News

State commission declines to investigate Save Menlo classification

Saying that since a proposed initiative to modify Menlo Park's downtown/El Camino Real specific plan is not yet on the ballot, a state commission has decided not to investigate whether Save Menlo, the group backing the initiative, has misrepresented itself.

Atherton resident and community activist Peter Carpenter filed a complaint with California's Fair Political Practices Commission on May 16 alleging that the group claims to be a general purpose committee when it's really a ballot-measure committee.

The commission's definitions state that a general purpose committee may be involved with more than one candidate or ballot measure. But a "primarily formed" committee -- in this case, a ballot measure committee -- is one that spends more than 70 percent of its funds on a single candidate or measure.

A ballot measure committee must file public financial reports every quarter, unlike a general purpose committee, which must file every six months.

Save Menlo spokesperson Perla Ni has said that the grassroots coalition has long-term goals that may include supporting candidates for City Council as well as the initiative.

"Save Menlo is pleased that the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has confirmed that our financial reporting has been in compliance with state sunshine laws. We are committed to fully complying with all State and Local requirements," Ms. Ni said in a press release issued after the commission's May 29 decision.

Mr. Carpenter said the FPPC's decision made some sense, since the council has not yet voted on whether to place the proposed initiative on the ballot

"I actually prefer a system of rules and the FPPC has set the rules clearly," he said.

According to Mr. Carpenter, the proposed initiative may have technical defects, such as possible violations of the California Constitution, that render it ineligible for the ballot anyway.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 3, 2014 at 9:59 am

[Post removed. Please post comments on the issues, and not on your opinion regarding a poster's personality. ]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 3, 2014 at 10:30 am

Nice to know that the State Commision has common sense. I wish the person who fied the complaint did so for a legitimate reason and not just because things did not go the way he thought they should for a initiative that is not even taking place in his own city of residence.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 10:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I wish the person who fied the complaint did so for a legitimate reason "

I did have a legitimate reason - 90+% of their funds are being expended in support of the initiative and yet they are reporting as a general purpose committee.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 10:46 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

PS - I was the person who provided the FPPC's response to the press, which I am sure Sandy Brundage would confirm.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the full text of the complaint:

May 16, 2014



VIA E-MAIL complaints@fppc.ca.gov

Mr. Gary Winuk
Chief, Enforcement Division
Fair Political Practices Commission
428 J Street, Suite 800
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Request to Investigate Save Menlo for Violations
of the Political Reform Act

Dear Mr. Winuk:

I am writing to bring to your attention serious violations of the Act by Save Menlo, FPPC ID# 1357780, its current treasurer, Diane Patricia Hart, and its former treasurer, Stefan Petry.

Specifically, my complaint alleges that:

1. Save Menlo continues to state on its Statements of Organization, filed under penalty of perjury, that it is a General Purpose Committee, when in actuality it is promoting a single initiative ballot measure in the City of Menlo Park entitled the "El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan Area Liveable, Walkable Community Development Standards Act". Save Menlo should file as a Primarily Formed ballot measure committee.

2. While its Statements of Organization claims that it "advocates for smart policies in Menlo Park," it has been raising funds solely for the purpose of drafting, and circulating an initiative measure for the November 2014 Menlo Park City ballot.

3. Save Menlo submitted an initative petition to the City Clerk in February 2014 for title and summary by the City Attorney.

4. Save Menlo has circulated its initiative using both paid petition circulators and volunteers. Save Menlo submitted its petitions to the City Clerk on May 12, 2014.

5. Save Menlo should have registered as a Primarily Formed Committee. As such it should have filed quarterly public disclosure reports. Save Menlo qualified as a committee around July 23, 2013. As such, it should have filed a quarterly report as required by Government Code Section 84202.3:

a. On October 31, 2013 – for the third calendar quarter 2013, and
b. More importantly again by April 30, 2014 – for the first calendar quarter, 2014. Neither of these reports were timely filed.

The Political Reform Act's primary purpose is to provide the public with timely public disclosure so the citizenry and the voters can make informed decisions. The citizens for Menlo Park have been denied this important information.

Specifically, Menlo Park residents do not know who contributed to the committee since the committee's last report, ending December 31, 2013. The residents also do not know on whom funds were spent to print and circulate the petitions. If the April 30th quarterly filing had been made, much of this information would be public now.

I request that you take swift action to stop the Save Menlo Committee from hiding its financial transactions and force the committee into compliance.

Sincerely,




Peter F. Carpenter



cc: Menlo Park City Clerk
Enclosures
Save Menlo Form 410 filings
Save Menlo Form 460 filing
Save Menlo Initiative



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 3, 2014 at 12:07 pm

@Sandy Brundage, it is reassuring to know that Peter Carpenter is free to characterize initiative supporters as "dumb" and "lazy" in this forum, while my opinion that Peter's ego drives him in his crusade against the measure more than any other concern is considered an attack on his personality (and one worthy of censorship, no less). This forum already functions as Peter's personal bully pulpit, given the metronomic frequency and length of his posts, while the heavy-handed removal of a largely civil comment questioning Peter's motivation vis-à-vis the initiative, a comment which made no reference to his personality, only serves to reinforce that notion.

Peter, may we see the full text of the commission's response to your complaint?

Gern


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Gern - don't you ever get embarrassed by always having someone else do your homework and never answering any questions that are asked of you?

"Peter, may we see the full text of the commission's response to your complaint?"

Peter,

We will not be opening an investigation into this matter. There isn't actually at this point a "measure" under the Political Reform Act (see the Fontana Opinion on our website) because the resolution is before the council for their decision. If the resolution is ultimately placed on the ballot, at that point there will be a measure and the committee has been advised how to proceed in that event.

Thank you for taking the time to forward the information so we could look into it.

Adrianne


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Make up your mind
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jun 3, 2014 at 12:28 pm

On other threads, PC has been complaining that SaveMenlo is raising money for causes unrelated to the Specific Plan, for example, for future council races. Which is it, Peter? Is the fundraising too focused or too nonspecific? Or is the real objective to keep complaining, while taking up as much space on TownSquare as possible!

P.S. to PC: Doesn't Atherton or the Fire District need your help this month? Maybe time to leave us alone in MP, but thanks all the same.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"On other threads, PC has been complaining that SaveMenlo is raising money for causes unrelated to the Specific Plan,"

Wrong, I have not made that complaint.

And is sure is interesting when you look at a map of the Save Menlo contributors to see how most of them are clustered around Allied Arts - a very small proportion of the city's residents.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:16 pm

"And is sure is interesting when you look at a map of the Save Menlo contributors to see how most of them are clustered around Allied Arts - a very small proportion of the city's residents. "

I don't live anywhere near Allied Arts and I fully support the initiative. I see a lot os signs supporting it in my neighborhood. But I do find it very funny that you are saying the pupporters live in Menlo Park, when you, the most vocal and ardent opponent does not.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Nice to see that the California Fair Political Practices commission has quickly dismissed the complaint that Atherton resident Peter Carpenter made against SaveMeno.

Mr. Carpenter has been constantly trolling against the SaveMenlo initiative and advocating for letting Stanford and other developers build higher and denser projects, which is certainly what the visioning process for the Specific Plan did not intend.

Maybe this ruling, issued in a very short period of about 2 weeks will do something to silence him a bit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Old Timer - you evidently did not read the FPPC response - "If the resolution is ultimately placed on the ballot, at that point there will be a measure and the committee has been advised how to proceed in that event."

So from my standpoint my objective of making certain that Save Menlo reports correctly has been met.

It is always best to do your homework before posting a unfounded remark.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm

"It is always best to do your homework before posting a unfounded remark."

Doubly so when encumbering the Fair Political Practices Commission (and, by extension, the taxpayers) with an unfounded complaint about a measure which is not yet, in fact, a measure. Peter's lapse in judgement in this case is a perfect illustration of the point he, himself, is trying to make. Do your homework, Peter, and you might have begun by sitting down with Perla Ni, Mike Lanza, Patti Fry and others (neighbors, you know) to better understand SaveMenlo and the initiative, rather than firing off your knee-jerk missive only to see it rebuffed so quickly.

Gern


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Doubly so when encumbering the Fair Political Practices Commission (and, by extension, the taxpayers) with an unfounded complaint about a measure which is not yet, in fact, a measure"

There are a number of FPPC rulings that I researched prior to filing my complaint that differ with the opinion supplied by the FPPC in this case. And someone else has appealed the current FPPC opinion. We will see what happens.

But most importantly "the committee has been advised how to proceed" IF the Lanza/Fry initiative does make it to the ballot. The voters deserve timely information on exactly who is supporting this effort and who is getting paid for legal advice and signature gathering.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 3, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" to better understand SaveMenlo and the initiative"

Sadly I think I understand the Lanza/Fry initiative even better than do its authors.

Here are my comments made to the Menlo Park City Council this evening:

Peter F. Carpenter
3 June 2014

Dear Menlo Park City Council,

I am an Atherton resident who spends 90% of my local
expenditures in Menlo Park. I have also served as a Director of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District MPFPD for over 10 years.

And I previously served for 4 ½ years as a Palo Alto Planning Commissioner during which time we wrote a new General Plan for Palo Alto. That experience taught me the complexity of a doing a specific plan and the importance of getting lots of public input, having multiple drafts, many revisions, reviews by subject area experts, and lots of time for reflection and corrections.

I find the Lanza/Fry initiative, written by two people and an unnamed lawyer without the benefit of any public input, without multiple drafts and without careful review by experts, to be poorly crafted.

As a result it has - Intended Consequences
- Unintended Consequences
- Unknown Consequences

And none of those consequences can be changed except by an expensive citywide vote.

I will leave it others to address the many problems with the initiative's Intended Consequences.

However, as an example of the initiative's Unintended Consequences I call your attention to one of the most glaring - the initiative would prevent the construction of a new fire station serving the downtown area. The Fire District owns two adjacent parcels intended to be used for this new station. One of these parcels is within the Specific Plan area but the second parcel is outside the Specific Plan area. To build the planned new fire station would require merging these two parcels.

If this initiative were adopted, the very simple act of combining these two parcels would require an expensive citywide vote and would significantly delay this much-needed new station.

Examples of the Unknown Consequences include the fact that traffic might go up, schools might get more crowded, parking might get tighter, buildings might get taller, etc. And note that the current proposals will have to be withdrawn and we don't know what, if anything, will be proposed in their place. Just imagine if, in order to comply with the initiative's 100,000 sq.ft. per project limit, the current proposals were replaced by six separate projects with no integrated design, lots of medical offices, lots of 2-3 bedroom residences, property tax exempt uses and no public benefits. These are the kind of things that may well happen as the result of an initiative written by amateurs acting in their own narrow self interests.

Who knows what other unintended and unknown consequences are buried in this unvetted proposal?











 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Peter,

You are entitled to your opinion iven if you don't seem to think others are entitled to theirs. I would suggest you take your "90% of local expenditures" and go to Redwood City if you disagree with what a large number of Menlo Park Registered voters do. You keep using that as an argument to nose into Menlo Park business so stop spending in Menlo Park.

As to your comments about the downtown fire station are you referring to the one on Oak Grove that is nearly complete? Hard to see how that is affected by anying coming up for election this year as it looks like it will be finished and operating by the time we have another local election.

As for who is supporting the initiative, I for one am. Both with my vote and my checkbook. I hope it passes and if/when it does I hope you learn to accept it (but I doubt that will happen)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

I think Peter did the right thing.

If Lanza/Fry intended to do an initiative they should have registered to do so.

When Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform formed to do an initiative we did so as a special purpose committee.

Not as a general purpose one. Kind of truth in advertising. But then again we weren't secretive about what we were about to do. We did not hide the consequences of our initiative.......

Roy


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 5, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"As to your comments about the downtown fire station are you referring to the one on Oak Grove that is nearly complete? Hard to see how that is affected by anying coming up for election this year as it looks like it will be finished and operating by the time we have another local election."

This simply illustrates the ignorance of the Lanza/Fry proponents. The building that Brian refers to is a commercial building being built next to Station 6 and it has nothing to do with the fire station.

"hard to see' should be the motto of these folks.........


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 5, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

Peter, I get your argument on the fire station and the limitations inherent in the initiative if the city needs to come to the voters to gain approval for these types of development issues that violate the development restrictions in the plan.

However, I think you're building a mountain out of a molehill with that example. If it was put to the voters, the merger of two parcels of property for the purpose of expanding the downtown fire station would be a slam dunk. I don't think such an initiative campaign would have to spend much, and while I can see the argument that perhaps such a vote would be a foreseen unnecessary expense (compared to no vote at all), I don't see why such a vote would be such a prohibitive expense for you to use it so frequently and prominently as the critical example in your argument. In the end, we'd vote on it, it would pass with 90%+ of the vote after minimal campaigning, and we'd all move on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 6, 2014 at 6:46 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Aaron:

Seriously, you think it would be a "slam dunk?" One only need look at the length of time it took to develop and pass the DSP to understand how it certainly would be anything but a "slam dunk."

Zoning regulation by ballot is a stupid way to handle zoning decisions. that is why we have a planning commission.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

Menlo Voter: I'm not saying I think that zoning regulation by ballot is a good idea. I agree with your point. What I'm saying is that that particular example of a vote on a whether to bypass a specific zoning regulation so we can all benefit from improved fire protection services is not a great example, because of all the zoning issues that would come up, that particular one is the closest to a slam dunk for passage. There are, undoubtedly, countless others that are not as obvious but would completely mire development as well as the ballot box. Focus on those for your arguments against the Save Menlo Initiative, because the fire station one seems like something almost nobody would want to block if it had to come to a vote.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" because the fire station one seems like something almost nobody would want to block if it had to come to a vote.

True and recognize that voting for the Lanza/Fry initiative is a vote to stop the building of a new downtown fire station.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Aaron:

I think it is a perfectly apt example and you echo my point. While it may the "closest thing to slam dunk" it won't actually be one. As we've seen with the Lanza/Fry initiative and all of the attendant arguing and angst about it, I think not even voting to merge two parcels for a new fire house is a sure thing in this town. SOMEONE will object.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JulieToo
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2014 at 10:21 pm

JulieToo is a registered user.

Re:
" I would suggest you take your "90% of local expenditures" and go to Redwood City if you disagree with what a large number of Menlo Park Registered voters do. "

Brian, Peter would have a harder time of it in Redwood City. To make expenditures one needs to get out of their car. You can't get out of your car when there is no available parking to be had. A few days ago, even Valet Parking was FULL.

You hear yourself saying dumb things to the Valet, who just told you they were full...like: "You mean YOU'RE full TOO??" Then you say to the others in the car, "NOW where are we going to park? Valet parking is full."

I know that in the eyes of some people, Redwood City is being viewed as progressive because of the multitude of new construction.

But there is a downdraft to so much new construction done so rapidly. Put simply: Where ya gonna park?

PS: "Julie" and "JulieToo" is the same poster. I had alot of trouble logging in. I had to change my screen name.


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