Rare contested council race in Atherton
Publication Date: Wednesday Oct 30, 1996

Rare contested council race in Atherton

Four candidates, including two incumbents, seek two seats

by Heather Rock Woods

Two longtime council member are racing against two members of the Atherton Civic Interest League for two seats on the City Council. It's Atherton's first contested election in 10 years. It's been a rocky time for the town, which has experienced some budget problems of late and some controversies. The council raised the town's special parcel tax from $500 to $625 per year this summer, after an increase from $390 the year before. In November 1995 voters overwhelmingly supported renewing the parcel tax and raising the tax's cap from $500 to $750. The Police Department receives about 60 percent of the budget.

Atherton also drew much attention over a dispute about the construction of a Little League field at Holbrook Palmer park. The town has mailed a survey to all households to get opinions on whether organized sports like Little League should be allowed to play in the town's only park.

Name: Robert L. Jenkins

Age: 64

Residence: Irving Avenue

Occupation: Executive/turnaround consultant for companies in crisis

Experience: Director of the Atherton Civic Interest League, active member of the Marine Corps Reserve Officers Association and the International Executive Service Corps. As a crisis/turnaround executive he develops creative solutions to troubled or underperforming situations.

What would you do about the town's tight budget?: "Revenue sources really need to be reviewed. Turn around Holbrook Palmer Park so it's a profit center, not a cost center. Expenses need to be reviewed to make sure (they) are justified."

How should the town fund street repairs, lighting and other capital projects?: "We don't know the magnitude of what the capital improvement budget should be over the next 5 to 10 years." When the dollar amount is known, Jenkins said the city will have to decide whether that can be paid from the annual revenues of the town, or if issuing bonds will be necessary.

Should the town allow organized sports in Holbrook-Palmer Park?: Jenkins said he would uphold what the residents want. "The group advocating Little league has not really made their case that there are not fields available."

Name: Estelle Hoffman

Age: 68

Residence: Selby Lane

Occupation: community volunteer, retired real estate agent

Experience: Member of Atherton Dames for 30 years, active in fundraising for town. Member of Atherton Civic Interest League for five years, vice president of membership for past two years. Member of town's Selby/Stockbridge Traffic Committee.

Budget issues: "I would watch that very closely." Hoffman said she would scrutinize each line item and insist on a long range plan for the town. However, she would not support cuts of Police Department service or salaries.

Capital projects: "The drainage system needs going over. Trees need trimming. Roads need paving. Median strips need to be planted. These things were budgeted. Now I'd like to see them done." Hoffman said funds for those projects were "supposedly passed" in previous budgets and wants to know why the projects were delayed.

Sports at Holbrook-Palmer Park: "It depends on how townspeople respond to the survey." Hoffman said she would vote in line with the wishes of the majority of the residents.

Name: Malcolm H. Dudley, incumbent

Age: 63

Residence: Catalpa Drive

Occupation: investment banking

Experience: Council member for 20 years, member of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority for eight years, currently chair, vice chair of County Local Agency Formation Commission, and Atherton representative to the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Budget issues: "The reality is we have set an adequate level for the special tax that should meet our needs for the future." Dudley said the special tax can be raised to $750, the limit approved by voters last November. There is also a small surplus this year, he said. "My priority is to maintain services."

Capital projects: "Street repairs and drainage are the two big ones." Dudley said maintenance has not been deferred. The projects can be covered by the budget, he said.

Sports at Holbrook-Palmer Park: Dudley said he would let the residents decide. However, with a quarter of Atherton's population age 19 and under, "We have a tremendous need for facilities for our growing young population." If residents don't want organized sports in the park, "we as a council certainly have a responsibility to develop other facilities within the town, perhaps through the schools."

Name: Nanette "Nan" Chapman, incumbent

Age: 60

Residence: Park Lane

Occupation: private investor

Experience: City Council member for 16 years, including a year as mayor. Member of the Police Department's Crime Prevention Task Force for 18 years, and member of the San Mateo County Emergency Preparedness Committee. Active with the Menlo Charity Horse Show for 25 years.

Budget issues: "The main criticism we have is from people who think we're spending too much. I don't agree." Chapman said voters clearly supported the special tax last year, and she would like to add back some "essentials" that were cut from the budget, including new guns for the Police Department.

Capital projects: "We're now in process of building up funding and will spend it next year. We're currently developing a 10-year capital improvement program. I hope the council will appoint another blue ribbon committee."

Sports at Holbrook-Palmer Park?: "Because feelings are so strong on both sides, we should do exactly what we're doing: send out a survey and poll people of town." Chapman said she would support whatever residents want, but if they don't want sports in the park, "we owe it to the young people of this community to work together with organized sports groups and schools to maintain and upgrade school grounds."

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