Viewpoint - February 24, 2010

Editorial: District elections for supervisor

There is a political sleight of hand going on right under the nose of San Mateo County residents, but unless there is a major public outcry, it doesn't look like much will change.

The sneaky behavior is the now common practice of candidates for county supervisor to either be appointed or run unopposed. This is a scenario that has come about in recent years in part due to the high cost of campaigning in this far-flung county of 700,000 residents, who live in diverse communities from the Coastside to the suburbs of San Francisco to the Peninsula.

Under current rules, supervisors must reside in their home district but run county-wide, a daunting proposition that most candidates want to avoid, and many have. The last five members of the board have been appointed or have run unopposed. The most recent appointee was Carole Groom, former mayor of San Mateo, who was named last year to fill the unexpired term of Jerry Hill. (The first contested election in years will be held June 8 to fill the seat held by Rich Gordon, who is termed out and is now a candidate for state Assembly.)

More contested elections could be held if the 2010 Charter Review Committee that is meeting now decides to recommend that certain changes be made in the county's charter. If supervisors agree, a ballot measure could go before the public in November, requiring district-wide rather than county-wide elections.

We can't imagine why anyone would oppose such a change. San Mateo is now the only California county to require that supervisors be elected county-wide. It is an embarrassment that should be revised to reflect the reality that many good candidates simply cannot afford the time or money to mount a county-wide campaign.

Last year the county grand jury strongly supported changing the present election format to one that gives each of the five election districts its own candidate. The grand jury report said that district-wide rather than county-wide elections would foster more competition for supervisor seats by attracting more candidates due to the lower cost.

The grand jury also said the smaller, district elections, would increase voter interest and encourage more diversity among the candidates, who could appeal to much smaller constituencies. These candidates would be much more likely to discuss serious local issues that often do not even come up during current campaigns.

Now is the time for the antiquated system of electing our county supervisors to be thrown out and a new version put before voters, if those serving on the Charter Review Committee have the courage to take action and the supervisors agree to put the issue on the ballot.

County residents are being shortchanged in this system that in many cases allows supervisors to decide who will replace them if they term out or move on to other positions. A new charter should require that election of supervisors be by district, and when a vacancy occurs, a replacement can be chosen only by election.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2010 at 5:46 pm

"The sneaky behavior is the now common practice of candidates for county supervisor to either be appointed or run unopposed." I disagree with this statement. I am a candidate now for district 3 and have 4 other candidates running for that seat. I do support a vacant seat to be filled by election over appointment. I was one of 11 applicants for the vacant seat caused by Jerry Hill running for Assemblyman after he won a 4 year obligation to San Mateo County. I was the only applicant who asked the remaining 4 Supervisors not to appoint any of the 11 and please send this to Special Election.

Sneaky behavior You be the judge: Look at the websites of Supervisors Mark Church, Rose Jacobs Gibson, and Adrienne Tissier. check out the committees/boards they are members of copy that. Now go to the Service League of San Mateo County and look up the members of that private organization, you will see them listed there but not on there official website. Those three individuals appointed Carole Groom. She is pretty much running unopposed.

Charter Review Committee is discussing combining elective offices. I don't think that is a good idea Coroner under the Sheriff. They are also discussing Accountability/Oversight of other elected County Officials which they have always had the authority to do under Gov. code 25303. The Supervisors have been miscreant in there failure to Supervise Sheriff Greg Munks and James P. Fox and others. CRC is looking at the Private Defender Program which is also exclusive to San Mateo County, all 57 other Counties have Public Defender.

Citizens now is the time to pay attention

Posted by running scared, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2010 at 3:54 pm

The following sections are from the California State Government Code and describe the state mandated requirements of county supervisors as regards filling vacated public office.

Please note the distinctions made by the framers of this law between elective and appointed office, and the specific exclusion of appointed supervisors from the scope of authority whereby appointment may be made for replacement.

I am not an attorney, but it seems on first glance that the intent of the framers is that the term of the temporary appointment may not extend beyond the 'next regularly scheduled election'.

It seems clear to me that the intent is place vacant elected supervisorial positions and even appointed supervisorial positions into the hands of the electorate at the next available election.

It is time that all of us start to understand the state governance of our county government and not allow them to reinvent a wheel which is crafted at a lower standard than state mandate.

25304. The board of supervisors shall fill by appointment all
vacancies that occur in any office filled by the appointment of the
board and elective county officers, except judge of the superior
court and supervisors. The appointee shall hold office for the
unexpired term or until the first Monday after January lst succeeding
the next general election.

25304.5. If on the first Monday after January 1 following a general
election the person elected to an elective county office has
resigned or died, the board of supervisors shall provide that the
office which was made vacant shall be filled at the next regularly
scheduled election. The board of supervisors may appoint a person to
temporarily carry out the duties of any office to be filled by such
an election and that person shall serve until the results of the
election are declared.
The person elected shall serve for the remainder of the term which
began on the first Monday after January 1 immediately preceding the

Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Call it intuition, but I think there is a big change about to happen and it will come from places not even I could imagine.
IF only we were ALL privy to the sources of monies which keep this entire COUNTY afloat without many independently rich seekers of an operable wisdom for the change that is sorely needed, I would love that Robin Hood to swing forward.......too many people who love their ailing RichHood--and then just lop off the heads of the corrupt and encourage the guilty to admit their participation--The MAGICIAN is the ruling card and distraction the worn out method.
Vague, but we all know about Denmark and how the word "rotten" was used to describe the local atmosphere without having to do an expose.

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