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Menlo Park: District 4 may have four contenders for council seat

 

There are now four potential candidates of Menlo Park's downtown and Allied Arts area who have pulled papers to run for City Council and take Menlo Park's open District 4 seat in the upcoming November elections.

Complete Streets Commissioner Betsy Nash and Housing Commissioner Rachel Horst both pulled papers on Aug. 2 to run for council. Council member Peter Ohtaki and Finance and Audit Committee member Ron Shepherd have also pulled papers to run. As of Aug. 6, only Shepherd had filed the requisite paperwork.

Councilman Rich Cline, who also lives in District 4, has informed The Almanac he does not plan to run for another term.

According to City Clerk Judi Herren, no extensions to the Aug. 10 filing deadline will be granted, as current council members are not considered incumbents under the new district election system.

Betsy Nash

Nash said she has lived in Menlo Park for over 30 years and raised her kids in local schools.

"I have a lot of ideas about what can be done," she said in an interview with The Almanac.

She's been on the city's Complete Streets Commission for about three years, she said, originally starting her term as a bicycle commissioner before the commission was fused with the city's Transportation Commission.

As the city has transitioned to district elections, she said, a number of other neighborhood residents suggested that she run.

She said she favors working on "real solutions" to address the city's housing and traffic problems, and bolstering the community benefits that developers provide to the city.

The city, she said, has a jobs-housing imbalance that will likely require a combination of policy approaches. "There's no magic bullet," she said.

In recent years, she said, she took on an active role in campaigning to get sidewalks installed along Santa Cruz Avenue. Driving, walking, or cycling around town, she said, "It's so obvious congestion is just bad. It's not going away. We really need all kinds of safe, convenient reliable transportation, at levels that will serve everyone."

When it comes to community benefits, she said she'd look to find ways to encourage developers to protect retail and minimize impacts on local schools.

Rachel Horst

Horst, 33, is a three-year resident of Menlo Park who lives in Allied Arts as a renter. She was appointed to the city's Housing Commission earlier this year.

"I'm considering a run because, in the context of district elections, which has really changed the game, I want to put another option on the table," she said.

She said that housing is a priority for her, and a topic she considers "front and center in any conversation about Menlo Park."

She said she espouses values like equity, inclusion and sustainability.

What those values mean in terms of the city's affordable housing shortage, can be a difficult conversation, she said. "But I really want to have that conversation."

She said she has a background in public health, and previously worked on housing and food security at a nonprofit in San Jose. Now, she works at the University of California headquarters as a policy analyst.

A self-proclaimed wonk, Horst said, "I'm a strong believer in the power of public policy, (and) very wary of some of the unintended consequences of public policy so I am very attuned to the benefits and pitfalls of being a public decision maker."

While she said she's committed to continuing to work on the Housing Commission, she notes that the commission plays an advisory role. Decision-making doesn't happen in a vacuum, she noted, and added that council members should maintain a "bird's eye view" and have a holistic approach.

Horst holds a master's degree in public policy from UCLA.

Other districts

There are two other district seats up for election in November. In District 1, which includes Belle Haven and Menlo Park east of U.S. 101, Cecilia Taylor, Mike Dunn and George Yang have pulled papers. In District 2, which includes the Willows and Flood Triangle neighborhoods, Drew Combs and Kirsten Keith have pulled papers to run.

Check back for updates, or visit the Menlo Park city elections webpage.

Other districts

There will be two other district seats up for election in November. In District 1, which includes Belle Haven and Menlo Park east of U.S. 101, Cecilia Taylor, Mike Dunn and George Yang have pulled papers. In District 2, which includes the Willows and Flood Triangle neighborhoods, Drew Combs and Kirsten Keith have pulled papers to run.

Further election coverage

Menlo Park councilwoman Kirsten Keith dominates early campaign fundraising

Menlo Park: Council agrees to committee's district boundaries

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