Mountain View Voice

News - October 22, 2010

Candidates favor new park for Whisman

Incumbents, challengers differ on treatment of Ideafarm issues

by Daniel DeBolt

Building a large park in the Whisman neighborhood was a popular idea among the six candidates for City Council at the latest debate.

At the League Of Women Voters-hosted debate Oct. 14, the candidates were asked if they would be willing to have the city purchase Mountain View's last orchard, owned by the Franzia family on North Whisman Road, for sports fields.

While the idea of putting fields on the site did not receive an enthusiastic response, having a park there is definitely needed, candidates said.

"That area is under-served with park space," said candidate Greg David. "They don't have anything like Cuesta there."

The 12-acre site could be the fourth largest park in the city and the only one in northeastern Mountain View.

The only problem is that the property is not for sale, but if it ever is, asking voters to pass a bond measure to pay for it would be worthwhile, said Margaret Abe-Koga. Such a measure requires a two-thirds vote, and was used to fund the creation of Cuesta and Rengstorff parks.

"I would never consider eminent domain, ever," said incumbent Jac Siegel. "But would you bring a bond measure to the people? Absolutely."

"Asking the voters whether they would be interested in a bond might be an interesting thing to do," said Mayor Ronit Bryant.

Candidates Aaron Jabbari and Dan Waylonis, both Google employees, were not familiar with the property, but said a "cost-benefit analysis" of using city funds would be the only financially responsible way to decide whether the effort is worthwhile.

What to do with Wo'O?

Wo'O of Ideafarm has become a thorn in the side of the police department — officers arrested him twice last month. For years, the homeless libertarian has parked his vehicles, usually covered with incendiary messages, along El Camino Real and Castro Street. Candidates were asked Thursday how they would handle him, with the challengers questioning the incumbents' support for the arrests.

Police arrested Ideafarm twice in September for trespassing, once for sitting in an empty room in City Hall and another time for staging a sit-in that officials say blocked the police station's records window while Ideafarm read a book about the First Amendment. Now police want his "doghouse" — a bicycle trailer he sleeps in and posts messages on — off of public property. It was parked in front of City Hall as the debate went on inside.

The incumbents sided with police, saying that it wasn't the free speech issue Ideafarm was making it out to be, although some of his messages are racist, said Mayor Bryant. It was a safety issue, they said.

"I don't believe it's because of free speech," said Abe-Koga, although "some of the messages have been offensive. The real issue has been in terms of safety. I've seen many cars almost hit him. Our staff has been talking to him, warning him. Prosecution is a last resort. He has repeatedly come forward with something to instigate" the conflict.

"At some point you have to make a call and we just have to do that."

Siegel agreed, saying that Ideafarm's doghouse almost caused several accidents at El Monte and El Camino Real, and that he witnessed junior high students almost being hit by a car because of it.

"He wants to disrupt our daily lives," Siegel said. Police "tried everything in the world to reason with the guy and didn't get anywhere."

Waylonis and David disagreed. Waylonis said it sounded like police were looking for a convenient way to put him jail.

"He sounds harmless and benign," Waylonis said. "Leaving this guy alone might be better than fanning the flames."

In the two incidents where he was arrested, "he was not violent, he wasn't threatening," David said. If police "left the guy alone he probably would have gone away."

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