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Menlo Park City Council: 10 Issues, 5 Candidates

It's very helpful to know where Menlo Park City Council Candidates stand on specific actions that the Council has taken and/or will take. Heyward Robinson, Menlo Park resident, asked the candidates to answer 10 questions. Here are their responses

 

1) Do you support the City Council's resolution to oppose Cargill's plans to develop a 160-acre former saltpond?

Mueller: Yes
Carlton: Yes
Clarke: Yes
Fergusson: Yes
Bragg: Yes

2) Do you believe that the science of Climate Change is settled? (In other words, is the climate changing/getting warmer, and are human activities the root cause?)

Mueller: Yes
Carlton: Yes
Clarke: Yes
Fergusson: Yes
Bragg: Yes

3) Do you support the City Council decision to sue the High Speed Rail authority over the results of their Environmental Impact Report?

Mueller: Yes
Carlton: Yes
Clarke: Yes
Fergusson: Yes
Bragg: Yes

4) Do you support revisiting the issue of banning leaf blowers in Menlo Park?

Mueller: Yes
Carlton: Yes
Clarke: No
Fergusson: Yes
Bragg: No

5) Do you support the 2010 revisions to the City's smoking ordinance prohibiting smoking in the common areas of multi-unit housing and other public spaces?

Mueller: For the most part, yes.
Fergusson: Yes

6) Do you believe that Menlo Park needs to revise its residential zoning ordinance?  Specifically, do you support the development of design guidelines for residential development?

Mueller: In theory, Yes. But this is not a one size fits all proposition as different neighborhoods in Menlo Park have different size lots, and character.  Thus creating residential zoning guidelines may take a very long time incorporating resident input.  But it is certainly worth trying to create task forces in various neighborhoods.

Fergusson: Yes

7) All of the candidates have expressed support for streamlining the city's permitting process, particularly in regard to the M2.  In 2010, the City Council gave direction to staff to begin a phased revision of the planning in the M2 area. 

Do you support this approach and will you make this a priority of the next Council?

Mueller: In theory, yes, but I don't support how the present approach has been been implemented in reality. The present process you are referring to actually began 3 years prior in 2007. The process has taken far too long, and keeps getting shelved in the Planning Department for other high priority projects. The Staff report you cite unfortunately was not the beginning of the project. 

Fergusson: Yes

8) Do you support increasing gas taxes, implementing "cap and trade", or other market based approaches to incorporating the cost of emitting GHG's into the price of fuel and other GHG sources?


Mueller: There is no way I can do the appropriate amount of  research required to determine whether or not I would want to raise taxes on fuel locally, in enough time to answer this question.  I think it is very important to research unintended consequences.  That being said I am an ardent supporter of decreasing GHG sources and believe the City must encourage the development of an infrastructure to support electric cars. Cap and Trade is a huge subject to cover with many nuances. Some I like, some I believe need major improvement to be effective.  In short, I believe it is important the government is proactive in encouraging the curbing GHG emissions, with the caveat that it must be certain to research and balance unintended consequences that may worsen the problem and/or ignore it under the guise of effectivity.

Fergusson: Yes

9) Do you support or oppose Propositions 30 and 38?

Mueller: I am still researching both propositions as to which is most likely to effectively support public education effectively. More than likely I will support one or both. I can't envision not supporting either. I have been a bit preoccupied with the City Council election to focus on distinguishing the Propositions. 

Fergusson: Support both

10) Do you support changes to proposition 13 to remove the commercial property re-assessment provision?

Mueller:  As I mentioned above, I think it is very important to research unintended consequences.  The California economy is already hurting, and this would be tantamount to raising taxes on commercial property. In theory the idea makes sense to me, but I hate shooting from the hip on complex issues.

Fergusson: Yes



Editors note:  To learn more about each individual candidate, peruse the Patch Candidate Guide.

Alice Wu October 31, 2012 at 08:01 AM
What poorly worded questions! Take Question 3, for instance: "Do you support revisiting the issue of banning leaf blowers in Menlo Park?" A "yes" or "no" response doesn't tell us anything. If they say "yes," they might mean they want more restrictions or fewer. We don’t know because it’s the wrong question. Worse is Question 2, "Do you believe that the science of Climate Change is settled? (In other words, is the climate changing/getting warmer, and are human activities the root cause?)" Nobody, especially climate scientists who suspect human activity is causing climate change, thinks the science is "settled" -- they're learning new things all the time and changing their models to reflect that information. Who thinks we've learned everything there is to know about this subject? But this stupid question has put the candidates into a bind. They don’t want to come off as “deniers” by ignoring the question, so they agree with Heyward just to pass his litmus test. This sort of thing diminishes the credibility of Patch. And I think it reminds us why Heyward wasn't re-elected to City Council.
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 03:40 PM
@Alice, Please take note that this blog post is in the opinion section. These questions were important enough to Heyward that he asked all of the City Council Candidates to respond. Just as you have had the opportunity to write a more nuanced response in the comments section, so do the people running in this race. This is an opportunity to begin a more in depth conversation about these topics. Speaking of question 4, what is the problem with having leaf blowers in town? Why would that topic need to be revisited?
Heyward Robinson October 31, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Alice, Sorry that you don't like my questions. As for question two, the "climate change deniers" in this country generally take the position that we should not take action on limiting carbon emissions until the "science is settled". This is the official policy of the Republican Party platform. Most climate scientists believe that human's are the cause of global warming and that we need to take action immediately. I'm glad to see that we do not have any climate change deniers running for Council. For the leaf blower question, I did soften it to "revisit" instead of "ban outright". There are options short of a total ban, including banning gas powered leaf blowers but allowing electric powered, etc. Palo Alto and Burlingame have leaf blower bans (not sure of the specifics); San Mateo is considering one; Menlo Park passed a ban in 1998, only to have it overturned by referendum. I think its time for Menlo Park to join other cities that have banned them and I'm glad to see that 3 of the 5 candidates are willing to consider this.
Heyward Robinson November 04, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I emailed these questions and answers to a group of Menlo Park residents. I've received a few responses. I'm going to share these along with my replies. Heyward
Heyward Robinson November 04, 2012 at 02:21 AM
comment number 1: It is all a matter of opinion. Raise gas taxes? No one would buy MP gas. Most of us go to Costco anyway, but the small gas stations would go out of business. What does that achieve? Not everyone is physically able to ride a bike Heyward. "Litttle buses?" Free? Take you to where you need to go? ya, right. Where, when do they come and go. It is such a " political" on/off switch for votes. Rather sickens me. My grown college educated children, 4 of them, some VP's in silicon companies, and medical professionals,could not afford to buy homes in MP. How does "not" adding housing add to our well being? Traffic? It has always been here and will continue, bikes or no bikes, gas tax or no gas tax. Just saying, it is all a matter of opinion. Appreciate your interest. Thanks for sharing.
Heyward Robinson November 04, 2012 at 02:22 AM
My reply: Thanks for you reply. No one is suggesting raising gas taxes in just Menlo Park (and I'm not sure that we could even if we wanted to). At minimum, its a regional tax, although better dealt with at the state or national level. Through the League of California Cities, United States Council of Mayors, Association of Bay Area Governments, etc., council members have a great deal of influence on regional/state/national issues. With the Federal government being so ineffective on climate change, its critical that other levels of government continue to advocate for real solutions and policies. Improved public transit has to be part of the solution to climate change. Creating a transit system that can really get people out of their cars will require a lot more money than is currently available. Taxing carbon emissions (or cap and trade) is the most straightforward and equitable way to generate this revenue .
Heyward Robinson November 04, 2012 at 02:23 AM
comment number 2: This is a question? Really? 2) Do you believe that the science of Climate Change is settled? (In other words, is the climate changing/getting warmer, and are human activities the root cause?) Were the candidates aware of the clarification in parentheses, or was that added afterwards in summing this up for the results of this survey? I won’t argue that the study of climate change is a science, nor will I argue that the climate is constantly changing (in both directions). But I have to ask – what’s the purpose of asking such a question to potential council members, and how does your personal view that human activities are the root cause, or their views for that matter on this, make any difference to running this city effectively?
Heyward Robinson November 04, 2012 at 02:23 AM
my reply: This question was asked at the GRCC forum (all of the candidates were in attendance except for Dave Bragg). And yes, the clarifying statement was included, both verbally and in what was sent to Mr. Bragg. Climate Change is very much a local issue. Menlo Park, with its large Bay shoreline, is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Cities all over the Bay Area are taking steps to mitigate the effects of Climate Change and to reduce their GHG emissions. The best and most effective efforts are regional, where local governments band together to share best practices and plans. Its important that Menlo Park be a knowledgeable and active participant in these activities. In 2007, the City began a process of evaluating its GHG footprint and creating a Climate Action Plan. As one of the Council Members who helped initiate these efforts, I hope that future Councils will continue to make this a priority.
Happy in Menlo November 05, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I say this with all do respect, But it appears that Mr. Robinson is more than a "Menlo Park resident". It looks like even though he was not re-elected he wants to have a hand in City Council.... Gee, I wonder who he endorsed? Please keep in mind I did say, " With all do respect"
Heyward Robinson November 05, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I've endorsed Kelly Fergusson and Ray Mueller for City Council. That is not a secret. As a former City Council Member and Mayor, I do have some insights into issues that others may appreciate. If you want to continue this conversation, log in with your real name. Otherwise, we can only speculate about who your are and who you've endorsed.

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