Are Winkler/Duboc/Boyle REALLY Kid-Friendly???
Original post made by Take Back Menlo Park!, Menlo Park: Downtown, on Nov 2, 2006
REALITY CHECK: Are Winkler/Duboc/Boyle REALLY "Kid-Friendly"? - Not Exactly!
A slick flyer recently mailed to residents by Winkler/Duboc/Boyle in support for Measure J (the advisory measure on Playing Fields at Bayfront) stresses the supposed "kid-concerned/kid-friendly" nature of Winkler/Duboc/Boyle, complete with a sickly-sweet picture of the three holding sports equipment. But just how "kid-friendly" have Winkler/Duboc REALLY been while in office?
Well, look no further than the playing fields issue itself along with the city's childcare programs (both at Belle Haven and especially at Burgess) to get your answer:
PLAYING FIELDS AT BAYFRONT PARK
What Winkler/Duboc hope you won't stop to think about is that their FIRST CHOICE for Bayfront Park was putting in a GOLF COURSE - not exactly a "kid-friendly" plan. The DEVELOPER was the one who proposed putting in some playing fields as a means to attract public support for the project. Now, of course, Winler/Duboc want you to think that they REALLY wanted to JUST put playing fields in the park all along. And even worse, it certainly appears that Measure J is merely a thinly-disguised political ploy by Winkler/Duboc/Boyle aimed at getting themselves elected and that they have NO REAL INTENTION of ever putting in playing fields at Bayfront (unless it is tied into some other development project like the original Bayfront Golfcourse Proposal).
BELLE HAVEN CHILDCARE PROGRAMS
What many people may not be aware of (or may have forgotten) is that when the specific budget-reduction strategies were released by the city manager back at the beginning of this year, the proposals listed included both:
-- Eliminating either 1 or 2 classrooms at the Belle Haven Child Development Center (which provides full-time licensed childcare services to children ages 3-5 years old) - equivalent to cutting up to one-half the entire program!
-- "Restructuring" the Belle Haven School Age Child Care Program (which serves young children in K-6 grades). And what did "restructuring" actually mean - well, instead of a quality licensed childcare program, it would have become a "recreation camp-style program" - basically, an extended open-recess program devoid of the educational aspects (such as a homework assistance/reading program) that were being offered under the original program.
As you might well expect, Belle Haven parents were (rightfully) outraged and packed the city council chambers at their next meeting (which was standing-room only) to fight the proposed cuts. And led by the efforts of Councilman Cohen, those cuts were "taken off the table."
Now you may say, well that's just what the city manager proposed and Winkler and Duboc had nothing to do with it. But think about it - do you REALLY think that the city manager is going to publicly propose specific budget cuts without at least the tactic approval of those cuts in advance by the Winkler/Duboc/Jellins council majority? Would YOU propose something to the general public without at least getting an approving "wink and a nod" from your boss beforehand?
Oh, and by the way, another proposed budget cut targeting Belle Haven that would have significantly affected kids as well was the call to either reduce the Belle Haven pool schedule by 50% - or close the pool entirely! Now THAT'S not exactly kid-friendly!
BURGESS CHILDCARE PROGRAMS
Unlike the Belle Haven case, where outraged parents easily beat back the draconian cuts proposed for childcare, Burgess childcare parents have been fighting Winkler and Duboc for years over the childcare program, first in terms of getting a new childcare facility built (with "new" then being replaced by "cheaply renovated") and then in terms of turning over operations to a private contractor - a fight that Winkler/Duboc/Boyle have already vowed to continue, "however much the currents users (parents) object," according to a Sept 2 Winkler email to her supporters.
While there are many different aspects to this story, which is also full of mystery and intrigue, here are the condensed highlights:
-- Prior to moving into a different - but not completely new - facility this May, the city's full-time licensed daycare program was apparently housed for years in "Menlo's Children's Center" (MCC) which was nothing more than a couple of old construction trailers wedged together (a "trailer park," if you will). It was classic "temporary" housing that became semi-permanent.
In 2001, Measure T (the $38 million bond measure aimed at updating the city's deteriorating recreation facilities) was being put up for voter approval that November. Seeing that, based on a telephone survey of residents, the addition of a "new" childcare facility to the list of projects to be funded under the measure would help ensure its overall passage, such a facility was added to the list of projects to be undertaken. And as a member of the Measure T Steering Committee, Ms. Duboc apparently personally recruited childcare parents to help gain passage of the measure, with the "carrot" of a "new" childcare facility thrown in front of them.
-- Well, once Ms. Duboc become a council member in 2002, she started changing her tune and, along with Ms. Winkler, started arguing - in a classic President Clinton hair-splitting fashion that "new" didn't really mean "new" at all but rather "refurbished." As a result, the "new" childcare facility that opened in May is actually just the OLD police headquarters (complete with a firing range in its basement), cheaply refurbished (the "new" extension, the part closest to Laurel street, is apparently just a "temporary"-type building - there's no foundation flooring there, so the floor is literally "bouncy" - gee, just what you want for housing a bunch of young kids!). And to add insult to injury, the so-called "toddler" portion of the program (serving the youngest kids) has been effectively eliminated with the move, as there apparently is inadequate space available to offer that particular program.
-- And at the same time that "new" became "cheaply renovated" under Winkler/Duboc, the "privatization fight" reared its ugly head, first offered up by Ms. Winkler as a means to help pay for the new/refurbished facility and more recently this year due to the supposed budget crunch (see more on the overall alleged budget crunch issue here). This led to the absolute farce that took place this summer when Winkler/Duboc/Jellins bypassed actually examining the issue and its relative merits and instead dove right in to trying to privatize the program ASAP with the issuance of a formal Request For Proposal (RFP - the standard process used by cities to obtain formal bids from private contractors to provide a service or product).
-- The RFP timing itself was very revealing: It came right after the "new" facility was opened in May (thereby allowing potential bidders a good "look-see" at the facility which, being newly refurbished, likely looked quite spic-and-span and certainly must have looked much, much better than the old MCC trailer park), but was rushed ahead (at Ms. Winkler's insistence) to be finished up by the end of September - thereby allowing just enough time to complete and sign a long-term binding contract with a private contractor BEFORE the November elections when Winkler/Duboc/Jellins seats were all up for election.
-- However, as has been seen before with other "rush-jobs" attempted by Winkler/Duboc/Jellins, things went horribly wrong. First, likely due to a combination of a bad RFP document being put out in a haste by the city, along with a spreading word on the street that the parents were dead set against privatization as they loved the care provided by existing program, just two "firms" ended up submitting a formal bid to take over the program. Then it turns out that one "firm" wasn't really a firm at all, but just something on paper - plus their "bid" didn't even include cost figures, so it wasn't even a "bid" at all. Then it was revealed that the one real firm that actually submitted a real bid had major problems, having apparently been written up eight times over the previous two years by social services - not exactly a record that would make a parent comfortable sending their kid to. And this revelation came forth NOT from the city (who you would think would have done a background check here), but rather by the union (which might well account for all the union-bashing that Winkler/Duboc/Boyle have been doing this election campaign). But did all this deter Winkler/Duboc/Jellins from their quest? No, as even in light of all this, they voted to continue the process in late August. And Mr. Boyle? As part of the RFP Committee, it turns out he was the ONLY one on the 9-person committee (which included several childcare experts) to vote for the private firm in a preliminary vote. No, in the bitter end what finally did everything in was that the lone private firm that bid pulled their bid just before a formal interview was to take place - likely because they didn't want to talk about those pesky violations, although
-- Winkler/Duboc/Boyle tried to make a huge stink over an anonymous letter apparently sent to the private firm warning them of what they were getting themselves into (the letter was subsequently posted on the city council's email log for public viewing by the writers after Ms. Winkler apparently tried to get the city attorney to somehow sue them for writing the letter in the first place - you can still read it there today, if you want). To top it all off, Ms. Winkler then tried to link the anonymous letter to the union, who took great offense and threatened to sue her for the implication. (All-in-all, just another day in Winkler/Duboc/Jellins' neighborhood, it seems.)
Lost in the shuffle of all this was the collapse of the original rationale for privatization of the program in the first place - it turns out that after Ms. Winkler and Duboc loudly proclaimed cost savings of $444,000 with privatization (which made headlines and was included in every news story), the official savings estimate by city staff subsequently came in at just $72,000 - mere peanuts in a city budget of some $30 MILLION.
-- Incredibly - and showing absolutely no shame after ALL that occurred - Winkler/Duboc/Boyle have none-the-less pledged on their campaign website to "rebid the child-care center," with Ms. Winkler going a defient step farther writing in a Sept 2 email to her supporters: "Should we re-bid this childcare program, however much the current users and unions object? I think we should." All we can say is: WOW!
DOES ANY OF THIS SOUND EVENLY REMOTELY LIKE THE ACTIONS AND ATTITUDES OF PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY "KID-FRIENDLY"?
-- Don't believe what you read from Winkler/Duboc/Boyle: Look at their real record and use common-sense when evaluating things.
-- A picture of them happily smiling while holding some sports equipment DOESN'T make them "kid-friendly" - it's just a photo-op, after all!