Issues Discussed at Menlo College Candidate Forum

A two-minute opening statement, ninety-second questions, and a short closing statement were the tight parameters placed on the four City Council candidates for the Town of Atherton when they discussed election issues at the Candidates Forum at Menlo College. Despite the overlap with the World Series Game playoff, nearly every available seat was filled in the “Great Hall” of the Russell Center on the Menlo College campus. Kennedy Tanaka, a freshman student at Menlo College introduced the four candidates, and emphasized the need for the community and College to “embrace” each other.

Incumbent candidates included Rick DeGolia, who won a special election last year to fill a partial term, and Bill Widmer, first elected in 2010. Also running for the three available seats are Mike Lempres and Rose Hau.

Opened statements included:

DeGolia: “The opportunity for the town and College to work together is rich, like a diamond in the rough.” He highlighted the civic center project and a telecommunications network for Atherton residents as opportunities that might include student involvement.

Hau explained that she received her degree in architecture from UC Berkeley and that she has lived in Atherton for 22 years. For many years, she had been asked to run, but she chose to do it this election term because her “background supports” the four master plans going into place, including the town civic center project.

Lempres urged students to feel that they are full-time residents in the community of Atherton. “One person can make the difference,” he said. El Camino Real safety is one of his priority issues, which he decided to act upon when he realized that it was unsafe for his daughter to commute to school on her bike. He added that he is opposed to California’s high-speed rail project.

Widmer referred to his past civic record as mayor and vice mayor, the speeches he has made at Constitution Day festivities at Menlo College in years past, and the ADAPT plan disaster preparedness events that he worked on with Menlo College alumnus Hanna Malak.

When asked what they thought of adding more students to the 750 limit placed on the College by the Town of Atherton, the candidates said:

DeGolia: “If you want more students, let it be known by deepening your student relationship with the Town. Communicate the issues that are important to you. There are rich resources to take advantage of and pursue.”

Hau: “The Town of Atherton’s response to size is about, “traffic, traffic, traffic. Demographics are changing, and schools are growing. It is incumbent for residents to work with it.” She added that the College would need to provide alternative transportation options such as biking and shuttle busses to offset any increased traffic that might otherwise ensue with a larger student population.

Lempres: The size issue would concern neighbors, but added that “the town wants a successful College that they can be proud of.”

Widmer: “Traffic is the big obstacle for neighbors,” and he explained that an environmental impact study would be necessary.

Other questions addressed concerns about the targeting of Menlo College students by the Atherton Police Department (candidates said they needed more information), an inquiry about the restriction on night games (noise and lights are the key factors), a query about how to connect with the Town of Atherton (get involved), and how to encourage business growth in Atherton (connect with fellow students and innovate).

In closing statements, the candidates added:

DeGolia: “If you take a risk, sometimes you fail but sometimes you succeed. Take the risk! Beyond the election, get involved with the Town community and be responsive. If you have an internship idea, send it to me. Vote and reach out!”

Hau reminded the audience of her years of project experience, and reminded them that voting is critical. “Be creative and develop friendships so you can do something that is interesting. Make connections while you are here (at College).”

Lempres: “Wherever you are, commit yourself to fully being there. One of the ways to do it is to vote. Let’s work to make it better.”

Widmer: “I have thirty-four years of business experience as a fiscally-responsible conservative. You can look at the records to evaluate what I said I’d do and what I did.”