Almanac

News - July 7, 2010

Changing elections: Charter panel makes recommendations

by Dave Boyce

Of California's 57 counties, 44 look to state law to define the number of county officials and their duties. The other 14, including San Mateo County, have charters to define these matters for themselves.

Recently, a group of 16 San Mateo County citizens, along with invited speakers and members of the public, met 13 times over several months to consider four questions and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The questions were:

• Should the five county supervisors, each of whom represents a district, be elected by everyone in the county, as they are now, or only by residents of the district? A majority concluded to retain at-large elections, but to have the voters in the entire county weigh in on the question in the Nov. 2 election.

• What are the rules governing the replacement of an elected official who resigns, and do those rules need an overhaul? The group made three recommendations, including when an appointed official's time in office counts toward term limits.

• Should the treasurer-tax collector and the auditor-controller be appointed rather than elected, as is the case now? They should be appointed by the county manager, the group said.

• Should the Board of Supervisors review, on an eight-year interval, whether there is a continuing need for each of the 49 county boards and commissions? The group recommended such periodic reviews.

Go to is.gd/dbxTI (case sensitive) to read the committee's report.

The Board of Supervisors is set to meet Tuesday, July 13, to debate the recommendations and vote on whether to take steps that would implement them.

Woodside Mayor Dave Burow, who participated in the committee on behalf of the San Mateo County Council of Cities, called it "a very good experience" and commended the divergent views expressed, including from the public.

District 3 Supervisor Rich Gordon, who represents Atherton, Menlo Park, Portola Valley and Woodside, said in an interview that he supports the periodic review of committees and commissions, supports the idea of the county manager appointing the treasurer and the controller, and supports the revisions concerning the replacement of elected officials who resign.

As to whether the supervisor elections should be at-large of by-district, Mr. Gordon said he has not made up his mind but supports the committee's recommendation that it be put to a vote of the people.

"It's time for the county to have a discussion on a much broader scale than just the Board of Supervisors," he said.

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