Political Climate with Mark Simon: Big money flowing into Redwood City council campaign

Political Climate with Mark Simon: November elections will say a lot about county’s future

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate

With only 10 days left in which candidates can file to run for office, the November election already is shaping up as one of the most extraordinary in recent memory.

All 20 cities in San Mateo County have moved to even-year elections and 18 of them will hold city council elections this year. How many of them will be contested remains to be seen and often depends on whether there are incumbents seeking re-election.

But there are indications already that some of them will be very active races, including San Carlos, where there are three seats open and no incumbents. Electing an entirely new council majority in one cycle is so rare it borders on weird, but that’s exactly what will happen in the City of Good Living.

Expect contested races also in Menlo Park, where they are going to election-by-district for the first time, and in South San Francisco, where incumbent Liza Normandy announced she will not run again, as reported in Political Climate.

The San Mateo County Community College District went to district elections this year, and two incumbents, Rich Holober and Tom Mohr, are running against each other. As reported in Political Climate, Holober moved into the same district as Mohr, touching off this unusual incumbent-incumbent election.

Very few people pay any attention to the San Mateo County Harbor District, but a long-time Peninsula political figure, former Brisbane City Councilwoman Sepi Richardson, is running for a seat on the Harbor Commission, launching (sorry) a bit of a political comeback. By the way, Richardson also is getting married to Christopher J. Wood on August 8 at the San Francisco City Hall rotunda with former Mayor Willie Brown officiating.

Council races aside, six cities have some kind of revenue measure on the ballot, reflecting a belief among political experts that a November brings out a more liberal, Democratic and, therefore, generous, electorate.

Colma is proposing a new hotel tax and Belmont, San Carlos and South San Francisco want to increase theirs.

Four cities – Half Moon Bay, San Carlos (The City of Really Good Living), Redwood City and South San Francisco are proposing ways to wring money out of the marijuana industry. In Half Moon Bay, they’re proposing to license marijuana nurseries at existing greenhouses. San Carlos is proposing an excise tax, Redwood City a business tax and South City a business license tax.

And let’s not overlook the countywide transportation half-cent sales tax measure.

There could be more, as cities try to strike while the economy’s hot.

THE BIG ONE: The biggest race is going to be in Redwood City, where seven candidates are running for three seats and there’s only one incumbent, Diane Howard.

Redwood City is getting this level of attention not just because so many people are running in one of the county’s biggest cities.

The RWC election will be a measure of public sentiment toward the changes that have occurred there in the past 10 years, changes that raise issues at hand in every other city: housing costs, transportation, the growing presence of the tech industry and a changing community that is transitioning demographically and from suburban to urban.

The public discourse in Redwood City tends to be dominated by those who are most unhappy with how the community has changed, but a big noise can be deceiving.

In preparing the two ballot measures, the city commissioned polls in March and June of likely November voters, and they showed both the sales tax and a marijuana tax passing: 62 percent said they support the half-cent sales tax, 59 percent support the cannabis tax. Both measures need only a simple majority to pass.

But the poll also showed a high level of satisfaction among voters with the way things are going in Redwood City.

Asked if the city is going in the right or wrong direction, 54 percent said the city is right on track; 69 percent said they thought the overall quality of city services was excellent or good; 59 percent said they thought city staff does an excellent or good job managing the city budget.

That would fly in the face of the dominating rhetoric from the city’s critics.

And once again, it points out how much this November election is a venture into the unknown. Combining the local election with the statewide general election means that no one knows who will show up at the polls in these local city races, or how many of them will stick around long enough to vote on the races at the bottom of the ballot.

JASON’S QUEST: It’s not quite seeking the Golden Fleece, but Jason Galisatus did enter the Redwood City Council race today, taking out papers amid a dozen friends and supporters, including parents Cindy and Mike Galisatus, and partner Chris Sturken.

Galisatus thought about running, decided not to, and changed his mind after incumbent Jeff Gee decided not to seek reelection.

A Redwood City native and active in a range of civic organizations, Galisatus told Political Climate he was running “because I felt that what Redwood City needs right now are people who can plan effectively for our future while respecting what has made Redwood City such a good place for my sisters and me to grow up.”

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.


  1. Hi Barb — there is a general sales tax on the ballot, but also a business tax for cannabis-related businesses.

  2. Woodside has four of seven seats open, no incumbent running, no applicants for 2 open districts, and no woman stepping up. It’s not extremely surprising that the community is unaware or disinterested as the town does little to nothing to educate and inform residents about volunteer opportunities. This is especially remarkable given Portola Valley’s open, informative, and friendly outreach on all matters, including recently holding workshops for their own townspeople on how to run for office.

  3. I am delighted to read your article. As usual you are very informative and insightful. You are a man of integrity.

    At the same time, I am disappointed that there has been very little media coverage on Harbor Disrict works and particularly for this election.

    The Harbor District like other organizations, provide amazing and vital service in our County. Many hard working people in the fishing and recreation businesses depend their livilhoods on this District. The District has managed to hire great professional team to manage its functions.

    Yet, one very dysfunctional member of the commission, who has teamed up with another member (a follower who believes he is a leader and is now running as a slate with another), have created havocs in the lives of the District, its progress, its staff and professional team, by their actions and their votes.

    This election is one of the most important elections in the County. The future of this organization is truly dependent on the outcome of this election. If voters continue to do what they have been doing (voting for an incumbent and their selected slate), they deserve what they have been getting…a dysfunctional organization!

    Two new and experienced leaders, Sepi Richardson and Henry Sutter, have stepped up in this race to save this District. Micro managing the operation, intimidating the staff, creating unreasonable legal expenses and misinforming the public would be a thing of the past.

    What this District needs NOW is commissioners who are experienced, respectful, knowledgeable on policy making and finances, and possess ethical and caring leadership to turn around this organization.

    If people do not vote for Sepi Richardson and Henry Sutter to turn around the organization, the District must be taken over by the County.

    Therefore, the media needs to step up and inform the public not to be impressed by such titles as ‘incumbent/scientist/boater, etc.” NOW is the time to bring new Commissioners and stop its destruction. This is not the time for the public nor the media to stay disinterested and allow bleeding to continue.

    Stand up with me Mark! Stand for excellence as you have always done! Thank you.

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