Menlo Park candidate said proposal for new library is being ‘crammed down people’s throats’

Ron Shepherd, Menlo Park City Council candidate District 4
Ron Shepherd, Menlo Park City Council candidate District 4

Correction: An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Menlo Park Councilwoman Kirsten Keith’s conversation with fellow council member Peter Ohtaki. Keith said she only urged Ohtaki to “support” a proposal for a new library, but said she didn’t ask him to “vote” for it. Her communication with Ohtaki violated the state’s open-meetings law, the Brown Act, according to City Attorney Bill McClure. The story below has been corrected.

Daily Post Staff Writer

A candidate for the Menlo Park City Council district that encompasses Allied Arts and portions of west Menlo and downtown is questioning whether residents want a new library at Burgess Park.

Ron Shepherd, who serves on the city’s finance and audit committee, said yesterday (Aug. 27) that one of the reasons why he is running for a seat on council is to challenge the project.

Shepherd said the city is essentially putting the cart before the horse by looking at ways to finance the project before it decides what it wants a new library to have.

“I’m against the new library because I don’t think a majority of people want it. I think it’s been crammed down people’s throats,” Shepherd said. He wants to survey people Shepherd said the city needs to spend more time and money on surveying whether residents want the new library.

He said if 60% of residents support it, then he would be in favor of the new library.

Shepherd also said that most Menlo Park residents are not aware of the cost of a new main library.

Billionaire developer John Arrillaga has said he would pay the cost of a new library as long as the city pays the first $20 million. This means Arrillaga would donate upwards of $38 million to the city.

‘Pet project’

Shepherd questioned why the project is moving forward at a rapid pace despite it not being on the council’s top six priorities to be completed this year.

“Do you think it’s someone’s pet project, with housing on the top and parking on the bottom, and a library as a little sandwich between the two slices of bread?” Shepherd asked.

He then alluded to the Post’s story about how Councilwoman Kirsten Keith “inadvertently” violated the Brown Act after speaking with Mayor Peter Ohtaki, saying she hopes he will support the revamping of the library.

Keith, who serves on the council’s library subcommittee, had also talked to Councilman Rich Cline about the project. The Brown Act prohibits a majority of the council from speaking about a single subject to one another outside of a scheduled meeting. Three people constitutes a majority on a five-member council.

Library delayed

The Brown Act is intended to keep elected officials from making back-room deals.

A council meeting about the project was delayed because of the violation.

Shepherd is running against Ohtaki and Complete Streets Commissioner Betsy Nash for the District 4 seat.