Political Climate with Mark Simon: Harbor district commish jumps ship before vote

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

The San Mateo County Harbor District Commission, with five elected members, may be the most low-profile countywide governmental entity on the books.

Maybe that can explain the recent behavior by one of its commissioners, Sabrina Brennan, elected in 2012 on a platform of ending the decades-long “old boy network” that was running the harbor.

Faced with two time-critical issues at its June 20 meeting, Brennan walked out, leaving the commission without a quorum and unable to act.

Brennan was on hand at the beginning of the meeting when, due to vacations, only three of the five commissioners met in closed session to discuss the threat of litigation unless the harbor district moved from countywide elections to elections by district.

As soon as the closed session ended, she left, leaving Commission President Virginia Chang Kiraly and Vice President Robert Bernardo at the dais next to Brennan’s empty chair.

It wasn’t just any meeting. It was a special meeting specifically called because of two critical deadlines: The Commission had less than a week left to respond to letters threatening litigation if it didn’t begin the process of moving toward election by district. And the deadline for passing the Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget was only 10 days away.

Chang Kiraly, in Facebook posts, said Brennan “intentionally broke a quorum so that harbor district business could not get done” and that Brennan “shirked her duties as an elected official … so that we couldn’t pass our budget and other financial items.”

The commission met in another special session a week later, on June 27, passed the budget and voted to proceed to by-district elections for 2020, which is when Brennan happens to be up for re-election.

She wasn’t at that meeting either.

We left a message on her phone asking her to call for comment, but she has not responded.

The commission oversees the county’s two major public harbors – Pillar Point in Princeton by the Sea, north of Half Moon Bay, and Oyster Point Harbor in South San Francisco, the site of the county’s only ferry terminal.

It has an annual operating budget of $9.3 million and a capital budget of $10.4 million.

MALTBIE MOVES ON: San Mateo County Manager John Maltbie told county employees in an email last week that he will retire on Nov. 3, bringing an end to a career that spanned nearly 27 years leading the county government. Maltbie had announced last year that he would retire at the end of this year. He now has a firm date.

County sources say the Board will pick Maltbie’s replacement this week and they have narrowed the field of candidates to two, but the supervisors have done a good job of keeping close the names of the two finalists.

For Maltbie, the next three months will be spent finishing up the Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget and putting in place a couple of new programs, as well as providing any necessary transition assistance to his replacement.

Maltbie retired once before in 2008 and came back at the request of the Board of Supervisors in 2011.

He said he is “ready and excited” about retirement. He and his wife, Greta Helm, a longtime executive at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, will move to El Dorado Hills, east of Sacramento.

“Life is good,” Maltbie said.

FOR THE SAKE OF CLARITY: Math was never my strong suit, so I want to make sure I’m clear about some of the details in a recent column on Redwood City’s budget woes.

New state pension requirements are going to cost the city $12 million over the next five years. In anticipation of those costs, the city already has proposed $3.7 million in immediate cuts, many of them impacting public safety funding.

The City Council will consider a half-cent sales tax increase that would generate about $8 million a year. If it passes, the new revenue means the city, in the words of staff, “would avoid the cuts most impacting the community,” including reductions in library hours and filling vacant public safety positions.”

Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com.

*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.

Photo: San Mateo County Harbor District