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Viewpoint IDEAS, THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS

ABOUT LOCAL ISSUES

Parcel tax a wise investment in community’s future By Rebecca Bloom

O

ur Menlo Park City district schools are outstanding for a reason — this community consistently invests in our common future, the public school students of Menlo Park. That future — one where our students become well-educated, engaged citizens — is not something to be taken lightly. I am, therefore, writing in support of Measure X, a carefully considered initiative that is the product of extensive collaboration by all stakeholders. In 2010, I was honored to serve this incredible community as a co-chair of the Measure C campaign. Along with an army of passionate and intelligent volunteers, I met with many voters and worked hard to get the message out: If we want the quality of our schools to mirror our values about education and youth empowerment, we need a community partnership to make it happen. State funding will never suffice and property taxes on an upward trajectory will

Rebecca Bloom is a community volunteer, writer, editor and retired lawyer. She was a co-chair of the 2010 Measure C parcel tax campaign.

GUEST OPINION only get us part of the way (and they aren’t always increasing). Over the years we’ve experienced growing enrollment that has outstripped projections and a cost of living that continues to rise dramatically. Even with robust support from the Menlo ParkAtherton Education Foundation (which we are lucky to have), there’s only one way to ensure that our schools stay great and that amazing teachers want to work at them — parcel taxes. That’s what we told voters in 2010. And, gratifyingly, they overwhelmingly supported Measure C, which will

sunset this year. As with Measure C, the proposed Measure X has been earnestly considered in terms of both dollar amount and duration. If it fails, thousands of parents, students, community members and families who put their time, energy and efforts into supporting the district will watch so much good work unravel. We’ll lose hard-won programs and valuable personnel and, even worse, it will signal a change in our community’s core values. In addition to many of the challenges faced in 2010, there is another wrinkle now: a mandatory pension obligation that must be met. As a former pension attorney I understand the nature of this requirement — it is wholly non-negotiable and out of the hands of the district. Reasonable minds can differ about issues around unions, benefits, pay structures and the myriad complexities that running a school district entails. An active public can and should wrestle respectfully with controversial issues when input can help craft

solutions. I myself have appeared before the school board more than once to discuss policies or decisions with which I disagreed. But this new pension obligation, which alters school district budgets significantly, was made in Sacramento. The Menlo Park City School District must comply and face the challenge of absorbing the increased expenditure. In any case, opposing Measure X, a reasonably conceived initiative that is the product of much research and reflection on the part of the district, is not an effective way to protest legislative decisions made in Sacramento. The only results of the measure’s failure, should it fail, would be degradation of the educational opportunities of current and future MPCSD students and declining morale among the excellent district staff. “Yes” votes for Measure X will do more than renew the lapsing parcel tax — they will reinvigorate our collective priorities. With this in mind, I will vote “Yes.” I urge Almanac readers to join me.

Small gains for cyclists; big losses for everyone else By Dana Hendrickson

M

ake a mental note: Dec. 6, 2016, will prove to be a more important date than most Menlo Park residents now realize. That day, three City Council members — Keith, Ohtaki and Carlton, with Mueller and Cline absent — approved a one-year field trial of the Oak Grove-Crane-University Bike Project without understanding its true benefits and negative impacts, and with little input and feedback from residents. Why? For the simple reason the council did not require a high-quality needs and impact analysis. Dana Hendrickson is a 30-year resident, an avid cyclist, the founder of the disabled veteran support nonprofit Rebuild Hope, and the editor of Re-Imagine Menlo Park.

GUEST OPINION Instead, the three council members acquiesced to the sustained advocacy of the well-meaning Bicycle Commission, a small group of volunteers that unsurprisingly lacks bike network design expertise. While I enthusiastically support city efforts to make meaningful improvements to our bike network and, like other residents, waited more than a decade for our city to close critical gaps (see bit.ly/biketroublespots) identified long ago (2004), this project will serve only a small number of bicyclists at the expense of all Menlo Park residents. It will also jeopardize a superior bike project that would provide more bicyclists better access to a greater number of popular Menlo Park destinations both downtown

and on the opposite sides of El Camino. The value of the proposed project remains solely an “article of faith.” The project study report (bit.ly/OCUreport) claims 21 destinations will “attract” bicyclists but ignores two important considerations: Most would not be popular with bike riders, and the few that are are already easily reached using existing bike lanes. For example, seven are churches and a monastery. Five on the list — downtown destinations like Draeger’s and Walgreen’s — are highly questionable entries since the proposed bikes lanes on University Drive and Oak Grove Avenue do not provide good bike access to them. And five of the six schools are already conveniently accessed using existing bike lanes on Valparaiso, Glenwood and Laurel. This list of destinations will not attract many bicyclists. So why should residents accept the significant sacrifices required by this misguided project? Although the city has not made a credible attempt to quantify the negative impacts of this bike project, the likely harm is easily understood. For example, a total of 183 street parking spaces will be eliminated at the expense of motorists, homeowners, businesses and apartment renters who have long depended on them. And the creation of problematic intersections on downtown Santa Cruz Avenue at Crane and on Oak Grove Avenue between El Camino and Alma will generate significant new delays for motorists. The new Crane Street bike route will also encourage bicyclists to ride on downtown Santa Cruz — a dangerous idea given the narrow lanes, parked cars, and new onstreet dining areas. Downtown distractions also reduce the safety of street sharing by bicyclists and motorists. (Note: bicyclists should be encouraged to access downtown destinations from side streets and walk

Oak Grove-Crane-University Bike Project (abridged list) Destination

Category

Popular Bike Destination

Better Bike Access*

Camp Fremont Park

Recreation

No

No

Curtis Street Parklet

Recreation

No

No

Draeger’s

Market

Yes

No

Farmers Market

Market

Sunday Morning

Yes

Trader Joe’s

Market

Yes

No

Walgreen’s

Store

Yes

No

Caltrain Station

Transporation

Yes

Yes

Menlo School

School

Yes

No

M-A High School

School

Yes

No

Nativity Elementary

School

Yes

Yes

Nealon Park

Recreation

Yes

No

Sacred Heart

School

Yes

No

St Raymond

School

Yes

No

Nativity Church

Church

No

Yes

Menlo Church

Church

Yes

No

St Raymond’s

Church

No

No

Station 1300 (2019)

Multi-Use

Yes

Yes

This project would provide better bike access to only a few popular Menlo Park destinations.

bikes on sidewalks to their destinations.) Finally, the loss of downtown parking is likely to prevent the implementation of a more valuable project: the addition of bike lanes on University Drive and Menlo Avenue, and a bike path near Ravenswood between El Camino and Laurel. This eastwest bike corridor would allow bicyclists who prefer Middle and Santa Cruz to more directly access downtown businesses, the train station, the library, Menlo-Atherton High School, recreational facilities at Burgess Park, the Civic Center, SRI, and more than a dozen office buildings on Middlefield Road. The bike corridor would also better serve east-side bicyclists who prefer Ravenswood and Willow and want more direct access to downtown. This project would eliminate less than half of

the parking spaces lost with the Oak GroveCrane-University project. So what should the City Council do? First, it makes no sense to conduct a field trial during the construction of Station 1300, the Garwood Way extension, and new bike lanes on the adjacent section of Oak Grove. Second, the city needs to fairly and professionally evaluate both bike projects before conducting any field trial. This evaluation should clearly present and quantify benefits, negative impacts and trade-offs. Menlo Park has the opportunity to make big improvements in its bike network and should not settle for much less. Residents can view a more detailed presentation (bit.ly/OCUanalysis) of both projects at the Re-Imagine Menlo Park website.

January 11, 2017QAlmanacNews.comQThe AlmanacQ21

The Almanac January 11, 2017  
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