Posted by been there, a resident of Menlo Park, 2 hours ago (on Palo Alto Weekly comments to G. Sheyner’s coverage of the Arrillaga Proposal, ie March 5, 2012, approximately 9 a.m.)
How shocking that PA online would remove a very amusing comment by MW that I enjoyed very much. Why don’t they remove their own nonsense, for example “billionaire turned philanthropist”?” And what is this philanthropy? If these people, his daughter included, really wanted to do some good they would give their money to tearing down the system that made them so off-the-charts wealthy at the expense of everyone else. The kind of philanthropy they are doing is only making things worse.
Which, after all, is probably good.
Read this fast, as it is sure to be removed.
I had the good fortune to run into Pat Burt today at Printer’s Cafe, the former Printers Ink, the former bookstore. our former former mayor and the son of legendary Los Altos Eagles football coach Tom Burt , who won six championships and has the field named for him, and was the guest of honor more recently at a Rotary Club of Los Altos event that seemed to be open to the public that I wanted to check out but missed.
Last summer Mr. Burt, the younger, and I had a not very useful exchange, while waiting in line together to buy tickets to Kiwanis Club bike and food event, regarding the future of the Varsity Theatre, and my initiative there that I call TLPW456.
I guess I am frustrated with his reticence to either use me as a sounding board for his ideas on projects I am interested in or figuring out how to use my energy and ideas to advancing his initiatives. We are so far like the video I saw not of teamwork but of a basketball and a soccer match being played on the same field but at crosspurposes.
Pat Burt told me he was disappointed by my comments on the Weekly site. I said on Palo Alto Weekly comments section that Burt has said “We are taking the lead here, or at least that’s what John Arrillaga told me to say — I am paraphrasing or check the record.”
You can of course check the record and compare what he said, on City website archive of public meetings, as I know and helpfully suggest.
He definitely said “we are taking the lead here” which is the point I am disputing, the history of the proposal, the context et al.
Is is fair comment, in a comments section –where half the people don’t even use their full names — to playfully (but with method to the madness) suggest that Arrillaga conferred with Burt prior to 10 p.m. on Monday March 5, 2012 about 27 University Avenue proposal (new theatre, perhaps exclusively for Theatreworks AND 250,000 of office space, perhaps in nine stories, i.e. in excess of existing limits, AND requiring undedication of park lands AND moving of historic building, its tenant MacArthur Park Restaurant AND Red Cross — using funds dedicated for bike and pedestrian enhancement, to offset the addition of hospital workers).
If Burt or I had more time for each other at the cafe I would have wanted to put my journalism training to better use and get answers to these four questions that seemed to be not answered in staff presentations and council comment Monday, to Mr. Burt:
1) Pat, how would you characterize John Arrillaga’s role in the community, if my comments and posts mischaracterize it? Is there a distinction between how Stanford as a private non-profit education corporation deals with its constituents and how a public government agency like Palo Alto does? Does it matter how Menlo Park deals with these offers — is the Arrillaga gym there an exact model for how we can or should act here, or is this case somehow more complicated, or do we have differing standards and values and considerations?
2) What communication or contact or instructions did you have or get from John Arrillaga about this project, prior to your public from dias statements Monday?
3) What do you mean by “taking the lead here” if Arrillaga and not Theatreworks and not staff or council initiatiated the discussion.
4) What about, Pat, Mr. Herb Burok’s public input and question of why are we taxpayers subsidizing the billionaire’s proposal if otherwise he would have to pay for the study himself?
By the way, in my somewhat fantastical reaction to and coverage of Nancy Shepherd’s comment at Council in the fall that she was asked by Chop Keenan to ask the citizens to quit yapping about 456 University –my coverage included a link via wordpress and youtube to a famous movie actress in a pink tightfitting outfit dancing to Imperial Teen “Yoo Hoo” from “Jawbreaker” movie — I was going from “no yawping” to “yoo hoo” — I recall that Aram James a former public defender and local public safety activist who endorsed my 2009 campaign saying, off the top of his head, that Sullivan Vs. New York Times (1964) still holds and protects citizens’ comments on public officials.
Certainly Nancy Shepherd, Pat Burt and John Arrillaga (he whose name is on at least three gyms or stadiums nearby) are public figures and therefore fall under Sullivan in terms of can they accept a certain amount of criticism and comment from the hoi polloi like moi.
But generally speaking I would rather find overlapping grounds to work with council members current and prior than chalk out a playing field of civic affairs with too many markers, yard lines, territory, red zones and perpendiculars.
In terms of following local issues and trying to make a positive contribution, to civic engagement, nothing is easy, and and neophyte quickly learns more about setbacks than progress. But it reminds me of one of my favorite Tom Petty songs: I won’t back down.
edit to add, March 17, 2012: as luck would have, my girlfriend and I and our guest were seated at a community table tonight at a local public house and kitchen with who else but former Mayor Pat Burt, his wife and four of their friends, two couples, most of whom it turned out were also interested in the same civic initiative as we three. Politics can make strange breadfellows….Although the dinner talk was more about the arts and youth services, I did pick up the fact that the Giants have a 6’9″ lefthander working his way fast through the system with local ties. And that “Kaptain Crazy” Fulton Kuykendall of the Atlanta Falcons before all that was from St. Patrick’s of Vallejo and then a fraternity brother of Art Kuehn of Cubberley while at UCLA.
edit to add: on June 6, 2014, or two years and two months later, a Santa Clara County Grand Jury report asked essentially the same questions I was rebuffed for asking Pat Burt, and concluded that Palo Alto did not follow its policy in how it worked here, and in one other case, with Mr. Arrillaga. It also cited us for not answering public requests for information. The Weekly did, somewhere in here, this timeline, run a firmer story on the problems with the 27 University deal.