City Council candidate Adrian Fine is pushing back against a series of negative ads that his opponents Arthur Keller and Lydia Kou have issued in recent weeks, calling them unfair, dishonest and factually incorrect.
The latest escalation in Palo Alto's increasingly rancorous council race came after mailers were sent out by Keller's campaign last weekend tying Fine, who chairs the city's Planning and Transportation Commission, to developers. It alleges that nearly one-third of all of Fine's campaign contributions were made by developers or builders, “including those with projects that will appear before the City Council next year.”
“We can't afford to give developers the key to the city, but they're trying to buy our City Council,” the ad states.
The ad includes Fine's photo with the caption: “Palo Alto needs growth that is sensible and responsible -- not irresponsible, unlimited sprawl and giant buildings. We don't need Adrian Fine.”
Fine strongly disputed the accusations in the ad and said he was disappointed by Kou's and Keller's tactics. He also fought back by writing an open letter to the community, which noted that of the 11 people running for council, “only Kou and Keller have taken contributions from donors that gave more than $5,000.” His own campaign, Fine said, is funded by over 180 individual contributors, from all walks of life, with an average of $280 per donation.
Fine does have support from some developers, including Roxy Rapp, who contributed $1,000 to his campaign and Stephen Reller, who contributed $2,500. In addition, Fine received $500 contributions from each of the two partners in Windy Hill Property Ventures, the developer looking to construct an apartment building on El Camino Real and Page Mill Road.
But an analysis by the Weekly found that only about $7,000 of the more than $55,000 he has received in contributions this far came from developers. At the same time, Fine is not completely devoid of big contributions (aside from the $10,000 he contributed to his own campaign).
On Monday, he received a $2,500 contribution from the California Real Estate Political Action Committee. And on Oct. 14, he received a $5,000 contribution from Jonathan Heiliger, partner at Vertex Ventures, according to his campaign-finance statements.
Fine's other contributors include professors, tech professionals and members of the citizens group Palo Alto Forward, which advocates for more housing.
The weekend mailer came in the aftermath of an online ad that Keller and Kou created, alleging that Fine is in favor of high-rise developments. While Fine has indeed said in the past that he opposes the city's 50-foot height limit (though he also said that he is not in favor of abolishing it at this time), he argued in his response that the ad mischaracterizes his position.
“I have indeed expressed a desire to have more housing near transit -- to allow people to live close to their work, to allow older residents to retire here, and to deal with our crisis of affordability,” Fine wrote. “Never have I said we should have high-rise offices, nor have I advocated for luxury condos. Ads published by Kou and Keller were dishonest and factually incorrect.”
Keller and Kou had both accused Fine throughout the campaign of pivoting on issues to make himself more palatable to voters during the election season. They pointed to his prior opposition to the council's recently adopted annual office cap (which he initially voted against) and to statements he made during meetings of the Community Advisory Committee on the city's Comprehensive Plan (Kou, Keller and Fine are all members), purportedly downplaying the city's parking problems (Fine countered that all the quotes are snippets taken out of context).
But Fine, borrowing terminology from the national election, characterized the latest accusations as Kou and Keller “going low.”
“These attack ads have no place in Palo Alto,” Fine wrote. “I am happy to have an issues-based conversation any time with any community members, and also with Lydia and Arthur.”
The Weekly has created a Storify page for its coverage on the Palo Alto City Council election.