Caltrain will operate 42 trains instead of 92 every weekday starting March 26

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Get Us Moving campaign picks up speed

in Infrastructure/PoliticalClimate

After months picking their way through the political thicket, the organizers of Get Us Moving San Mateo County (GUM) are preparing to move from picking their way through the political thicket into full-out advocacy. Right now, the pathway looks good.

The GUMbies are preparing a half-cent sales tax ballot measure for November and this month, they are holding a second round of public meetings to gather public comment and, not incidentally, build a base of public support for the eventual campaign that will kick into gear shortly. You can find the meeting dates, times and locations here.

A near-ubiquitous flyer is urging people to participate in a survey that would assign priorities to how the sales tax revenue should be spent. You can find the survey here.

All this is timely because next month, the SamTrans Board of Directors will hear a presentation on the first draft of the spending plan that will accompany the ballot measure. In July, the transit board, along with the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, will be asked to put the measure on the November ballot. Full disclosure: I worked at SamTrans and Caltrain as an executive from 2004-2017 and was directly involved in the planning and preparations for this effort.

The hope is this sales tax increase will help ease a number of problems, including clogged highway traffic, deteriorating local streets and roads, Caltrain’s ongoing budget struggles, and expand bike and pedestrian networks.

But the centerpiece will be funding to SamTrans, perhaps as much as half the money over the 30-year life of the measure. SamTrans needs to reinvent itself as a mobility agency and that will require new technology, new partnerships, new ideas and new money. Right now, if nothing changes, SamTrans might not survive through the next decade.

Well, there’s early good news for the GUMbies. The online survey asks participants to select their budget priorities with the constraints of the money the sales tax would generate. As of this morning, a summary of the budget submitted by the public shows roughly half the money going to public transit.

THREE-DOT JOURNALISM: Perfected by Herb Caen, weakly imitated here.

A recent column described the conflict between two members of the San Mateo County Community College District – Tom Mohr and Richard Holober – who live in the same election district and are running against each other this November. They’re not the only ones. Trustees Dave Mandelkern and Maurice Goodman are both up for re-election in 2020 and they live in the same district. Mandelkern told Political Climate he is planning to run again and “I’m not contemplating moving at this time.” … South San Francisco Mayor Liza Normandy, whose day job is running the South City Chamber of Commerce, is telling people she won’t run for re-election this year. … At Redwood City’s Courthouse Square last week, a full complement of San Mateo County law enforcement officers conducted a solemn and dignified annual memorial honoring the 28 of their ranks who have died in the line of duty. Three names jumped off the program page for me: Hillsborough Police Eugene A. Doran, killed in 1959, and for whom the Highway 280 bridge was named; San Mateo Police Sgt. Gordon Joinville, killed in 1968, and for whom the city’s swimming facility is named; and Redwood City Police Sgt. George Garrett, killed in 1981. It’s always good to be reminded of how our local landmarks got their names and to renew our desire to honor these dedicated officers. Garrett was someone I knew personally – a larger-than-life, hard-charging cop, and whose memory I still hold treasure.

Contact Mark Simon at