Only two of four City Council candidates are able to attend Thursday night debate
When the United Menlo Park Homeowners' Association cancelled its City Council candidates forum only a week before it was to take place, some other local homeowners associations scrambled to put a replacement debate together.
The result was a polite candidates' forum at the U.S. Geological Survey last Thursday that attracted about 20 local voters but only two of the four candidates in the Nov. 5 Menlo Park City Council race.
Chuck Kinney and Paul Collacchi, the two City Council candidates who have taken the hardest line when it comes to the Sand Hill Road projects, were on hand. Incumbent Dee Tolles sent a representative to apologize for his absence, which he said was caused by a business trip that was scheduled after the forum's initial cancellation. Challenger Harry Harrison also did not attend.
Given Collacchi's and Kinney's campaigns, it was no surprise that the candidates spent most of the evening agreeing with each other on the subject of the proposed Sand Hill Road projects. Most of the audience's questions also involved Sand Hill Road, and what the candidates planned to do to protect the interests of Menlo Park.
"The project generates a net harm to the community above the benefits," Collacchi said. He advocated asking Palo Alto to take the brunt of the project's impact on itself, rather than transferring it to Menlo residents.
Kinney agreed that the proposed project was too dense in nature and too concentrated along the San Francisquito Creek. "The most negative impact," he said, "will be on Menlo Park residents who live along the creek." Kinney suggested that Menlo Park could "use certain areas of the road that we control as a card in the negotiations" with Palo Alto. Both candidates advocate suing Palo Alto if negotiations do not produce favorable results.
Neither Kinney nor Collacchi rose to the bait when a questioner offered them the opportunity to slam their opponents for not attending the meeting. Collacchi remarked that his own schedule had been disrupted by the rescheduling of the meeting, and that he was "willing to cut them some slack." Kinney echoed those sentiments.
The original event, which was scheduled to take place in the Menlo School dining room, was cancelled when a problem with the room arose and no alternate site could be found, according to Jane King, president of the United Menlo Homeowner's Association.
The organizers of the replacement forum included the Linfield Oaks Homeowners' Association, the Santa Rita Homeowners' Association, Felton Gables Inc., the Willows Improvement Network, and the Alliance of Concerned Citizens. Steve Walton, the president of Felton Gables Inc., moderated the event by reading the questions written down by audience members.
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