31. Is Distorting or Covering up the Truth a lie?

As acolytes go, Denise Kupperman is proving that she’s truly ready to continue McKeithen’s legacy on the Atherton City Council.  Here are my Top Ten best,  Kupperman campaign distortions:

# 10: Photo to the right: Whose kids are these?  Denise has no kids of her own.

# 9:  “I support whatever the people of Atherton decide about Measure F.”  Ms. Kupperman, as the unbiased, guiltless candidate said this to the crowd during the candidate forum, where yet again, she failed to mention that she was the Chair of the Library Committee.  Yeah, right!  She gave $1,000 to the Yes on F campaign, the most of any donor and that is even more than she gave to her own campaign.  (She didn’t give anything to her own campaign, in fact.  She only loaned her campaign $250, which means she is intending to get it back, if she can get others to put their money in to her campaign.)

# 8:  “Experience Atherton Needs”  — Another great campaign slogan.  Is the experience that she’s talking about McKeithen’s, which Denise will definitely wield like the puppet being manipulated by McKeithen in absentia?  Or maybe the experience she is talking about is the experience that residents of Atherton have gone through in the past year, while trying to fight the effort by Kathy McKeithen and Kupperman to steamroll the library project through over all of their dead bodies?  We think she means both.

# 7:  “Keep Atherton Safe” — campaign slogan.  McKeithen’s probable motive for wanting to move the library to the park is to strip the library out of the town center, to hurt the fundraising efforts of the Town Center redevelopment group.   It has seemed that she’s against the town, in general, and against the Police Department in particular.  McKeithen might reluctantly see new Town Admin offices get built but it appears that she’ll fight like a demon to keep the town from building offices for their police, as she clearly wants to out-source police services to the sheriff, even though 99% of the rest of the town loves the town police.  Kupperman, if elected, is going to have a hard time going against that opposition, so, even though her literature is spewing more and more lovey-dovey statements (“Protect and support public safety services”), we have to assume she’ll be avidly supporting outsourcing of police services, just her mentor, McKeithen.  This slogan, however, will definitely put everyone off the trail.

# 6:  “Paid for by Elect Denise Kupperman for Atherton City Council 2012″  — one of the biggest fictions of all!  Denise reported having paid for her Almanac ads in the amount of $857.  In her disclosure forms, not only doesn’t she report getting the services that would create her lovely postcards and brochures, she hasn’t paid for anything!  (For more on this, we refer you to the number 1 lie below.)

# 5:  “Preserve our rural character and trees”  — the great illusion that Denise cares about the environment.  Her landscape plans for Holbrook-Palmer Park read like something out of an Alice in Wonderland setting.  For the library project, a land-scrapers dream “Grand Promanade” that knocks out a half-dozen heritage trees and some thirty or so other fully-grown trees, stands out as the main evidence that she has no interest in preserving rural character.  In fact, she seems to like “artificial” character much better.

# 4:  “Experience. Independence. Integrity. Common Sense.”   Love it.  Don’t know which part of this slogan is more untrue and laughable.  Think we’ll go with “Integrity.”  Zip, there.  We’ve already covered the “Experience” she provides in # 8.  Common Sense?  Does common sense lead most people to lie their asses off during a campaign?  I don’t know, possibly.

#3:  “Committee Member: Environmental Programs Committee”   Kupperman and McKeithen attacked this committee and had it suspended for almost six months, because it posted some questions about the environmental impacts of moving the library to the park.  Kupperman then applied to join this committee after its regular members had resigned and was approved as a member by her allies on the council over the summer—however the committee has not met since having Kupperman added. Does using this “membership” have a purpose?  Is she trying to confuse people about how “environmental-minded” she is.  Obviously, since there is no real substance to this reference.

# 2:   “Committee Member: Atherton Library Committee”   Kupperman’s been the freaking chair of this committee, the mastermind and the organizer.  Simple understatement?  I don’t think so!!  She buried this in a list of four committee memberships and is running away from her disastrous record as leader of this failed committee.

# 1:  “Working for Atherton”  – A campaign slogan on lots of her fliers.  Except, actually, through breaking news, we’ve just learned that Ms. Kupperman is working for the SEIU, which represents the San Mateo County Librarians who want a big, new library in our park and they don’t want Atherton residents screwing up their plans and they are probably paying all of her campaign costs and just possibly, they are writing all of her campaign propaganda and have authored all of the bullshit dished by Kupperman in all of this idiotic campaign literature, to make it seem like Kupperman is not involved in any way with the library.  So reassuring!

30. What kind of City Council do we want?

Atherton residents will soon be submitting their ballots with their choices for two candidates to fill seats on their council—which, for the first time since the new millenium, won’t include Kathy McKeithen.  It is the town’s first opportunity to make a break from the polarizing style she brought to the council and seat new members committed to representing residents’ preferences, rather than their own ambitions.

Even residents who don’t pay much attention to town events are aware that the council, throughout Ms. McKeithen’s long tenure, has been characterized by incivility, personal attacks, expensive settlements, inappropriate and excessive investigations, revolving door of senior staff and simply ridiculous amounts of controversy.  Expensive litigation over Lindenwood urns, the Performing Arts Center and Menlo-Atherton field lights all come to mind, as do attacks on all town officials and improper charges and rebates of building and construction fees, as major drains on town funds and good will. McKeithen was perennially front and center of all of these problems.  Luckily, we have a chance to break with this past, except for one disturbing notion:  that apparently McKeithen has put forth a candidate to serve as her “heir apparent.”  That candidate is Denise Kupperman, the long-serving chair of the ALBSC, McKeithen’s Library Committee.

The Atherton Library Building Steering Committee is the group that’s been pushing McKeithen’s biggest and most polarizing of projects which is being voted on as Measure F.  So, the question must be asked: could Kupperman possibly have the town’s best interests at heart in her run for City Council, or is she, as some contend, simply McKeithen’s proxy?  Given how important the new council will be in making post-election decisions about the Library, the ballpark, the Town Center and building good relations with the new Town Manager, it is critical that Atherton residents take a very close look at Ms. Kupperman and her ethics.

Unfortunately, both Kupperman’s website and her glossy mailer that arrived at homes this past week raise serious questions about Kupperman’s honesty and integrity.  Rather than proudly assert her “accomplishments” as Chair of the Library Committee, Ms. Kupperman totally downplays her involvement. As shown here, Kupperman calls herself a “Committee Member” and buries Library Committee at number 3 in a list.  No mention of being the chair of this notorious committee!  Which strikes me as rather two-faced.  If everything the Library Committee did was perfectly legit, as Ms. Kupperman and her “Yes on F” friends so stridently assert, why does Kupperman completely fail to mention her leadership role as the Chair of that committee?  We think this omission is clear acknowledgment that, as ALBSC chair, Kupperman did not exactly demonstrate “caring civic leadership,” as claimed on her flier.  She’s white-washing her credentials, stepping away from the responsibility she’s had for the fiasco created by her Library Committee. It’s rather alarming how dishonest this presentation seems (she has no children of her own, either, as far as we know).

Clearly, McKeithen and her ALBSC supporters like Kupperman. Many members of the ALBSC and their spouses signed her Candidate Filing papers as endorsers for council candidacy—including Councilmember McKeithen and her husband, Smith McKeithen. Yet, Kupperman chooses to leave both McKeithens off her list of endorsers on her flier and her website.  In so choosing, Kupperman is clearly attempting to distance herself from McKeithen and hide the full truth about who supports her. While we can understand her reluctance to acknowledge this relationship, nevertheless, the impulse to control and limit information to prevent residents from getting the true picture is alarmingly reminiscent of the way McKeithen herself operates.

Covering up her role in the town’s great library controversy and her relationship with McKeithen are truly bad signs. We would prefer if she came clean and distanced herself by promising process reform and even to “recuse” herself from library votes for which she is conflicted.  But Ms. Kupperman is not moved by honesty and goes in the other direction.  She astonishes some in town in her effort to bolster her credentials as “Working for Atherton.”  Her flier lists her membership on the “Environmental Programs Committee” right below “Atherton Library Committee.”  Seems like this would be another one of her big, proud accomplishments — but the committee hasn’t even met once since being reconstituted with several brand new members, including Kupperman, a few months ago.  Would Kupperman be trying to burnish her own credentials with the past notable accomplishments of what had once been a very vibrant committee?  Mind you, this is the same committee that, at the end of 2011, McKeithen attacked, suspended, investigated and had pilloried in the press because of a blog post discussing the environmental impacts of moving a county library to the town’s park that she didn’t like.  McKeithen, on behalf of the Kupperman and the ALBSC, forced the committee to unplug its own website and halt work mid-stream on a $100,000 home energy efficiency program, funded with tens of thousands of both town and federal grant dollars.  Kupperman claims to have 16 years as an active and caring civic leader—and likes to depict herself working in gardens—yet she didn’t oppose McKeithen’s ongoing suspension of the EPC and the resulting waste of the committee’s efforts and funds.  Was she working for Atherton then?  Was this “caring civic leadership” that we can find credible?

In a review of other issues, Ms. Kupperman has indicated on her campaign website that she is opposed to High Speed Rail.  Yet a brief web search finds that Kupperman was recently cited by the Palo Alto Daily News as being in favor of High Speed Rail.  They wrote:

Another resident, Denise Kupperman said she likes the notion of high-speed rail combing the state with the population predictions.  “It’s difficult to implement in a suburban corridor”, Kupperman said. “But ultimately it will happen”.

So which is it? We get the all-too-familiar sense that this candidate has decided to say or do, or omit saying, whatever it takes to sound acceptable to residents. This double-speak is reminiscent of Ms. Kupperman’s obvious mentor, McKeithen.

In another disturbing incident, the recent endorsement of Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest by the Atherton Police Officers’ Association resulted in the standard McKeithen-style backlash.  The APOA was accused of improper actions by the council majority, pilloried by the Alamanac and Kupperman was seen and heard screaming at both senior and junior members of the police force and town staff.  Although the issue of outsourcing the police has not formally been raised at the council level, McKeithen’s well-known hostility towards the police and calls for outsourcing all police services to the county Sheriff, has made Kupperman’s position on outsourcing naturally suspect.  Many people suspect, in fact, that McKeithen’s preference to move the library away from the town center has everything to do with depriving the town center of the library (and its tax funding) as an anchor for town center redevelopment.  Thus, the decision on Measure F is actually tied into future decisions about police, and they have a right to endorse candidates on that basis.  However, Kupperman’s response makes frightfully clear that we could be seeing a new McKeithen-like creature rising from the ashes.

Kupperman’s glossy fliers, appearing simultaneously with “Yes on F” fliers have led many people to suspect that both have been produced using library funds (or using “donated” library graphic design support that need not be reported). At the recent Candidate’s Debate forum, people noticed that Ms. Kupperman was the only candidate of four who apparently knew all the questions in advance. She came so well prepared, she had deftly written answers for each question that she read aloud! (See the link for the video of the session.)  She sounded a lot like McKeithen, who routinely read her own scripted statements. Kupperman may not have done that much to impress the crowd with her prepared speeches, but in combination, Kupperman has indeed made a great case for being Ms. McKeithen’s successor on the council.  The question is: do we want another “McKeithen?”

What kind of City Council do Atherton residents really want?  Do we want to replace McKeithen with a canddidate with the same agenda, who is both closely tied to and beholden to McKeithen?  Do we want someone who has demonstrated how well they have learned McKeithen’s unsavory tactics for manipulating facts and information to suit her goals — nowhere done better than with the Library Project?  Do we really want to place power in the hands of someone who will verbally attack those who oppose her, including town police and staff?  Or do we want to finally shake loose of McKeithen’s toxic, agenda-driven influence altogether?

My preference would be to see us select council members with a proven track record and integrity.  Elizabeth Lewis, the incumbent, has a highly respected track record and there are two other viable candidates, each with credible commitments to serving on behalf of Atherton residents and not their pre-existing agenda.  Let’s focus on these!

29. Will Kupperman be continuing McKeithen’s work?

Kathy McKeithen has declined to run again for the council.  Yet, the decision  by Denise Kupperman, longtime Chair of the notorious Atherton Library Building Steering Committee, to run for council makes it sadly clear that McKeithen’s toxic influence may not go away all that quickly.

Could Kupperman, who for the past three (?) years has been leading the charge for Kathy McKeithen on the Library Committee, not be complicit in the well-known effort by this rogue committee to impose their will on the community but pretend that they didn’t?  Kupperman is no dummy.  She’s been at the center of the process and the public face of it. As an accountant, could she fail to have noticed that the abbreviated community process did not result in any data/input/results of a fruitful community engagement process—or even a free and open discussion by the community, which sadly has never been allowed to happened. Doubtful.

Rather, she along with McKeithen have tried to make people simply believe that our community should want what is the strong preference of the joint Library team (the Library Joint Powers Authority and the Atherton Library Committee (the ALBSC) even though they were never willing to allow us that chance to actually discuss it along with all of the related issues about competition for park use and technology use and decide.  They deny their corruption of process and try to point the finger at those who have pushed back on these tactics, to say we should feel like terrible people for not supporting the library . . . !

Ms. Kupperman has been Chair of the ALBSC and working furiously on this Library “wack-a-mole” project with McKeithen for how long?  Now, she’s spearheading  the “Yes of Measure F” campaign.  Yet, on her campaign homepage, her disclosed “Volunteer efforts include:

  • The Holbrook-Palmer Park
  • Landscape Master Plan
  • The Atherton Tree Committee
  • The Holbrook-Palmer Park Foundations and Atherton Dames
  • The Atherton Library Building Steering Committee
  • Ad hoc Grading and Drainage Committee
  • San Mateo and San Francisco County Master Gardeners

Holbrook-Palmer Park?  Landscape Master Plan?  Wasn’t that done in 2005?

Let me ask you: Who fails to even mention that they were the Chair of a very high profile town committee that is working on the biggest development project in the town’s recent history on their campaign website? 

Obviously, someone who wants to re-write her own past and distance herself from prior handiwork. Someone who is aware of the controversy surrounding how her committee operated and the disrespect it has shown to the community and prefers not to emphasize her own involvement to those who are unaware of it. Also, someone who is willing to be less than completely forthright in order to get into a powerful position, so she can continue to flog her own (not so secret) agenda.

Someone has had “Chair” removed from next to Kupperman’s name on the town’s ALBSC website.  Also, with so many of the ALBSC members listed as both supporters of hers and on “Yes for Measure F”—why isn’t Kathy McKeithen listed?

This sounds like Ms. Kupperman has learned well from Councilmember McKeithen.  I am sure, if she is elected, she will carry on McKeithen’s long-standing tradition of re-writing reality to fit her own interpretations of the truth and keeping the public in the dark, especially about her own private agenda-filled actions, so she can freely point the finger at others.

28. Will the smell linger?

With the recent decision by Kathy McKeithen not to run for her fourth term on the Atherton City Council, many residents have heaved a big sigh of relief. We may not be expecting town politics to ever be genteel but now, at least, we don’t need to fear McKeithen’s blurted “I think” accusations against her political opponents, ranting from her seat on the council about what she thinks they’ve done (with or without any factual basis) after public comments, when the accused is not in a position to speak and defend themselves because of the end of “public comments.”  It was a cute trick, if a little over-used.

Those decorum-defying episodes kept many people from ever wanting to step foot in the council chambers and were not for the weak of heart. Yet, some of us wonder if, with McKeithen off the council, it will ever be safe to take a deep breath here in Atherton.  Even at the height of her power on the council, McKeithen did not limit her tirades and attacks to her public official persona.  Many suspect that she spent late nights keeping sharp by putting people in their places through an array of anonymous personas who made appearances on the Almanac Town Square blog.  In such cases, readers got a strong whiff of McKeithen thru her typical-sounding rant, without the actual sighting.

Take this Almanac article concerning the Council’s controversial 3-2 Vote “Preferring” the park site.  Read down about 25 comments from folks all distressed about the council’s vote, to where you find a commenter writing as “Smell A Rat.”  Here’s what they write:

Posted by Smell a Rat – Use Common Sense, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2011 at 9:17 am  I would suggest that many of you who wrote would be better off spending some time educating yourself as to the facts rather perpetuating misinformation and setting forth narrow-minded views.As to Park & Rec’s comment – the 300 signatures requested that a Master Plan be done, not a survey of whether the library should go into the Park. One might reasonably ask, if a Master Plan is so important, why didn’t Ms. Fisher (former Mayor – isn’t every council member?), a member of the Town Center task forces looking into the building of a new Town Center for years, require that a Master Plan be done as part of that much larger project? Why only now when a library might be going into the Park and the library committee has already stated on its own that it believes the Park Master Plan needs to be updated?To Davena Gentry – Holbrook Palmer Park was given to the Town to be a high class Public Recreational Park. At the time the gift was being considered, the number one use envisioned by the residents of Atherton was a LIBRARY. Just where do wedding and corporate events fit into public recreation?To Atherton Voter – “The new building in the Park is a new community center with abundant meeting rooms…. why are libraries closing across the country as digital books become the norm?” There is no indication that the new library would have anything more than one small meeting room, and perhaps not even that if the community did not want it as determined in the design and size phase. As for libraries closing – why are local private schools expending millions to build state-of-the-art libraries and new libraries drawing record attendance? Your facts are simply wrong. Do the research.By law, and as the recipient of federal monies, Atherton cannot restrict use of the Park to Atherton residents. And why should we? Perhaps Menlo Park and Redwood City should consider charging us a fee? Maybe Burgess should be off-limits to Atherton residents and Little League teams? If we intend to close off the gate to Felton Gables because they won’t let school children pass over private property (and as was suggested even restrict their right to build gates that back up to the Park on their own land) why not have guards posted to keep out any non-Atherton residents? Remember they tried that along Connecticut beaches? Illegal, let alone unconscionable.To Wedding Planner – “Someone pays the town $3,000 or more to use the facilities for a few hours and the council thinks this is not profitable? How?” How? Because there is such a thing as EXPENSES. Look at the materials from the October 19, 2011 council meeting (they are on-line) that relate to continuing to rent out the park. Look at the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS of taxpayers’ money which has gone into subsidizing these mostly non-Atherton parties just the last few years. It is precisely these costly events (with no guarantee that changes can be put into place to make them profitable) that have contributed to “hard pressed [financially] Atherton”. And what about the wear and tear referred to in a recent article? The town received $1,050 this summer for a corporate event for 500-800 people. Our park effectively could not be used by residents at the time, suffered foot-traffic (at a minimum), and with overhead included probably ended up costing the residents money — but wait — maybe the residents like paying for parties to which they aren’t invited more than they like having non-residents borrow books.What a bunch of close-minded, selfish people we have become. As for the petitions, incredibly biased surveys (complete with prejudicial and misleading cover letter) and the new Town Center, I refer you to my comment posted there. For years I have read on these blogs about Atherton’s negative press. The lawsuits are nothing – they happen in the best of communities for no fault of their own. What we should be ashamed of is so much of what has been written here – the” keep everyone else out” attitude, the failure to think in terms of a community. In supposing we are somehow better than others, we have truly come off worse.


Posted by atherton voter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Oct 25, 2011 at 9:47 am[Post removed. The quote is from an anonymous poster. Please don’t attribute to a named person.]


Enough people recognize McKeithen’s style that the commenter after this quote seems to have called her by name—yet the Almanac deleted that, probably at her request.

Here’s a tiny bit of analysis:  This writer uses some very interesting techniques to argue his/her points.  In this instance, despite over 25 comments posted prior to this one which argued against putting the library in the park, this writer has an “I know better than you” arrogant tone.  She sites tons of facts—but not all are correct.  For the parents among us, also note the bullying way the writer picks out others to address directly, in a sequence of attacks. This is a frequent McKeithen technique.  Note the multiple condescending insults, the open-ended, insinuating, colorful questions and slick transitions, diverting attention from the substantive issue to her own distracting issue or accusation (even though not really relevant) while failing to address the underlying concern. Note the direction to see her own prior comments (giving herself away, really.)  Finally, notice how the closing lament is for how bad and heartless all of us have become (and the author includes herself), because we dare question using our park for a library.  This lament has a similar format to the one that McKeithen used in her signed Letter entitled: Has Atherton lost its soul over library issue? where she writes:

I realize that we have become a town of beautiful gated homes but are at risk of losing our soul.

Just a final observation about the sense of impunity and arrogance that could be read into the language of “Rat” (as other commenters called this author) when she writes:

One might reasonably ask, if a Master Plan is so important, why didn’t Ms. Fisher (former Mayor – isn’t every council member?), a member of the Town Center task forces looking into the building of a new Town Center for years, require that a Master Plan be done as part of that much larger project?

The little toss-out — former Mayor – isn’t every council member? — seems to be a gratuitous jab aimed at the councilmember that McKeithen herself—in concert with Widmer and Dobbie—kept from becoming Vice Mayor in the ordinary course of council business earlier that year. A little masked gloating, perhaps?

For those of you who are gluttons for punishment, read this Editorial by one of the Almanac Editors (who chooses not to be named), which piece could easily have come directly from McKeithen’s own typewriter.   Then read down to the comments posted by Thank you, copied below:


Posted by Thank you, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2011 at 7:55 amA big Thank you to the Almanac for seeing through the machinations of Didi Fisher, Jerry Carlson and Elizabeth Lewis. The money for the library must stay with and for the library, not a town center, police station, etc. The residents of this community are indeed fortunate that over a multi-year process, the public and their elected representatives came up with an outstanding plan to build a fabulous library in the park. I continue to disagree with Peter Carpenter. There is no precedent for taking 3-2 votes to the citizens because of “deadlock.” That’s simply grandstanding.
Posted by Thank you, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2011 at 9:11 am>>> It seems that the use of library funds use,in spite of clear statements to the contrary, are going to be used to build a new town center. Nothing could be further from the truth as they cannot be used except for library purposes. That should not be difficult to understand, “Thank you”Just a red herring. Marsala cooked up a Ponzi scheme a few years ago to have the library buy a decrepit building from the Town, which would then turn around and build a glorious new police station with that money. There are some very sneaky and horrible schemes that have been cooked up to pilfer the library money while still making it seem like it’s still for the library. That just won’t work, and won’t be allowed.

In the first comment, Thank you seems to be thanking the Almanac Editors for “seeing through the machinations of Didi Fisher, Jerry Carlson and Elizabeth Lewis” — ie for publishing her letter as an “editorial.”  (Somehow I doubt the editors of the Almanac are following that closely what is going on in Atherton or that they would, if they were talking to anyone but McKeithen, insult good people like this).  Then a little self-serving back-patting (how fortunate the town has been), combined with the standard distortion of the facts of the ALBSC’s faulty and barely one-year long process (propaganda used many times by ALBSC members), and, to finish off, throwing in of an insult of another’s “grandstanding” (of which no one is more guilty of than McKeithen herself—another common occurence).

In the second comment, Thank you uses McKeithen’s trademark “headline-grabbing,” if utterly unsubstantiated vocabulary (i.e. red herring, Ponzi scheme, decrepit, very sneaky, horrible schemes, cooked up, pilfer, etc. to demonize the intentions of others (without any facts presented).  Thank you finishes off with a wonderful authoritarian flourish, worthy of someone who thinks they control the whole town!

The question that will be answered only in the coming months and years, even after this election is behind us, is will McKeithen’s toxic influence linger, like a stench, over Atherton politics even when she’s no longer visibly on the council?

27. Does McKeithen attempt to monopolize the airwaves?

I find the campaign orchestrated by Ms. McKeithen and her apparently dwindling list of compatriots against the Athertonians group quite revealing.  In the past, McKeithen could literally control the “airwaves” about any issue, first because she and Dobbie managed to censor the council minority members by eliminating their ability to get any of their concerns onto the council agenda, and second due apparently to close relationships with editors of the Almanac, most notably Ms. Rene Batti, who has been very obliging towards the ever headline-spewing McKeithen.  Suddenly, with the emergence of the Internet and town email lists like Yahoogroups and Google Groups and even private blogs, McKeithen can no longer personally define what kind of information gets out.  This appears to be infuriating for her.

I took a look back at the articles, editorials and viewpoints published by the Almanac. While McKeithen and her friends are currently up in arms over “censorship” because the Athertonian spit out a bunch of those same individuals for attacking it, it seems that for the last few years, the only partisan views being published to the town have come from McKeithen and her Library cohorts.  The focus of all of their efforts have been to push their Library Project on the town no matter what controversy it caused (they didn’t seem to care about that).  Originally, they attacked the blue ribbon task force (“ponzi scheme” to rob the library), then the EPC (“illegal” operations), then the Town Center Task Force and more recently, they have attacked the Athertonians Yahoogroup moderators (informing the public—oops, we mean “name confusion”) — presumably because of posts that have called attention to key agenda items.

Who are the folks pushing the library on the rest of us?  I did a little research and I’ve come up with what seems like the list of McKeithen’s inner circle, whose impact, influence and power over the town, thanks primarily to a constant presence in the Almanac, are highly disproportionate to their numbers.

1.  Kathy McKeithen:  Member of Library Steering Committee, three-term Councilmember, Atherton’s representative on the Library JPA, and dominant player on many other town committees and commissions.

2.  Denise Kupperman:  CHAIR of Library Steering Committee, former member of Library Task Force

3.  Smith McKeithen:  Married to Kathy, attorney, actively attends many private meetings held by Kathy with town staff, so may serve as her private legal adviser.

  • Instigated an attack by McKeithen on the EPC due to a post on the EPC’s website discussing the environmental impacts of moving a county building away from the town’s transit hub, as stated by McKeithen during a council meeting (citation coming).
  • Letter to Almanac: Attack of Athertonians Group

4.  Jim Dobbie: Councilmember Cohort and McKeithen backer, has reliably voted with McKeithen on all library matters, appears to do whatever she tells him to. As mayor, his big initiative was to discontinue rentals of park facilities (for the library) without council approval.

5.  Ginny Niles:  Member of Library Steering Committee, former member of Library Task Force

6.  Sandy (Howard) Crittenden:  Library Steering Committee, Arts Committee (which wants space in the new library in the park), Developer

  • Almanac Article: Correcting problematic EIR finding, Crittenden is shown going out and measuring the width of Watkins Avenue with Kathy and Smith McKeithen and correcting their own EIR findings (by Rene Batti)

7.  Walter Sleeth:  McKeithen backer, other than always showing up at meetings to argue in favor of rushing through the library, or to attack the Athertonians Group, no known town role

8.  Marion Oster:  Library Steering Committee, Chair of Atherton Heritage (stands to gain new large space for her small group in the proposed multimillion dollar library)

  • Instigated an attack by McKeithen on the Athertonians’ group because of its calling attention to the agenda for the council meeting that approved an additional $86,000 of town tax funds for EIR consultants due to town controversy in November, 2011.
  • Authored the opinion that claimed that the Main House in Holbrook-Palmer Park is not historic in support of the Library’s plan to demolish the Main House.

9.  Karen Bliss:  Former Chair of Library Steering Committee, President of Friends of the Library

10.  Joan Saunders:  Friends of the Library, Library Steering Committee, Library Task Force, Atherton Arts Committee

11.  Pat Dobbie:  Wife of Jim Dobbie and vocal proponent of moving the Library to the Park.  Active as observer and cohort to ALBSC and has advocated for Library in the park to the Atherton Garden Club.  Also considered by some as likely anonymous commenter on the Almanac blog.

26. Will there be a candidate McKeithen in 2012?

Twelve years is enough time for the residents to weigh whether or not Kathy McKeithen has lived up to her representations.  These are McKeithen’s own stated qualifications and goals from 2000.

Given the recent controversies surrounding McKeithen and her Library project, these are worth a closer review.

In response to why she thought she was qualified to serve on the Town Council, McKeithen writes:

  • A broad and deep knowledge of the Council and the Town document — contracts, budgets, accounts receivable and payable, municipal ordinance, applicable law.
  • Proven track record for initiating positive change
  • Dedication to improving the Town and healing fundamental divisions.
  • Ability to communicate well and work with people.
  • Open-minded.
  • Have the time to do the job well.

I will agree with her first and last bullet points.  In fact, McKeithen’s notorious scrutiny into town documents and minute micro-managing of every aspect of town activity and town staff has been legendary . . . but I have not heard that it’s been positive. Rather, such detailed knowledge seems to have come at tremendous costs—usually in extraordinary legal fees, as the town has launched investigation after investigation, at her insistence.  Most investigations done by Atherton or outside agencies don’t seem to have uncovered any wrong-doing (other than those involving John Johns, who was seen by many as working with McKeithen to attack others).  Rather, a very large number of them resulted only in departures of town talent—not so surprising, given how demoralizing it is to have one’s reputation besmirched first, and only cleared after the fact.  Not what I would call successfully “working well with people.”

Similarly, is firing nearly all staff people with bitterness “initiating positive change?”  Is ignoring petitions signed by hundreds of residents and locking in a controversial EIR process (that cost the town nearly $100,000 more because of the controversy) “healing fundamental divisions?”  Is staunchly defending one’s own committee despite its refusal to conduct adequate public process or cooperate with other groups to do reasonable town-wide planning being “open-minded?”

2.  Responding to why people should vote for her, McKeithen wrote:

  • As someone who actively participated in the two-time defeat of the parcel tax (because like so many others I did not approve of the way the funds were being spent), I believe that I am in a unique position to understand how to begin to heal our Town and move it forward.

Is defeating the town’s parcel tax a form of healing?  It seems more like a form of punishment? It actually punishes residents and staff.  Wasn’t McKeithen, a member of the council, actually working directly against the efforts of other council members?  Is defeating the parcel tax a sensible approach to solving the problem—or is it combative and reactive, because the town really needs the funds?  Clearly, we needed the parcel tax (which passed later), so it may have been a more positive approach to support the parcel tax but cooperate with fellow council members to make sure that budgeting and proper financial oversight are established.  That could at least have been seen as an attempt to work well with others—but that wasn’t what she chose to do.  If you don’t like how your dog behaves, do you refuse to give it food?  No. You train it to behavior better.  If you choose to refuse it food, maybe you don’t like your dog.  At any rate, her statement itself exemplifies just how poorly McKeithen understands working together for solutions. She has not shown any capacity that I have seen for healing.  The stick is the only tool she uses and she uses it whenever she’s not happy (which seems to be all the time)!

  • Desire to restore credibility and trust by responding quickly and respectfully to residents’ needs, being accountable for the results, making the Town more transparent and improving communications – e.g. broadcast meetings on TV, streamline the agenda.

Far from restoring credibility and trust or responding quickly and respectfully to residents’ needs, McKeithen’s steadfast refusal to address resident concerns about her Library project has put the town through a year of really terrible convulsions. Transparency? Improve communications?  McKeithen attacked the resident email group, the Athertonians, because she didn’t like that it communicated about council agendas to residents—especially relating to the Library and EIR.  Even the City Attorney had to explain to McKeithen that she could not censor resident communications.  As the sitting council member on the Library Steering Committee, maybe McKeithen should be held “accountable” for what seems like the biggest heist of good will, trust, confidence and credibility this town has seen.

  • A belief that consensus, credibility and trust can only be built on the availability of knowledge – the opportunity to know what is happening in [our] Town and why.

The Library Steering Committee’s recommendation to the council did not sit well with lots of folks—because it did not reflect any input from any of the community workshops.  Where is the evidence that shows that residents want a library in the park?  We’d like that “knowledge” as that is what McKeithen’s steering committee was chartered to do—engage residents in making this decision.  Nevertheless, with no evidence and with McKeithen herself defending against requests for the committee to produce evidence, McKeithen’s majority approved that recommendation.  No facts, no credibility, just protests and petitions to change course.  That’s not what I call a consensus.

  • The changes that McKeithen wanted to see on the council includes:  A full and complete discussion of all the issues and the alternatives rather than a piecemeal or closed-minded approach.

Sounds good.  So why did McKeithen herself slam a resident-hosted survey showing more than 80% of resident’s wanted town-wide master planning to allow the library to be considered in the town center development.  The library wants its own piecemeal solution, and seems pretty darn closed to the idea of being located in the town center.  McKeithen accused the town center organizers of trying to steal library funds. On what basis?  Talking about alternative ideas?  On top of that, she refused to approve having a survey of the town done.  Refused even when the Park & Rec committee demanded that and when her fellow council members requested that.  Refused to allow discussion of the Master Plan on the council agenda.  In fact, McKeithen spent months suppressing discussion of the full issues that residents raised.  This seems incredibly defensive, piecemeal and closed-minded.

McKeithen convinced many to vote for her in 2000, 20004 and 2008.  She wrote then that she wanted to see the Town Council enjoy:

  • A more respectful consideration of what the citizen and other Council members have to say.

Twelve years on the council is a very long time.  Long enough for Ms. McKeithen to appear to have completely forgotten what she found so offensive when she first ran and to have become that and worse herself. Long enough that to achieve her own goal of getting more respectful consideration of what citizens and other Council members have to say (not to mention her aspiration to see term limits put in place), Ms. McKeithen should wisely choose just not to run.

Questions 1-25 below, more recent questions above

I started this blog when I realized I had dozens of questions about what was going on in our town—and too few answers.  I was able, with some effort, to consolidate what seemed like a hundred questions into a couple of dozen, which had some logical sequence to them.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t how this blog format wants to works.  Now that I’ve gotten those out into the ether—with some intriguing and troubling answers—it is time to let nature take its course and let the blog format resume.  From now on, new posts will be the first thing a reader sees.  Older posts will shift down the page.