BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The Menlo Park City Council Wednesday (Dec. 21) night was poised to select a new council member to replace Ray Mueller, who was elected to the board of supervisors, but instead pumped the brakes after one council member said the process felt like “speed dating.”
A four-member council now will select Mueller’s replacement on Jan. 9.
The deadline for applicants wishing to replace Mueller had until 5 p.m. Tuesday to submit an application with the city. While their names and applications were posted on the city’s website starting Sunday night, a final list was not released until Tuesday at 6 p.m. — 24 hours before yesterday’s meeting.
The council spent just over two hours interviewing 10 of the 13 candidates who had applied. Two of the applicants, Elizabeth Sullivan and Andrew Slater, withdrew their names from consideration. Applicants Diana No and Thom Phan were unable to attend the meeting.
The council was supposed to then vote on who would replace Mueller — but Councilman Drew Combs suggested to put the decision off. He said residents may not be fully aware of who has applied, he also pointed out that there hasn’t been a full newspaper article featuring every candidate.
“We are doing what is usually an election process that occurs over months…this has felt like speed dating to a degree,” Combs said. “We can’t replicate the election process.”
Betsy Nash and Cecilia Taylor agreed, saying that they want to make sure the applicants know what they are getting into. They also urged the applicants to watch the council’s meeting regarding its Housing Element, the state mandated eight-year plan for more housing in town. Menlo Park is required to add about 3,000 more homes.
Mueller, who is the one being replaced, had wanted to vote on his replacement, but said instead he will give his thoughts on who ought to be appointed in his stead. Mueller said he had thought last night would be his last night on the council and was not expecting to be at future meetings.
The council voted 4-0, with Mueller abstaining, to continue the meeting to Jan. 9.
The applicants are former Mayor Catherine Carlton, sustainability consultant Maria Doerr, Silicon Valley Bank employee Mark Noble, Edward Schor, former parks and rec commissioner Noria Zasslow, complete streets commissioner Sally Cole, healthcare president Robin Glass, president of climate organization 350 Silicon Valley Nicole Kemeny, Diana No, a medical dosimetrist, who provides care to cancer patients, investment banker Thom Phan, history teacher Andrew Slater, engineer and environmental geologist Paul Studemeister and Elizabeth Sullivan, president of Pace Palo Alto art gallery.
BY EMILY MIBACHDaily Post Staff Writer
A former Menlo Park Mayor has thrown her hat in the ring to replace Ray Mueller on the city council.
Catherine Carlton was on the council from 2012 to 2020 and decided not to run against Mueller when the council switched to being elected by district.
Carlton is one of 14 people who have applied to fill out the remaining two years of Mueller’s term. Mueller was elected to the county’s board of supervisors. The council will vote tonight to pick Mueller’s replacement.
The applicants are Carlton, Maria Doerr, Mark Noble, Edward Schor, Noria Zasslow, Sally Cole, Robin Glass, Kristin Hansen, Nicole Kemeny, Diana No, Thom Phan, Andrew Slater, Paul Studemeister and Elizabeth Sullivan. The Post previously featured information on Glass, Hansen, Kemeny, No, Phan, Slater, Studemeister and Sullivan, go to the Post’s website to learn more about them.
Carlton, the previous councilwoman, says she is right for the position because the people of Menlo Park elected her twice. “It isn’t a case of council choosing who to represent the people, as the people have already expressed their desire to have me represent them,” she wrote in her application.
Carlton touts her history with the city as a benefit, as she will not have as much of a learning curve as other appointees. She says the three immediate issues the city faces are its housing element, traffic and electrifying buildings. For work, Carlton advises entrepreneurs at USC’s Marshall Innovation Incubator, and the University of Oxford’s Oxford Entrepreneurs.
Cole is currently on the city’s complete streets commission. She was also on the city’s heritage tree task force. In 1994 she was the Chief Operating Officer for the President’s council on sustainable development and before that was deputy chief of staff to the EPA administrator.
Cole says she will bring a fresh perspective to city government has worked in corporate, nonprofit and public sectors.
The top three immediate issues Cole says the city is facing are managing growth and development while adding more housing, revitalizing downtown and its retail and keeping the city’s streets “safe and accessible to all.”
Doerr recently moved back to Menlo Park after living in the city while attending Stanford before graduating in 2017. She is currently a sustainability and climate consultant. She points out in her application that she is part of a younger generation of residents which allows her to bring a new perspective of life in the city. The top three immediate issues Doerr says the city is facing are housing, electrifying buildings and “engaging a new generation in civic engagement.”
Noble is a 23-year resident of the city and a managing director at the Silicon Valley Bank. He says while he’s had limited interaction with the city over the years other than attending city-sponsored events such as the annual street fair, he’s been impressed with the city’s programs and would like to be part of the effort to get community programs expanded.
The top three immediate issues Noble says the city is facing are addressing “the elevated crime problem” in neighborhoods and local businesses, creatively and fairly solving the affordable housing issue, which includes focusing on housing for city workers and local teachers. His third issue is further growing traffic to downtown.
Schor is a former public health official for the state of Iowa and is currently a physician. He says he is a “well-educated, well-informed citizen who approaches issues thoughtfully and with an open mind but also with a commitment to ensuring that all residents have the opportunity for a reasonable standard of living and good quality of life.” He is applying for the position because he thinks he should move beyond his role as an advocate and work within government to improve public services. The top three immediate issues Schor says the city is facing are traffic and transportation, public safety and the role/influence that large employers have over the quality of life and government decision-making.
Zasslow previously served on the city’s parks and recreation commission. Zasslow ran unsuccessfully for the Sequoia Union High School District in 2005, 2009 and 2015 and for the San Mateo County Board of Education in 2008. She says she is a disability advocate and volunteers with the Autism Society and other groups to “create inclusive programs for Special Education students.”
She wants to reopen programs that were closed during the pandemic. The top three immediate issues Zasslow says the city is facing are safety, zoning and traffic.
A look at the eight people who applied for a city council opening (printed Dec. 19)
BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily Post Correspondent
Eight people have applied for a seat on the Menlo Park City Council so far, including a health care executive, a climate activist and a high school teacher.
As of Sunday night, the applicants are: Robin Glass, Kristin Hansen, Nicole Kemeny, Diana No, Thom Phan, Andrew Slater, Paul Studemeister and Elizabeth Sullivan. The residents are applying to fill the seat of Councilman Ray Mueller, who is leaving the council due to his election to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.
It’s possible the city will receive more applications for the council seat. The application deadline is 5 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).
The City Council will interview applicants and appoint the new council member during a special meeting on Wednesday.
Mueller represents Menlo Park’s District 5, which stretches from the intersection of Santa Cruz Avenue and San Mateo Drive down into Sharon Heights. The applicants must live in that area.
The eight applicants are:
Glass is president of Included Health, a San Francisco-based healthcare company. She has a master’s degree from Harvard in public administration and business administration.
Glass has three children, and said she’s volunteered at their schools and helped coach their teams.
Glass said the city’s top three issues are affordable housing, sustainable growth and environmental impact. The city’s budget may also become more of an issue, she said, as the economy becomes more “challenging.”
Hansen describes herself as a home-electrification activist.
Last year, Hansen wrote to council to share her own experience with a recent home remodel. Hansen said almost all gas appliances were replaced with electric, except for a clothes dryer, outdoor grill and fire pit. Solar panels on the home’s roof help power the family’s electric car.
Hansen suggested that the city start an educational program about home electrification for home builders or remodelers who come in for permits.
“Imagine, for example, if every high-end remodel and rebuild occurring over the past 24 months on Oakdell included a required consultative meeting between the city and the homeowner, as part of the permitting process, to encourage them to review and consider non-gas alternatives for their home systems and appliances,” she wrote.
The proposal is different from an electrification mandate, which is likely to face opposition, she added.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Hansen is executive director of the Civic Health Project, a nonprofit that gives grants for efforts to “reduce toxic polarization, improve civil discourse and strengthen democracy.”
She’s also a lecturer in the Stanford Business School.
When asked what are the top three issues that council should address immediately, Hansen said “bridging the tensions generated over Measure V”; improving safety along main thoroughfares for pedestrians, bicyclists, and children; and revitalizing downtown.
Kemeny is the only one of the eight applicants who reported having held a public elected or appointed office. She was elected in 2020 to the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee for a four-year term.
In 2016, the board of 350 Silicon Valley, a climate organization, elected Kemeny to serve as president, a position she held for five years. She has served as an “EV ambassador,” allowing people to drive her electric vehicle as she rode along and answered questions.
“I believe climate change is the most urgent problem we face,” Kemeny said on her LinkedIn profile.
Her top long-term issues for the city are growth, housing and transportation; wise use of resources such as water; and a “speedy, equitable transition away from fossil fuel in buildings.”
Kemeny said she’d like to see residents of different parts of the city interact more and get to know each other.
No has a bachelor’s degree in radiologic science and works as a medical dosimetrist, providing care to cancer patients.
According to her application, No is directory chair for Las Lomitas Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association, and is active with the local Brownie troop. No said that because of her community involvement, she can bring the perspective of parents to the council.
No said the top issues for the city are crime prevention, increasing the number of community events and affordable housing. Longer term, the city should work to improve downtown, update playgrounds and provide more community child care facilities.
Phan is a former active duty Air Force officer and investment banker who describes himself as happily retired.
With experience in corporate finance, engineering and sales, Phan said he can help build budgets, execute projects and provide frameworks for accountability.
He said affordable housing and traffic and transportation are among the city’s top issues, as are water conservation and renewable energy.
“(I) would welcome the opportunity to find the right mix of incentives to make Menlo Park a responsible, sustainable city that can be California’s gold standard,” he said in his application.
Longer-term, balancing residential and business growth is a challenge for the city, he said.
Slater is a middle school and high school history and social studies teacher who has been working in East San Jose. He also has a master’s degree in urban policy analysis and management.
Top issues for Slater include affordable housing for working-class families, making sure small businesses aren’t pushed out by chain stores, and ensuring children’s programs serve all students, “regardless of neighborhood, race, wealth, immigration status, language spoken at home, and parents’ education.”
Slater said the city works well for people with money, but it needs to work on being more inclusive.
Studemeister has worked as an engineer and environmental geologist for consulting firms. He has also been president of a homeowners association in Menlo Park.
Studemeister said he’s called police to report abandoned vehicles and thefts of mail and packages.
He said the city should reduce its cost of government and lower taxes. In addition, the city should avoid “poorly thought-out policies” that end up costing “big bucks.”
Studemeister wrote to council last year in support of Mueller’s proposed park preservation ordinance. Council voted against the proposal, which would have protected city parks from development without a vote from residents.
He also asked council to “resist those that want night parking of cars and vehicles on city streets” in the Sharon Park neighborhood.
“Continue to issue fines; raise the fines (if) needed,” he wrote.
Sullivan is president of Pace Palo Alto art gallery. In 2015, she helped transform the former Tesla dealership in Menlo Park into a digital art showcase.
She said council should work to bring more arts and culture to Menlo Park. Sullivan would also like to see more fun runs.
Council should listen to what residents want, she said. And council should be taking a closer look at public employees’ output and performance, Sullivan said.