Candidates for council square off — topics include police car stops, lawsuit against city

Scott Spielman, Los Altos City Council candidate

BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer

One of the seven Los Altos council candidates said he thinks police should be randomly stopping “suspicious vehicles” in town.

“I believe as well that spot checks are reasonable,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Scott Spielman during a campaign forum on Wednesday. “I have been spot-checked before and it gives me comfort when police are out looking for suspicious vehicles. I think that’s in itself a deterrent to crime as long as there is no discrimination, as long as people are treated fairly.”

Spielman’s comments came after a question about reducing burglaries during a candidate debate hosted by several groups, including the Los Altos Community Foundation and the Los Altos Women’s Caucus. It was moderated by former Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak.

Other responses from candidates to the policing question included Planning Commissioner Sally Meadows’ suggestion that more residents use home security cameras since police can’t be on every street and candidate Alex Rubashevsky’s suggestion that the city put up more street lights.

Priorities of candidates

Candidates were asked about their most important issues.

Incumbent Lynette Lee Eng said she wants the city to have a good check on expenses and more budget reviews in light of the current economic situation.

Finance Commissioner Kuljeet Kalkat said the city council needs to work better as a team with city commissions and city administration. Spielman said he would help council meetings run more efficiently.

Rubashevsky said he wants a more business-friendly town. He also wants residents to have more freedom to renovate their own properties.

Meadows said she wants affordable housing projects to move through the city faster. She said city decisions should be consistent with state laws and city zoning to avoid lawsuits from developers.

Terri Couture said the city should make a list of the contact information for all residents with help from community groups so the city can inform every resident about what the city council is doing.

40 Main St. lawsuit

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Jonathan Weinberg said he wants to make sure the city complies with the law to avoid lawsuits like the one over a planned 66-foot building at 40 Main St.

A judge said the city broke three state laws and acted in “bad faith” when it denied an application for the apartment and office building proposed by Ted and Jerry Sorensen.

Weinberg said the current council has let city litigation costs triple while fighting cases where the city was in the wrong. He said he wants to make the city comply with the law.

The candidates got a few rounds of yes or no questions.

One question was whether housing should be a priority over preserving parks and green space. Only Weinberg answered yes.

Another was whether the city should keep downtown streets closed to cars so that restaurants can seat people outside. Everyone said the program should continue throughout the year.

Candidates were also asked about how they would work effectively with City Manager Chris Jordan.

Wienberg and Kalkat both said it is not appropriate for council members to criticize Jordan in public.

Kulkat said the current council has not done a good job setting goals for Jordan.
Spielman said he wants to build a relationship with Jordan through one-on-one meetings and reviews.

4 Comments

  1. Scott Spielman’s comments advocating random police stops of “suspicious cars” are little short of astounding, and display a complete lack of any understanding of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . .  .” First, such stops have been routinely denounced as unlawful throughout recent decades, and neither the Los Altos Police nor any other law enforcement agency could lawfully engage in them. Second, the very nature of such stops leads inevitably to discrimination against minorities, older vehicles, drivers, and occupants who “look like they do not belong,” etc. There is no way they can be, or ever have been, administered fairly. Finally, there is the question of whether all desirable goals, such as reducing crime, justify any and all means to achieve them? Would Mr. Spielman approve of random, late-night searches of homes because such searches would undoubtedly lead to some decrease in crime? Hopefully not. If Mr. Spielman wishes, I would be happy to take the time to enlighten him more specifically about the numerous ways in which his comments are ill-founded. Although I have not yet decided for whom I should vote for Los Altos Council, Mr. Spielman certainly has removed himself for any consideration of my vote. 

  2. It always starts simple enough. “Random”!! “suspicious”!! Next thing you know there looking for older white male” Los Altos City councelpersons!! I geuss he is not a Jew like me…or Black or Brown or Gay Or…..left handed?

  3. Mr. Spielman’s support of illegal search without probable cause is astounding. His suggestion of such methods exhibits not only a grand misunderstanding of current law, but displays a resounding (pun intended) tone deafness about current societal stresses and valid concerns about bias and descrimination. His idea teeters on a slippery slope down to Stop-and-Frisk! Does he understand how deploying such a policy would increase the chasm of mistrust between Law Enforcement and the community? How he would make Police Officers’ jobs even more subject to debate, derision, and complaint? Can someone really be so out of touch? This mindset is NOT what Los Altos needs in its highest office of leadership. I certainly hope Mr. Spielman reflects on his suggestion and has a sincere change of heart and mind and rejects the notion of random stops.

  4. It sounds like Mr. Spielman is advocating Crime Prevention in accordance with the Neighborhood Crime Watch: “Report suspicious activity: Many criminals case neighborhoods looking for residents’ patterns of activity. If you see suspicious people or vehicles in your neighborhood, report your observations of suspicious behavior to the Police Department right away.”

    Source: https://www.losaltosca.gov/police/page/neighborhood-watch

    I don’t see anything wrong with that. Mr. Spielman may not be a good politician, but he seems very honest and speaks his independent mind. Others probably think what he said. Since they are good politicians, they know what can be spun and used against them so they watch what they say.

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