Los Altos council candidates raise concerns over incumbent’s ad

This article was updated on 10/27 at 7:15 p.m. with Scott Spielman's comments.

Several candidates running for a seat on the Los Altos City Council expressed concern over an ad Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng ran last week, calling it disingenuous and misleading.

The ad, which ran in the Oct. 21 issue of the Town Crier, stated in part: “Lynette invited all candidates in this election to join her in the fight to protect our neighborhoods. This was two weeks ago. At press deadline, the following candidates have not responded.”

The ad then lists the names of every other candidate except Terri Couture.

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Lee Eng's ad in the Town Crier on Oct. 21
Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng's ad in last week's Town Crier raised concerns from several candidates who were named.

Lee Eng said in an email to the Town Crier that the ad was referring to a previous ad she ran in the newspaper on Oct. 7, which stated: “Lynette invites all candidates in this year’s election to join her in fighting the State’s attempts to destroy our single-family neighborhoods.”

Three of the candidates listed, Kuljeet Kalkat, Sally Meadows and Jonathan Weinberg, reached out to the Town Crier Monday (Oct. 26) with concerns about the ad. When told about what Lee Eng called an “open and public invitation,” the candidates said they had not seen the Oct. 7 ad, and had expected her to communicate directly with them with an invitation to participate. The Oct. 7 ad was placed at the bottom of page 9 of the Town Crier.

A fourth candidate, Alex Rubashevsky, said in an email he had “no idea” about the ad, and didn’t “recall hearing or seeing anything about it.” And the fifth, Scott Spielman, said he doesn't read people's ads verbatim and "you can't expect people to respond to an ad." 

Spielman said if Lee Eng had asked him directly, he would have affirmed his support for protecting single-family neigborhoods and that the ad didn't represent his position. 

Couture did not respond to a request for comment.

Meadows said she prefers to read the Town Crier online and doesn’t follow Lee Eng’s ads. She felt “resentful” that Lee Eng, who is running for re-election, would take up this line of messaging and slip it in at the end of the campaign.

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Lee Eng's ad in the Town Crier on Oct. 7
Lee Eng said her Oct. 21 ad was a follow-up to her Oct. 7 ad in the Town Crier.

“At best it’s disingenuous,” Meadows said. “This is not an elementary school scavenger hunt.”

Weinberg said that while it was true he didn’t respond to Lee Eng’s original ad, he thought the term “invite” meant that an effort had been made to reach the other candidates personally. He also questioned the language in the ad.

“To join her in the fight to protect our neighborhoods,” Weinberg said, quoting the ad. “What civically minded person wouldn’t want to do that?”

Lee Eng said the invitation was “not an individual outreach to candidates,” adding that it was “up to the candidates to respond.”

“All candidates were treated equally,” Lee Eng said. “One candidate did reach out as instructed. I did not selectively call or solicit any response from any candidate. That would have been dishonest. In the second ad, I listed those that did not reply. There was nothing deceptive or false.”

Lee Eng, who served as mayor in 2019, is the lone incumbent running to keep her seat. Three spots on the council are open, with seven candidates running in Tuesday’s election. As of Oct. 17, Lee Eng leads the field in campaign contributions.

Kalkat said there had also been no communication with him, and chuckled when told of Lee Eng’s clarification.

"Does that meet the threshold?" Kalkat asked.

Weinberg said: “It’s too bad some candidates feel it’s necessary to call out other candidates and portray them in a negative light rather than focus on their priorities.”

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