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Atherton fusses over Obama security bill

The Town of Atherton is threatening two of its homeowners with $8,000 liens to cover security and cleanup costs associated with an April fundraising visit from President Barack Obama.

Unable to collect from either the Secret Service or Democratic National Committee, town leaders are turning to the hosts of the fundraising events — their own tax-paying homeowners — to foot the bill, KPIX-TV reports.

Atherton Councilman Bill Widmer told KPIX-TV the hosts should be responsible for additional security and traffic control costs:

“If we were to hold, say, a wedding here, and have to close off streets, we would expect the people that were hosting the wedding to pay it and I think the taxpayers would also ask for that.”

For most cities, handling extra security for presidential visits — even fundraising ones — is routine. San Francisco paid more than $60,000 in police overtime for Obama’s April visit while Oakland tallied a $300,000 bill last year.

Claudia Keith, a Palo Alto city spokesperson, told KPIX-TV that their city expects and budgets for occasional visits from high-level dignitaries, like the presidential visit scheduled for Thursday:

“This is something we routinely plan for and our local law enforcement budgets it as part of our normal operating procedures.”

Politicians and presidents from all parties have squeezed money from the willing wealthy of the Peninsula’s mansion communities for decades.

So occasional executive-level visits should come as no surprise to the Town of Atherton.

For a town which raked in nearly $1 million in operating surpluses over the last two years — and is home to some of the Bay Area’s wealthiest and most powerful people — billing homeowners for $8,000 seems petty at best.

At worst, the move could be viewed as a politically-motivated stunt against a Democratic president. Atherton is one of only two San Mateo cities — along with Hillsborough — with more Republicans than Democrats, at 41.1 percent to 32 percent.

The GOP may have slammed Obama for dipping into “billionaire’s row,” but Republicans from President George W. Bush to John McCain to Mitt Romney have all steered their own motorcades to Atherton for fundraising events in recent years, many organized by failed gubernatorial candidate and Republican fundraising doyenne Meg Whitman.

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