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Architecture board member resigns after clay pot dispute

Social media fuels backlash after Catherine Ballantyne walks off with neighbor's pot

The video footage is both clear and ambiguous: A woman slowly walks up to the front porch of a neighbor's house, looks around, picks up a clay pot filled with soil, turns around and walks away with it.

But the meaning behind those 27 seconds remains in dispute, with the woman saying that she thought she was salvaging a clay pot from an abandoned Palo Alto house and the homeowner accusing her of theft.

Because the woman in the surveillance video was Catherine Ballantyne, a member of the Palo Alto Architectural Review Board, the ramifications were swift -- a social-media backlash, anonymous accusations, and Ballantyne's resignation on Friday from the board.

Ballantyne, a landscape architect who was appointed by the City Council to the architecture board in November, told the Weekly she was convinced that the house on Louis Road was abandoned because she had passed it thousands of times and never saw anyone there. Noticing a sign in the front yard indicating that the house would soon be demolished, she said it was "reasonable, bordering on probable, to assume the property was abandoned."

So on a Wednesday morning in early February, after dropping off her children at school, she biked by the house and took the clay pot.

The erroneous assumption, she added, did not justify her taking the clay pot from the home of Sarah Patanroi, a computer-lab teacher at Nixon Elementary School who said she has lived at the house for six years.

But what Patanroi did after discovering her pot missing unleashed the chain of events that has led to Ballantyne's resignation, and in Ballantyne's own words, her "evisceration."

Patanroi took the surveillance video and posted it on YouTube on Feb. 5, then warned neighbors via the social-media website Nextdoor with a note titled "Pot thief."

And as soon as Ballantyne learned about her mistake from Patanroi's post on Nextdoor, she returned the pot to Patanroi's house with a note of apology, she said.

Patanroi said she received the note, which was signed "overenthusiastic gardener," and did not know who the woman in the video was until several people on Nextdoor told her.

But things didn't stop there. According to Ballantyne, Patanroi went on to modify captions on the surveillance video to make them more snarky (the YouTube video is currently titled, "Stylish bandit goes for neighbor's pot" and had 2,574 views as of late Friday).

A personal visit from Ballantyne at Nixon the day after she returned the pot to explain her mistake and plead for the removal of the messages and video didn't sway Patanroi.

And last Sunday, Feb. 15, members of the City Council received at their individual email accounts a message with the subject line: "Questionable character of city's boards."

The message came from someone called "Concerned Citizen" at paloaltodeepthroat@gmail.com and stated, "This person is Catherine Ballantyne and she is on your Comprehensive Plan Leadership Group and the ARB." It included the YouTube video link.

Patanroi told the Weekly that she did not send the email and does not know who did.

Ballantyne said she was surprised because the email to the council didn't tell the full story. It didn't mention the fact that she had, by that time, returned the pot with an apology note and immediately sought out Patanroi to explain her mistake and accept "full responsibility" for the incident. Ballantyne said she had also told Patanroi that she is willing to be arrested for the act, though she asked that the affair remain private to spare her four children.

Ballantyne is criticizing the public way that Patanroi handled Ballantyne's error in judgment.

"There's a lot of ways you could've managed this if you wanted to let people know that something was amiss in your neighborhood," Ballantyne said.

In a written statement to the Weekly, Ballantyne added: "There is no such thing as human courtesy anymore."

Patanroi, for her part, said she accepted Ballantyne's apology, even though she was "shocked" when Ballantyne first showed up at Nixon. Patanroi also told the Weekly that she has never identified Ballantyne by name publicly.

But as of Friday, Patanroi hadn't taken down the video or post, even after Ballantyne went to see her at Nixon a second time.

Patanroi told the Weekly that she had received encouragement from neighbors not to take down her Nextdoor post.

"I think somebody in her position ... you feel they ought to have a little more scruples. I think it was unfortunate for her that she got caught," she said.

Besides, she told Ballantyne, interest in the video "will just die on its own, like everything else on the Internet."

In addition to the embarrassment, Ballantyne said she has been preparing for the possibility of getting arrested, since Patanroi filed a police report (although she said she isn't pressing charges). Ballantyne even asked her family to leave town one day last week because she didn't want an arrest to occur in front of her children. The District Attorney's Office is considering her case and could issue a warrant for her arrest for petty theft.

There is also a possibility that Patanroi will seek a restraining order. Patanroi told the Weekly that Ballantyne "was not welcome in the first place when she stole the pot," and if Ballantyne approaches her again, she does plan to file for a restraining order.

Ballantyne said she penned a nine-page letter to Patanroi in an attempt to explain her own "poor judgment" and mentioning her desire to save the pot from bulldozers. She said she decided not to give the letter, however, when Patanroi raised the possibility of the restraining order.

Meanwhile, Ballantyne's membership on the architectural board has come to an abrupt end. On Wednesday, before the first news story broke, Ballantyne offered to resign from the board if the incident "in any way will create a perception of distrust in the ARB." On Friday, Mayor Karen Holman said the council will accept the resignation from Ballantyne, who in her short time on the board took a fiercely critical approach toward reviewing large new developments.

In November, Ballantyne suggested that a three-story building proposed by architect Ken Hayes for the Olive Garden site at El Camino Real was out of context, and this week she took a similarly skeptical stance toward another Hayes project: a four-story development at 429 University Ave., at the site of Shady Lane. She did not attend the hearing on the Ken Hayes project but submitted a letter that asked in its conclusion, "Is this the best building you can muster for that site context or might we stretch together to something better?" Her colleagues approved the project 4-0.

Holman said the council "will be moving forward to select a replacement once the resignation is received."

"This is a regretful situation, including that the ARB will be losing a member with a strong background and experience, but the best course is to accept the resignation," Holman said.

Editor's note: On Feb. 22, Patanroi removed the surveillance video from YouTube.

Comments

50 people like this
Posted by So you've been publicly shamed
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 21, 2015 at 12:32 am

The fabulous writer Jon Ronson has a new forthcoming book about this exact situation: So You're Been Publicly Shamed.

Web Link

This story is perfect for a Jon Ronson story. It's pathetic. OK she took your pot. Does she deserve to have her life destroyed? Really?


141 people like this
Posted by Thief
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2015 at 12:58 am

>> OK she took your pot

She didn't just take the pot... She *stole* the pot.


23 people like this
Posted by Golden Rule
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:26 am

As someone who lost everything in a natural disaster and took some small comfort in planning where my landscape rocks would go -- when they were subsequently stolen by someone who no doubt thought, Oh, the house is gone, we may as well take those cool rocks -- even I don't blame Ballantyne.

I can even once remember getting to the car at Target and realizing a book we probably (had to check the receipt) hadn't paid for was underneath the toilet paper. One of us had to take the book back into the store and pay for it (made us late). What if someone else had followed us out and shamed us? Target would have lost our business over a book we would have paid for when we realized the error.

[Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:36 am

[Post removed.]


48 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:59 am

No winners in any of this. Unfortunate behavior by both parties.


208 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2015 at 7:28 am

Patanroi is the victim of a theft. The theft was done with intent, and was not a mistake.

The article states that the thief "thought she was salvaging a clay pot from an abandoned Palo Alto house" doesn't make any sense - with tear downs worth multiple millions of dollars, property in Palo Alto is never "abandoned".

When I've seen people wanting to get rid of stuff, there's a sign saying "free" on it. Or they put it out to curb for pick up with the garbage. This was not on the curb, it was near the porch of a home. The thief had to park her bike, walk a distance to where the pot was located. Other newspapers reports that on the porch there are various signs that the property is lived in, again refuting the "abandoned" excuse.

I do believe that restitution has been made, the appropriate punishment made, and that any further action would (like arrest/prosecution) would be a waste of time.


8 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 7:35 am

[Post removed.]


74 people like this
Posted by Small teacher
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:06 am

The lady should not have taken the pot. No debate on that. Might even be a good example of Palo Alto privilege and the egocentricity of its residents. But the teacher, wow! She didn't recognize that she had already won her pound of flesh and humiliated the lady, now she is revealing her truly petty, vindictive side. [Portion removed.]


26 people like this
Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:07 am

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

My thoughts exactly! [Portion removed.]

I'm also struck by comments from councilmembers Berman and Kniss - those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

An unfortunate event that had people pile on and turn a private issue best handled by the people involved into political theater. Unfortunately, we lost a strong voice for residents on the ARB. I hope others are wiating in the wings to apply for the seat.


3 people like this
Posted by Duv Mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:12 am

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:30 am

Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 9:08 am

resident3 is a registered user.

Terrible situation, obviously taking something from any property without permission is wrong, and the police are there to deal with that.

It was also bad move for the victim to not remove the media posting after she knew who took the pot.

The neighbors discouraged her from taking the posting off and then the captions got snarky too. Peer pressure just adds to the shaming picture and it should be taken seriously.

This isn't an issue of common courtesy though, Ballantyne was not necessarily owed that by the victim!

The shaming issue is more about using media to shame on purpose.


72 people like this
Posted by Carla
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2015 at 10:35 am

Carla is a registered user.

This is a seriously ridiculous and unnecessary situation.

No matter how rich you are in Palo Alto, people have the mentality that things should be reused/recycled and not wasted. Waste not, want not. This is a very dominant mentality of females I have met. Further, people everywhere (and not just in Palo Alto) leave or dispose of things with value. If you know a house is about to be demolished, then one could understand how Bellantyne concluded what she did.

Given Pentanroi's behavior it is she who should consider her resignation as a teacher from a lack of social judgment. Who knows what she would do to a student if she ever found out someone stole a pencil. Gasp!


139 people like this
Posted by Gertrude
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 11:35 am

Gertrude is a registered user.

Carla, your post gave me a chuckle. Are we now so politically correct that "recycling" and "reusing" are the new euphemisms for steeling? The next time you are robbed take heart in knowing that your stolen items will be reused.

I'm wondering why Ballantyne didn't knock on one of the neighbor's doors to see if the house was occupied or who the owner was. She then could have contacted Patanroi and asked to purchase the pot.

Any way you look at it, Ballantyne trespassed on private property and took something that did not belong to her, something that she probably could have purchased at one of the local nurseries for under $20.


59 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 21, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

>> The message came from someone called "Concerned Citizen" at paloaltodeepthroat@gmail.com

Pretty sure Deep Throat is on City staff, based on past interactions and postings here. I wonder if a pro-development ARB member would have earned a similar email to Council.

Ms. Patanroi: Please stop the vindictive behavior. If not for Ms. Ballantyne, than for her four kids who had nothing to do with this unfortunate incident and yet are surely being affected. It's just mean.

Most of the city is focused on making Palo Alto a kinder and gentler place for our kids and then we see something like this, from someone who works with kids!

A restraining order, really? I think it's the "victim" in this case that should be embarrassed.


88 people like this
Posted by New in Town
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 21, 2015 at 12:40 pm

New in Town is a registered user.

This was sad all around. Computer teachers at my kids' elementary school teach students that cyber-bullying is wrong and can result in suspension. Can you cyber-shame another student if they steal your favorite pencil?

Some NextDoor members privately asked the poster to remove the video several days after she had received her pot and had made her point. She refused. To me, by referring to Ms. B as "the thief" on Next Door and publicly stating "I hear she is not a nice person", Ms. P came off as petty and vindictive - cheered on by a mob of vigilantes.

That the video remains on YouTube, even now serves no purpose other than to stoke ones ego and righteousness.

With all the issues and actual threats to ones safety outside of Palo Alto, a large dose of perspective is in order.


25 people like this
Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:09 pm

rick is a registered user.

Reiterating the particularly apt first comment above, here's a fair-use descriptive excerpt from Amazon on Jon Ronson's book, "So You've Been Publicly Shamed":

>> "Whole careers are being ruined by one mistake. A transgression is revealed. Our collective outrage at it has the force of a hurricane. Then we all quickly forget about it and move on to the next one, and it doesn’t cross our minds to wonder if the shamed person is okay or in ruins. What’s it doing to them? What’s it doing to us?"

We're all living in glass houses now -- no wonder so many of us prefer to remain anonymous.


47 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

@New in Town: Well said. Perhaps an anonymous email to Max McGee, questioning the judgment and behavior of a PAUSD educator, is in order.


106 people like this
Posted by pono
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:16 pm

pono is a registered user.

Cyber-bullying...no, it's consequence. Ballantyne stole from her neighbor, and got caught on video. If you run a red light and are caught, apologize, should the police let you go because you're a good person, or a county official? The police may decide to let you go, or issue the ticket.

Mrs Ballantyne did steal, but instead speaks of a misunderstanding or "re-homing"...sounds like lawyer speak and a lack of ownership & accountability. Let's call it what it is = stealing, and move on.


22 people like this
Posted by pono
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:31 pm

pono is a registered user.

We live in the internet age. Michael Phelps - remember when he was caught smoking pot. Regardless of one's position on pot, should ESPN have taken it down from their website? Shold the NY Times have redacted the story because he made a public apology? We all felt for Phelps, his parents/family...it is unfortunate. But he accepted responsibility as a highly public face and moved on. Is it "ok" for the story to stay published, but not OK for the video or pictures to be public?


78 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

But where is the proportionality? Even if the lady meant to steal the clay pot, it's a clay pot for crying out loud.. We have all made a few or more just a few bad decisions in the course of our lives. Mrs Ballantyne, of whom I had never heard of before reading about the incident this morning, didn't run a red light, which could result in serious injury or death to others. She didn't physically attack the "victim", she didn't conned her out of her life savings, she didn't beat up her children.

If it were my clay pot, I would shrug, accept her apology and move on. At this point I think that the clay pot owner is engaging in vindictive cyber bullying that is much more egregious than stealing a clay pot.


35 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 1:44 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

pono

What happened to move on?

I can imagine the choir on NextDoor egging the computer lab teacher on.

Comparing Phelps' story, a very public figure, is different.

Look, it got unseemly after the original theft story. Just because a person has done something to be ashamed of, it's not really up to the mob to punish.

I know neither Ballantyne or the teacher, but I happen to think that shaming should be unlawful.

Kids grow up with parents who think it's ok to shame, and they turn around to shame each other. It screws people up, it's painful and not nice, unbecoming, hmmm have I said that I think shaming is a no-no?


48 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 21, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Someone please remind me what we're trying to teach the kids about bullying, cyber and otherwise.


56 people like this
Posted by Anonymous22
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Anonymous22 is a registered user.

Sorry, can't help myself...

Perhaps this should hereafter be known as the "ClayPot-Home Scandal" ...

I think the evidence of the lack of intent was in the getaway BICYCLE with a giant clay pot on the back.

There was a time when a resident would be shamed for having a front yard that looked so bad it could be mistaken for abandoned. (Thank goodness for my own sake that is not true today.)

I agree the shaming is wrong, and wow, that anyone working with kids in schools would act that way especially when there was such a swift apology and attempt to make things right, it's disturbing.


30 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Bru is a registered user.

Interesting story.

But I think all of you, or us, that do anything wrong in your life better get used to this kind of thing, and think about how you really want it to work because fairly soon things of all sorts, video, photos, audio, comments, maybe even gossip, could be following all of us around all of our lives.

Maybe we should just get used to it because what kind of micromanagement and complicated laws could ever manage all of this kind of stuff?

I think it was proper of this women to resign from the ARB, and would that all of the people who do things wrong would so easily decide to withdraw. Maybe it is a bit much, but she made a public mistake that if she had not been caught she would have presumably done nothing about. Just because you see something that looks abandoned somewhere doesn't mean it belongs to you ... however, these days it is likely someone is going to grab it so the incentive is not to be polite and respectful but to get there before the other people. Kind of sad, when I was younger people would never do something this in, at least in general.


7 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of another community
on Feb 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Humble observer is a registered user.

So what do we have after all this? Two people publicly shamed. One knows it, the other (Patanroi) may be only starting to reap what she sowed.

"Common sense" sounded a valuable point: DON'T ASSUME SO MUCH about other people's property. There's a mind-set, fundamentally egotistical, that judges ambiguous situations opportunistically, instead of working to clarify them. _After_ being caught, Ballantyne termed that situation an "poor judgment.
"

Other upshots: Ballantyne rightly pointed out that "paloaltodeepthroat's" email didn't tell the full story. That email was certainly malicious, maybe defamatory, and by someone who needs exposure. (One advantage of legal process is that it opens up mechanisms that can help to do so -- and why not; two other people spent thousands last year bickering over a knocked-down campaign sign!) Make that two people publicly shamed in Potgate, "and counting."


28 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 21, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The great irony of many of the above comments is that individuals who take an active role in their community and posters who are registered for this Forum using their own names are held to a dramatically higher standard than those who choose to remain anonymous.

In my opinion you should not criticize another person unless you are prepared to use your real name - to do otherwise is cowardice.


31 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

All around, this is pathetic, while still being typically Palo Alto. Ballantyne took an unnecessary and asinine risk, but she has more than paid the price. Wasn't the "victim" embarrassed to make a police report? Doesshe not realizeher behavior is not just shameful but also petty, nasty, mean-spirited and semi-hysterical?

Are taxpayers happy about this "investigation"? My county LE contacts findit laughable.


48 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:36 pm

pat is a registered user.

What a tempest in a clay pot.

Yes, Ballantyne made a mistake. Was it stealing? Not in my book. Should she be subject to public shame -- especially after apologizing? No. Should she resign from the ARB. NO! And I wish the city council would reject her resignation. The punishment is way out of proportion to the "crime."

I agree that Patanroi is being vindictive. What does she hope to gain from subjecting Ballantyne to so much grief? Will she claim her 15 minutes of fame from PotGate?

Patanroi is setting a terrible example to kids. Aren't we supposed to be stopping kids from cyber-bullying?



7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by resident3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:47 pm

resident3 is a registered user.

So, it has been pointed out that shaming is not good, so no need to now shame the victim.

Everyone seems to be paying the price for their actions.

The damn pot!

They are both our neighbors, though I'm not really in the same neighborhood and at some point our little crowd will need to disperse.


20 people like this
Posted by Anonymous22
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Anonymous22 is a registered user.

In my experience on online lists, the people who use their names are usually the ones responsible for the negative behavior that makes everyone else have to choose anonymity.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:17 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


132 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

If it was a Black or Hispanic person from EPA caught on video tape stealing from the front door of a PA house there would be universal disdain for the "perp" and everyone would be saying "throw the book at her", regardless of her excuses. Why is there any sympathy for the thief? - there is clear evidence and she is being dishonest about her intentions. There was nothing ambiguous about this. If this woman wants more "understanding" perhaps she should consider treating others better herself - and should simply say she is sorry for her poor behavior.


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interesting that the Editor refuse to allow comments about anonymous posters vilifying known individuals.

The Editors seem to prefer a cesspool of gossip in order to encourage clicks and ad revenues.


2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Alphonso, I agree with you re your first sentence and I agree that Ballentyne's behavior was sketchy, do you really think the "victim's" behavior was acceptable? Ballantyne did apologize.


23 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

@Alphonso: If it was a black or hispanic person from EPA this story wouldn't have been written - this issue would have been resolved by the parties themselves (perhaps with police involvement, since the victim seems to care so much about a clay pot full of dirt), and would not warrant an article. If, somehow, the article was written anyway, I suspect it would be ignored.

@pono: No, it's not OK for the story to remain published, but it's hard to get a tabloid to retract a story, short of a lawsuit. If the "victim" had acted with a little compassion and treated this with all of the seriousness an old clay pot deserves, there wouldn't have been any article.

As human beings, we should be more compassionate and forgiving of harmless mistakes, whatever their cause. The stupid pot is not worth what this family is being put through. This is far beyond reasonable "consequences" for the action in question, it IS cyberbullying.

[Portion removed.]


41 people like this
Posted by CRW
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 21, 2015 at 9:44 pm

CRW is a registered user.

I'd bet you that the camera was there because of previous behavior/actions. One might buy the excuses made had it NOT been that look around to see if any one was watching, that spoke volumes as far as intent. Maybe the homeowners wanted to crush that pot in the remodel for their own reasons? None of her business.


Like this comment
Posted by GraceBrown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 21, 2015 at 9:46 pm

GraceBrown is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 21, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous22
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 10:42 pm

Anonymous22 is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


113 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 21, 2015 at 10:59 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

Hmmm You are missing the fact that there is more to the situation than is reflected in the story - there were more parties involved in the decision process than the thief and the victim. The victim posted the video to find out who stole the property, plain and simple. The video remained on line because other parties convinced the victim to leave it there. You might also consider where and how the "apology" was extended by Ms. Ballantyne. Moral of this story - if you treat others poorly (and I am not talking about stealing a clay pot with dirt in it) it may come back to bite you! Perhaps PA Online should dig a little deeper to report "the rest of the story". At this point I agree the video should come down, but I find no fault with the victim.


97 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 11:08 pm

Bru is a registered user.

>> For heaven's sake - this is a neighbor - on - neighbor kerfuffle.

I'm not sure it is ... at least at some level. It is tresspass, and theft - with a kind of lame excuse. I have to say on further thought I would feel violated and would not like it if someone presumed for some reason they could enter my property and take things based on some story that they did not think it was important or being used, or whatever.

It may be worth on $20, but how much does it have to be worth? I can't say fruit off my fruit trees has monetary value, or what it would be, but I would expect anyone who might want some to ask me about it ... and I did not even spend any money on it.

We never seem to know much about our public officials and what they are capable of, so in some weird way we wait until things like this happen and then assume whatever incident says something about their character, that we don't assume about someone who has yet to get caught at something. Kind of an odd way to judge things statistically, but that seems to be what we do.

As our former great decider "said" ... we will avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Great words but fewer and fewer live up to them or even bother to care.

Do we just not have people of strictly clean ethical behavior, or do we just not know how to identify them, or do we just not care anymore because we all cheat? Since we do not really every know what people are capable of, the "trust me" ( til I get caught ) paradigm might not be so great. Maybe we need to work much more transparency into private and government life, after all they seem to be transparently looking at everything we do.


103 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Bru is a registered user.

>> Doesshe not realizeher behavior is not just shameful but also petty, nasty, mean-spirited and semi-hysterical?

First, apologizing after one gets caught really means nothing. If you disagree with that you are slighting the homeowner's property rights, and setting the expectation that anyone can take anything that is not bolted down and then have to return it and apologize only if they get caught. That is basically blaming the victim.

The law is the law, if you don't like it - then try to get rid of restrictions on theft or set a lower limit below which people are free to steal. I don't you'll get a lot of support.

Whether and what someone wants to do when they are "trespassed against" legally is their business and the judge's to decide if it is frivilous of unworthy of the court. What's petty is to th victim names and deride them for doing what they have a perfect right to do. It probably doesn't help to change their attitude's either. Let's just blame the victim, huh, Hmmmm?


8 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:11 am

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

@Bru: I try really hard to follow your train of thought, but I have to admit it is difficult and I do not completely succeed.

Apologizing after one realizes they did wrong is a reasonable and admirable thing to do, especially when that apology is immediate and independent.

No one has asserted that the "victim" does not have a legal right to do what she has done (though her comments may be troublesome, should Ms. B choose to pursue it legally). The repeated sentiment is that the "victim's" actions are excessive, lacking compassion, and insensitive to those suffering collateral damage. And now the "victim's" actions have resulted in this tabloid article which further harms Ms. B and her family.

We can all judge and speculate as to what was in Ms. B's mind when she took the pot, but that's all we can do. Anyone who ASSUMES they know her real motive and intent is, well... (You can fill in the rest).

While the "look around" on the video is odd, she might have been looking for "signs of life" at the run-down property in question. I also have to wonder why this person would "steal" an old, clay pot she could easily afford to buy. So, this is enough ambiguity for me to say, I don't know 100% why she did what she did, so I will not ASSUME anything, let alone assume the worst and punish Ms. B inappropriately.


93 people like this
Posted by midtownsarah
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:40 am

midtownsarah is a registered user.

Hello everyone, I am Sarah Patanroi and I'll be happy to meet with anyone of you in person for a civil discourse. My email is just my first name last name at gmail dot com. And please, don't just show up at my work place. I do work with children. Thank you.


10 people like this
Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:31 am

iSez is a registered user.

How comical that both behaved so badly. Is the exterior of the house landscaped and well-kept? I wonder if that's why Ballantyne thought the house was abandoned. If she passed it "a thousand times", why didn't she just knock on the door and ask where it was purchased?

We had some scrap wood in front after a remodel and someone helped himself to it. True what Carla said, that many Palo Altans are green. Doesn't make it right though. A simple knock on the door would have avoided all this.

There are super rich people posting on our elementary school forum asking to borrow things when they can well afford purchasing them.


23 people like this
Posted by alpaca
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2015 at 8:34 am

alpaca is a registered user.

What's puzzling, and also telling, about this whole situation is that people other than the pot owner and the pot thief got involved in deciding what consequences the pot thief should face.

This could've been a simple situation though unfortunate incident in which some took someone else's property, returned it when caught on tape and apologized. End of story. Video taken down, post about it removed. Move on.

Instead, a person who wasn't the pot owner emailed the city council about it. Neighbors told the pot owner to keep the video up. Why? Why was it their business?

I can only speculate that some of them already had problems with the pot thief, and instead of talking with her directly about whatever was the problem, they used Potgate and the pot owner to deal with her.

We teach our kids to solve conflict by talking it out with the other kid, one on one. That's how we would want to be treated if we were the other kid. It's too bad we adults don't always model that for our kids.


102 people like this
Posted by Kara
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2015 at 8:49 am

Kara is a registered user.

Think for but a moment, if Ms. Ballentyne was not a white middle class older woman, would there be so many of you defending her actions? If Patanroi's surveillance camera had caught a Hispanic or African American person making off with the property- what then? A crime? She shouldn't be allowed to hide behind her race, and fur coat. She took something that wasn't hers. Period. That is called stealing. Period.
....She thought the house was "abandoned?" When was the last time anyone saw an abandoned house in Palo Alto? Pleasssse. [Portion removed.]




6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 22, 2015 at 8:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The postings on this topic are a wonderful Teaching Moment for the Editors to educate posters regarding the Forum's fundamental rule:

"Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion."


28 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2015 at 10:25 am

mauricio is a registered user.

There is a reason why in civilized societies jaywalkers and shoplifters don't get the same punishment as murderers and bank robbers. Even assuming that Ballantyne stole a $20 dollar clay pot, the reaction by the clay pot owner seems extreme and highly vindictive, highly disproportional to the transgression. I still don't understand why she couldn't just accept the apologies, shrug it off and forget forget about it altogether. We all make bad, sometime really foolish decisions during our lifetime, and taking the pot seems to qualify. If my clay pot were stolen, I wouldn't have wasted more than minute on the entire matter, shrugged it off and moved on with my life.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 22, 2015 at 10:33 am

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[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 22, 2015 at 10:38 am

Hulkamania is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


147 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 22, 2015 at 10:48 am

Reason is a registered user.

@mauricio writes:
"I still don't understand why she couldn't just accept the apologies, shrug it off and forget forget about it altogether."

Because the apology was disingenuous. On a few points:

- it only occurred after the video went up. She did not want to return the pot, she wanted to avoid responsibility for her actions.

- the apology was not taking responsibility. It was not signed with her name, she did not leave her phone number. She signed it: "he note, which was signed "overenthusiastic gardener," If you hit someone's car and they are not around, you are supposed to leave notice and contact information. She did neither.

- the [portion removed] story she told the weekly is just rationalizations of a thief: "told the Weekly she was convinced that the house on Louis Road was abandoned because she had passed it thousands of times and never saw anyone there. Noticing a sign in the front yard indicating that the house would soon be demolished, she said it was "reasonable, bordering on probable, to assume the property was abandoned."

I have seen the house, and it does not look abandoned.

Even if it is abandoned, it does not mean the contents have no owner. Unless the owner specifically gives you permission, it is still wrong. This is very weak thinking, and again demonstrates no responsibility for her own action. It is as if the thief is blaming the victim: '...well, you deserved it because you left your yard to look abandoned..' or ' ...if I use the excuse of abandoned, maybe I am not responsible. I am recycling!' All of which is a convenient after-the-fact rationalization that I don't buy for a moment.


That is why the apology isn't cutting the mustard - it is half baked, rationalized, victim blaming and the thief is not taking ownership of her own poor behavior. Shame on her.


20 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2015 at 11:39 am

Humble observer is a registered user.

Person X exhibits an opportunistic intuition about a small piece of property; is caught, repents. Person Y, understandably indignant at the initial loss, gets the property back, sees X's contrition, yet like Javert in "Les Misérables," continues to hound her out of any proportion to the minor temporary loss.

It could be a classic parable or children's tale. But what it illustrates about our society transcends the internet aspect: a shortage of charitability, mature circumspection, even more generally of thought, among people who often like to see themselves as educated, even "enlightened."


119 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Reason is a registered user.

@Humble parabalizes: "sees X's contrition,"

...except I don't see it. I see someone who hasn't owned up to their own character flaw.

When they own it, really sincerely apologize, and possibly offer some small token of retribution (how about offer to do some yard work for this lady - their lawn is an atrocious mess of weeds, and the thief is a landscape architect).

Then it would be right to take down the video.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Pull the weeds of the "victim"?

So is the teacher getting into trouble for bullying?


7 people like this
Posted by PowerMax
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2015 at 12:27 pm

PowerMax is a registered user.

My view is that of course it was wrong to take the pot. Knowingly taking something that is not yours is theft. On the continuum of crimes its pretty small. I trust the DA's to prosecute or not prosecute and treat this person just like they would treat anyone else.

The social media aspect was helpful in identifying the perpetrator, but should never be used to publicly humiliate or shame a person. We all make mistakes, and we do suffer the consequences. However, in this day and age, the consequences of a public piling on are way out of proportion to the wrongdoing committed in the first place.

That being said, Ms. Ballantyne probable helped fuel the fire with her public statements and letter-writing. Best plan is to call a lawyer and say nothing.

I say we all just let justice run its course and get on with our lives. I bet there's a much more productive use of our time then kicking a person when they are down. What acts of kindness can we do? How can we improve ourselves? Heck, just read a book or go outside and enjoy the sunshine. These are all better things to do then pushing someone's face into the dirt.


107 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Bru is a registered user.

>> If my clay pot were stolen, I wouldn't have wasted more than minute on the entire
>> matter, shrugged it off and moved on with my life.

Well, OK for you .... so? It seems rude to imply that someone else not breaking any
law who was a victim is in fact the problem because they are not getting over it fast
enough and I would disagree with that.

No matter what happens to any of us, we all have to move on with our lives and do.
I think this "move on with your life" jab is just more of blame the victim for standing up
for their rights in the way they see fit.

It seems a lot of people for some reason refuse to acknowledge that a "crime" or
"trespass" was committed. It seems funny that we cannot all agree on that. That
it is the victim's decision how to pursue that within the law and bound of propriety.
Not agreeing on that seemingly obvious fact means that it stays being argued and
discussed longer than it needs to.

It may not always be about the monetary value of an item, but more about the
sentimental value of the item or a bad feeling of being disrespected or violated.

While It is nice to frame a comment in how you would respond, who really knows
what they would do if someone stole something from them in some given circumstance,
whatever they might claim, so it seems irrelevant.




28 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

A lot of us are amused and aghast that this is such a huge issue that it would warrant an organized effort to get Ballantyne off the ARB yet nothing is done when there are developers on the same committee who stand to make millions on the ARB's decisions.


88 people like this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Bru is a registered user.

I have to admit this discussion of morality fascinates me on many levels. To
whatever extent it may reflect back negatively on either side it's is probably
regrettable but the core of society, getting along, politeness, etc is captured
in this relatively minor situation.

>> I see someone who hasn't owned up to their own character flaw.

I am not sure we can properly assume this. People make mistakes and it might
have been a non-thinking moment, but by the action it was a sort of crime.
That is why I think the resignation was right, proper and very ethical and even
slightly more. I think that was the penance, so to speak.

>> When they own it, really sincerely apologize, and possibly offer some small
>> token of retribution (how about offer to do some yard work for this lady -

Not sure why, but this seems overly harsh and punitive. Yard work at Palo
Alto rates of labor and time is a big commitment - probably too big. Maybe
if there is not a saucer under the pot buying one as a token might be nice
with an apology.

But ... it seems to me that is not the norm of our society or legal system, nice
as it would be. Not that the norm should be the norm ... it would nice if people
were more thoughtful and polite, but we have evolved to the situation we are
in now where norms are much different today from when I was a kid.

This is a good situation to think about. Today it seems to be just about whatever
one can get away with, or even convince a victim not to bother to pursue.


14 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:39 pm

pat is a registered user.

@Reason, I sure hope you never make a mistake in your life, because you obviously are not forgiving. "Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone."

I don't think Ms. Ballantyne is a thief. She did something foolish. She regretted it and went to great lengths to apologize.

Does she deserve to be "eviscerated," to fear being arrested in front of her children, for "stealing" a pot?

And what's all the hullaballoo over her "fur coat"? From the photos I've seen, it looks like she's wearing a cloth coat with a fur or faux fur collar.

[Portion removed.

Palo Alto has a mediation service. Maybe it could help Ms. Ballantyne and Ms. Patanroy -- and her righteous neighbors -- reach closure (with mutual apologies) WITHOUT a restraining order.



13 people like this
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:51 pm

pat is a registered user.

> "... who really knows what they would do if someone stole something from them in some given circumstance,..."

Someone stole a SLOW, CHILDREN AT PLAY plastic yellow boy with a red cap from in front of our house, 3 days after we put it out. It cost about $30. I called the police only to let them know, but did not think it worthwhile to file a report.

It's good to keep things in proportion and not sweat the small stuff.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 22, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Way back at the start of this thread, Guy Fawkes referenced comments made by
councilmembers Kniss and Berman.

I would very much like to know what they were.

It's like we're discussing this using only vowels or consonants -- ie with only part of the picture.


Posted by Guy_Fawkes
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 21, 2015 at 8:07 am
Guy_Fawkes is a registered user.

My thoughts exactly! [Portion removed.]

I'm also struck by comments from councilmembers Berman and Kniss - those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.


42 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 22, 2015 at 2:37 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I have jogged and walked my dog numerous times past that particular house and I always thought it wasn't occupied, because the weeds and general shabbiness of the front yard. I believe that it had been a reasonable assumption by Mrs. Ballantine, of whom I never heard of before Friday, that no one was occupying the house. There is a house that was sold for 5 million dollars on my block and it has been been unoccupied for over a year since it was sold. This tidbit is for those who claim that no house in Palo Alto can possibly be occupied in this insanely hot real estate market. believing a house is unoccupied doesn't of course justify taking an item off the property without permission, but it indicates how trivial and minor this issue is. Attempting to eviscerate another person for such a foolish, very trivial bad judgment call is just mind boggling. And let's make one thing clear-the "victim" is not a victim. Watch and read the news about what is going on around the world right now, and get a sane perspective on what genuine victimhood is. This is much ado about practically nothing.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of another community

on Feb 22, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


34 people like this
Posted by midtownsarah
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2015 at 5:00 pm

midtownsarah is a registered user.

Hello everyone, the video has been taken down. Sarah Patanroi


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

Tempest in a claypot.


18 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 22, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

Thank you, Ms. Patanroi, for removing the video.

Palo Alto Weekly: Will you please remove this article and comment thread, so as to limit the damage to both of these women and their families? Many people won't have read this until your "Express" email comes out. You have an opportunity to do something positive for the community. Will you?


36 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 22, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

City Council:

Please consider rejecting Ms. Ballantyne's resignation. She only resigned as a result of cyber bullying, and that is not how our community should operate. If she proves herself incapable of doing the ARB job, then she should resign, but not before.


244 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 22, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Alphonso is a registered user.

I agree it is time to end the conversation about this matter, but the comment "She only resigned as a result of cyber bullying" requires a small comment. Everything that happened was the direct result of a series of bad behaviors by one and only one person. Yes we can and should post videos of people taking things from our homes - that will never be considered cyber bullying. If you don't like the reality of security cameras then avoid doing bad things.

Good night and signing off!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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