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No Escape for Jellins

Original post made by Steve Schmidt, Menlo Park: The Willows, on Nov 16, 2006

Lee Duboc blames the SEIU for her defeat on November 7.

Mickie Winkler blames the ladies who made up the Bayfront Park Coalition for scaring voters.

Who would I blame for the rejection of Winkler, Duboc, Measures J and K? Who else but Nicholas Jellins!

It was Jellins who some believe made a deal with his cohorts Winkler & Duboc to uncritically support everything they wanted in exchange making him mayor twice out of turn in violation of established City Policy.

It was Jellins who joined Winkler & Duboc in packing key city commissions with their loyal supporters.

It was Jellins who joined Winkler & Duboc in betraying the voters by killing the new Menlo Childrens’ Center which was promised as part of Measure T.

It was Jellins who joined Winkler & Duboc in passing the realtor-friendly residential design Ordinance #926 which was later rescinded because of strong community opposition.

It was Jellins who joined Winkler & Duboc in their efforts to build a golf course and fill 10 acres of tidal wetlands at Bayfront Park Later these three also tried to drum up support for the impossible playfields at the same location (Measure J).

It was Jellins who joined Winkler & Duboc in handing a no-bid contract to the “beloved” Tim Sheeper for operation of the brand-new Burgess Pool.

It was Jellins who distributed a last minute “press release” that he thought advanced the campaigns of Winkler & Duboc. Instead it confused voters, made City Staff appear incompetent and probably led to the defeat of Measure K, the utility user’s tax.

It was Jellins who joined Winkler & Duboc in creating a toxic political environment in Menlo Park that turned residents against the incumbents and nearly everything they supported.

It was Jellins who squandered his impressive resume and his political future by creating a divisive and hostile atmosphere on the City Council. You have to wonder what Lee Duboc was thinking when she told Kelly Fergusson in 2005 that as mayor Pro Tem, she could “learn a lot” from Jellins.

And it was Jellins, realizing that the voters would also hold him accountable for these and other follies of his cohorts, who ducked out of this year’s campaign. While Winkler & Duboc suffered the humiliation of defeat, Nicholas lost only his opportunities for more revolting public posing, dramatic entrances and word play from the dais.

My vote for scapegoat of the 2006 election goes to Nicholas Jellins.

Comments (17)

Posted by Rhyming Fool
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 16, 2006 at 3:27 pm

Alas, poor Nick
was not as slick
as the man in the mirror
thought him to be.
His flaws displayed,
the games he played
were exposed by his

Posted by Cynic
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 16, 2006 at 3:35 pm

He's not the scapegoat. Just the goat.

I believe you are forgetting to mention how much he's going to benefit from having the developers he befriended while on the council as clients in his new career.

Posted by Mark Drury
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 16, 2006 at 5:17 pm

Regarding Mayor Pro Compello Jellins, I don't remember the last time I
came across someone so in search of syllables, so free with the
dramatic pause in his quest for grandiloquence. He's the only person
I know who uses the term "piece" for his comments, "I have one more
piece...." And I'm sure his pieces are, to him, as carefully crafted
as a Mozart concerto, but it's a dangerous business aiming so high, so
late in the evening. At one particularly late-running council meeting a year or so ago I witnessed Jellins stretch for one too many uses
of the word "context" or some other from his arsenal, when he so
completely lost his train of thought that he was reduced to muttering
2- and 3-syllable words until he finally concluded, awkwardly, with
the lone utterance of "procedure" or "process" before turning off his microphone.

I don't claim to be a better public speaker than Mr. Jellins, and public service at the city council level is no picnic, assuredly, but I do wish Jellins had placed the interests of residents on par with or above those of developers on at least one occasion while he was in office. As a resident of Linfield Oaks I feel utterly forsaken by Jellins and the slate (witness Tuesday's council meeting, when they approved the 75 Willow Road Boondoggle), and I won't miss their presence on the Menlo Park political scene.

Mark Drury

Posted by June Benito
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 17, 2006 at 2:20 pm

Mr. Schmidt: you hit the nail on the head. Jellins seems to be an expert at escaping responsibility. So smug, he hides behind his Harvard degree and his pompous mannerism.

Every time the MP Council has an attorney, he's been a dud. Jellins does not have the temperment for the council and let's hope we don't see him ascend to the bench. His treatment of the public is disrespectful and some times actually mean.

Posted by JoeAverage
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Nov 17, 2006 at 3:25 pm

Although I'm pleased with most of the local election results (wish the truly decent independent thinker Bressler had won), I call for everyone to halt the personal attacks. Now. As disappointed as I have been with decisions and the conduct of the Council for the past 4 years, I believe such personal attacks are not healthy in a family, and not healthy for our community. Let's focus on the issues and not on individuals.

Posted by A Council Gadfly
a resident of Encinal School
on Nov 19, 2006 at 9:51 pm

Dear Average Joe,
I read this posting and did not think it was personal. If you haven't been outraged by the routine conduct of this particular public official, you haven't been paying attention. In addition to this guy's lack of respect for the public, he has used his position as mayor to publicly humiliate Council Member Fergusson. This treatment of people seems mean spirited and that is personal. It looks like the list actually left the personal out and instead addressed only a handful of actions that will be his legacy as a public official.

Posted by Aghast and agape
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 20, 2006 at 3:26 pm

You should check out what the San Jose Mercury News had to say about Jellins/Winkler/Duboc triumvirate in the Internal Affairs column. I think this line is my favorite:
"Their my-way-or-the-highway attitude and snotty manners during public meetings seem to have caught up with them."

Web Link

Posted by ElectionWatcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 20, 2006 at 10:50 pm

Here's the entire piece that ran in the Merc's Internal Affairs column on Sunday:

Clinging to power

Mickie Winkler finished in last place in this month's Menlo Park City Council race. Lee Duboc came in second to last. And these were the incumbents.

In just four years, Duboc and Winkler fell fast and fell hard.

Along with the suave Nicholas Jellins -- who, perhaps wisely, decided not to run again -- the trio enraged many Menlo Park residents. Their my-way-or-the-highway attitude and snotty manners during public meetings seem to have caught up with them.

So will they go out with grace? Hmm. At last Tuesday's council meeting, Councilman-elect Rich Cline urged the panel not to make any big decisions and instead leave things up to the new council that takes over next month.

And for backup, he brought some facts with him. Cline, a former journalist, read agenda minutes and newspaper articles from four years ago, when then-newly elected council members Duboc and Winkler asked the old council not to make any big decisions and instead leave it up to them.

Cline was specifically concerned with a major item on last week's agenda: a decision on whether to change the city's general plan to allow a $33 million housing development to go up in place of commercial office space. He also wants the council to punt on taking action later this month regarding a proposed auto mall in the city.

``Those are big, long-term decisions that we should allow the new, incoming council to manage,'' says Cline, who (like IA) noticed that Duboc and Winkler failed to make eye contact with him while he spoke. So what did the council do? The Duboc-Winkler-Jellins clique voted to change the general plan.

For a majority of Menlo Park residents, December can't come soon enough.

Posted by hopeful
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 21, 2006 at 12:51 pm

To June Benito:

Please do not be so quick to paint all lawyers with the same "dud" label as you attributed to Jellins! You generalized that "every time Menlo Park's council has had a lawyer, he has been a dud" (were you also referring to Bob Bermeister, there?).

You forgot another lawyer who ably represented us on the City Council -- though not a "he" so perhaps was not intended to be encompassed in your remark: Gail Slocum. Her leadership as Mayor on East Palo Alto tri-city coordination in 1993 was exemplary and effective -- very "hands on" and down to earth as were the full range of Gail's accomplishments. Refreshing.

I understand Gail now serves on the San Mateo County Planning Commission, and she assists nonprofits on climate change issues in her free time as well as helps behind the scenes making continued contributions in Menlo Park. She is the kind of lawyer we could use more of serving our interests in local government.

Not all lawyers are empty suits. And we may benefit from having another one on the Council again in the future. Perhaps then we should avoid broad brush labeling and let each councilmember's record of accomplishment speak for itself. In fact much of the tenor of this thread makes me uncomfortable, as the City needs to come together and get things done. Playing the "blame game" doesn't do that -- nomatter which "side" is blaming whom.

Posted by Political Animal
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2006 at 5:17 pm

Speaking of parting shots, I noticed the council couldn't resist instructing its negotiators to declare impasse in contract negotiations with city employees. The city employees were mystified by the city's sudden decision to say in bargaining parlance: "We have nothing left to discuss." In another community, I'd assume the parties exhausted efforts to compromise and reach an agreement at the bargaining table, but why do I find that hard to believe here? I think the council majority decided to give the city employees a big one-finger salute.

Posted by Dan Dippery
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 28, 2006 at 1:55 pm

Wow! I don't think I've ever had such a flip-flop of emotions as I did first seeing Nicholas Jellins leering up at me from the Mercury News article...and then reading the full text: from repulsion to pity.
I urge everyone to read the piece. What first appears to be a glowing farewell to a civic leader evolves into exposition of narcissism on an epic scale.
"I have long been aware of certain gifts that I have," Jellins told the Mercury News. Hats off to journalist Joshua Molina who gave Nicholas all the rope he needed.
The only item-of-record that I would add to Steve's rap sheet is that Nicholas was "Council Liaison" to the volunteer community group that put the infamous barriers on Santa Cruz. Problem was,he didn't come to the group's meetings.
And went the stuff hit the fan about the barriers...Nicholas quietly stood on the sidelines, side-stepping any involvement.
"I have long aspired to serve as a policymaker", Jellins concluded in the article. Gee...the last eight years would have been a great place to give it a try.

Posted by Brielle Johnck
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 28, 2006 at 7:03 pm

Thank you Mr. Dippery for reminding us of the Santa Cruz streetscape project and the council representative, Jellins only showing up for 2? meetings.

My best recollection will always be Lee Duboc in December 2005 telling Kelly Fergusson that she would not support her for Mayor and that she could serve as Mayor Pro Tem so as to learn from Jellins. Learn what?

Ahh the hubris of this council majority. Jellins' grab for the mayor position 2 times out of the last 4 years will prevent his replacement, John Boyle of serving as mayor for the next 4 years and he will have to run for a second term if he wants this honor.

I wonder of Jellins thought this through?

Posted by Diana
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2006 at 9:31 am

Dan's hat is off to journalist Joshua Molina? But surely the reporter misquoted the tragically misunderstood Mr. Jellins -- again and again. No one, surely, could have said such things to a reporter, particularly someone who is known for choosing his words o-o-oh-so-o-o-c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y. How could anyone be so arrogant, so narcissistic, that he wouldn't realize how comments such as these would only hold him up to ridicule? But then again, looking back at how this man has behaved over the last eight years, methinks Joshua got those words down in his notebood flawlessly. Hubris only begins to describe it.

Posted by George
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 29, 2006 at 2:59 pm

Thank goodness that Lee and Winkler lost. They acted with impunity when they changed procedural rules to benefit themselves. No elected official is above the rules.

Aside from that, all of the political banners and signs were very annoying. I felt that the political signs were a form of pollution. It made it seem as if they were the only ones running. It reminded me of a sham campaign that you would find in a Banana Republic country.

The sheer magnitude of the signs were reason enough to unseat them.

Posted by Appalled Democrat
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 4, 2006 at 1:31 pm

An amusing aside: I heard from a campaign volunteer that not all those people with Boyle/Duboc/Winkler yardsigns actually voted for for them.
Apparently it was easier to pollute their yards with those signs than it was to 'fess up to the majority that they were voting for the opposition!

Posted by ElectionWatcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 5, 2006 at 11:23 pm

Two things:
Could someone please share the Merc piece on ex-Mayor Jellins by re-posting it here for all to read - thanks.
As for the Boyle/Duboc/Winkler yardsign comment: It was pointed out somewhere else that many of their campaign signs were posted on rental unit properties (apartments or houses), reflective of the strong backing of real estate interests as opposed to ordinary citizens. And quite frankly, if I was a renter who had a political sign hoisted upon me by my property owner, I'd tend NOT to vote for that person just out of spite.

Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Almanac staff writer
on Dec 6, 2006 at 11:12 am

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

This is the Mercury News Story of Nov. 26, 2006 that is being discussed:

Council `star' plans his exit


By Joshua Molina
Mercury News
It's a recent Tuesday night in Menlo Park, and Nicholas Jellins looks more like he's ready to hit a nightclub than lead a city council meeting.

In a black jacket over a white shirt, the dapper Jellins sits perfectly upright, shoulders back and head high. With impeccable delivery, he welcomes the audience in the room and the ``millions'' of people watching at home via public access TV and the Internet.

In the often dramatic, sometimes bizarre and always entertaining world of Menlo Park politics, the departing councilman and three-time mayor has been a controversial star. His seemingly scripted delivery, flawless fashions and notable charisma always seem to strike a nerve.

``I have long been aware of certain gifts that I have,'' Jellins recently said from his law office on Menlo Avenue. ``I have always been conscious of how I speak and how I appear in public. I believe I have been gifted with the ability to express myself.''

The man who loves to be the center of attention will step aside Dec. 5. After eight tumultuous years on the council, Jellins will be all dressed up with no place to go.

Citing personal and professional reasons -- including a recent divorce from his wife, with whom he has three children -- he decided not to run for a third term. He has no immediate plans to run for office again, although he says he would love to one day be a county supervisor or congressman. The land-use attorney may also seek a judgeship down the line.

Jellins' legacy is up for debate. During his two terms, he earned favor with developers and used the mayor's platform to bask in the spotlight at community events.

``He is just a masterful legislator,'' said Rick Ciardella, chairman emeritus of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, adding that Jellins had a vision for economic growth.

Yet Jellins notably failed to bridge differences between the pro-business and slow-growth factions on the council, seeming to embrace the rift -- if not stoke the fire.

``I thought Nick had great potential to go far in politics,'' said Jon Levinson, longtime member of the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee. ``I envisioned him as running for the board of supervisors. I thought he had a terrific chance for that, and who knows, maybe he could go beyond that? I really don't know what happened to him.''

When Jellins was first elected in 1998, he won by four votes -- after a recount. At the time, he was in the minority. Jellins tended to lean moderate and often found himself the odd man out on a council that swayed all the way left.

But things changed in 2002, when Lee Duboc and Mickie Winkler were elected. Together, the three dominated Menlo Park. They backed the privatization of a public swimming pool, supported the contentious Derry Lane mixed-use housing project, tried to outsource the city's child care programs and pushed to build a disputed golf course, a plan that was ultimately abandoned by the developer after community outcry.

In January, Jellins, Duboc and Winkler broke tradition and voted to re-appoint Jellins to a third term as mayor -- even though Vice Mayor Kelly Fergusson was in line to assume the rotating position.

``I was disappointed that they didn't follow the policy and the tradition,'' Fergusson said. ``There's no question that it has been a challenging relationship.''

Things got so bad that, during one recent public meeting, Fergusson accused Jellins of shining a laser pen into her eyes.

Jellins has an explanation for not appointing Fergusson to the mayor's post.

``I have a set of skills perhaps unequaled by others,'' he said. ``At the time, I had served six years on the council and Kelly had barely served two.''

And Jellins has plenty of supporters who agree that he is unparalleled on the council.

``I really admire the guy,'' Ciardella said. ``He has this commitment. He has integrity. Prior to Nicholas' tenure on the council, the city was in a position with a lack of leadership in providing a strong economic condition.''

Developer David Bohannon backed that up.

``Nicholas was interested in what was good for the city,'' said Bohannon, who met Jellins when he was on the city planning commission. Jellins backed at least one of Bohannon's projects while on the council, an office project on Marsh Road.

But to others, Jellins was a disappointment.

``Nicholas was on the council for eight years, and I don't recall his ever advocating a policy or project that truly benefited residents,'' said former two-term Councilman Steve Schmidt, who served with Jellins from 1998 to 2002. ``He seemed to be more interested in being the center of attention.''

Jellins was born in Berkeley but grew up in Atlanta. He was raised by his mother and lived next door to Dr. Martin Luther King Sr., father of the civil rights leader; Jellins said he met the younger King once when he attended a neighborhood birthday party.

A few weeks later, Jellins watched on TV as King delivered his ``I Have a Dream'' speech. Jellins remembers the impact the encounter and the speech made on him.

``No matter what your background, there's no limit to what you could accomplish,'' he said.

Even as a child, Jellins seemed to be grooming himself for the public eye. ``When he was 13 or 14 years old, he wouldn't let me touch his clothes,'' said his mother, Miriam Jellins, 79. ``He was never, ever sloppy, and that is unusual for a boy.''

After college at Harvard and law school in Virginia, Jellins moved to Menlo Park in 1989. He had returned to the Bay Area in previous years to visit his father, and Jellins and his then-wife fell in love with the area.

Next year, Jellins turns 50. His decision not to run again was wise, insiders say: His like-minded colleagues, Duboc and Winkler, finished at the bottom of a six-person race.

Unapologetic and proud of his time on the council, Jellins said he won't look back. ``My only regrets relate to things I didn't try,'' he said. ``I have no regrets about things I tried or failed at.''

Jellins also hints he won't be a stranger in council chambers, saying he might represent clients on development issues or other matters.

``I have long aspired to serve as a policymaker,'' he said. ``Policy is made in many ways, and not just in elected office.''

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