21. Why don’t residents know what lies behind a string of rash council actions?

During the town’s Library EIR comment period, the council took a string of rash action that has been largely unexplained and rather concerning.  What are residents to make of the council’s abrupt dismissal and disbanding of the Town’s General Plan Committee?  It appears to be a strategy by council members to “tighten their grasp on power” (phrase stolen from a report on Egypt’s Military)  ahead of town action on the Final Library EIR.  The first any of us heard of it, was when one member sent the below message:

FROM: david@davidhenig.com
DATE: Wed, 9 May 2012 16:55:00 -0400
SUBJECT: Atherton General Plan Committee disbanded

I just received notification from the Interim City Manager
thanking me for my service to our community and informing me that “Council voted to dismiss the General Plan Committee and assign the duties and powers to the Planning Commission.”

David Henig
59 Sutherland Drive
Atherton, CA 94027
M 415.205.3900 H 650.234.8375

For the council to take such an action, without legitimizing either the reason or the timing with the community is yet another instance of council secrecy, disrespect for the intelligence of residents, disrespect for process, failure of the council to act in the best interests of the town (rather than the Library Project), and a failure of the proverbial “transparency.”  Such rash actions also alarmingly suggest that the council is not being led by Mayor Widmer, who we think of as being more deliberative but is still being directed by Kathy McKeithen (who, by virtue of having a guarantee of Mr. Widmer’s support in such screwball tactics) seems capable of doing whatever she wants in support of the Library Project).

It seems painfully obvious that this council action simply stems from McKeithen’s disinterest in having the General Plan have any opportunity to weigh in on the Library Project — since its members included Council members Carlson, Lewis and former council candidate, David Henig — all of whom support the notion of democracy in Atherton, unlike (McKeithen, Dobbie or Widmer), and would like to see residents having a say on the Library Project.  More troubling, however, is that McKeithen is also now attempting to install her own lieutenants—her husband, Smith McKeithen, and her henchman Dobbie’s wife, Pat Dobbie—on the Planning Commission.  (Also, not unlike the Egyptian military’s tactics.)

Here is what one resident had to say about this move by the council, which really sums up the issue:


In my opinion, the rather sudden dismissal of the General Plan Committee accompanied by the granting of its authority and powers to the Town Planning Commission will give the Council increased ability to determine the outcome of all issues related to the future development of our community: e.g. changes in zoning and approval of large projects such as proposed construction of the Town Library in the park.

I fully expect the next move to be a dissolution of the Town Center Committee – another citizen group that has met for more than two years to study the needs of the community for new administrative and police facilities and that has presented two fine architectural visions for such a project.

When the opportunity for resident involvement is taken away, the very few will wield the hammer of their personal agenda. I would like to know Where, When, Who and Why this decision was made.

Sheri Shenk
66 Virginia Lane


1 thought on “21. Why don’t residents know what lies behind a string of rash council actions?

  1. In 2004, McKeithen tried to pass a Real Estate Transfer Tax. Just before passing the tax, the council learned the town would have to vote on the tax. By becoming a charter city, it will be easier for the council to pass taxes and tax increases. Right after disbanding the General Plan committee, McKeithen, Dobbie, and Widmer proposed switching Atherton from a General Law City to a Charter City.

    This will require changing the town’s General Plan, but there is no General Plan Committee. So a new special committee is being created to study the issue.

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