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!

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.

1. How many people have been accused by Kathy McKeithen?

I believe I have only a partial listing but, as far as I know, the list of those who Kathy has directly or indirectly (through her lieutenants) attacked or accused of some wrong-doing at some point include:

* Highlighted names come from a commenter

4. Why does McKeithen attack the Atherton Police?

I know that Kathy McKeithen has opposed the town’s renewing Parcel Tax in the last two campaigns for it.  Why does she oppose the Parcel Tax, which is used primarily to help maintain the level of support that Atherton residents want from their Police Force?  For someone who claims to be trying to improve town finances, this seems rather strange.  Why has she made accusations against the police?  Why does she seem to have such a bad rapport with the police, whose union has chosen to videotape most all of the council meetings?  Why do they think that residents should be made aware of what McKeithen is doing?  What does the police force know that residents don’t know?

24. What motivates Kathy McKeithen to cast aspersions towards the Atherton Police?

It seems that Kathy McKeithen will jump on any opportunity to condemn and point her finger at the Atherton Police.  While virtually every other Atherton resident I ever speak to is absolutely ecstatic about the job the Atherton police do, McKeithen has been known to froth at the mouth anytime she gets a chance to accuse the police of something.  I would love to know what underlies this set of hostilities, which seems to go way back.

Extremely concerning is how, motivated by her publicly-known hostilities towards the police, she has twice worked in opposition to fellow council members to defeat the Town’s Parcel Tax (which is designed to primarily fund Police costs, I think), even though its defeat cripple town finances, since a portion funds other town needs.  How is trying to defeat the Parcel Tax in the best interests of residents?  Aren’t there other, far more effective ways to address organizational concerns with the police, if that is what her concerns are?

I find it highly unprofessional for one of the town’s most senior council members to level the kinds of vague accusations that Kathy utters fairly often in public—but in the case of the police, towards a highly professional organization that not only works full time but also puts their lives on the line to protect and defend us.  Nevertheless, it appears from the range and breadth of her accusations, no person, council colleague, volunteer committee or respected profession is immune from finger-pointing by McKeithen.  With behavior like this, my analysis suggests that either she just completely lacks the kind of effective people management skills that are needed to address her “fears” in an appropriately professional way (such as meeting with the Police Chief) or her reasons for issuing utterings like this are not actually to get to the bottom of what is happening—but possibly just to spread fear, doubt or hurt reputations.  It is really difficult to understand what the public benefit could be of a council member talking like this at a council meeting but here, according to Almanac reporter, Rene Batti in this linked Almanac article, are McKeithen’s latest vague, unsubstantiated insinuations involving the police:

The difficult job of serving on the Atherton City Council for the past 11 years has been made nearly intolerable by incidents including vandalism at her home, an unexplained incident of police cars driving around her property . . .” Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen declared during the Jan. 18 council meeting.

Regarding references she made during her statement to problems she’s encountered outside the council chambers, Ms. McKeithen told the Almanac that “odd things are happening.”

One example: Multiple incidents of vandalism to her irrigation system. The system’s hoses were “cut up into 12 or 15 pieces,” and hers is the only residence in her neighborhood to experience the vandalism, she said.

Although she said she suspected the incidents were occurring while she was away at Wednesday council meetings, police department records show that the two occasions that officers were called out were on July 22, a Friday, and Aug. 22, a Monday, according to Lt. Joe Wade. But the reports say that it was unknown when the vandalism occurred.

Lt. Wade said that on the second call to the McKeithen home, officers were told that there had been a third incident as well.

Officers had offered to begin patrol checks around the house after the first call, but the offer was declined. In August, the patrol checks were requested, he said.

There are no suspects or leads in the case, Lt. Wade said.

Ms. McKeithen said her concern over police cars “on at least one occasion totally circling my house” stemmed from an incident reported by a family member after she returned home. When she called the police department and was told officers hadn’t been at her house, she called other jurisdictions and was told none of their officers had been in the area.

She questioned whether the incident had actually occurred until neighbors asked her what the police were doing at the house that day, she said. But “no one in the police (department) will own up to that happening,” she added.

Another incident involved “two people dressed in black in my backyard, with knapsacks,” she said. Suspicions of being targeted also led to her hiring a professional to check for eavesdropping “bugs” in her house, she said.

When asked who she thought might be vandalizing and trespassing at her home, she said, “I have no idea.”