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.

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.

23. What’s with all this hugely amassed library money?

Everyone solving mysteries has heard the expression “Follow the money.”  In the case of the proposed Atherton library, there clearly is something up with all that amassed library riches.  I am not suggesting that there is any indication of thievery, bribery or embezzlement going on. Rather, there are just a lot of strange facets to the facts, as we have been told them.  I am wondering if anyone has any answers to these questions:

A.  How much of Atherton’s total tax revenue is allocated for Library purposes?

B.  What percent of the town’s total income is that?

C. What has it cost us to run our Library historically?

D. Who is responsible for watching how Library funds are spent?

E. If there is so much money available, why would those deciding how to spend Atherton’s money not approve the $300,000 in seismic upgrading that (in 2009) was deemed necessary to make the existing building safe—but instead allow the space to continue to be used in an unsafe condition?

F.  Does the Library pay “rent” of any kind for its use of one of the town’s new in-town locations? If not, why not?  What about paying for the wear and tear? Electricity? Heat?  Who decides which is yes and which is no?

G. If the Library funds have to be used “only” for library purposes and they don’t pay Atherton rent on even the use of the existing facility, why would it be acceptable for those funds be used for “construction” of a new facility? Construction is not a library service.

H.  Who is authorized to make those decisions and how are those decisions made on behalf of Atherton and its residents?  Why don’t Atherton residents get to decide these questions and use their judgement?

I.  If the Library went into the park, and, for example, the Dames ran out of money to pay for the high costs of watering the lawns around the library, would the library pick up those costs to keep the park beautiful? How about adding flowers in the borders, more trees, a couple of lovely outside seating areas?  Seems like there is plenty of landscaping activity anticipated by the project EIR.

J. If demand for Atherton’s new library were so high, that it was clear that more parking spaces were needed in the park and McKeithen and Dobbie succeed in grabbing the tennis courts to use for Library Parking overflow, could the Library funds be used to pave over the tennis courts and lay new roads throughout the park?

K.  If the Library funds can be used to pave or beautify broad swaths of area surrounding it in the park, why couldn’t this work in the Town Center?

L.  If the Library funds can be used to build luxurious-sized “Community meeting rooms” that are large enough for the council to meet in and the Town Council wants to meet there—but the Library wants to hold “Movie Night” for ten-year olds—who gets to use the space?

25. Where’s the “beef” from all those “community meetings?”

I have read what pro-library folks, like Walter Sleeth, keep telling us, that in their opinion, there were plenty of opportunities for members of the community to weigh in on the library, and that we “failed to heed all the notices for giving input.”  The message is the library committee did its job and “residents failed to show up” but I’ve become skeptical that this is really true.

Jim Dobbie, council member and one of the Library’s most vocal supporters and regular contributors to the Almanac, wrote a “Guest Opinion” that said:

Calls for referendums are misplaced in this instance, where more than 50 public meetings have been held and over a dozen community meetings.

Now wait a second!  I remember when the first public notice came out about the Library meetings in June 2011.  I thought the postcard notifying us was really professional-looking:

This postcard is the first notice to the community that I received.  Did anyone get other notices that I missed?

There were these two meetings held in late June 2011.  Big letters: IMAGINE: Very casual seeming approach, in fact. It says “Drop in for an hour or Stay for the Whole Time!”  Then there was this postcard sent in September:

Seems rather bland, no specific information about where the process is.  But then, suddenly, the committee spits out a very long report and recommendation to the council to put the library in the park.  And to approve the EIR process, which by the way, the committee had already started working on in the spring, and oops, might as well approve that increase of almost $100,000 extra to pay increased EIR budget costs due to the public controversy)!

How did I and everyone else miss hearing about the other 59 meetings?  This seems like a pretty big discrepancy.  I mean, the middle of summer can be a bit laid back, I grant. But missing 59 meetings?  I don’t think so.

Trying to figure out what all was going on, I went to the Library’s modest web site up on the Town web site.  It looks like this:

Town of Atherton
Library Steering Committee

Members & Calendar

Back To: Agendas/Reports/Minutes

Site Selection Report to City Council on October 19, 2011

Report to Park and Recreation Commission on Library Building Project (October 5, 2011)

Frequently Asked Questions

Library Funding

Process to study new library options

Library Study and Atherton Library Trends

Building Programs

Environmental Assessment

Site Selection

Additional Material

Project Management Selection Related Documents

Library Steering Committee Historical Documents

Phase I Architect Selection Related Documents

New Atherton Library Community Preferences Questionaire Results

ALBSC Community Meetings on Initial Design Feb-March 2012


Kathy McKeithen (Council) Karen Bliss (Voting Member)
Michael Kashiwagi (Staff Member)
Sandy Crittenden (Voting Member)
Carine Risley (Staff Member)
Denise Kupperman (Voting Member)
Ginny Nile (Voting Member)
Marion Oster (Voting Member)

The Library Steering Committee meets on the 3rd Monday of each month at 10:30 a.m. in the Council Chambers, unless otherwise noticed. Meeting dates can be confirmed on the Community Calendar


2012 Meeting Dates

January 5February 2March 1April 5May 3

June 7

July 5August 2September 6October 4November 1

December

Quite a bit of info, yes, but when I looked through this listing, there isn’t a whole lot about all those supposed 62 public meetings. In fact, the only section of information that even pertains to the community engagement process had seven items and is appropriately called “Process to study new library options.” (I reproduce these here, so we can look at them closely.)

  1. Mailer 1 for June 2011 flyer
  2. Mailer 2 for September 2011
  3. Community Outreach Activities
  4. Focus group arts and heritage notes
  5. Focus group parents note
  6. Focus group teens notes
  7. Email note sent June 23, 2011 by Town of Atherton

I’ve already showed you # 1 and 2.  Those are postcards about meetings.  Apparently #7 was an email sent on June 23rd by the Town, which I didn’t get.  Numbers 4, 5, and 6 were actual meetings but they don’t appear to have been noticed or advertised to the general community.  These were, in fact, “Focus Groups.”  I certainly did not hear about them and there is no notice posted showing how these groups were set up. Did anyone else get notice of them?  Still, that brings the number of actual meetings up to 6.

(I have now reviewed the summaries of the Focus Groups—you should also!  What a trip!  I have to say, using these three focus group meetings to bolster their case of having “engaged the community” seems rather lame.  In one case, the “Parent Focus group,” the library folks state that they simply recruited six random moms and one nanny who happened to be hanging around the library during story time, to ask them some questions.   The “Teens” group, they  interview a classroom of Menlo-Atherton sophomores and juniors (only one of which admits to having ever been to the Atherton library) about what they want in a library—but they never ask these kids whether they’d prefer to have an extra playing field, versus a library in the park, which seems to me to be rather pointless given the task at hand.  The third focus group is comprised of a very small group of Atherton Heritage folks, with overlap into the library committee’s own members and all they talk about is how much dedicated library space they would like to have for themselves. None of these “fccus” groups talk about, let alone provide any input for the location recommendation that the group made in October.  How these even be said to be helpful evaluating the “location” options, when all they really discuss is configuration options, not relevant.  So I take it back, we are still at three meetings.

Lastly, there is one final hope: document #3, entitled “Community Outreach Activity.”  I take the time to copy this for you here:

Unfortunately, this list only reproduces the other items already reviewed with one exception—a neighborhood meeting described as “Selby/Stockbridge”, with 40 residents attending.  No summary is provided for this meeting.  Can any report what happened there?

For that matter, while there are summaries of the three pointless focus groups, there are no summaries posted for ANY of  the three “IMAGINE” community workshops, where people actually showed up.  Ms. McKeithen: Good job on the postcard design: BIG Fail on transparency about the results of those workshops! No imformation posted at all.  But, wasn’t transparency your goal? Let’s review those goals again:

  • Bring accountability, transparency, and responsive stewardship to town government
  • Create an environment that fosters respect and openness to citizens and town employees; seek input from Atherton citizens

When neither Ms. McKeithen’s Library website, nor any of the notices mention a word about the meeting process, how long it goes, what is covered, how the decision was made, is that transparent or responsive stewardship?  When people complain that they are left out on the decision-making process, and Ms. McKeithen’s own committee refuses to listen to their concerns, complaints and legitimate objections, is that fostering respect and openness?  Seeking input?  But not using it?   Like it or not, this Library project earns A BIG FAIL on process transparency and Design, Ms. McKeithen.  With those three meetings essentially being all there was from your committee, you’d think the post card could at least say something like “Last chance to weigh in on important town decisions!” rather than “Drop in for any hour or stay for the whole thing.”  That seem rather deceptive now, in retrospect.  Especially since the only ones who knew what the process was, was the library folks.

Real community engagement starts with some brain-storming but they eventually get down to serious discussions of pro’s and con’s about the use of the park and competing needs for open space.  That part doesn’t seem to have happened at all—which really makes the results of the committee worthless—since there is no evidence that any other groups who care about the park were even given a chance to weigh in.  Where are summaries of Dames input, ACIL input, Little League input, Lacrosse input, Park walkers, dog walkers, Playschool parents, etc.?  Where are the lists of the ideas that came out of the brain-storming you asked people to do?

The best explanation for where all those missing meeting are is that Mr. Dobbie is including the 33 committee meetings and special committee meetings held almost weekly by the library committee, not advertised, but promoted but which occupied committee members from apparently August, when the committee launched, until June, when the committee held its first real community meetings, advertised as such.  I think I know the difference—as do most residents.  So why would Dobbie try to make it sound like there were so many meetings with the community there?  It seems that there has been such a continuous stream of hyperbole around all those 50 or 60 so called “public meetings” that even ordinarily highly thoughtful and intelligent residents like Mr. Sleeth can start believing these fictions.

The real question is: how can Mayor Widmer (with a motto “Expect More”) condone this committee’s end run on meaningful community input, the failure to provide the community process transparency and the completely misleading messaging coming from marketing materials and members of the council, who should be protecting residents’ and the town’s interests, but who instead are very artfully attempting to convince residents that their frustration over not having any input on the project was their fault in the first place?