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.
- 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.