By Eric Krock

The League of Women Voters has a well-deserved reputation for sponsoring non-partisan voter education events. That reputation was jeopardized on Friday evening when the League co-sponsored a shamelessly one-sided, stage-managed event with Scott Wiener in Palo Alto.

The event was billed as a forum on housing bill S.B. 50 with Scott Wiener, including a question-and-answer session. Audience members were invited to submit written questions on cards to be read to State Senator Wiener.

In reality, Palo Alto Forward member and S.B. 50 supporter Elaine Uang, who served as “moderator,” shamelessly filtered, censored, and reworded questions to turn the event into a Potemkin Village propaganda show for Scott Wiener and his pending Senate Bill S.B. 50.

Numerous S.B. 50 opponents including myself attended the event and submitted tough, challenging questions on the note cards. Here were mine:

Neither question was asked. Other S.B. 50 opponents who attended the event and submitted tough questions reported their questions were also selectively discarded. Elaine Uang claimed afterward to a journalist that she feels she chose questions from “across the spectrum.” That’s false. No tough questions were put to State Senator Wiener.

I watched Ms. Uang’s handling of the cards from my seat near the front. It was clear that she was reading the cards in advance, having a negative reaction on her face when she read certain cards, setting some cards aside, and selecting only questions that she liked. In addition, I’m not sure she ever read the text of a card as written. Instead, she would glance at one of the cards she had selected and then ask Wiener a question in her own words.It appeared that she may have been transforming certain tough questions into vague topical softballs.

This was a stage-managed Potemkin Village event designed to create the appearance of public engagement and public Q&A while in fact it merely served as a promotional event for Scott Wiener to push S.B. 50. As an elected public official who proposes to impose widespread upzoning across California, Scott Wiener should have the courage and honesty to take questions directly from audience members (not via filtered, censored cards), and groups like the League of Women Voters should not be allowing their reputation for non-partisanship to be sullied by association by events that are stage managed by politicians for their own benefit and to push one side of an issue in this fashion. This event was a sham and a disappointment. The League of Women Voters can do better. Hopefully when it co-sponsors an event in the future, it will insist on a Q&A format that doesn’t permit such blatant censorship and manipulation.

Eric Krock is a member of Livable California and resident of the South Bay who is active in seeking to ensure we preserve quality of life as the Bay Area grows. He believes in rational, evidence-based land use planning that balances jobs, housing, mass transit, traffic, schools, and green space. He can be contacted through the California Local Control web site.