This election season has been the worst in recent memory. I’m referring to right here in Los Altos, where a war of words and questionable activity is being waged on three fronts. And in each case, the candidates are the least of the problem.
In the Los Altos City Council race, Mayor Val Carpenter and Councilman Ron Packard have made no secret of their choices among the six candidates in the three-seat race. Perhaps they should have kept their opinions to themselves. Their actions have been offensive and have impacted the candidates they didn’t endorse.
Carpenter questioned whether campaign signs at Los Altos Pharmacy represented a conflict of interest with Safeway, which is in the process of purchasing the pharmacy’s compounding business. Some felt Carpenter’s tactic was unethical and an act of intimidation. Three former mayors were moved to write a letter last week condemning her actions.
Meanwhile, Packard wrote an article, run as a paid advertisement in the Town Crier, outlining his opinion on four of the six candidates, two of whom he is endorsing. This, too, led to hurt feelings.
But as much as Carpenter and Packard might be offended, they both got the ball rolling.
The candidates are being put in difficult positions, as those who have been endorsed by either Carpenter or Packard have been called on to distance themselves from their endorsers.
Much worse is the race for a seat on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees. Again, the candidates are a backdrop to a maze of blogs and websites attacking Bullis Charter School. The school district and the charter school have struggled for years to hammer out a fair facilities agreement. The “electronic diatribe” associated with the problem dismays John Swan, a centrist voice on the Los Altos Hills Education Committee.
“If we want the LASD/BCS talks to become more productive, we need to stop the anonymous electronic communications and encourage transparency,” Swan said. I’m with Swan.
Which leads us to the El Camino Hospital District race, with two seats open on the five-seat board of directors, and Measure M, an initiative that would cap the salaries of the hospital’s top executives.
Playing a heavy hand in both races is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has members at El Camino. The union, still smarting from contentious contract negotiations last year, put Measure M on the ballot with virtually no involvement from hospital workers.
Now the SEIU is behind mailers supporting the three challengers for the district board (there are also two incumbents running) and making it a “quality of health-care” issue when that was never the issue.
Incumbent board member John Zoglin thinks the union and its supporters are spending more than $100,000 on the campaign to, as he put it, “take over the $1 billion asset that is El Camino Hospital.”
In addition to fliers, the union hired paid representatives to knock on voters’ doors.
“They do not have any intent of representing all stakeholders in the community, just one special interest group – SEIU members,” Zoglin said. We’ve seen financial results of other governmental entities when the unions’ interests are placed ahead of citizens’.”
From where I sit, this is a scary scenario. I’ve talked with Zoglin and fellow incumbent Wesley Alles, both up for re-election. Both candidates are honest, knowledgeable and responsible in representing the community. It’s an unfair fight, and I only hope the public sees through the union’s propaganda.
So, what to do with all this static? The best thing I think voters should do – and, I believe, will do – is homework. Consider the source of the information.
See you at the polls Tuesday.
Bruce Barton is editor-in-chief of the Town Crier.