Political Climate with Mark Simon: Youth seize the moment

in Community/Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

Hundreds, more likely thousands, of San Mateo County high school students joined millions of their peers across the country in “walking out” of school yesterday morning to protest gun violence and demand stricter gun laws.

After everyone went back to class, a group of Redwood City students from the four high schools serving the city stayed out, marching through downtown to City Hall and the San Mateo County courthouse before a dozen or so ended the day at the corner of Broadway and El Camino Real in front of the gate to Sequoia High School.

As a chill winter’s wind rushed by, they held up signs: “Thoughts and prayers are not enough”; and shouted messages: “A life. A life. Our lives are on the line” and “Your kids’ lives matter.” As they demonstrated, passing cars honked and drivers and passengers waved.

Between talk about why more of their peers didn’t stay out of school all day and possible consequences for their own actions, they expressed an understanding that the fight to change America’s gun laws is not a short-term undertaking.

“If we were only (staying) on campus, it defeats the purpose. We want to be heard,” said Ethan Aronson, a sophomore.

“Adults are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, so we have to step up,” said Grace Bartz, a sophomore.

Darcana Pacheco referred to the “butterfly effect,” in which one small action ripples into a sweeping impact, and Milo Kemper, a senior, said the day’s activities are “baby steps. … It’s going to be a different world.”

The most vocal in the group said they were prepared for the long effort it takes, but they also held an understandable hope that the massive numbers that marched yesterday will generate a more immediate political will to get something done.

And there was a sentiment that what has been awakened among a generation of high school students will continue to manifest itself.

“Parkland opened up the door for us, it made it possible for us to be heard,” said Grace Bartz.

By 3 p.m., when the school day was over, they had dispersed, going their separate ways.

But many, if not all, who occupied the Broadway/ECR corner will be at a march and rally in support of gun reform scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Redwood City as part of a national day of marches. Participants will meet at the Caltrain station and march to a rally at Courthouse Square.

A news release says the “student-led” rally is being organized by Belmont Councilman Charles Stone, Redwood City Councilwoman Shelly Masur, Carlmont High School Journalism Advisor Justin Raisner and students Sophie Penn from Carlmont, Holly Newman from Menlo-Atherton and Ria Calcagno from Woodside.

Said a Facebook post: “This is not a venue for politicians or adults to speak (though they are welcome!) This is about local high school students joining together with high school students across America to express their outrage and demand change.”

More information can be found at the Facebook page SM County March/Rally For Our Lives, at the Twitter page @NeverAgainRWC or on Instagram @marchforourlivesrwc.

RACING TO JUNE: Filing has closed for the June 5 primary, and only a few countywide officials face a challenge. Supervisor Carole Groom, who decided to run for re-election after weeks of speculation she might not, ended up without an opponent. Supervisor Don Horsley, who always intended to run again, drew opposition – Pacifica Planning Commissioner Dan Stegink. This may be a textbook example of irony. Or political shrewdness on Groom’s part. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Certainly, district elections are supposed to make it easier for a challenger to take on an incumbent, but as a political base, it’s hard to imagine the Pacifica Planning Commission is going to be much of a launching pad.

Incumbent Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Mark Church is being challenged by John K. Mooney in what is becoming a perennial contest. Mooney, from Redwood City, has run twice against Church, the last time in 2014. Church won, 86 percent to 14 percent.

Appointed incumbent Sheriff Carlos Bolanos is being challenged by Mark Melville, whose career can best be described as peripatetic. A deputy sheriff in San Mateo County, he has been a police officer in Brisbane, Half Moon Bay and Patterson (in Stanislaus County); a city councilman and chief of police in Gustine, (Merced County); city manager and director of Public Safety in Livingston (Merced County); an adjunct professor at Modesto Junior College; and owned his own investigatory consulting business.

With Anne Campbell’s decision not to run again for county Superintendent of Schools, two of her employees are running: Associate Superintendent Nancy Magee and Deputy Superintendent Gary Waddell.

And then there’s the energetic Bridget Duffy of Pacifica, who has run for the City Council there but has not been discouraged by a lack of success. She is running for governor, U.S. Senator, Congress, state Assembly and county supervisor. She lists her occupation as homemaker, a job title you just don’t hear all that much anymore.

VACANCIES: With the announcement this week that Larry Patterson will step down in December as city manager of San Mateo, the number of current or would-be vacancies on the Peninsula is reaching historic levels.

Marcia Raines is leaving as city manager of Millbrae, Magda Gonzalez left the same job at Half Moon Bay (which Raines held before Gonzalez), Pat Martel is leaving Daly City, Connie Jackson is leaving San Bruno and John Maltbie is leaving his post as San Mateo County manager. There might be one or two other city managers also looking to retire, as well.

For decades, the county was known for stability in its city manager ranks. Several served for more than two decades in a job where everyone is one election from being dumped by a new council majority.

One name insiders are saying should be considered for these positions is Aaron Aknin, Redwood City’s assistant city manager/Community Development director.

Contact Mark Simon at mark@climaterwc.com.