No vote for you, supervisors say

Board rejects proposal that voters decide in November whether to change the way supervisors are elected

Should voters decide how county supervisors are elected? No way, says the supervisors themselves.

In a 4-1 vote on July 13, the board rejected a proposal from the county charter review committee that voters decide in November whether the supervisors should be elected county-wide, as they are now, or by district, the way supervisors are elected in every other county in California.

Twice in the 1990s, voters rejected a change in the way supervisors are elected, noted board President Rich Gordon, who cast the sole vote to put the question before voters again in November.

(San Mateo County does have supervisory districts. Candidates must live within the district they represent, but they must run county-wide. Mr. Gordon is in District 3, which includes Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley.)

The 16-member county charter review committee, which held 13 public meetings over six months, had recommended on a 14-2 vote to put the question before voters.

The committee made other recommendations, including:

● Changing the methods for filling vacant seats when elected officials resign. The Board of Supervisors agreed to put that on the ballot.

● Appointing rather than electing the treasurer/tax collector and auditor/controller. The supervisors rejected that recommendation.

● Reviewing the need for each of the county's 49 boards and commissions. The supervisors approved this with conditions.

Electing supervisors

The charter review committee actually expressed opposition, on an 11-4 vote, to changing how supervisors are elected, but on a 14-2 vote said the question should be decided by voters. They were "persuaded that there was enough energy and public debate of the issue that the voters of the county should be allowed to select the method of electing their representatives to the board," the committee said in its report.

Mr. Gordon agreed that the matter "really needed to go to the ballot for the citizens to make the decision."

No, it doesn't, said his colleagues. "Every resident gets five supervisors and I think that's the way it should be," said Supervisor Carole Groom.

And the voters? "The Board of Supervisors decides what goes to the voters and the board has made its decision," she said. "Why clutter the ballot?"

Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson did not respond to an interview request.

The committee's recommendations, said Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, are the board's to "accept or reject. I didn't feel the need to change (the election procedures)."

"The board has the discretion to make decisions to not put a particular matter on the ballot," said Supervisor Mark Church. "We are elected to make these kinds of decisions."

"Wow. That's surprising," said Woodside mayor and committee member Dave Burow upon learning of the board's vote to not authorize a ballot measure. "Obviously, as a committee member, I'm disappointed."

As was Portola Valley Councilwoman Maryann Derwin, who reported on the board's decision at the June 14 meeting, and added, "I'm very disappointed."

Accountable to voters

On the issue of changing the county treasurer and auditor to appointed, rather than elected, positions, the charter review committee noted several concerns, including whether these officials should be accountable to voters or county officials.

An argument for appointment is that a for-hire official would have to demonstrate expertise in a job interview, for example.

The supervisors voted unanimously to keep things as they are, noting that expertise in particular areas, if needed, can be hired.

These officials are now accountable to voters, Mr. Church told The Almanac. "You lose that accountability if that position is appointed."

"I think it would put too much power into the hands of the county manager," Ms. Tissier said.

The board had approved in February an ordinance setting qualification standards for the county treasurer, but the standards won't be effective until the 2015 election, Supervisor Groom noted. "I was in favor of putting them into effect now," she said.

In addition to supporting by-district supervisor elections, Woodside Mayor Burow wanted these finance officials appointed. A final comment? "I guess there's just strong support for the status quo," he said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Pay attention now, This is Service League of San Mateo County telling you the voters how this County is really run and who controls it.

Service League Director is Mike Nevin X Supervisor of 12 years and Indicted for Voter fraud.

Mark Church, Rose Gibson, Adrienne Tissier, and Carole Groom are all members of this little non profit. These are the 4 who voted. again not Rich Gordon

They do not disclose on the County website that they are members of SL

You might remember that SL appointed Carole Groom against the wishes of almost everyone in the County.

If history repeats they will appoint again.

Welcome to San Mateo County

Like this comment
Posted by Vargas Supporter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm

My Goodness. The Board of Supervisors rejected the recommendation of the Charter Review Committee? Too many of these board members were appointed to fill seats vacated by supervisors who moved on and quit early so an appointment could be made. Only Gordon actually won a seat. Groom even hired political consultant Ed McGovern to lobby the Board of Supervisors so it would appoint her.
Does anyone in the county actually believe that someone not in the powerful club can ever get on the Board? Former Sheriff Horsely should be defeated as he has been in this club for the past 25 years. April Vargas is our only hope. Vote April Vargas in November!

Like this comment
Posted by ranch Gal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Business As Usual. Welcome to California! I URGE YOU ALL TO ACTUALLY ATTEND A BOARD OF STUPIDVISORS MEETING and see for yourselves how corrupt our county is. 90% of all San Mateo County residents never set foot in a board meeting. FYI: First they start off with the ll "back slapping", photo ops with youth and other organizations, receiving of "awards" and more photos, telling each other how wonderful they are, then the "already decided in the back room" decisions are voted upon while nodding off as concerned citizens speak on issues. I was shocked, appalled and disgusted with what I witnessed. The Stupidvisors kiss the behinds of special interest groups and those who will get them re-elected ONLY.

Good luck with democracy here!

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Richard Gordon, who is leaving in November to attempt a fling as Assemblyman, is now behaving as if he gave a damn as to who gets the seat that endeared him to the filthy rich and had him ignore the rest of his district.
He and his motley crew are an example of why we need to elect perhaps a 100% or close, decision maker who doesn't get sore lips from kissing the rears of moneybags(picture that).They did not come worse than the grandstanding Gordon and he is all set to climb up a teensy ladder now that the world is in chaos. Good riddance, but do not think for a moment his concerns lie with you, the voters.

Like this comment
Posted by Virginia Chang Kiraly, 2008-2009 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury Foreperson
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

The 2008-2009 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury issued an advisory letter, listing reasons to look at district elections vs. countywide elections for the Board of Supervisors. We asked the Charter Review Committee to recommend to the Board of Supervisors to place an initiative on the ballot to change the way Supervisors are elected in San Mateo County.

Two citizens groups-- the Grand Jury and the Charter Review Committee-- support a ballot measure so that voters can decide how their Supervisors are elected. That process has now been shut down by the Board of Supervisors themselves, with the exception of Rich Gordon.

I shutter to think of the consequences, especially if there is a lawsuit looming, to which the Grand Jury's letter refers. In Madeira County, that lawsuit cost their County approximately $3MM-$4MM. Couple that with Mark Church's refusal to resign, thus, forcing a special election at a cost of approximately $1.6MM, San Mateo County may be looking at a bill (to be borne by San Mateo County taxpayers) of about $5MM-$6MM. Just a reminder that San Mateo County already has a $150MM structural deficit.

Link to the 2008-2009 Grand Jury advisory letter:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Davena Gentry
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Well it will be interesting to see how the method of filling vacant seats will get spelled out on the ballot. Let's see if it has any "teeth". It's up to us voters now to give them some direction!

Like this comment
Posted by "Like It Is"
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 16, 2010 at 7:49 pm

To allow each little faction around the county to elect its own representative on the Board is to encourage the election of some way-out lunatic put up by some little "special interest" faction. To continue with the existing good system, whereby all Board members are elected at large, is the only truly democratic way. Supervisors will then continue to represent ALL of us, not just some little splinter group that will always be against the best interests of the whole. Look closely at the motivation for those who recommend otherwise and you will quickly see why.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2010 at 7:09 am

Like it is.

"Look closely at the motivation for those who recommend otherwise and you will quickly see why."

Your talking about 19 citizens who served on the Grand Jury.

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2010 at 11:38 am

R.GORDON is a registered user.

We all know that if you have served as a member of the Grand Jury, that your character is spotless and beyond reproach......NOT.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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