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My first year as a public servant

It’s been exactly a year since I was appointed to serve on the Menlo Park City Council. I am so grateful for the opportunity to represent, serve, and learn from our community.


I’m writing to reflect on what this last year has meant. I do this in hopes that it can offer some insights into what I do for my constituents, friends, family, and my professional network. I hope, too, that this piece can highlight just how much can be accomplished through local government!


Maria Doerr is the District 5 City Councilmember for Menlo Park
Maria Doerr is the District 5 City Councilmember for Menlo Park

I ran for City Council because I love my community and because, as the youngest City Councilmember in the history of Menlo Park and as a renter, I thought I could offer unique perspectives on important decisions that affect current and future residents. 


Stepping into this role, I knew listening and actively engaging with neighbors in my district and across the city would be critical to effective local governance. I set out to be transparent and accessible so folks could join me on this public service journey.


I have connected with constituents through direct outreach, weekly office hours, regular constituent meetings, and attending events across the city. By the numbers, my first year has meant: 


+130 Constituent Meetings:

Online and in-person to discuss everything from road improvement needs and tree planting opportunities to mental health resourcing and youth engagement at public schools.


35 City Council Meetings:

Tuesday evenings often found me at the City Chambers serving with my esteemed colleagues on the dias, hearing from members of the public, listening to reports from City staff, and making thoughtful decisions for our community. 


+45 Public Office Hours:

Hosted at a local bakery to ensure residents have a consistent way to find me in person. It’s worked! Residents ages 7-80+ have stopped by to ask questions, share input, and find resources. (Residents can find me at Woodside Bakery in Sharon Heights from 8:00-9:30am on Tuesdays.)


Weekly public office hours at the local bakery
Weekly public office hours at the local bakery

Additionally, I’ve participated in panels and interviews to discuss local issues, youth leadership, climate action, affordable housing, and local government. I’ve attended numerous community events with fantastic organizations like Nuestra Casa, Belle Haven Action, and Climate Resilient Communities.


I’m grateful for the leadership, creativity, passion, and determination of everyone I’ve spoken to and worked with over the last year. Our conversations have reinforced my conviction that we all play an important role in building a better community together.


Public engagement has shaped my thoughts on how to support Menlo Park from the dias. The policies and actions I’m particularly proud of championing in 2023 include the following:


💲 Influenced the city to get a grant writing consultant to explore Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding opportunities for climate and environmental justice projects in Menlo Park, particularly in Belle Haven

🏘️ Successfully advocated for zoning changes that can ambitiously increase the city’s affordable housing stock and housing density downtown to support more transit-oriented development

👷🏽‍♀️ Added language in the Housing Element to encourage developers to use fair wages, safe working conditions, and union labor

🍃 Successfully advocated for a zero-emission landscape equipment ordinance to reduce the noise, harmful localized air pollution, and emissions from lawn equipment and create financial incentives for small businesses to transition their equipment

🚲 Secured a protected bike lanes pilot project along Middle Avenue so biking students, commuters, and recreationists have a safer way to move around west Menlo Park


Talking to residents about road safety
Talking to residents about road safety

A few other efforts I am especially proud of our city for achieving in 2023: 


🫱🏾‍🫲🏽 Passing the city’s first Environmental Justice Element and Safety Element with significant input from diverse community members

🌳 Protecting and codifying open-air dining downtown and a vibrant outdoor community gathering space that houses a weekly farmers market

🚦 Adopting the city’s first Vision Zero Plan to focus transportation improvements on increasing road safety for all users and reducing collisions to zero

🔌 Updated permitting to reduce restrictions for residents who want to electrify their homes, such as with heat pumps and electric water heaters

I am excited about the work ahead in 2024. There is so much to do! Serving has shown me that change takes time and that the platitude is right: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. 


The promise I made to residents a year ago still stands true as I enter my second year as a City Councilmember: I am committed to listening, learning, and helping make decisions that make Menlo Park an even more vibrant, sustainable, and welcoming place to live, work, and play. 


Onwards!

Maria


City Councilmember District 5 - Menlo Park


(In addition to serving as a City Councilmember, I am a full-time Program Officer at the Rural Climate Partnership! Learn more about what I do at mariadoerr.com)



Maria and the other Menlo Park City Councilmembers in 2023
Maria and the other Menlo Park City Councilmembers in 2023

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