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Mueller and Taylor for Menlo Park Council

Uploaded: Oct 14, 2016
Monday evening I attended the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum, where incumbents Ray Mueller and Catherine Carlton, and challenger Cecilia Taylor responded to questions posed by the public.

But first, lets review some of the major issues facing Menlo Park, and the next council. Off the top of my head I recall these open and continuous issues: Growing traffic congestion. Projects along El Camino under the Downtown Specific plan remain mostly as blueprints and pretty pictures. Unresolved Caltrain near-term direction and long-term High Speed Rail debut; consideration and funding of east-west intersection underpasses; a reconfiguration of the Willow-101 interchange imminent; building office space while not meeting the full local housing demand engendered by those projects; unresolved low-income housing, infrastructure impacts of water and sewer of current and future development; balancing the budget with unpredictable revenues – but predictable expenses, parking, red light cams, zoning, city staffing levels. Whew.

I recommend Ray Mueller and Cecilia Taylor for Menlo Park City Council.

Regarding Ray Mueller: We’ve had frequent dialogues of the past 4 years. I once told him that he, being a responsive local representative: “Ray, you’re the real McCoy.” I’ve long suspected that he has higher public service ambitions – as do other Council
Members historically. But unlike the others before him, he’s truly polished. (I’m jealous). Like a good progressive, he’s always trying to find things to fix -- even if they’re not quite broken, or if it‘s not a Menlo Park problem. He recently glommed onto an interesting and worthy mission: repairing the Ravenswood School District building infrastructure by organizing a new Agency with taxing authority. We’ll see ... to me it sounds like another Redevelopment Agency such as those dissolved a couple of years ago by the state. The City of Menlo Park is still on the hook for about $64 Million in RDA bonds for which the state now picks up the tab (I recall). I also suggested to him, long ago, moving up the ladder at the first opportunity before getting associated with something bad: don’t get stuck in Menlo Park. We’ll see.
Nonetheless, vote for Ray.

Regarding Cat (Catherine) Carlton:
In response to questions Monday night Cat referred to prepared notes on issues and responses (I recognize this approach as I also maintain an issue book). In response to questions, Cat tended to read from these notes instead of looking at the audience. As a result – the answers to questions didn’t exactly align from the parsed questions. I would expect her to be able to answer extemporaneously and I don’t think she broadened her footprint with residents in these four years.

Regarding Cecilia Taylor:
When Cecilia began her campaign, I met with her and was pleasantly surprised, and then co-signed her nomination papers. While she has long-term family connection to Menlo Park, she only recently moved back. I like that she’s a teacher. Cecilia has a risk of perceived as being overly associated with an underprivileged area. That area is currently subject to a massive rezoning amount of office and housing development. Consequently, it’s important that ‘Belle Haven’ (or ‘Bay Front’ as ink dries on its new moniker), has a representative vote on the council. I sympathize, as our neighborhood, Linfield Oaks, is in the middle of East-West traffic, never having a council member in my recollection.

At the candidate forum on Monday, I was impressed that Cecilia remarked and understood that effects of development can be felt in other neighborhoods of Menlo Park. She assuredly answered the questions. I would agree that it would be better to spend time on a commission, and I don’t know if she realizes the amount of time it takes to do a righteous job on the city council – and all the regional committee assignments.

That said, at this juncture, if for no other reason, I consider it more important that ‘Cecilia’s’ voice and vote be on the council than a west-side voice. The opportunity to affect that is now.

But wait, there’s more!
While researching this post I realized an illuminating problem: four of our five council members live west of San Mateo Drive, as illustrated by this figure. The bubbles in red show residences for councilmembers Carlton, Cline, Mueller and Ohtaki, all living west (left) of the red line denoting San Mateo Drive.

Think of the implication: 80% of our council decides land use, impacts and approval of environmental impact reports, and traffic tolerance. In a sense these four council members need not cross El Camino but for visiting Café Borrone and City Hall, leaving the impacts to those of who use east of San Mateo Drive. Could it be that when we have disagreement concerning major zoning that it stems from a ‘west side’ bias imposed on the rest of us? This supports my instinct that we are better served to have a member of the Belle Haven community as a voting council member considering the major developments envisioned.

Good luck to all.

I will hold off submitting my mail-in ballot knowing that more information can become available as we et closer to election day. This is a prudent approach especially in this awkward election cycle.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Thank you, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Oct 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Stu - great observations and recommendations. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis. The map says a lot.
So did the candidate forum. Not only did Carlton come across as canned, Taylor came across as articulate, inquisitive, and genuine.

Posted by collaborative, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Oct 14, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Several years ago, it was not uncommon for commissioners to be rejected by council after serving only one term, as happened to Stew Soffer and Patty Fry. Fortunately, the current council does not engage in petty back-stabbing. Although Cecilia Taylor is an excellent candidate, she has an uphill battle, as the voters of Menlo Park appreciate that Mueller and Carlton are part of a collaborative team considered to be a very effective.

We noticed that Cecilia Taylor has a positive vision for menlo Park, and has not aligned herself with individuals that want to engage in negativity. If not elected, we hope Cecilia will continue on this path and run for an open seat in 2018. Menlo Park voters are very fortunate to have such an excellent group of candidates to pick from.

Posted by For the record, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Oct 15, 2016 at 10:47 am

Cecilia Taylor has no record of accomplishment in Menlo Park. Ray Mueller and Cat Carlton do. Stu tries to obfuscate things by stating that Carlton read prepared remarks. Too often people judge our elected officials on their oratory skills and not on their accomplishments. I don't really care if someone has the gift of gab. All I want to know what has that person done for Menlo Park. Both Ray and Cat have a record of distinguished service in our city that predates their city council service. Ray and Cat were respectively members of the Transportation and Parks and Recreation Commissions. Cecilia has never been a member of any Menlo Park Commission.

Stu's geographic reference was never a problem when many of the Council members lived in the Willows. Menlo Park is a small town. Where you live does not matter. What matters is whether you are engaged with the community and work for the betterment of all Menlo Park neighborhoods. It is what you know and what you do with that knowledge to improve the quality of life in Menlo Park that counts not which neighborhood you live in. Ray and Cat know a lot and have assiduously worked to improve the vibrancy and vitality of Menlo Park. Cecilia Taylor has not even lived in the city 9 out of the past 10 years.

Arguably Cecilia knows a lot regarding the issues of Belle Haven. But she demonstrated a woeful lack of knowledge of the rest of Menlo Park and how Menlo Park interfaces with the neighboring communities. She is a nice person but she should definitely join a Menlo Park Commission and get the lay of the land before she thinks or running for City Council.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Oct 15, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Stu, thanks for confirming my own thoughts. I'm voting for Taylor and Mueller.

Posted by Try Inclusiveness, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on Oct 15, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Yeah but . . .Cecilia Taylor brings experience that Ms. Carlton and Mr. Mueller don't have and never will have. Each has voted along with their 3 colleagues for every office development that has come before the Council. Unfortunately most of these office developments are in the Belle Haven neighborhood, far away from both Mr. Mueller and Ms. Carlton's homes. Neither of these incumbents understand what they and the Council is asking of Belle Haven. I can only imagine what they, their colleagues and most of the west side of the City would feel if their neighborhoods were saddled with 3 million sq ft of office development.
I believe it would be informative to have Ms. Taylor's perspective on the Council. What she lacks in experience as a commissioner, she makes up for by living in the belly of the beast. Could we not be more inclusive? I believe it's been 30 years since Belle Haven has had a resident serve on the Council. Now, more than ever, the west side of 101 needs to acknowledge what we have done to Belle Haven (including changing the name of the area to The Bayfront). This is so surgical. Big tech company moves into a neighborhood, employ 14,000 workers, create pressure on the housing stock and rename the area to erase the history. Give this woman a chance. It's time for inclusiveness.

Posted by company you keep, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Oct 17, 2016 at 7:14 pm

The Almanac endorsement made me give Cecilia Taylor another look, but Stu Soffer's endorsement pretty much counteracts that! A fresh voice would be great, but if Cecilia's main support comes from the same crowd that was behind the divisive failure of Measure M or ill-fated Council candidacies like Chuck Bernstein or Vince Bressler, that ain't "fresh".

Cecilia's own webpage's endorsement section doesn't have much- nice to see Ann Moser and Kathleen Daly there, but Jack Morris? No thanks. Stu's reveal that he signed Cecilia's nomination papers makes me wonder- maybe the Almanac can get a copy and list the supporters? If it's people like Steve Schmidt and Patti Fry, I suspect that'll make the decision easier for lots of people!!

Posted by Try Inclusiveness, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on Oct 17, 2016 at 8:39 pm

Company Your Keep: Can this never stop? Please stop harboring old grudges and take a look at a new face in this year's council election. The Almanac and the San Mateo Democratic Party Central Committee has endorsed Ms. Taylor. She is thoughtful, smart and kind. Her roots go deep in Menlo Park. I heard that her grandfather bought his home in Belle Haven in 1956, a time when people of color were brave to do so.

Ms Taylor lives at ground zero for massive office development approved by our council, including the two incumbents. She knows first hand how the impacts of large office complexes are changing the character of her neighborhood. She reads the planning and environmental documents, attends the meetings and encourages her neighbors to speak up.

It would be interesting if all 5 of our council members lived in Belle Haven and approved millions of sq ft of office development in neighborhoods on the west side of 101 and El Camino Real. What if this situation went on for 30 years and time after time a resident of west Menlo Park ran for office but to no avail?

Put your list of enemies away and try to be inclusive.

Posted by Sad, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Oct 17, 2016 at 9:41 pm

I am glad to see a Belle Haven resident in the race. She's got my vote. I'm very sad to see that anyone would even consider voting against her because some dedicated volunteers also support her. Try to think about what is best for our city rather than carrying a grudge against people who have invested many hours into making this a better community for all of us -- including haters and other nasty people.

Posted by Dharma, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Oct 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm

The ways to choose a candidate for city council would include experience in public affairs, decision making and knowledge of the town. Geographical address is politically correct, but council isn't like school board. Do you pick leaders (or dentist, mechanic, accountant) by her address?

Mueller and Carlton have not ignored Belle Haven, very much the contrary; many residents realize this. They bring their skills and experience, not their front doors. Qualifications matter.

Posted by Elephant Man, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Oct 18, 2016 at 1:29 pm

I received my San Mateo County Republican Party Slate Mailer asking me to vote for Carlton and the rest of the Republican slate.

That's the endorsement that matters.

Posted by collaborative, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Oct 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm

@company_you_keep brings up an interesting point. Stew Soffer should explain how he came to meet Ms. Taylor's and co-sign her nomination papers. Signing nomination papers is a pledge to support a candidate. If Stew also signed Mr. Mueller's nomination papers, this article is a bit dubious.

Posted by collaborative, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Oct 18, 2016 at 4:47 pm

@Elephant_Man is right, but party preference does not seem to be a factor. Although Mueller is endorsed by the Democratic Party, he has only endorsed the GOP endorsed candidate in two races where there are several Democratic Party endorsed candidates.

Posted by Elephant Man, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Oct 18, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Poppycock. People can claim anything in chatroom.

Posted by Try Inclusiveness, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Dharma: you are absolutely right. Mr. Mueller and Ms. Carlton have not ignored Belle Haven. Instead they have voted lock step with their colleagues to dump almost 3 million sf of office development right in the laps of the residents who live there. The General Plan allows and projects even more office development. Our Council has used Belle Haven to drum up property tax revenue for the city at the expense of the people who have lived in Belle haven for many years.

Facebook is deeply involve in the creation of our General Plan, that as of a week ago includes new zoning that will allow Facebook a shocking amount of commercial development in Belle Haven.

The Menlo Park campaign tradition, especially for Mr. Mueller is to attend a Belle Haven Church every four years and send out an email to supporters bragging about his good deeds. This patronizing show means nothing.

Can this condescending cycle be broken? Can we invite a Belle Haven resident to sit at the table with the adults. Ms. Taylor has a wealth of wisdom about the real impacts that office development brings. She knows what we on the west side do not yet know. She can teach us so much. Mr Mueller and Ms. Carlton have approved the development in Belle Haven that is starting to bring evictions, increased rents, and displacement of a population that many in Menlo Park rely on. Where will these service workers live? Good luck finding a nanny, a gardener, a mechanic, a city employee to prune your street tree. Wake up.

Posted by Boulderdash, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 2:49 pm

@tryinclusiveness, when was the General Plan approved? I thought the Planning Commission is reviewing it tonight? So how could have the City Council already approved it? If you spread falsehoods about that how do I know what things are you saying are true and what are false?

Posted by wayback, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 3:24 pm

These elements of the general plan were last updated in 1994. The Council in 1994: Jack Morris, Gail Slocum, Bob McNamara, Dee Tolles and Cal Jones.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

I've met Cecelia Taylor and found her to be articulate, compassionate, intelligent and I felt inspired by her. I hope she wins and brings her own outlook to the council. I think she deserves it based on her actual intellect and ideas. Not just her address. She's amazing.

It's great to have a city council that works well together. Cecelia doesn't strike me as the type of person that would disrupt the harmony. She would bring a sense of inclusion to the Belle Haven residents who want to have a voice at the table. While our current city council is great and have accomplished a lot, Cecelia is the only person running that could represent them in a way our current leadership can't. I think that is important. I don't live there, but it matters to me.

Posted by wayback, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Oct 19, 2016 at 4:38 pm

@Resident has the right idea, but the current council is very popular.

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