Mickie Winkler, former Menlo Park mayor, joins race for governor | May 28, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 28, 2021

Mickie Winkler, former Menlo Park mayor, joins race for governor

Winkler says she wants to curb union powers, slash red tape

by Gennady Sheyner

It's been 15 years since Mickie Winkler concluded her term on the Menlo Park City Council, but she hasn't stopped thinking about the issues that had preoccupied her as a mayor and council member: aged infrastructure, excessive red tape and the influence of employee unions on public affairs.

Winkler, who now lives in Palo Alto, also hasn't been shy about expressing her opinions. Over the past year, she has penned numerous opinion pieces devoted to local affairs and most recently published a satirical book that includes her thoughts on municipal topics such as the city's heritage tree ordinance, resistance to new developments and labor negotiations.

On a more serious note, Winkler wants to be the next California governor. As such, she has joined a list of contenders that includes businessman John Cox, Olympic decathlete-turned-socialite Caitlyn Jenner and dozens of lesser-known personalities in a race to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom, should California voters choose to recall him in November.

Just like her writings, which tend to call out City Hall over excessive staffing and high employee costs, Winkler's gubernatorial campaign is taking aim at public sector unions.

"We all know — and despair about — the power of the police unions," Winkler wrote in her campaign statement. "Teachers, city, county and state workers cannot be fired, no matter how badly they perform. They are the only part of the state that is fireproof."

As governor, Winkler said, she would "call out every bill that is union inspired, and I will call out every legislator who introduces such a bill."

"I just think we have to be aware of their huge power. I don't think the public employee unions are viable. I don't think they should exist," Winkler said in an interview.

She also believes public sector unions and excessive red tape hinder Sacramento's ability to respond to the most critical issues of the day: the statewide drought, the rising threats of wildfires and unreliable electric infrastructure. These issues, she said, "threaten the health and well-being of all Californians and we must face them much more seriously than we're facing them now."

She wants to see more state investment in water storage (to account for floods) and recycled-water systems (to protect from droughts).

"There are many places in the world that reuse their water and even drink it," Winkler said. "I think we have a huge budget surplus now and we need to start dedicating money."

She also wants to see more housing get built — a goal that she believes is hindered by the California Environmental Quality Act. She can rattle off anecdotes about developments that were stuck in limbo for years because of legal challenges and permitting snags.

"We need a major rethink," Winkler said. "CEQA was not designed to address the building projects that we have now. It's irrelevant to the building projects we have now, but it delays anything you want to do by two years and increases the building costs enormously."

Another problem, she said, is "NIMBYism." Residents need to become more community minded, less litigious and less self-protective, she said.

"When you buy a house, you do not buy the airspace next to your house," she said. "I think we really need to make that clear in our zoning."

While Winkler favors constructing more housing, she does not support state bills like Senate bills 9 and 10, which aim to promote more housing density. That's because these bills, by focusing exclusively on housing, fail to consider related issues such as transportation and infrastructure when considering residential development.

"We look at housing as separate from transportation, as separate from water supply and power grids, but we need to incorporate them — take them out of their pockets and put them all in one place," she said.

In her guest opinion columns, Winkler has criticized Menlo Park for employing too many city workers and Palo Alto for failing to hold its police officers to account. Her skeptical stance toward unions extends to California's education system, an area that she sees as ripe for major changes. The system, she wrote in her campaign statement, "exists to benefit the teachers union, not the students."

"I think many teachers will agree. Money is not the main problem. The system is — and begs for reform," she wrote.

Her boldest proposal on education is abolishing tenure rules for teachers, possibly by bringing a ballot measure to the voters. Teachers who get secure jobs for life are "gumming up the system," she said. Doing so, she noted, may require bringing a ballot to the voters. Guaranteed tenure for teachers, she said, "is one huge impediment to change."

"We need meritocracy — bright new thinkers," Winkler said.

In a crowd of mostly Republican challengers, Winkler is running as an independent, she said. And while she says she's not a big fan of Newsom, whose regular term expires in 2022, she isn't particularly enthusiastic about the recall effort.

"When they're one year away from the end of term, I think we really need solid reasons to recall someone — not because they attended a party and were a hypocrite," she said.

Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on May 26, 2021 at 10:50 am

commonsense is a registered user.

Couldn't agree more. Public Employee, Prison, Teachers - you name it and that unions is likely counter productive to all but the union itself. She's got my vote.

Posted by Eric Forrest
a resident of Professorville
on May 26, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Eric Forrest is a registered user.

Her points are well-taken and admirable.

The question...does Ms. Winkler have enough public exposure and a salable name to overcome the likes of celebrity candidates?

After all, this is the same state that elected the likes of The Terminator and the late Sonny Bono.

I imagine that even Kanye West would get a sizeable number of votes if he opted to run.

California is not known for making sound political choices.

Posted by MattR
a resident of Woodside
on May 26, 2021 at 5:55 pm

MattR is a registered user.

OK She says Unions are the problem for protecting bad workers.

But lack of unions diminish employee bargining power and lead to wage stagnation. Tenure allow for teachers to express opinions that the board may find objectionable. Like climate change is a problem or evolution is real.

I'm not sure union busting won't create more problems than it solves.

While I agree that she is pointing out real issues, "calling out" any pro union laws seems too simplistic. Union busting is why emoyees at Walmart who work full time still qualify for food stamps.

Posted by Michael
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 27, 2021 at 9:31 am

Michael is a registered user.

I like Mickie personally, she is a very nice person. However, what an absurd waste of taxpayer money to be spending on this recall when there is zero chance Newsom loses. We could use the $500 million towards many other things.

Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 29, 2021 at 9:28 pm

Enough is a registered user.


I am not sure if I agree with you about the chances of the recall. I am a democrat but I plan to vote for the recall and hopefully get someone elected what has morals and a sense of responsibility. I personally do not like Newsom for the fact he slept with his aides wife and lied about it and then he was telling Californians to do one thing to protect everyone from COVID while not feeling he needed to do the same. He just is not a good person and he is not good for the state. We are losing businesses left and right (along with the revenue they generate) and we are losing the very wealthy and the taxes they would be paying. I don't think he deserves the job, we can and hopefully will do better...

Posted by Mary Gilles
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 19, 2021 at 9:10 am

Mary Gilles is a registered user.

I also know Mickie personally and she is the bravest and most intelligent woman I know. I am chiming in because contrary to a prior comment, Mickie is not proposing to bust unions. She is proposing legislation to restrict their influence. This is a very important distinction.

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