Sat10252014

News

Former councilmen establish Friends of Los Altos


A new 501(c)(4) organization officially announced its incorporation last week – and it includes some names familiar to Los Altos residents.

Former Los Altos City Councilmen Dave Casas, Ron Packard and Lou Becker are among a group of residents who founded Friends of Los Altos Inc. (FOLA). The new organization received status from the Internal Revenue Service as a nonprofit, tax-exempt group formed to promote social welfare causes or local associations. The designation is typically given to civic leagues and political action committees.

Group members said last week that they originally formed last year “to ensure that issues of critical importance and decisions with long-lasting impact reflect the values of the broader community of Los Altans.”

With the November election approaching, FOLA plans to be “identifying, informing, endorsing and supporting” Los Altos City Council and Los Altos School District Board of Trustees candidates.

Reached by the Town Crier, Casas, who serves as the group’s president, described the organization as a volunteer-run, nonpartisan group. He said FOLA is scheduled to publish its first white paper within the next two weeks but declined to provide details on the topic.

“We’re fact-based in our approach in helping to identify and address issues facing our community, from education to civic (issues),” said Casas, who added that FOLA plans to embark on a “listening tour” and meet with the leadership of organizations such as the Los Altos Property Owners Downtown and the Huttlinger Alliance for Education to learn each group’s viewpoints on community concerns.

He said FOLA may partner later this year with some of those community organizations to host school district and city council candidate forums.

“Our focus is to understand individual candidates in more depth than just sound bites,” he said. “We’re interested in individuals who have a rational approach to decision making, independent of topic.”

Casas referred to FOLA as an umbrella organization that aims to review individual problems “from a broader community perspective,” pointing to the ongoing Bullis Charter School and Los Altos School District facilities issue as an example.

The group comprises an array of Los Altos residents serving as advisers, including Bullis Charter School parent Buffy Poon, former school district Trustee Duane Roberts, commercial property owner and Planning and Transportation Commissioner Jerry Moison and realtor and Historical Commissioner Denise Welsh.

Packard, who served with Casas on the council for two terms, will act as the group’s secretary, with Public Arts Commissioner Faye Chapman installed as treasurer. Becker, whom Casas called “a mentor,” will serve as FOLA’s vice president.

“If we can have divergent voices under a single umbrella striving for a solution, it’s at least a beginning,” Casas said of the ongoing schools conflict.

He added that any political candidate seeking the group’s support would be vetted by filling out two specific school- and city-related questionnaires. All endorsed candidates will be asked to sign an ethics pledge. Casas called the pledge “a guiding premise on how candidates will conduct themselves during the election.”

For more information, visit friendsoflosaltos.org.

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