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Parks and Recreation Commission Votes Against Park Theater Renovation

Original post made by Resident, Menlo Park: Downtown, on Oct 31, 2007

Tonight, the Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously passed a resolution opposing the city’s plans to purchase the Park Theater and lease it back to a private dance studio for 50 years. The commission cited the lack of public benefit from the project; the need to fully fund higher priority capital projects such renovating Burgess Gym and Rec Center; and opposition to subsidizing a private business to duplicate programs already offered by the city.

When commission chairperson, Paula Maurano tried to deliver the findings to the city council during the time allocated for council reports at tonight’s city council meeting, Mayor Fergusson cut her off mid-report and refused to allow her to read the remaining findings, suggesting that Ms Maurano should “come talk with her off-line.”

Councilmember Robinson, a former Parks and Recreation commissioner, claimed that the Parks and Recreation commission did not have jurisdiction over the proposed private dance studio despite being the commission charged with overseeing the city’s dance and performing arts programs. Councilmember Cline said that the opposition to the Park Theater was political gamesmanship and stated that “the process is going through.”

The Mayor and Councilmember Robinson both stated that the $2.2M being spent on the Park Theater \"will not impact the funds available for any other city programs.\" Furthermore, Councilmember Robinson stated that “like many other members of the community,” Ms Maurano, a Certified Public Accountant, “does not understand the difference between the capital we might spend on the Park Theater and the operating capital we have available to spend on other programs.”

Contradicting Councilmember Robinson and Fergusson’s statements are earlier staff reports stating that the money for the Park Theater would come from the city’s general operating fund reserve, the same source that was used to fund the MA Performing Arts Center, police pensions, and operating shortfalls in most city programs. It is also the same fund that has been recently boosted by revenues from the unpopular Utility Users Tax (UUT).

Councilmember Boyle was the only Councilmember who voiced support for hearing the Parks and Recreation Commission report on the Park Theater. Councilmember Cohen remained silent during the entire discussion.

Comments (64)

Posted by finance geek
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 31, 2007 at 2:44 pm

Never fails, you get a couple of engineers, Fergusson and Robinson, think they know everything about finance. This is a pig in the poke. The liability for cleaning up the resident toxics within and below the site will leave the city open to future litigation, so much for the city's stellar fiscal rating. To cut off the parks commission chairperson in mid-sentence and demand her silence was a demonstration to all those watching at how senseless this mayor and her sidekick Robinson have become. Any commercial property lender will tell you that this property is trouble, i.e., not lendable! When finance geeks see a problem, they dump the project.
Leave it to the engineers to insist on full steam ahead, damn the costs! Maybe Cline will ask for some expert advice on this fiasco before it wastes more staff time and energy?

Posted by In disbelief
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 31, 2007 at 3:12 pm

Without declaring my opinion on this proposal, I will say that Kelly Fergusson has shot herself in the foot. Whether she agrees or disagrees with the Parks & Rec Commission's recomendation, she owes the Chair of that commission the courtesy and respect to allow her to make her report. What is an elected body for but to gather information, the advice of the commissions and the concerns of the residents.

Yes, "Full Steam Ahead". This has been Fergusson's M.O. since she hit the Planning Commission. Yes, I voted for her. Yes, I am disappointed. Some people, even politically ambitious ones, should serve one term and find another outlet for their energy. Just as Lee Duboc and Mickie Winkler have had to do. A recall is a silly idea. Let's give Fergusson some help and show her the exit next year.

Posted by Rich Cline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2007 at 5:28 pm

Hi folks -- I wanted to clarify my comment last night and apologize for bungling the message. By "political gamesmanship" I was referring to the entire Park Theater debate and was not in any way referring to Paula or the parks commission. I have a lot of respect for this commission and I do think they have a say when it comes to discussions around public use and public funds for a community theater. I can't comment on the theater itself as it is in a proper negotiation discussion, but I think it was an unfortunate exchange last night and could have been prevented with better communications from council to the commission (where I am the liaison so I do take some responsiblity for this). I did talk to Paula and the rest of the commissioners in attendance during a break in the meeting and explained myself and asked that I get those recommendations. All feedback is good feedback. Again, I apologize for not making sure the rest of council was informed and for not getting more informed myself that we had a commissioner vote on the theater for the meeting last night. That might have avoided the type of exchange we heard in the meeting.

Rich Cline

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 31, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Ouch! Did anyone watch the video??

I watched the video last night. The mayor, in addition to being very rude like Cline, didn't even let the Chair of the Park & Rec finish voicing her three comments.

I found the let's-talk-offline comment to speak volumes on how this administration runs. I want everything on the record. Doesn't that make sense?

I also found the (I'm paraphrasing here) "you don't understand, I understand so step down" line to very insulting.

The more time I spend thinking and talking about this with others, the more I support a recall. I think it nips this problem in the bud and sends a clear message to any future potential autocratic council member.

Cline is "lawyering up" it seems. Say what you mean and mean what you say. You don't like opposing views to the point of shutting up everyone it seems.

Cline said that better communications between the commission and the council would have prevented this. Does that mean that you need advance notice if your staff will disagree?

Posted by why?
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 31, 2007 at 8:06 pm

Mr. Cline, don't waste your time. Joanna is a fake.

She has been posting here full time for two weeks under three different names and she spins the facts trying to take advantage of people who may not know the facts.

She just did it in her last post -- blatant lies and false depictions about what really happened in the meeting last night.

We will find out who this is eventually and I will bet it is one of the same ten folks who were behind the slate's fake pamphlets during last year's election.

Now she will tell me I am irrelevant and not worth the time or some mangy retort. Insult away "Joanna"!

Posted by ImTheRealFakeJoanne
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Oct 31, 2007 at 8:44 pm

Nobody should listen to Why?, as it's obvious he's just another "freak". Listen to me instead!

Posted by just folks
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2007 at 9:23 pm

Rich, you voted with Fergusson and Robinson to continue "negotiation", tantamount to committing to a deal.
What's your exit strategy?
You know this deal stinks and you will be guilty by association for indulging it's "no win" outcome.
Come out of the Friday meeting with a press release that you have grave doubts about this blatant bail out, (the city being ill informed about the negative legal implications of buying this boondoggle) and you have a slim chance of saving your political stock.
Otherwise you will be long remembered as the rookie councilmember who voted to waste taxpayers money on an ill fated scheme.
Step away and use some common sense.
You're better than Fergusson and Robinson. Don't go down in flames with them.

Posted by Simple Math
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Just watched the video of the council meeting.

I was shocked to hear Kelly and Heyward say that cuts in city services and the delay in the Burgess Gym renovation are unrelated to spending $2.2M on the park theater.

I guess they missed the Your City/ Your Decision tutorial where residents were asked to trade off one program against another to try to find $2M in budget cuts to balance the budget.

Funny that just before the parks report Kelly was telling the bicycle commission that the resources to create a safe bike path to laurel school would have to wait until next fiscal year and just after the parks report she was brushing off a library commision request for more library staff.

I guess for the mayor its Her City / Her Decision

Posted by the fool who voted for them
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 31, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Rich, you should watch the video. You clearly refer to the political gamesmanship of the prior ten minutes--that's the timeframe you yourself mention.

Paula comported herself well under a heavy barrage of nasty invective from our mayor and cronies. The points she was allowed to make reflected the general sentiments I've seen on this board and heard out there in the community. Too bad that the majority of our council members are so bought into their own distorted view of reality that their kneejerk reaction to a heavy dose of truth is to attack the messenger.

Posted by i did not vote for them
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:31 am

It was a disgusting display, patronizing and disrespectful of a good citizen who volunteers her time for a better community.

I do remember how this current council, esp the three that voted for the Park promised that they would be better than the previous council majority, that they would be more open, more receptive to citizen input. Well, I wasn't fooled by their empty campaign literature. Power always produces its own arrogance, these guys are no better and they will ultimately prove to be worse.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:37 am


I can't see how you can say that you can't comment on the park theater while negotiations are underway. This is not a union negotiation that the city is contractually obligated to carry out. This is Kelly's folly, and the point that everyone in town seems to be making is that the negotiation should be stopped!

Where was preserving the Park Theater on the council's lengthy priority list? It didn't make the top 10.

Where was it on the Parks and Rec priority list? It wasn't!

Where is the vision for El Camino? It doesn't exist yet!

So why is the council continuing to waste its time and the staff's time trying to negotiate a deal with a private developer and a dance studio owner when higher priority projects are being delayed.

Lets stop all of the double talk and just say no to a bad idea.

Posted by that's quite an allowance
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 1, 2007 at 6:27 am

Heyward aint listening to anyone. Note his patronizing comment about the ignorant citizenry who don't understand the difference between the operating budget and the operating reserve fund.

Though we can debate the wisdom of keeping a large amount of money in reserves for that proverbial rainy day, the disposition of those funds never seems to come up for public debate. The money that the city has stashed away is never discussed during the annual public budgeting process, nor have I ever seen any plans for its use. The philosophy seems to be that "it's there if we need it."

Interestingly enough, council members seem adept at coming up with new projects that require dipping into this fund. No matter how tight the operating budget, when a council member takes a shine to some special project (eg the Park), s/he points to this pot of money: "of course we can afford it."

I'd like to see some rationale for having the stash be as large as it is. And I'd also like to see some rules regarding its use. Whatever we may say about Kelly and company, they aren't the first to seem to think that this public fund is theirs for the taking, and it would be good to ensure that future council members don't have such easy access to that particular trough.

Posted by Observation
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 1, 2007 at 10:29 am

Stupidity coupled with arrogance coupled with zealotry is a really bad thing. You can see that in Kelly and Heyward. True believer can do no wrong and if you are on the wrong side of their righteousness you are subjected to the invective that Paula had to unfortunately suffer. The previous council while a bit zealous was never rude and impolite.

Who knows what Rich is talking about? His apology is disingenuous and implausible. He said what he meant and meant what he said. For this team it’s all about politics and their pet causes (Green Commission, County Supervisor, Park Theater, etc.), not what is necessarily god for the city.

True believers are very dangerous. Every cause they take up is a mission that cannot be deterred or logically disputed. Notice how most issue discussions points raised by our mayor often start with “I feel”. It’s hard to logically discuss feelings. Also, she is always trying to triangulate the situation politically so she can’t articulate a coherent sentence. It takes her twice as long as anyone to communicate an idea because she is trying to parse each and every word.

Posted by BadButCouldBeWorse
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 1, 2007 at 11:02 am

Not to get off-track but:
"The previous council while a bit zealous was never rude and impolite"

Are you kidding me, Observation? They were "the steamrollers" - damn the public, full steam ahead with "their" agenda! Rolling their eyes while having to "endure" public comments before they could cast their predetermined 3-2 block vote for their own follies.

At least this council has had only this one folly - with the previous council, the Almanac virtually had a "Folly of the Week" column devoted to that council's latest shenanigans.

Posted by Kelly for county sup!
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 1, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Nicholas is smart, so it was almost fun to watch him skewer people --mispronouncing their names deliberately or making a snarky comment to let them know how stupid they were. He put on an amusing performance compared to Kelly's inarticulate jabbering. ("Make the bad people go away!")

Posted by Pseudonyms Are Fun
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 1, 2007 at 6:58 pm

Hey Observation you seem to be an expert in hubris. Did you learn that creating false fliers for the slate last year?

You guys are all the same on this forum, little sweet sheep moonlighting as wolves behind pseudonyms. Come on out into the light and show your faces. Write your letters with your true identity and I will bet you use some kid of decorum.

I submit that you are a bunch of cowards. Stand up and step up or shut up.

Many brave citizens have emailed the city council denouncing this theater deal using real names and council needs to hear from those folks. You guys wreck any real debate with name calling and garbage.

In fact, you are killing this entire town forum. Go and cower in the shadows or make your point like adults.

And as usual you will attack me now as being sympathetic to your opponents. Ugly citizenry at work right here in the forum.


Your neighbor, your waiter, your bus driver, your kids' teacher...etc.

Posted by Not I
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 1, 2007 at 10:04 pm

Using pseudonyms to discuss politics is an established tradition. Wikipedia notes:

"From the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, it was established practice for political articles to be signed with pseudonyms, the most famous American example being the pen name Publius, used by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, in writing The Federalist Papers."

There you have it.

There are many good reasons to use an assumed name. In point of fact, people may take anons more seriously because they don't know who might be hiding behind that alias. Et tu, PAF?

Posted by The Real Fake Real Multipersonality Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 1, 2007 at 10:51 pm

Absolutely with you Not I, with this great pseudonym stuff, no need to actually find support in the community, it can just manufactured--kind of like the billions of people Mickie used to hear from in the community. It's as simple here as another name and a few keystrokes. I (we?) particularly like the ones where the same person seems to be talking to himself (herself?) as two people. This would all make a really great Saturday Night Live skit. Not.

Posted by Pseudonyms Are Fun
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 1, 2007 at 10:59 pm

"Anonymous Coward" is a term applied within some online communities to describe users who post without a screen name; it is a dummy name attributed to anonymous posts used by some weblogs that allow posting by people without registering for accounts..."

I can use Wikipedia too!

Web Link

Posted by AlternativeView
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 1, 2007 at 11:03 pm

Kelly For County Sup:
"Nicholas is smart, so it was almost fun to watch him skewer people --mispronouncing their names deliberately or making a snarky comment to let them know how stupid they were."

How about this for an alternative view of Mr. Jellins:
A pompous you-know-what!

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 1, 2007 at 11:04 pm

Wow... they silenced the Parks & Recs Chair right away. I'm afraid that these "see me after class" conversations will not be public record. If there is something to "explain," then explain it to everyone.

You can tell if a person knows what they are talking about if they can simplify it to explain it to everyone. Surly the most knowledgeable and noble councilman can explain it to the rest of us Menlo Park idiots. We'll just sign the check and they can do what they want with it.

Seriously, the more the Mayor and her two friends try to do secret deals, the more they will shoot themselves in the foot. Like the person said above, this isn't a union deal. You know what it sounds like? A back room deal.

No due diligence. No sense to know that we have NO business investing in a business or some real estate scheme. We have other projects that deserve the Council's time. There is nothing to discuss. Cut it off and save face.

Menlo Park is a great place to live. Let's not let them get away with giving a private business grants (in any form... loans, interest, terms...).

The public comment speaker the other night said it best. It just doesn't make sense for Menlo Park to get its hands dirty with this scheme.

The Mayor and friends are meeting Duncan and crew tonight (Friday). I want to know what is going on. Menlo Park is great because it is small enough to expect to be included in these talks.

The Council gives air time (hours) to talk about sun shade patterns and architect plans for homes. Those discussions are all in the open. They are recorded and witnessed. That's for a private party purchasing a private piece of land.

Any deal even considering giving a handout (in any form of course) deserve clear and open dialogue.

Whatever the mayor and friends say "offline" should be the truth. Dress it up any way you want to. Use perfume, clothes or whatever you want. If it sounds like a duck and looks like a duck, then it IS a duck.

Don't dress up the details. Let it out into the open.

I keep coming back to this same point... WHY ARE THEY EVEN CONSIDERING THIS? The residents have CLEARLY expressed their outcries and despite all of that, the mayor and friends keep pressing forward.

Remember the Pool scheme? Let's not make a sequel. I think the mayor and friends are counting on our huge tolerance.

That video speaks volumes.

Posted by patience please
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 1, 2007 at 11:35 pm

I was very disappointed to observe what happened Tuesday, and agree that Ms. Morano handled herself very capably under difficult circumstances. It is unfortunate the the commission did not provide any advance material of something so substantive. This is not to excuse how things were handled, but I suspect the surprise did not help the situation. Nevertheless, it's never polite to interrupt or try to "educate" someone when they are earnestly speaking.

Still and all, this unfortunate behavior has not sunk to the low level of the personal jabs, smirks, and name-calling that occurred with the prior council. I believe this council has done better, and can do so again in the future.

While I am not in favor of proceeding with the deal with the dance studio as I understand it, I do think that the supposedly missing "due diligence" is what is underway right now. Some patience is worthwhile; I believe this deal will die a natural death unless some as-yet unidentified public benefit becomes apparent.

Posted by remember november
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2007 at 7:41 am

For those who don't know, Paula M. is Mary Gilles' sister-in-law, so Kelly and Robby have crossed the line big time.
Wouldn't be surprised if a parade of public comment speakers harangue the mayor over the next month. It's payback time.
Smart politicians don't wake up sleeping giants.

Posted by due dilitante
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 2, 2007 at 7:44 am

Why hasn't the legal minefield of environmental cleanup of this property been discussed? If the city buys this dump then they're stuck for the tab and liability. Should make anyone run away from this deal.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2007 at 8:19 am

Due Dilitante, right on the nail's head!
Everyone has run from this deal. Real professionals. Those who make their living off of buying these things. Red flag.

But the Menlo Three claim to know more than any common person knows about this.

Table this junk.

Posted by Where's the Beef ?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2007 at 9:36 am

Now we're back to tabling it? What happened to the supposed recall? Ferguson and Robinson blew it too, repeating but a few sins so far of the prior council majority who were voted out of office along the way.

But counter tactics like scare postings on toxics, empty recall threats, and $10 websites are getting old too. Similarly trying continually stir things up and painting Rich Cline with the same brush signals this is devolving into plain old politics being revisited again from the last two elections. Cline needs to get this wrapped up, but he has not endorsed the poorly conceived dance and theater plan so far.

Posted by due dilitante
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Nov 2, 2007 at 10:26 am

Where's the Beef? When's the last time you tried to get bank financing on an ECR property with adjacent historical sources of soil contamination (plumbing, auto repair, car dealer/repair, dry cleaners)? Better yet, why don't you put up your own money to buy this dump.
Cline voted with the other 2 to continue negotiations, all the while justifying his vote by stating that he wanted to save the "theatre".
This is taxpayer money we're talking about, which demands double diligence and commercial property experts.
Why aren't there experts involved in the negotiation, instead of amateur politicians?

Posted by JustObserving
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2007 at 10:27 am

Thanks for the family background on Paula M, Remember November.

Is it just me, or does MP politics resemble an ever-continuing Hatfield vs. McCoy battle?

The only reasonable ones it appears are (ironically) Cohen and Boyle - a strange couple no doubt, but perhaps we should take what we can get at this point.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2007 at 10:34 am

Woah... I'm >>still<< for a recall. This doesn't end with the final defeat of this bogus deal. Support is growing.

Posted by parker bros.
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 2, 2007 at 10:50 am

If this was such a great deal then matteson investment and the church of the pioneers (Menlo Pres) would be all over it for their growing congregation.

Posted by Park it here
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2007 at 12:13 pm

I thought the biggest problem with the Park Theatre property is its complete lack of parking, which violates city zoning.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Hey, check it out. has video of Monday's meeting! I'm glad I don't have to download the entire video on Menlo's website again. It is sooooo sloooooow and I wanted to forward it to someone. I think everyone in menlopark should watch it. Fergs and friends seem pretttttty defensive. I'm wondering what is "off the record" that we don't know.

Aside from being rude, the three seem to say, "you don't have the facts..." Well, when you strip all of the fancy and/or misleading stuff, are you or are you not buying/leasing back a building? Are you or are you not supporting Duncan's dance studio directly/indirectly? Is this or is it not a handout of any sort?

What hoops do we have to jump through to get the staff to tell us what is not on the public record?

Anyway, like in the video, the three and the two are meeting Duncan tonight. Closed doors? Is there a transcript? If so, please post it! Happy Friday everyone!

Posted by Inside Analyst
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Nov 2, 2007 at 4:05 pm

Menlo Park doesn't need the Park Theater, because poor, poor stifled Ms. Maurano and others are providing all the political theater we need.

The Parks & Recreation Commission, at least two members of which, including the chair, are deep insiders to the out-of-majority party, held a "special" meeting, i.e. at an irregular time, without the benefit of any factual information in the form of a staff report.

They formed an opinion on behalf of the public to oppose a deal currently under negotation that is not final and whose terms were unknown to them, in part because they don't yet exist.

Two of the remaining three resolutions are very reasonable sounding statements of values. A third, though meaning well, trips over itself by trying to limit council's ability to look at public vs private service providers.

Had the Parks & Rec Commission waited for a complete deal, or had it simply asked to be consulted once the deal was negotiated, and had it *then* evaluated the actual terms of such a deal in light of the values stated in its resolution, I might be more persuaded into thinking this was something other than a PR ploy.

But since they met, straight-faced, without a single piece of factual information, to form an opinion against a deal whose terms are not yet defined, its pretty hard to take them very seriously.

In fact its down right scary.

And all this political entertainment happens coincidentally after a half-hearted recall effort begins over the same issue.

Hmmmmmmm. Let's see. I guess its just a coincidence that the Chairman of the Parks & Recs commission is the sister in law of the premier grey eminence of the out of power party in Menlo Park, and I guess its just a coincidence that an effort to recall the newly elected Council is happening at the same time as a hastily scheduled, ill-informed Park's and Rec meeting to oppose the deal.

The only thing sillier than the recall is the P&R commissions "resolution." And the only thing sillier than that is Council's in-graceful handling of their "report" during the council meeting.

Because Council shot itself in the foot, everybody is missing Ms. Maurano's transparent political theater.

Personally, I can't imagine that Menlo Park will negotiate a contract that I would be willing to support, but I'm smart enough to look at a deal before I say no.

I dont think disagreeing with a decision-making body is grounds for impeachment, but I dont doubt for a minute that Ms. Maurano's activities were political theater that were directly or indirectly coordinated with those behind the recall.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2007 at 5:23 pm

Lets separate the obvious political factionalism from the issue in front of the council. Those wanting a recall should make their case on another thread.

Does anyone in either camp really think that the city should be spending $2.2M or any other amount of money to purchase a private dance studio on El Camino?

Is that going to be our strategy for preserving the downtown? What's next, purchasing our old town barber shop or the ice cream shop?

Why are we wasting our time with the El Camino visioning process if the council is going to make ad hoc decisions like this?

We don't need any more details to know that this is a bad idea.

The best thing that Kelly's loyal supporters can do for her is to convince her to drop this crazy idea, not spend their time here trying to convince the rest of us that all opposition to the Park Theater project is politically motivated.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2007 at 5:43 pm

What started the recall idea was the fact that they even considered negotiating, talking or trying to strike a deal. I think that reckless spending is grounds for removal. After this scheme is long behind us, what else can we expect. Start the recall talks or process all over again? Purge bad reps.

It doesn't matter what the details are. $2.2m, $2.0m, $700k, $150k, $1.00... all of it is too much. Government and one private business? Decrepit building?

No talks. No negotiation. No more Fergusson. No more Cline. No more Robinson.

There are some really good points made here in this thread. And it all boils down to something very very very simple.

Posted by outside analyst
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 2, 2007 at 5:57 pm

"Because Council shot itself in the foot"
Make that Fergie, Robby and Cline, don't include Cohen and Boyle in this crime. Not only did those 3 shoot themselves in the foot, they gave lethal ammo to the other "out of power" folks.
Staff is under orders to get this deal done by the end of the month, before council votes for a new mayor. The commission staff liasion is a "company" person, so how could the commission expect to ever get any "facts"?
This is taxpayer money we're talking about, not private investor capital, for a private benefit,( specious public benefit some half century away). So now you have Robby and Cline, Paula's former fellow Parks commissioners who jumped on the "Save Bayfront Park" bandwagon and "we'll listen to the public" to get elected to the council, as the Duncan "negotiating committee". Hard to see any impartial, arms length negotiation with our tax dollars with those guys in this process.
Seems predisposed to working out a deal behind closed doors, only then needing the Mayor to seal the deal.
Sounds like time to get the county Grand Jury involved, perhaps a civil lawsuit by outraged taxpayers.
Strikes me that if Paula had a political axe to grind, she would have worked the press before the council meeting. Didn't appear that way. Hear that she's a CPA, like her brother, so what's wrong with her questioning the fiscal prudence of this enterprise on behalf of the taxpayers and the lack of due process with no commission review?
Now we're informed that Robbie has just 'fessed up on the city email blog to bad form, but then going on to defend protocol and his support of this smelly deal.

Posted by Inside Analyst
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Nov 2, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Ah. This is amusing Theater indeed.

So "Joanna" who has posted to this "Parks & Rec" thread too many times to count "knows" what "started the recall." Even though those organizers are anonymous.

So these seemingly unrelated acts are in fact related political theater.

And, "Joanna" the reasonable, she who will impeach elected officials
who even think about crossing her, one iota; she who rages imperiously on the pages of this thread, is loaded for bear. How dare this council even think thoughts that she will not allow.

This is a scary group.

Is "Joanna", Mary Gilles, the sister-in-law of the women who led the uninformed, unscheduled Parks & Recs "decision?" The eminence grise of Menlo Park's Right Wing?

Outside Observer: You are naive if you think that "Joanna's" local political faction isnt working this issue as a conscious act of political theater to acquire political power in Menlo Park.

You are right to pay attention to the deal, but are wrong if you think you have the facts to comment on it intelligently You don't. The facts are unknown, and they may not even exist, cause their is no deal per se. Only a subcomittee attempting to negototiate one and some newspaper reports.

Posted by Inside Analyst
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Nov 2, 2007 at 6:38 pm

Ah. They gave "lethal ammo" to the out-of-power folks.

"Inside Analyst" asserts that "staff is under orders to get this done by the end of the month." Is it even true? Is she now asserting that Council gave secret (and hence illegal) instructions to staff?

He "hears" that Paula is a CPA.

And if she had an axe to grind, being the sister in law of someone who is posting anonymously here, and who began the recall over the same issue, she would "have gone to the press".

But showing up in front of the press, on a microphone, unannounced on the city agenda as is normal, in a city council meeting and THEN MAKING NEWS doesnt constitute "going to the press."

NO siree, no pre-meditation there, an no mediation operation.

Posted by outside analyst
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 2, 2007 at 6:50 pm

Hey, Inside A., are you in the unincorporated part Fair Oaks?. Do you pay taxes and vote in the city limits?
There are enough publicly known facts of the proposal:
Proposed purchase price of $2.2M, well in excess of FMV. Ask any broker/lender.
It will take months to complete due diligence, i.e, environmental analysis of soil contamination, structural evaluation, etc. Of course, we the taxpayers foot the bill for that.
The lessee gets all the benefits without any liability risk for exclusive use of the property.
Staff is spending countless valuable hours on this political pork barrel instead of taking care of neglected infrastructure in the rest of the city.
The comments made by the three to justify their Yes votes speaks volumes as to how weak and inexperienced they are in engaging Duncan, "negotiating" something for the public "benefit"?. Don't see it.
The three have set up a rallying cry for the "out of power" folks to retake the council next election.
Risk/reward ratio is well below what any reasonable, unemotional investor would expect. Not worth further negotiations.

Posted by harlequins wild
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 2, 2007 at 7:29 pm

For sure, IA, Joanna/Steve is no more MG than you are some former councilmember/significant other. Guess who? Could it be lawyer or engineer in real life?

Posted by Inside Analyst
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Nov 2, 2007 at 8:02 pm

In my opinion it seems like a non-starter, but its not done a deal, what's known publicly is stale, at best, and people keep making the assumption that negotiators will support the deal. Why wouldn't prices change in a negotiation? What if the city gets a recurring public benefit worth millions? How do you know until you hear the deal?

Personally, I don't fundamentally mis-trust this council, and I'm not waiting for them to make a mistake so I can abuse them. I'm sure council is honestly trying to create public benefit, if only in their own minds.

When the deal comes out, I intend to analyze it, and if its as a bad as I think it may be, I'll work to kill it. But I trust that council can be prevailed upon to kill it, and I'm not using it as the center of a conscious and transparent effort to unseat decision makers.

Here are two historical points:

Anonymously, this is same political crowd that whined like stuck pigs about the Derry negotations, crying "Secret negotiations" and all sorts of nonsense, but after that Referendum group reduced the project modestly but appropriately, and got $2M for the city in direct cash benefits the whines became wimpers and the "secret negotiations" and all the other nonsense about the process suddenly got dropped, and they looked for something else to howl about.

In 2002 when this same crowd was whooping it up trying to get elected, two council members who opposed the Sand Hill Road Widening project, were appointed to negotiate road widening. The main critic at that time, was the very same grey eminence whose sister-in-law is the Parks and Rec commissioner who lead the uninformed decision. She claimed it was putting the fox in charge of the henhouse and nothing would come of it.

But three things happened.

1.) Those two council members negotiated a substantive deal that widened the intersection to a "standard"-sized intersection design that performed better than the sub-standard sized one that Stanford had proposed.

2.) they negotiated that Stanford would build the project, and be completely responsible for its costs. Previously Stanford proposed that Menlo Park build the project and Stanford capped its financial contribution, pushing construction over-run risks onto Menlo Park.

(Ultimately over-runs cost Stanford millions, because construction costs escalated from the world demand shock of BRIC countries, particularly China, on prices of concrete and steel.) It would have cost Menlo Park millions in over-run, except the "foxes" did a good job of guarding the henhouse.

3.) When the council came back to vote, both of the negotiators voted against the deal they negotiated, the one that saved Menlo Park millions in construction costs, even though the deal passed 3-2 with the rest of council. They negotiated a deal that widened the intersetion, got a better insection, saved the city millions in financial risk, and was acceptable to the community, even the political opponents who said the would never negotiate in good faith, even though they themselves personally voted against it.

They knew they would lose 3-2, but they didnt try to negotiate a bad deal that would get rejeted by the rest of council, they negotiated a good deal.

It just goes to prove that people sitting in the council chair work for little and really try to do their best for the community, and they take some stuff and some mis-trust that no-one deserves to take.

Cut these guys some slack. I've been around paying taxes to Menlo Park for a long, long time and I've seen more from the inside than most will ever see.

What I'm saying is that there's a difference between opposing an issue , and using the issue as part of a calculated campaign to stir up bad feeling in the community.

Give council a chance to bring something back, and let's see what it is.

... and then we'll kill it! :)

Posted by disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2007 at 8:09 pm

The vicious personal attacks in this thread are frightening. It's possible to attack concepts or decisions without attacking people. As much as I disagree with the council pursuing this project and disapprove of the effect of surprise from the P&R commission, I believe the individuals involved are sincerely interested in what's good for Menlo Park. Why not try to work WITH them than attack? Oh yea, it's an election year coming up.

Posted by anonimitious
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Nov 2, 2007 at 9:03 pm

Gee, that's quite a PC history lesson.
Millions in public benefits from Crittenden's magnanimity? Heck,let's pay him $3M since he deserves more public money. We get lifetime passes to Rocky Horror PS, midnite, costumes provided. Since we'll absorb all the toxins from the bldg and dirt, what lies beneath will make us even freakier.
Ok, let's talk Sand Hill. Negotiating for MP's benefit? Give Stanford carte blanche to max out it's lands? Been out to Rosewood lately? The blue suits at SM must have been laughing all the way to the bank. Couple of phone calls from Stanford Mgmt., chump change. Simon says we get more shopping opps., hotels, highrise med centers, all thanks to those astute Menlo council negotiators that gave us the freeway when SM thought it would be only a 2 laner. Funny those negotiators forgot about the "stale" environmental review.
Go look at Sand Hill and see what your "standard intersection" has wrought. Gridlock at 5 o'clock. Then go look at Santa Cruz and all the residential streets in the hoods in West Menlo. Same caravans that avoid the Sand Hill parking lot. Some deal you brokered.
Made SS look like Fergie in her last hurrah.
Pay your taxes but stay out of our business.

Posted by Parks and Rec rocks
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Nov 2, 2007 at 9:26 pm

As a former MP commissioner whose commission went head to head vs the council (a previous one), I don't see anything sinister or conniving about the P&R commission or the presentation. Except for the planning commissioners, the residents who volunteer for commissioners are not treated very well by anyone. Commissioners put a lot of time and energy into the work for no reason other than we care about our city. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was, as a commissioner, to be blindsided by the council.

Look what happened to the Arts Commission--none of whose members had any interesting relatives as far as I know--and their reaction to what they perceived as mistreatment by the Council, and then tell me that you think P&R was wrong to speak out. I would think that any commission whose members truly cared about their mission would do the same thing in a similar situation.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Maybe this makes sense, maybe it doesn't.

Imagine this: I am mayor with enough council members to make a majority, and my sister proposed that my city give her $1m.

I won't outright say no, and I won't outright say yes. Yes, others may not like the way it sounds. Tough. The triumvirate (wow... finally a use for this word all these years after Latin class) "votes" to go ahead with it. Not saying yes of course, and not saying no.

You citizens may or may not understand the complexities of this proposed deal. You have no right to question this. You don't even know the details about the deal between me and my sister. Don't forget... she proposed this deal. That's all. No checks have been signed yet.

Doesn't it seem silly for me and my crew to keep talking to my sister about this $1m deal?

So should we wait for the details of my sister's deal? Or is it safe to assume that you have every right to insist that I no longer talk about this deal.

Now, I made that very simple. I'm not even talking about environmental hazards, 5-car parking lots, private business or public money. That would make it too complex.

Like someone above said... look at Sand Hill, Rosewood, the Pool, the auto mall, el camino real...


Posted by high and mighty
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 2, 2007 at 11:27 pm

Pope Paul, your former neighbors are aghast that you still think you can meddle in MP affairs. You could have rectified the NTMP disgrace, but you abandoned us to the Eric D's.
Quo vadis, Miami, PSrpings, Vegas?
You hit it big time, you're a made guy.
So but out of our struggles.

Posted by OutsideThePoliticalMachine
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 3, 2007 at 10:44 am

Nothing like small-town politics! Anybody want to reveal anything else to an outsider - this is like a good book that you want to continue reading to the very end!

Posted by InsideThePoliticalMachine
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 3, 2007 at 11:52 am

Sure, there's tons of juicy stuff going on here under anonymous cover. What's more interesting is that everyone has to speculate about who everyone else is based on what's known or stated in the anonymous posts, and many, many people are revising their history and positions which is even juicier than the initial stuff.

Unfortunately a lot of what's posted here assumes or implies some non-factual information, and so its hard to sort out the real facts from the false facts.

Posted by Ghostof Halloween Past
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 3, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Anonimitious: You're singing to the choir, honey.

The choice was between a bad intersection costing Menlo Park millions in overruns, and gridlock, or a "good" intersection costing Stanford millions in over-runs and gridlock. You choose. Lesser of evils.

Or maybe you think denial or wishful thinking would have produced something better. Or maybe you actually think MLN wouldn't have built it after all. Do you really believe that?

SS was rightly scared to death that the next Council (read: MLN) were gonna build the bad intersection on Menlo Park's nickel. Hate him as much as you want. He was smart enough to get the city the lesser of evils. The subtler point is that people are assuming RC is "for" the Park Theater simply because he is negotiating the deal.

Posted by apparitions come and go
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 3, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Ah, yes, the new regionalism! Look at all these funding sources. If we don't get ours then somebody else will.
It's gonna happen, no matter what, so let someone with deeper pockets pay for it. Bigger the better, and it won't force us to shorten library hours.
Growth inducing impacts, no problem, that's just more votes when we run for county office. If we build it they will come, all the more voters to enjoy our small town quality of life, what's left of it. Nostalgic? We've got this boarded up movie house over here we can all tell our great great grandchildren that they only have to wait another 5 years to patronize.
SS is sure pushing the Dumbarton Rail in the Almanac.
HR is is our grade separation champ. Don't forget the bike tunnels, teh heh!
Can't they just say no, it's not necessary?

Posted by endisnear
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 4, 2007 at 7:46 am

Just heard the Park Theater issue will be aired on Tuesday (11/6)


Posted by pfffffft
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 4, 2007 at 9:03 am

The Park majority has made its decision and will announce it on Tuesday. So much for public process. You thought your input mattered?

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 4, 2007 at 10:12 am

This is exciting. Do you know what the announcement is going to be? ANy details are appreciated. Thanks.

What venue will the announcement be made in? Online?

Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 4, 2007 at 3:26 pm

They couldn't come to an agreement. Cost too much.

Posted by smoke and mirrors
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 4, 2007 at 4:06 pm

Cost too much? Really? Just wait to see what the political costs will be to those 3 when they try to rationalize this insult to the voters intelligence and the taxpayers fiscal conscience.

Posted by go bears
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 4, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Kelly and Heyward's spouses work fro Stanford, so unless Cohen takes over as mayor, don't expect any further progress on the ECR empty car dealerships on Stanford land, despite all this nonsense about "visualization". More legislative/ traffic gridlock on that part of ECR, if not all of it.

Posted by gethistoryright
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 4, 2007 at 10:27 pm

Anyone that continues to believe Stanford gave MP a good deal when MP agreed to widen the bridge is looney. Money was never the issue; it was peanuts to Stanford, but the bridge was MP's only bargaining chip to keep open the possibility that eventually Stanford (our dear beloved Stanford) would get good old PA to open Alma to Sand Hill and take at least their fair share of the traffic load.

Now you can see the result of MP agreeing to open up the traffic lanes on Sand Hill. A much larger hospital, not being built to really support the local population, but a regional hospital, so the elite academic doctors can bring in more cases of the exotic type to practice and teach their wares. Then add on 250,000 square feet more to the shopping center. Poor MP taking an unfair share of the traffic, not getting any of the sales tax revenue. Have you ever heard such a ridiculous argument for adding more to the shopping center -- well other centers are expanding so we must expand to keep up. Greed, its greed nothing but greed.

Next Stanford is determined to fill their now vacant car dealerships with medical offices; more traffic.

SS continues to believe this is a living legacy to his time on council, just as he still aspires to be once again on council, so that he can push train electrification, high density housing and Dumbarton rail, just to name a few of his gifts to our city. How Dumbarton rail ever got this far is beyond sense; a one-way rail system whose sole purpose is to bring workers from the east bay to our side. Now at 600 millions and climbing and even though they only have enough cash for one half the project, they want to start and do it in phases. Not the way it was planned and certainly doing nothing for MP except subjecting the kind residents of Suburban Park to the all the rail noise and pollution etc. SS still wants it.

Now council wants another study of grade separations. Why? Well it will keep some City staff occupied I guess. Silly How many times can you study this?


Posted by no schmidt fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2007 at 7:19 am

Ghost, you many not recall, but Jellins was the only councilmember who expressed concern about protecting west menlo residential streets from spillover traffic if the new Sand Hill filled up. Now we see Monte Rosa, Oak and Santa Cruz only worse than before.
Schmidt appeared to not really care that this outcome was exactly what the EIR forecast (it was 5 years old at that time!). You should watch the video sometime.
Borak said before the meeting that Schmidt tried to pressure her into voting in favor of it.
Schmidt never consulted with the west menlo residents. He just railroaded this thing through for its political mileage.
So much for his concern about protecting the residents of Menlo Park.
That's why he could not get any support to run for council the last time. People see right through him.

Posted by repeat
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 5, 2007 at 7:47 am

SS has just morphed into HR. Same old song.
Same time, same station. Tune in and watch sometime.

Posted by go bears
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2007 at 8:34 am

Altough both Stanford alums, SS could wear his Big cardinal/white S cap while he gave them a home run to build out their turf, but Robbie has to take his off when he does city business, because his spouse works there. Same with Fergie. So Boyle and Cohen are the only Stanford alums who can wear theirs, but maybe backwards while they take turns playing pitch and catch with Stanford over the next year?
How about Cline to umpire? Should be a good Sand(hill)lot game.

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 5, 2007 at 10:05 am

P&R Commission had and has every right to meet about this. Waiting to be included in on the secretive meetings and dealings would be irresponsible.

This whole thing started by Duncan asking for a $500k GRANT. Do you think that the secret negotiations will end with Duncan giving Menlo Park $500k?

Maybe we can pay $2m to use the Park Theater for 55 days?

P&R Commission, like all of us, want this deal to die. Do not pass go, do not give $500k (haha).

I'm hoping the support for the recall will gel quickly because I am tired of this "gamesmanship." Political theater? No. I think it is about right and wrong.

It almost doesn't matter what happens tomorrow night. I'm so fed up with these three kings.

Posted by Stay focused please
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2007 at 10:08 am

What does the debacle of the council's shut-down of Paula Maurano's presentation have to do with 5+ year old history of Sand Hill Road? Maybe that's a topic for another thread, but somehow issue-creep has derailed discussion of a much more timely (and important) topic: the muzzling of opinions during a public meeting.

Posted by go bears
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2007 at 10:44 am

the tentaive coucil agenda shows a closed session on the 27th for grade separations. The point being that Sand Hill, Park Theatre, grade separation all seem to have same closed door discussions, little opportunity for public input/scrutiny. As we recall, Sand Hill 3-2 council vote was around the same time in November around Thanksgiving, Park Theatre when most people were away on summer holiday. Detect a pattern here? Like maybe schedule council action items when voters have time conflicts and can't attend? It's like there isn't enough time for debate because of this or that looming deadline dictated by Stanford, Duncan, etc. What happened to transparent/inclusive process?

Posted by Rory Brown
Almanac staff writer
on Nov 5, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Rory Brown is a registered user.

There is no Nov. 27th closed session about grade spearations in Menlo Park. According to the city clerk, the listing on the City Council's tentative agenda should be for a STUDY session on grade separations, and the mistake will be fixed soon.
Study sessions, unlike closed sessions, are open to the public.

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