Myth Busters

Fact: It is common practice when opposing a ballot measure to try to confuse the issue, hoping to confuse the voters. When voters are confused, they typically vote ‘No.’ Get the truth. Then vote YES on Measure C.

  • Myth: “The City Council has never sold parkland, so we don’t need Measure C.”

    Fact: We need to protect our parks AND public lands in the future. Development pressures are greater than ever before. Multiple efforts to develop, sell, or lease several Los Altos parks were turned back in the past ONLY after outcry from residents. There is no guarantee future city councils would act the same. Measure C is a forward-looking process for residents to affirm or reject such plans in the future.

    Residents of various neighboring cities also thought that their elected officials would never sell or lease public parks. After the city councils did so, the residents created initiatives similar to Measure C, most of which passed. But it was too late to undo the prior loss of their public land. We don’t want that to happen here.

    (more…)

  • Myth: How does this affect the Downtown Visioning process?

    Fact: Our current Mayor Mordo was the Council’s lead speaker for Measure A, a bond measure to authorize the City to borrow $65 million to fund over $100 million in improvements to the Hillview Community Center. After being resoundingly rejected by over 70% of Los Altos voters, he has now turned to what he calls “monetizing” the City’s land to generate money and promote private development. That means selling, leasing, or entering into unknown public-private partnerships where ownership or long-term control of the property is lost to public use. He led the Council in adopting the Downtown Vision plan that would replace most parking plazas with commercial development. Unlike the bond measure, this could be done without voter approval – unless Measure C is passed.

  • Myth: We should be able to rely on our elected officials. Isn’t this an attack on our representative democracy?

    Fact: No. The California Constitution provides for citizen initiatives to PROTECT democracy. In a representative democracy most decisions are left to the discretion of the elected officials, who are expected to study the issues and make good decisions. These same democracies, however, especially at the local level, often have a few significant and irreversible decisions that must first be approved by the voters. It seems reasonable to treat the loss of city land from public use as we treat bond issues and major tax increases: by requiring voter approval.

    (more…)

  • Myth: The language is ambiguous, with unintended consequences.

    Fact: Measure C reflects the concerns of many Los Altos residents, but the actual wording was prepared by a premier law firm, Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, a long-time expert in preparing public sector ballot initiatives and dealing with local government land-use issues (check out http://www.smwlaw.com/news/accomplishments). The final language was reviewed by their panel of senior partners to make sure it lacked the ambiguities or unintended consequences now claimed by the opponents. It certainly is not “poorly written.”

    It is easy for anyone, especially those who want to block the measure, to claim that it is legally ambiguous, but that does not make it so.

  • Myth: Won’t Measure C unreasonably impact public work contractors who need access over public land for more than 180 days?

    Fact: No. Access rights do not “alter the public character of the land” and are likewise exempt from voter approval. Whatever timeframes might be required to provide access are therefore irrelevant. This myth is another erroneous scare tactic.

  • Myth: Weren’t people misled during signature collection – speaking only about parks and not mentioning other public lands?

    Fact: No. Signatures were collected by fellow Los Altos residents who volunteered their time. There were no paid collectors. They used a sheet to explain the initiative, and carried all documents required by the registrar of voters. The bold title of the promotional sheet was: “Protect our Parks & Public Lands.” There was no intent to say it was limited to parks, particularly since some of our sports fields that look like parks (at Hillview) are not actually designated as parks. It is possible that some who signed the petition only remember mention of parks, but that does not mean that public lands were not also mentioned. There was no need to hide that fact because the Hillview ball fields, apricot orchard, and parking plazas are just some of the important public/institutional land covered by Measure C.

In summary, Measure C is a well-written initiative that clearly and repeatedly says that it will apply only to actions that would “Significantly Impact the Public Character of Lands Owned by the City of Los Altos,” actions that would “effectively privatize” City land (See Initiative, Section 1, Findings, C.5.), and “alter the public character of theses lands (See Initiative, Section 1, Effect, B).

It will not affect any current leases or agreements, or any amendments or renewals, as long as there is no significant change in the public character of the land and its use. Such actions should be rare, and a vote for them should be easily planned for minimum expense, given the magnitude of the potential permanent loss of the public use of the land. For five months, opponents have tried to find some basis for opposing this residents’ initiative. They have failed. The real purpose of their efforts is to scare people and thereby retain complete control over public land in the hands of three council members and their cronies. Don’t let their false claims sway you. Vote YES on Measure C.