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Publication Date: Friday, May 11, 2001

Wasting City Council's time with the Stasek non-affair Wasting City Council's time with the Stasek non-affair (May 11, 2001)

Here's a nonexistent problem not worth half the ink that's been spilled about it: the allegation that former mayor Rosemary Stasek threatened to bad-mouth Microsoft if the company didn't contribute to the county's housing trust.

The only facts to emerge from the incident are that Robyn Holst, the government affairs manager for Microsoft, took offense at the way Stasek asked her about Microsoft's intentions to contribute to the housing trust. From that unsubstantial beginning, the matter surfaced and blossomed at a Centennial Committee meeting, and then found a willing vehicle for amplification in Mayor Ambra, who accused Stasek of misconduct.

The accusations create a distinct irony against the backdrop of last fall's elections, when voters overwhelmingly identified affordable housing as the most important issue in Mountain View, and the council candidates fairly tripped over each other to agree and to pledge to do something about it. By trying to enlist corporate support for the housing trust to create more affordable housing units, Stasek was doing just what voters elected her to do. If that's misconduct, we'd like to see more of it.

The creation of something out of nothing in the Holst-Stasek spat also conjures up the dirty electioneering of last fall, when some who didn't like Stasek's and Nancy Noe's liberal politics used any trumped-up allegations they could invent to get the pair ousted. These phony conspiracies probably contributed to Noe's failure to get re-elected. Stasek made the cut, and it is noteworthy that the Microsoft flap comes just as she is gearing up in earnest for the state assembly race.

In addressing his concern that Stasek's comments to Holst put the city in a bad light, Ambra need look no further than his own handling of the matter to find the true source of embarrassment. It's hard to imagine a more implausible claim than Holst's that the Goliath of the software industry felt intimidated by a council member's request for a contribution to a local cause. It's harder still to imagine that anyone would fall for it, and proof by small-town politics that Mountain View, for all its protestations to the contrary, is still a small town.

As he sets his priorities for the remainder of the year, Mayor Ambra should remember his campaign as the "neighborhood council member" who puts his constituents' immediate interests ahead of all things, including - and perhaps especially--politics. He and his colleagues on the council need to get to work on the big issues facing Mountain View, including affordable housing, and stop pointing fingers at each other over nonsensical non-issues.


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