Almanac

News - September 7, 2011

Menlo briefs: Help choose new city manager

by Sandy Brundage

Tell Menlo Park what you want in a city manager — the city has posted an online survey to ask residents what skills, experience, and attributes the successful applicant should have.

Interim City Manager Glen Rojas retired on July 15, but remains on as a contractor through December or until the city hires a replacement.

Go to menlopark.org to take the survey, which will stay online until Sept. 20. Residents can also comment during the City Council Tuesday night meetings on Sept. 13 and Sept. 20, or write recruitment firm Avery Associates at MPCM@averyassoc.net.

Of course, the ability to tell the council what you think about the new city manager — or the old one — will continue to be available during public comment on Tuesday nights.

No council meeting

There's nothing like following up a holiday with a day off. The Menlo Park City Council has cancelled its meeting for Tuesday, Sept. 6.

The council will next convene on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. in council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St. Starting an hour earlier than usual to allow public input on the hiring of a new city manager, the meeting is also expected to include discussion of portions of the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan.

Commission openings

Two seats are opening on each of three commissions in Menlo Park. If you've ever dreamed of sitting on the Environmental Quality, Housing, or Transportation commissions, here is your chance. The deadline to apply is Sept. 20.

Go to tinyurl.com/MPComm11 for more information and applications. The terms run from appointment through April 30, 2015.

Contact msroberts@menlopark.org or call 330-6625 to throw your hat in the ring.

Emergency wells

As part of its plan to install two to three emergency water wells in Menlo Park, the city is holding a community meeting on Thursday, Sept. 8, to seek public input on possible locations.

Go to tinyurl.com/3r49qjr to review the potential well sites. The wells would provide a backup water supply in the event of earthquake or other disaster.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Menlo Park Senior Center at 100 Terminal Ave.

Reclaim closing

Reclaim, a Menlo Park home furnishings and design store with an eco-friendly emphasis, will close once its remaining inventory is sold, probably by October, owner Bridget Biscotti Bradley said.

"We loved working with our community and educating people about sustainable and healthy products for the home, and we appreciated the support of the community," she said. "We're sad to be closing but we enjoyed the experience and we have no regrets!"

After nearly four years of running Reclaim on Santa Cruz Avenue, Ms. Bradley said she will keep writing and editing home improvement and design books for Sunset Publishing, but has no plans to open another store.

Comments

Posted by Menlo Moderate, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Chuck Bernstein would be a good City Manager and so would John Boyle. We need an intelligent accomplished professional who knows Menlo Park and is willing to make tough decisions. Both of these fine and distinguished gentlemen would do a good job.


Posted by helpful, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Web Link


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Menlo Park needs a seasoned professional city manager who has worked in other communities. Political input should come from the Council, not from a city manager.

Hire the best professional you can and have them bring a fresh perspective to the city's challenges.


Posted by helpful, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Menlo Park should avoid hiring a "seasoned city manager." In our city's experience, these people have proven to be empire builders who want to increase their budget and headcount so as to bulk up their resumes. As Moderate mentioned, someone like Boyle or Bernstein would be great -- someone with real world experience who understands the need to operate with a budget and remembers who the customers are.

A "seasoned professional" is most unlikely to have a fresh perspective, and probably more inclined to continue supporting dysfunctional practices. (The phrase "we've always done it this way" -- which I've heard too many times from city employees -- should be stricken from the local government lexicon.)

By the way, next time the city should find someone with SurveyMonkey experience. SurveyMonkey is pretty easy to use, and there's a specific format for asking ranking questions. Clearly the person who constructed this survey was new to SurveyMonkey. I hope the city's survey analysis techniques aren't equally primitive.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Helpful states:"A "seasoned professional" is most unlikely to have a fresh perspective, and probably more inclined to continue supporting dysfunctional practices."

I guess that means that Helpful uses medical students for his/her health care and friends for legal and tax advice and wants police and fire services to be provided by volunteers.

A seasoned professional is just that - someone who is a trained and experienced city manager with a proven track record. It is easy to sort out the candidates who do not have a fresh perspective or who support dysfunctional practices.

A former elected official, regardless of their management skills, has an inherent bias towards their personal beliefs - which may or may not reflect the policy direction of the current elected officials.


Posted by baffled, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Who on earth would say that either Boyle or Bernstein would be a good choice? Ignoring the "public sector experience vs. not" question, those two individuals have radically different politics, backgrounds, and general dispositions. My goodness.


Posted by CROCK, a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

I agree with "baffled" and and "helpful" and think the term used by Carpenter "seasoned professional" is just a cop out to keep the olde guard of innefectual same, lame bunch not willing to deal with the changing times and the majority of citizens and their different incomes. When referring to these "fine and distinguished gentlemen", it is just another word for wealthy and comfortable BUT unaware that things are terribly wrong in Menlo Park which never has been classified as a progressive area and has a need for drastic change which is reflected in our own government and with fine gentlemen and women in Congress who mirror what this entire COUNTY is like. It pretty much sucks and does not really know what it wants.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 7, 2011 at 11:20 am

Crock states:"the term used by Carpenter "seasoned professional" is just a cop out to keep the olde guard of innefectual same, lame bunch not willing to deal with the changing times and the majority of citizens and their different incomes."

Crock is certainly entitled to his/her opinion but the definition of seasoned professional is someone who has professional qualifications and has had the opportunity to exercise those qualifications and learn from those experiences.

Personally I prefer licensed doctors, CPAs and bar admitted lawyers when I need professional help. Crock and Helpful are welcome to choose less qualified individuals for their personal needs but don't try to foist your desire for such hacks on others.


Posted by helpful, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I never said that I was in favor of hiring someone who was unqualified or lacked experience. Peter, I expect you to be above that kind of word-twisting.

Our city does need --and our residents deserve -- someone with strong finance and management experience. Preferably, someone who has run a business, and hasn't bought into the mindset that "if we need more money, we'll just impose a new tax!" Someone who can make tough decisions. Someone who wants to serve our community, not build her/his own power base.

Not all people who have spent their careers as city managers are incapable of performing to our expectations, but most are. We have observed this time and again in Menlo Park. Although I assume the search firm will turn up a few candidates who have that background and are hoping to continue feathering their nests in Menlo Park, I hope the search also yields some dynamic, forward-thinking, experienced business professionals who are not from the school of government bureaucracy.

The city manager job is supposed to be apolitical, with an agnostic person in the role. I did not say the city should hire Boyle and Bernstein (not that either would want the job) but note that they both are business professionals, not politicians. I said we should hire someone "like" them -- who has a similar degree of expertise juggling a lot of different constituencies and staying on top of the bottom line. Not another tired hack.


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm

The new city manager shouldn't rob the city of:

- $250,000+ in salary
- Bonuses
- Housing and car allowances
- sweetheart home loans of $1.7M+


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 7, 2011 at 8:17 pm

InMenlo wrote this article: City of Menlo Park seeks input about next City Manager

Web Link


Posted by dharma, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 8, 2011 at 9:23 am

re-posted from parallel link:

The glaring need in Menlo Park government is the restoration of balance between revenues and costs. There are those who feel we should "grow our way out of debt", and there is logic behind replacing our commercial tax base lost to years of deliberate restriction on commercial land use. But no way that can repay the debt you are piling up for truly generous city employee benefits. The Measure L people exposed the numbers complete with links to facts and sources. Its still amazing me that past city leaders could get us into this based on fantasy investment numbers from the pension people (and a complicent city manager.)

The city needs a city manager who will just bring labor costs back to Y2K levels, and is willing to use contract labor like several other cities do, some for decades, who never bit on Ponzi scheme pension deals. Since we hope that that focus is not for years, gets done, the city needs an INTERIM CITY MANAGER for one year term like Atherton hired, one who isn't worried about "getting along" with pension-millionaire staff and being one him/herself.


Posted by Progressive, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 8, 2011 at 9:56 am

Gail Slocum should be appointed City Manager. Given her success with promoting the green energy program at PG&E, she is a natural for that position.


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