Editorial: New wrinkle in June 5 primary | May 16, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



Viewpoint - May 16, 2012

Editorial: New wrinkle in June 5 primary

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Kirsten Keith served on the Menlo Park Transportation Commission. This has been changed to say Housing Commission. This year voters will find a different system in place when they go to the polls or cast their ballots by mail in the June 5 primary election. A new "open primary" system allows all voters to cast a vote for any candidate, regardless of party, for state and congressional offices. The top two vote-getters, even if they are members of the same political party, advance to the general election in November.

This new system does not apply to presidential or county central committee elections, or to nonpartisan local elections, such as for the Board of Supervisors. However, in the supervisors race, if no candidate receives more than half the votes, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off in November.

The Almanac has reported on major elections of interest in our circulation area — Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley. Today we will share our preferences for the top two state Senate candidates and our choice for state Assembly. In the race for San Mateo County supervisor, we have narrowed the seven-person field to four, but leave it to voters to choose their favorite.

Two state propositions and three county measures are on the ballot, as well as party primary elections for federal office. Here are our selections in local elections.

State Senator, District 13

In this race to replace Joe Simitian, who is termed out, Assemblyman Jerry Hill and former Assemblywoman Sally Lieber are the two best candidates to move on to the general election. Both are experienced legislators, while their opponents, Christopher Chiang, a school teacher who says he is running to promote the importance of education funding, and John Webster, a Libertarian, have no experience in public office.

In making their choices, voters must decide whether they prefer Mr. Hill, who comes with endorsements from 400 government officials and the California Labor Federation, as well as the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, or Ms. Lieber, who also considers herself an environmentalist and the underdog in the race. She promises to work for the state's disenfranchised citizens as she did during her three terms in the Assembly, including service as the assistant majority leader. Both candidates are impressive in their own way and we will watch closely as the campaign for the general election unfolds.

Gordon for state Assembly in District 24

Already a successful legislator after only 18 months in office, incumbent Assemblyman Rich Gordon is not wasting any time running hard for a second term. His opponents offer nothing to convince us to change our opinion of Mr. Gordon, who we endorsed in 2010. A former three-term county supervisor who lives in unincorporated Menlo Park, Mr. Gordon saw 15 of the 19 bills he sponsored signed into law in his first session, an enviable record for any freshman legislator.

The three others in the race include Chengzhi "George" Yang of Menlo Park, a Republican and software engineer; Joseph Antonelli Rosas, of Sunnyvale, a network security adviser who has no party affiliation; and Gaby Espinosa of Mountain View, a Democrat and small business owner. None have a record of public service to compare to Mr. Gordon. In this race we heartily endorse Rich Gordon to win the primary and general election.

County supervisor, District 4

A crowded field of seven candidates is vying to replace termed-out Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, who was appointed in 1999 and then elected to three four-year terms. All candidates have significant experience. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top voter-getters will move on to a runoff election in November. We believe any of the following four candidates are worthy of your vote. The final cut is up to voters.

• Kirsten Keith, the current mayor of Menlo Park, has signaled that she would favor reining in the county's projected $24 million to $28 million budget deficit and would vote against granting a controversial pay increase to the newly appointed county controller. In her law practice she represents financially stressed defendants and does volunteer work with the Legal Aid Society and various nonprofits. She began her first term on the City Council in 2010 after serving on the planning and housing commissions.

• Shelly Masur, the acknowledged front-runner due to her early start, is a Redwood City school board member who has served as the administrator for a nonprofit agency. Some business leaders and many unions support her candidacy, including those representing county employees and firefighters, some from the Menlo Park and Woodside fire protection districts. Ms. Masur dismisses charges that county pensions are only 47.2 percent funded, saying the system is 75 percent funded and that average pensions are $40,000 a year. Her answer to controlling the county budget deficit is to stick to the county manager's five-year plan to achieve a budget surplus that would include spending cuts, savings on labor, and structural and management changes.

• Warren Slocum, the longtime county clerk-recorder, is retired from that position and is now a candidate. As a former insider, he is aware of how important it is for the county to get its finances under control. Doing business as usual is not an option, he said, or the county's credit rating could be in jeopardy. Another quality we like about Mr. Slocum is his willingness to adopt new technology, which he demonstrated repeatedly as clerk-recorder.

• Carlos Romero believes the county's budget deficit can be resolved in two to three years by using a balanced approach that looks at revenue in an accountable and collaborative way. As a Hispanic and resident of East Palo Alto, he would continue to bring a minority presence to the board as has Ms. Jacobs Gibson. He cited his regional community leadership experience and his academic credentials in urban planning, finance, housing policy and transportation. He supports the county tax measures T, U and X that will be decided June 5.

Vote yes on measures T, U, and X

Measure T would impose a 2.5 percent tax on the gross receipts of car rental agencies that do business in the unincorporated areas of the county, primarily near San Francisco International Airport. Given the county's budget woes, we recommend a yes vote on Measure T.

Measure U would increase the transient occupancy tax from 10 to 12 percent on lodging in unincorporated areas of the county. The tax would only apply to visitors to the area and is in line with the tax charged by other communities. We recommend a yes vote on Measure U.

Measure X would impose a business license tax of 8 percent of gross receipts on operators of commercial parking facilities in the unincorporated areas of the county. We recommend a yes vote on Measure X.


Posted by Menlo Moderate, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 15, 2012 at 10:31 am

Kirsten Keith did not serve on the Menlo Park Transportation Commission. Carlos Romero is the person best qualified to be on the Board of Supervisors as a representative of District 4.

Editor's note: Thanks. We changed the online editorial to planning and housing commissions.

Posted by archive, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Keith did not serve on the Menlo Park Transportation Commission, but she did serve on the Community Mediation Services Committee, Housing Commission and Planning Commission. Web Link

As the Almanac reported back in 2002, Keith was also a County Commissioner. Web Link

Posted by Menlo Moderate, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Unlike Keith, Carlos Romero has 4 solid years on the East Palo Alto City Council with a full year under his belt as mayor. Prior to his being elected as mayor, he was chair and vice chair of the East Palo Alto Redevelopment Agency, served on and chaired the city’s Planning Commission for 6 years, and was a member and chair of the East Palo Alto Rent Stabilization Board for 4 years. Currently, Romero chairs the City’s Housing and Economic Development committees.

Romero is the Vice Chair of City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) of San Mateo County, and Vice Chair of the Dumbarton Rail Policy Advisory committee for Alameda and San Mateo counties. He is a board member of the Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance comprised of 17 San Mateo County cities, and is an alternate board member on the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority. For three and one-half years, he served on the nine county Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s advisory committees, and chaired its Equity Analysis subcommittee. He is an active participant in the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, focusing on their Housing, Land Use and Transportation policy areas.

Posted by What Sup?, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 15, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Too bad so few voters know Carlos. He is a gifted orator, an incisive leader, and a really smart guy whose got a keen understanding of what's going on and what needs to be done. No need to bash Keith, though. Odds are that Masur will win given the support she has.

Carlos should just skip the county and go straight to the US Senate where he might actually be able to make things happen. One of the most impressive people I've ever met.

Posted by Menlo Moderate, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The purpose of my post was not to bash Keith but rather to point out an inaccuracy on the part of the Almanac. Keith is a good mayor However, Romero is stellar. So, why settle for good when you can have better?

Posted by archive, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Morerate, if by "4 solid years" you mean "less that 4 years", or "more that 3 years", or ever "about 3.5 years", then yes. Surprisingly, the PDF and print version of this article lists Morantes instead of Slocum, oops: Web Link

If number of LIKEs on Facebook is a valid metric, Romero is at the tail end of this group:
Keith: 234 - Masur: 190 - Morantes: 72 - Slocum: 63 - Romero: 26

Editor's note: Due to a production error, an earlier version of the editorial ran in the paper. Here is the link to the correct version: Web Link We apologize for this error and will run a correction in the next edition of the paper.

Posted by Menlo Moderate, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Fortunately this election is not a popularity contest. It is about who has the most county experience and record of accomplishment and Carlos Romero is a runaway winner in this category. I don't intend any slight towards Keith but she simply is not in Romero's league. Give her 10 years and she will probably be stellar too but at this point in time she is simply too green.

Posted by archive, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Every election is a popularity contest.

Posted by Menlo Moderate, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 16, 2012 at 7:18 am

Every election is not a popularity contest.

In 1876 there were a total of 369 electoral votes available with 185 needed to win. Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, with 4,036,298 popular votes won 185 electoral votes. His main opponent, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, won the popular vote with 4,300,590 votes, but won only 184 electoral votes. Hayes was elected president.

In 1888 there were a total of 401 electoral votes available with 201 needed to win. Republican Benjamin Harrison, with 5,439,853 popular votes won 233 electoral votes. His main opponent, Democrat Grover Cleveland, won the popular vote with 5,540,309 votes, but won only 168 electoral votes. Harrison was elected president.

In 2000 there were a total of 538 electoral votes available with 270 needed to win. Republican George W. Bush, with 50,456,002 popular votes won 271 electoral votes. His Democratic opponent, Al Gore, won the popular vote with 50,999,897 votes, but won only 266 electoral votes. Bush was elected president.

Many people complain that the electoral college is unfair. Our founding fathers created a Senate so that the smaller states (population wise) would not be put at a disadvantage by the larger states. The number of electoral votes each state gets is equal to the number of senators plus number of congress persons. This is established by Article 2 Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

If the electoral college were done away with then 17 states would benefit at the expense of 33 states. Do you think Joe Biden would advocate having Delaware's representation cut by 2/3? The answer is no. The electoral college is here to stay because 3/4 of the legislatures are need to approve a consitutional amendment-- which is the only means available to have elections by popular vote and not by the electoral college. When only 1/3 of the legislatures would benefit from that there is no way the electoral college is going away.

Posted by Bushwacker, a resident of another community
on May 16, 2012 at 9:05 am

Menlo Moderate: Thanks for your excellent exposition. I remember a commentator saying prior to the year 2000 vote that if Bush won the popular vote and Gore the electoral college vote, that would be the end of the electoral college. I think your post explains why that's not going to happen.

Could a new constitution be drawn up at a constitutional convention without the approval of three-fourths of the states? Are we hobbled by this antiquated constitution?

Actually, George Bush did win the popularity vote in 2000 -- in the Supreme Court on a 5-4 party-line vote. I guess that was the only vote that mattered.

Posted by Menlo Moderate, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 16, 2012 at 9:35 am

Article 5 of the Constitution allows for a Constitutional Convention. If 2/3 of the states, through their legislatures, petition Congress for a convention then Congress must put one on. Once the convention is called the States must approve any proposed amendment by a 3/4 super majority.

There is a great article by the Harvard Law School on this topic.
Web Link

Posted by Carlos Romero for SMC Supervisor!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

What Sup?:

I agree with you completely about Romero and his need to be more well-known. If you're inclined to do so, please help spread the word about him and the qualities you so eloquently summarized:

"...gifted orator, an incisive leader, and a really smart guy whose got a keen understanding of what's going on and what needs to be done..."

I also agree with Menlo Moderate that Romero is the best candidate for the job.

I attended the LWV forum in MP a few weeks back, and he was in a league above everyone else in terms of his principles, convictions, knowledge, and experience. He was balanced and very thoughtful, which is what this county needs. His experience in a very challenging city in our county has prepared him better than all the other candidates.

Please help spread the word! CARLOS ROMERO FOR SAN MATEO COUNTY SUPERVISOR! Go to Carlos' website to learn more about him. He is the only candidate with a more detailed explanation of his views on the issues: Web Link.