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Atherton Government at Crossroads

Original post made by Atherton Resident on Jul 4, 2013

On July 15th the four remaining members of the Council will meet to try and pick a successor to retiring Jerry Carlson's term. If they cannot decide then the vacancy will be placed on the ballot in the November election. As a result, given the 2-2 member split on most issues a number of important issues will likely remain in limbo until a new Council is seated in December.

Any Atherton resident, including those who do not pay much attention, knows that the Council has been extremely dysfunctional and contentious during the last ten years or longer. Councilmembers with strong personalities seeking self-aggrandizement, attention and power have clashed to the detriment of Atherton government. Convinced they are right and steeped in a business background, the concept of a "strong city manager-weak council" form of government is lost on them and they continue to grand-stand and micromanage. The net effect has been a long list of town employees, interim hires and city managers who have left after a short period. The Atherton Police Department is frequently the piñata or the likes Holbrook Palmer Park Library issue where the Council majority so badly misread or ignored the electorate.
Atherton should be a simple government to run. It is time for the Council to make it function smoothly delegating the day to day tasks to the City Manager and only deciding policy as needed. It is clearly obvious that the Town will need to renew the Parcel Tax in November if it is to have its own police department.

Jerry Carlson's departure is unfortunate at this critical time. It is time for the Council to pick a successor who will support a change from the past Council behavior in collaborative government. Atherton is neither a business, nor a complex government requiring the skills of government operatives or retired police officers but someone who will do what is right for Atherton without personal agenda or need for attention.

Comments (10)

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 4, 2013 at 7:27 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Very well stated - I agree and thank you.


Posted by Here's what's needed, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

"It is clearly obvious that the Town will need to renew the Parcel Tax in November if it is to have its own police department."

"Atherton is neither a business, nor a complex government requiring the skills of government operatives or retired police officers but someone who will do what is right for Atherton without personal agenda or need for attention."

A business background is not bad for what Atherton needs right now, which is to balance its budget. We need candidates who can look dispassionately at issues in terms of what is the right thing for Atherton residents, not Atherton police officers, and not falling into propaganda traps of the Atherton police department must continue at all costs and any cost.

A citizen survey supports this? Baloney. The latest survey kept asking a respondent to support the parcel tax if he or she said no initially.

The police department currently owns two council members, Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest. At a meeting last year, APOA official and police sergeant Sherman Hall said the APOA is entitled to control their own council seat (or two).

The last I heard, the taxpayers here are the residents, not the cops. They are the constituents.

This poster is obviously rattled by the candidacy of Lieutenant John Ruggiero. Up till now, the Atherton police department has tried to discredit any critic, no matter their professional or personal background and stature, by claiming they're disgruntled from isolated police incidents involving them or their families.

But Lieutenant John Ruggiero does not fit into that mold. He's a retired veteran of the San Francisco police department, and has managed far more officers than any home-brew Atherton police chief. His son is a San Francisco police officer. Lieutenant Ruggeiro is on the board of directors of the retired police officers association.

He's a disgruntled police hater? Hardly. But he has been critical of the Atherton police department when they have stepped out of line, in terms of conduct, unreasonable compensation demands, or sending ill-advised correspondence to residents that were interpreted as strong-arm tactics by many.

Rather than claim this isn't "collaborative government", Lieutenant Ruggeiro should be credited for having the integrity to call matters the way he sees them, rather than fall into the all too common "blue wall of silence" (the mentality of cops not being willing to admit any shortcomings of conduct of other cops).

We don't need experience business people or experienced police commanders in Atherton government? Whom do we need? Experienced real estate inspectors and brokers such as Cary Wiest and Elizabeth Lewis?


Posted by Atherton Resident, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 4, 2013 at 10:25 am

You might suggest to Lt Ruggeiro to correct his application as reported in the Almanac:

"An Atherton resident since 1979, Mr. Ruggeiro is a retired San Francisco Police Department lieutenant. His experience "supervising over 200 officers gives me the unique capability to deal with the police department, which is responsible for over 70 percent of the town budget," he wrote in his application."

His figure of 70% is a bit off as the Atherton Police Department is responsible for 51% expenditure of the general fund budget as reported in the current budget document. Just a small error but already should make his job easier if appointed.


Posted by Collaboration?, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm

What is very striking to me about Atherton Resident's post is that s/he essentially complains about a lack of civility and collaboration, but then goes on to attack the personalities of the people s/he disagrees with rather than the substance of their arguments ("self-aggrandizement, attention and power", "micro-manage[rs]"). It doesn't add up to a persuasive argument. We need to take the personalities out of this and focus on the actual substance of the ideas to best serve Atherton residents.

And, I believe Mr. Ruggeiro's math is correct and even conservative if you take the unfunded pension liabilities into account, which Atherton should be doing.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Atherton, posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Oct 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm
Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online


Whomever is elected to the Atherton Town Council now is the time for our five elected Town representatives to set a new direction and standard of Town governance. We no longer want or can afford 3-2 votes and a divided and an uncivil council. Our five elected representatives should seek unanimity on every issue that comes before them and demand unanimity on the important issues.

A superb place to start would be for the Council to unanimously vote to participate in the National Citizen Survey which has been created by the National Research Center and the International City/County Management Association and which has been widely tested in communities around the Nation. The National Citizen Survey™ (The NCS) is a low-cost citizen survey service for local governments. Tested, flexible, affordable, and efficient, The NCS would allow Atherton to survey citizen opinion for

Program Planning

Budgeting

Goal Setting

Performance Measurement

The Council would select from a set of standard questions to assess citizen opinion about basic services and community life. Additional customized questions allow the Council to tailor the survey to our unique needs.

Our elected officials can use the results to set spending priorities. The Town Manager can use the results to measure progress and chart future steps. Staff can use the results of The NCS to improve service delivery.

The survey program includes:

Three mailings to 1,200 randomly selected households, which include the pre-survey postcard and two mailings of the survey instrument

A margin of error (95 percent confidence interval) of no more than +/- 5 percentage points around any percent

I am so convinced of the need for a new approach to our Town governance that I will personally pay for the cost of participation in National Citizens' Survey provided such participation is approved unanimously by our new Town Council.


Posted by Michael G Stogner, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I would support the National Citizen Survey.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sadly the Town leadership promised to consider this offer at their January, and then their February, and then their March, and then their April, and then their May and then their June meeting - and never did. And they refused to use this comprehensive, validated survey instrument instead of using an unvalidated, narrowly focussed and biased survey to get citizen feedback on renewal of the parcel tax.

So I have lost interest in helping.


Posted by 3-2 or 2-3 Council, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 6, 2013 at 1:17 am

Peter wrote: "We no longer want or can afford 3-2 votes and a divided and an uncivil council. Our five elected representatives should seek unanimity on every issue that comes before them and
demand unanimity on the important issues."

For years the council has represented the different views of the community and thus the council votes have not had unanimity.

Only 1/3 of the town wanted a library in the park and 2/3s did not. But three members of the council were from the 1/3.

For decades approximately 70-80% of residents have passed the parcel tax to fund police services. It appears the current council is split 2-2 on having a parcel tax.

What Atherton needs are elections in which the candidates clearly state their positions on the issues.

All three candidates should state their position on the parcel tax. Do they support renewal- yes or no?

















Posted by Wrong data, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 6, 2013 at 8:22 am

The parcel tax failed at least once in recent years. It will fail again next year no matter how much the police department tries to buy candidates.


Posted by 3-2 or 2-3 Council, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 6, 2013 at 9:01 am

The Parcel Tax has failed three times in the thirty plus years in has been in place. It was later passed.




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