of a son in the district’s special education program. Also, she said, “with more than 25 years in the banking industry, I can bring experience to help understand the budgeting process.” Ms. Uribe-Ruiz said one of her primary focuses as a board member would be improving communication — between teachers and parents, school sites and central administration, special education and general education, and the
Joan Lambert Ms. Lambert said her work as an active volunteer in three of the district’s four schools, as a board member of the nonprofit school foundation, and as one of the leaders in the Measure C parcel tax campaign has given her “extensive knowledge of the district and a district-wide perspective.” Formerly a practicing attorney, she said her legal experience and training in mediation “will be an asset during negotiations with the unions” — a role all board members play. Giving her another important perspective, she said, are her children’s current school experiences: one in elementary school (in the Spanish immersion program at Encinal), one in middle school, and one in high school. Curriculum. “I believe the disSee MENLO PARK SCHOOLS, page 26
October 13, 2010 N The Almanac N 25
★ VOTER’S GUIDE 2010 ★ ATHERTON COUNCIL continued from page 23
his campaign funding early on, and that none of it came from employee unions or other special interests. Bill Widmer
Challenger Bill Widmer said his professional skills in finance, mediation, and innovative problem-solving “are right for the town’s situation right now.” A member of the town’s Audit Committee, and an active participant on the Finance Committee, he said the town’s operations “are not well-run,” nor does town management adhere to “best practice” procedures that are the standard in industry. When the Audit Committee was asked to review a new proposed purchasing policy, Mr. Widmer said, he recognized and pointed out flaws, including procedures that could lead to fraud. As a result, he was asked to rewrite the policy, which he will submit to the town soon. The town, he said, has been over-spending since 2008, and the upward spiral in spending is due to paying employees at a level above the average of comparable cities — a negotiated situation that must be changed. MENLO PARK SCHOOLS continued from page 25
trict does a good job not only in preparing students for tests, but also preparing them to be critical thinkers and good citizens,” Ms. Lambert said. Saying that there’s always room for improvement, she added: “The district could do more in teaching students research skills as well as how to write coherently and effectively communicate. ... Students should be shown how lessons learned in math and science apply to their everyday lives.” Also, she said, “students should focus less on memorization and more on learning how to weigh evidence, reason and analyze data.” Additional focus on ensuring that more students pass algebra in middle school, and more language study, are also goals she supports. There’s still more work to be done for “students of color (and of) low socio-economic status,” she said. “I would like to focus on helping these students avoid summer learning loss in addition to helping them achieve academically during the school year.” Growing enrollment, stagnant revenue. The passage of Measure C helped the district avoid significant layoffs and “for the most part, held class sizes steady,” Ms. Lambert said, though she noted that
“If we can’t change the contracts, or the unions dig in their heels (holding out for) pay increases, we can go for contract labor, for temp labor, and part-time labor,” he said. And, he added, “hiring practices need to adhere more to industry standards.” Regarding the possibility of outsourcing some town services, he said he has extensive experience in outsourcing in private industry, and noted that decisions to go outside for services must be made carefully. For example, the town must look at which services are critical to its operations, streamline those operations, and determine the level of services residents want and expect. Voters should decide whether police services are to be outsourced, as some residents have advocated, he said. The Town Center facilities are not adequate and “could use an upgrade,” Mr. Widmer said. But he is strongly opposed to raising taxes to build a new center. If private funds can be raised to build one, he said, “I would have no reason to disagree” with a plan to build it. Asked for his view of town management and staff, Mr. Widmer said the town should take more of a “citizen first” approach, and proclass sizes “have increased slightly in some grades at some schools.” After a projected enrollment growth of another approximately 300 students over the next few years, enrollment is expected to decline, she said. And, she added, property tax revenue in the state is projected to recover in four to five years. Given that the parcel tax carries a seven-year term, those projections are encouraging. If the projections don’t pan out, however, “I would ask the superintendent to prepare a list of potential cuts and have a public forum to discuss (them) and help the board prioritize them,” as the board did last year, she said. The district needs to “take a critical look each year” at teacher contracts, considering “whether it is possible to reduce salaries, retirement and health benefits while still attracting and retaining the best teachers for our students,” she said. Communication. “Openness should be the default setting for the way the school board does business,” Ms. Lambert said. One way she would stay engaged with the school community as a board member is put her contact information on the district’s website; currently, board members’ names are listed, but not contact information. She also would attend as many kindergarten orientations and new
26 N The Almanac N October 13, 2010
vide services to the public evenly and fairly. But he notes that the council needs to play a more decisive role in ensuring that Town Hall meets adequate standards in serving the public. “The council must provide clear direction (to the town manager) ... on objectives, and then hold staff accountable,” he said. “Now, objectives are not always clear, and there’s so much wiggle room. The council has been divided, and staff has had an opportunity to maneuver a little bit.” Mr. Widmer said he believes the current council members are “all well-intentioned,” and that he would be able to work well and effectively with them. Regarding the high-speed rail issue, Mr. Widmer said he supports the town’s position in challenging aspects of the plan. Mr. Widmer said he would not accept donations from employee unions or other special interests, such as people doing business with the town. Cary Wiest
Although he’s lived in Atherton for less than a year, Mr. Wiest said he’s running for council because “I’ve observed shortcomings in the town’s government, and I have the ability to help fix them.” He said he’s always been parent coffees at the schools as she could, and regularly attend PTO and site council meetings at whichever school she serves as board liaison to, she said.
Terry Thygesen A school board member from 2000 to 2008, Ms. Thygesen said the “great challenges ahead” for the schools, including enrollment growth in the face of decreased revenue, have prompted her to run for another term on the board. Enrollment growth, she said, “is driving the need to expand Hillview, and careful management of this major construction project will be of major concern to the board, as it is essential to bring that project in on time and within budget.” She is a proponent of the district’s “efforts to improve educational equity for all students, ensuring that we are doing all that we can to help each and every student reach his or her personal best,” she said. “The district has made substantial improvements in recent years in closing the achievement gap for special education students ... . The current major focus is on improving achievement for students from low socio-economic backgrounds, an initiative that was started several years ago, but which is currently gaining a lot of steam.” Curriculum. Although stan-
involved in local government, adding that he has a history of “jumping in” after arriving in a new community. He did so, he said, within a month after moving to San Mateo Highlands, where he lived before moving to Atherton. Some of the problems he’s observed, and that trouble him, include the lawsuits the town has faced and continues to spend time and money addressing. “Frivolous or not, they’re a distraction,” he said. “If there’s a problem, the town needs to acknowledge it and fix it.” He said that people he runs into while campaigning ask: Why is Atherton’s government so dysfunctional? “Well, I say we need to get back to functional,” he said. The council “can’t micromanage the staff, but the manager needs to manage the staff,” and the council needs to make sure that happens, he said. Addressing Atherton’s budgetary problems, Mr. Wiest said the town needs to review all departments individually to determine how costs could be cut while maintaining services. The town must find ways to lower employee costs, including freezing and capping salaries. Asked about the option of out-
sourcing the police department, advocated by some residents, Mr. Wiest noted that residents have become accustomed to the level of services they’re receiving — a level that exceeds that of most other communities. “They have to decide if they’re willing to pay for it,” he said. In exploring options, the town needs to compare its police services with those of other communities, and come up with a realistic overview of service costs, he said. The public “must be given full disclosure of what the differences in services can be” if an outside agency is brought in to police the community. He supports the town’s litigation challenging the highspeed rail environmental review, and said the rail authority needs to provide a better management plan for constructing the massive rail project. At the same time, he added, the town needs to “keep the lines of communication open” between the authority and the community. Asked if he would accept campaign donations from employee unions or people doing business with the town, Mr. Wiest said he would refuse a donation if he were aware the donor represented a special interest.
dardized test scores in district schools are high, “the real focus of the district is on teaching students how to learn, using the state’s content standards (as) the vehicle for selecting content for practice,” Ms. Thygesen said. “It’s the critical thinking about whatever subject matter is being studied that is what’s most crucial.” She said she’d like to see more emphasis on achieving a higher level of algebra proficiency in eighth grade, “since this is such an important gatekeeper class to college preparatory classes in high school. Our district has been ahead of other high-performing districts in providing an advanced math track for students who are capable of becoming proficient in both algebra and geometry, and this should be continued.” Growing enrollment, stagnant revenue. “The district will need to maintain a very cautious financial posture for the foreseeable future to avoid further erosion of class sizes and services,” Ms. Thygesen said, adding that the schools are “still in good shape” because of parcel tax revenue, strong property values, the foundation’s support, “and a history of prudent financial management by the board.” Ms. Thygesen, who has a finance and strategic planning background, played a role in
that management. When she was on the board, she was one of two board members who served on the district’s long-range planning committee that guided the district toward the build-up of financial reserves, the refinancing of bonds to lower borrowing costs, and pre-funding employee pension obligations, she said. Communication: Technology has paradoxically made good communication “sometimes more difficult than ever before to achieve,” Ms. Thygesen said. The district has moved toward using technology to deliver newsletters via e-mail, to put reports and documents online, and to provide other information to the community, she noted. And yet, “the fact that all community members have so much access to information without having to ever actually talk to a knowledgeable person sometimes leads them to faulty interpretations and erroneous conclusions,” she said. While technological means of communication are important, she said, they don’t replace “the need for live interaction.” As a board member, she made it a practice to attend numerous school functions, PTO meetings, and other events, and to respond “in person, by phone or by e-mail to every single inquiry I received,” she said.
★ VOTER’S GUIDE 2010 ★
Las Lomitas school board candidates weigh in on issues By Renee Batti
Almanac News Editor
Education: Stanford University, doctorate, economics and statistics; Antioch College, bachelor’s degree, economics. Civic service: Trustee, Las Lomitas School District, 2009-present; past board member, Las Lomitas Education Foundation; past board member, Center for Economic Conversion, Palo Alto; various volunteer work at Las Lomitas School. Experience/occupation: Financial industry professional; former assistant professor, political economy. Age: Information not provided. Family: Wife, Linda Carr; daughter, at La Entrada.
Education: Stanford University, law degree; University of Wisconsin, bachelor’s degree, industrial engineering. Civic service: Active in Las Lomitas Education Foundation; volunteer work in school library, classrooms. Experience/occupation: Attorney; partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Age: 45 Family: Wife, Susan; two children, at La Entrada
Education: Stanford University, doctorate in education; Photo not available Harvard University, master’s in education; Dartmouth College, bachelor’s degree. Civic service: Member, Las Lomitas School Site Council; district classroom volunteer; board member, Bay Area Teacher Training Institute; various volunteer work with educational organizations, including Academy of Sciences Education Department; volunteer AYSO coach and referee. Experience/occupation: Educator and educational researcher, Stanford University. Age: 45 Family: Married, two children in district schools.
Education: UCLA, MBA, focus on finance and accounting; Stanford University, master’s, engineering economic systems, and bachelor’s, quantitative economics. Civic service: Head administrative coach for son’s AYSO team; past coach, YMCA youth basketball teams. Experience/occupation: Financial industry CFO and managing director. Age: 39 Family: Married; two children at Las Lomitas School.
our parents are vying for the chance to help lead the Las Lomitas School District forward at a time its enviable curriculum and small class size are being threatened by a troubling reality: less per-student funding due to shrinking revenue and growing enrollment. The four candidates are running for three seats on the five-member school board that oversees the district, which operates Las Lomitas (K-3) and La Entrada (4-8) schools in Atherton and Menlo Park, respectively. The district has much to boast about, with students ranking No. 1 in the state on the API academic test, and parents who regularly reach deeply into their wallets to support the schools. But like most school districts in the state, Las Lomitas has been struggling to maintain its robust educational program and smaller class size while property tax revenue flattens and threatens to dip. The current school board is considering asking voters to approve a new parcel tax next year to help avoid staff layoffs and to prevent any more growth in class size, which this school year increased by two to four students at every grade level. The Almanac solicited written comments from the candidates on a range of issues. What follows are some of their responses.
and find a creative approach to changing the middle school program schedule, which some believe needs to provide longer class times while providing a wide range of electives for students. Mr. Siegel praises the district’s educational program for its focus on educating the “entire child,” providing “an organic learning experience.” He said the high API scores are “a reflection of the quality of teachers, especially in the core subjects, the quality of administrators in providing the support required for an excellent learning experience,” and strong parent involvement.
Appointed to the board in 2009, Mr. Siegel said his “on-the-job training” and his professional experience in economic forecasting and financial research will benefit the board as it continues its efforts to tackle the district’s financial challenges. His multi-prong approach to addressing those concerns include increased communication with families and district residents about the financial situation, which could lead to more support for fundraising efforts; negotiating “a fair and just contract” with the teachers that wouldn’t increase the district’s deficit; and including input from teachers, staff and parents in the development of a balanced budget for the next school year. Mr. Siegel also supports a new parcel tax, although the board has yet to make a decision on whether to place a measure on the ballot next year. In addition to the short-term challenges of enrollment growth and falling revenue, Mr. Siegel said the board needs to update the district’s long-term strategic plan; engage in a curriculum review;
Ms. Jaquith said she believes that “having someone on the board who has a background in education would be helpful to the school district in determining how best to make use of scarce resources to improve the overall quality of students’ education.” As a former middle school teacher, and elementary and middle school assistant principal, now working as an educational researcher at Stanford, she said she would provide that help. In addition to general belt-tightening and considering a parcel tax, the school board needs to focus on making more effective use of the resources the district has, she said. “We are fortunate in our school district to have many outstanding teachers. However, in our schools, as in most schools, the overall quality of instruction varies from teacher to teacher.” That situation, she said, has led to uneven quality of classroom instruction. To address that issue, she said, “we can strengthen how our schools support the development of our teachers.” Research and
Candidates forum The Las Lomitas PTA and La Entrada PTA will hold a school board candidates forum at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, in Cano Hall on the Las Lomitas School campus, 299 Alameda de las Pulgas in Atherton. The public is invited.
her own experience indicate “that high-quality teaching can be nurtured and supported through organizational structures, distributed approaches to leadership and by establishing cultures where institutional as well as individual learning is expected, supported and rewarded.” Another area Ms. Jaquith would like the district to focus on is student assessment, she said. “I would like to see a greater emphasis in our classrooms placed upon performance assessments and assignments that require students to think deeply, to demonstrate understanding of important disciplinary concepts, and to wrestle with intellectual, ethical and moral problems that do not have simplistic or straightforward answers.” Regarding a new parcel tax to raise more revenue for the district, Ms. Jaquith said, “I support the parcel tax as one part of an approach to balance revenues with expenses and to make sure that we are getting the most out of the resources we invest in our children.” Richard Ginn
Mr. Ginn applied for appointment to a vacant seat on the board last year, and although Jay Siegel was appointed instead, Mr. Ginn has since attended board meetings, including the all-day budget planning sessions, he noted. “I have been learning all I can about the issues facing the district.” He’s well-suited to address the district’s financial challenges, he said, given his work as a chief
financial officer and investing partner at a structured debt company. “Sometimes our portfolio companies have budget challenges of their own, and I have been very active in those situations,” he said. “I have training and experience with tight budgets.” The district’s main challenge in the coming years “will be maintaining its status as one of the best schools in the state while adjusting to lower revenues per student,” he said. “That task will require people who are committed to highquality education, care about the school district, and are trained to deal with financial and budgetary issues.” He supports an increased parcel tax to bolster the budget as the district struggles with revenue decline. Mr. Ginn said he would like to see the district consider more technology and science-oriented courses, such as robotics and computer programming. But he noted that the wide range of enhanced programs now offered, such as music, PE, counseling, and “reading recovery,” gives students a chance “to learn much more than required by (academic testing) and to develop in other ways.” Mark Reinstra
Although he’s been active with the Las Lomitas Education Foundation and volunteer work at his children’s schools, Mr. Reinstra said that he wanted to “increase my commitment to the district, and the retirement of two board
members encouraged me to run for the board.” He would bring strong experience, judgment and perspective to the board if elected, he said. Mr. Reinstra said the board may need to close the district’s current funding gap through a combination of a new parcel tax and spending cuts, but he acknowledges that deciding on what to cut will be difficult. “I intend to solicit input from many people to get their perspective on what matters to them and their children,” he said. “Based on that, together with my own analysis, I will try to make the difficult choices.” Declining revenue and higher enrollment are driving the decisions to increase class size, and this is “the biggest concern that our parents have right now,” he said. The education foundation made it possible to lower class size some time ago by providing funds to support teaching staff, but the district needs to focus its efforts on further lowering class size, he said, adding that a new parcel tax may help. “If we need to do a parcel tax to maintain the quality of our schools, including the small class sizes, I would support it,” he said. An area of concern for him is the tension created during contentious contract talks last school year with the teachers’ union. The difficulties facing the district now, he said, can be best addressed “if we are all pulling together.” “We need to finalize the agreements and re-establish the wonderful, supportive working relationship that we have enjoyed over the years,” he said. “I think that members of the school board can help to eliminate these tensions.” A
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★ VOTER’S GUIDE 2010 ★
Nuances aplenty in county supervisor runoff By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer
ormer sheriff Don Horsley and small business owner April Vargas are in a runoff election for the District 3 San Mateo County Board of Supervisors seat now occupied by termed-out supervisor Rich Gordon of Menlo Park. A runoff is necessary because, of the five candidates who ran for supervisor in the June primary election, Mr. Horsley and Ms. Vargas led the field but neither received more than 50 percent of the vote. Mr. Horsley, 66, received 38.6 percent of the vote. He resides in Emerald Hills and has substantial experience as a local elected official, including 14 years as sheriff — he retired in 2007 — and four years on the board of the Sequoia Healthcare District, a special district that distributes property tax revenues in support of public health. “I’m aware of what the community’s problems are,” Mr. Horsley said when asked in an interview why voters should choose him. “I’m aware of how to continue to make this county the best it can possibly be.” April Vargas, 60, is a small business owner from Montara and serves on several county governmental committees, the environmental group Committee for Green Foothills and
others. She finished second in the primary with 24.2 percent of the vote. Ms. Vargas would be the first supervisor in 40 years from the county’s coastal community. “I’m definitely the outsider candidate,” she said. “I’ve been self-employed for 30 years and have had to learn to live within my means,” she said in explaining why voters should choose her. “We really need someone (on the board) with a background in business.”
to health care and pension benefits, and cap pension benefits for the highest wage earners. ■ Reduce the number of managers in county offices. San Mateo County, according to a recent county managers report that Ms. Vargas cited, leads the Bay Area with one manager for April Vargas and Don Horsley every 5.6 employees, compared to 9.6, 9.1 and 8.8 are in a runoff election for the in Santa Clara, Alameda seat now occupied by termed- and Contra Costa counties, respectively. out supervisor Rich Gordon. ■ Reduce the size of the county’s vehicle fleet. Ms. Vargas cited a 2010 Reversing a trend grand jury report that prePublic money and how to be electronically monitored. dicted $1.7 million in savspend it in hard times will have ■ Evaluate patients now in ings if drivers used their own the close attention of the coun- skilled nursing care for less vehicles and were reimbursed ty’s five supervisors. If current expensive assisted living, and for their mileage. trends continue, by 2014 the ask nonprofit hospitals to raise county will have a structural their intake of charity cases, Getting railroaded? If high-speed-rail plans deficit of $150 million. given that the national average In the 2010-11 fiscal year, is 6 percent and locally it’s 2 advance as rail authorities envision, there will be more trains which began July 1, the county percent. plans to spend $1.8 billion, ■ Consolidate county fire- running through Atherton, including $90 million from fighting agencies to maintain Menlo Park and other Peninreserves, continuing a trend the number of actual firefight- sula communities, but they will of drawing from reserves that ers but lower the number of be electric and run either above began with the 2007-08 bud- managers — a savings of about or below ground. Does the Board of Supervisors get. $8 million, Mr. Horsley said. Mr. Horsley’s view on getting Ms. Vargas agreed that fire- have a say in how this unfolds? The county owns the rightexpenses in line with revenues fighting management could focuses on public safety and be consolidated and proposed of-way and if the rail authority doesn’t “do what we want, they health care — reflective of his several other ideas: experience, he said. Among his ■ With county pension obli- can’t come in,” Mr. Horsley cost-saving ideas: gations under-funded by about said. The principle issue, he ■ Have jailed pregnant wom- $1 billion, raise the retirement said, is whether to elevate or en sent home where they could age and employee contributions lower the track. He said he
Runoff election for county treasurer The winner of the Nov. 2 election for San Mateo County treasurer-tax collector will have oversight of an investment portfolio of about $2.4 billion, where county agencies and local school districts deposit their funds for day-to-day operations. Four candidates competed in the June 2010 primary election to take Treasurer Lee Buffington’s place. Because none of them received more than 50 percent of the vote, the two leading candidates are in a runoff election. Sandie Arnott, the county’s deputy treasurer, received 38 percent of the vote. She has had a 21-year career with the county, starting as an executive assistant, according to biographical information provided to The Almanac. Dave Mandelkern, who received 30 percent of the vote, is a serial entrepreneur who took public a high-technology company and was twice elected to the governing board of the
county community college district, according to material provided to The Almanac. The county’s portfolio lost $155 million in September 2008 in the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers investment bank, with a resulting loss of $6.5 million for the local high school district and $3.5 million for the Menlo Park City School District. Both candidates told The Almanac in May that they support tighter investment policies and that the risk is too great for school districts to be making independent investment decisions for their operating funds. As for how to invest the 20 percent of the portfolio not required to be in government securities, both candidates support seeking outside advice. Mr. Mandelkern suggested pooling with a larger fund to lower market transaction costs and gain access to otherwise unaffordable fund-management software.
28 N The Almanac N October 13, 2010
would work toward results that are “sensible and cost-effective but at the same time won’t destroy our communities.” “I am in favor of high-speed rail,” he added, speaking personally. “It’s good for the state of California, good for the nation, and good for San Mateo County.” As for ownership of the railroad right-of-way, San Mateo County is in a Joint Powers Authority with Santa Clara and San Francisco counties, both of which stand to gain with terminal stops in the proposed plan. The rail authority, Ms. Vargas said, hasn’t kept in mind how critical it is to include the people. She recommended that the county take the lead by organizing Peninsula communities on what to support and what to oppose. “We need three points that we could rally around,” she said. “This is a project with major impacts in San Mateo County. Citizens need input on what that looks like and how to come up with the best possible plan.” That approach seemed to work on the coast in the 1990s, she said. While “not exactly analogous,” a grass-roots effort convinced state transportation authorities to forego plans for a section of highway around Devil’s Slide and instead build a tunnel and protect scenic values, she said. A
Portola Art Gallery shows ‘California Harvest’ exhibit Portola Art Gallery is presenting a group exhibit of works, called “California Harvest,” that focuses on local scenes and colors of the autumn season. A reception for the artists will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at the gallery, located at Allied Arts Guild, 75 Arbor Road in Menlo Park. The exhibit concludes Saturday, Oct. 30, with the Allied Arts Guild’s second annual Harvest Fest from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival includes beer tasting, varieties of seasonal food, live entertainment, and family activities. The Portola Art Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information and festival reservations, call 322-2405.
“Hay Bales,” an oil painting by artist Alice Weil, is on display at the “California Harvest” group exhibition during October.
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Holidays hit a high note The Foothill Auxiliary to Peninsula Family Service kicks off the holiday hoopla with “Holidays on a High Note,” its annual benefit featuring floral presentations, holiday table settings, a home boutique store, luncheon, and silent auction. The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18, at the Menlo Circus Club, 190 Park Lane in Atherton. Peninsula Family Service was formerly known as Family Service Agency of San Mateo County. The feature presentation will be “Ikebana: Japanese Floral Design” by Ikebana master Soho Sakai. Many local businesses, including Pomegranate Events and Floral Design of Woodside, will showcase holiday home entertainment ideas. Kris Forbes, chairman of the benefit, estimates there will be approximately 30 table settings and floral presentations. The boutique will open at 9 a.m., the Ikebana presentation begins at 10:30 a.m., and lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 per person with advance reservations required. For tickets, an invitation, or more information, call Peninsula Family Service at 403-4300.
Gourmet harvest supper at Djerassi ranch The Djerassi Resident Artists Program will host its fifth annual fall fundraiser, Artful Harvest, from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17, at the program’s ranch, 2325 Bear Gulch Road in Woodside. Chefs Mark Sullivan of Spruce and Dmitry Elperin of The Village Pub will prepare a multicourse harvest supper featuring just-picked organic greens from the ranch. Hors d’oeuvres and wine will kick off the afternoon with silent auction previews at 3 p.m.