Political Climate with Mark Simon: Heightened diversity in local government to inspire diversity of issues

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Here at the Political Climate International News Center, we have talked a lot about how change is affecting our region, because, you know, it is.

But the recent election and subsequent reorganizations of our various city councils is another demonstration that a more fundamental and profound change has taken place, bringing the prospect of what can be termed a political revolution.

In short, the burgeoning diversity of our community is reflected increasingly in our most basic, grassroots-level politics.

There are 20 cities in San Mateo County. Among the councils that represent those cities, 10 have a woman mayor, nine have a mayor from an ethnic minority and eight of the councils have a majority of women. Add in the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, which just elected Carole Groom as president, and 11 of the county’s political jurisdictions are led by women (not to mention the fact that two women also represent the county in Congress).

Not that long ago, the election of any woman to any city council or as mayor was a noteworthy occurrence.

When Pacifica elected an all-woman council in 1992, it was national news as the first such body to achieve that milestone.

Now, Pacifica has four women on its five-member council. So does Colma, and Redwood City’s seven-member council has six women. The extraordinary has become that status quo.

Look deeper at who is holding office and it might well be time to retire the phrase “ethnic minority” since the county now is a “minority majority” county, where Caucasians, while still the largest ethnic group, are outnumbered by the combination Latinos, Asians, African Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Indeed, consider the lineup of mayors and vice mayors of color: Daly City, Mayor Ray Buenaventura, Vice Mayor Glenn Sylvester; Colma, Mayor Joanne F. del Rosario; South San Francisco, Mayor Karyl Matsumoto; San Bruno, Mayor Rico Medina; Millbrae, Mayor Wayne Lee; Belmont, Mayor Davina Hurt; Redwood City, Mayor Ian Bain; and Foster City, Mayor Sam Hindi, Vice Mayor Herb Perez.

And then there is East Palo Alto, a council made up of three African Americans and two Latinos, led by Mayor Lisa Gauthier and Vice Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones.

If you added in Millbrae and Foster City, there would be 12 cities with woman mayors, except in both those cities, some serious behind-the-scenes maneuvering and public snubbing denied mayor positions to two women who looked to be next in line had councils followed the customary rotation.

Ah, the job of mayor. It’s a job that, at most, is symbolic. In every Peninsula city except San Bruno, the mayor is selected by council colleagues. It’s a one-year job, except in Redwood City, where it’s two years.

It’s a job that as substantial as cotton candy. Big, puffy, colorful and tasty, but largely air, signifying nothing more than it’s one council member’s turn.

Still, some city councils manage to pick a fight over this job because some of them don’t like each other. I suppose we would have to describe that as impressive.

SO WHAT? What is the significance of all this diversity I’m ranting about?

We are opening up the halls of power to more people – specifically those who have been denied access. They will bring a different sensibility to the job and a different perspective.

Mary Hughes, leader of a statewide campaign to recruit progressive women to run for legislative office, said that expanding the range of those who hold office means a bigger agenda of issues, such as early childhood education, extended parental leave, more and easier access to college.

Women are “more likely to put issues forward having to do with real-life challenges,” Hughes said. “Women lead with a 360-degree perspective about life. There hasn’t been a consideration of the home life as part of public policy. What we see is women look at their whole lives when it comes to public policy.”

BUT NOT EVERYWHERE: Sometimes, the old lineup stays intact and it has got some people hopping mad in Redwood City.

A month ago, at its meeting to swear in recently elected members, Redwood City Council members looked to a year disagreeing civilly and to an abiding effort to work together.

On Monday, faced with their first symbolically significant decision, the council voted to appoint two middle-aged white men to the Planning Commission, which now has only one woman in its ranks. One decision apparently was easy – Rick Hunter, who narrowly lost last year’s council race, was appointed unanimously.

The other, Bill Shoe, was appointed by a 4-3 vote. Shoe is a former principal planner at Santa Clara County and he has had a low profile in Redwood City affairs, if he had one at all.

His appointment appears intended to satisfy those who want to slow the rate of growth in the city.

In the process, there are some people who are furious that the commission now is less than diverse.

And some are upset that another Council candidate, Jason Galisatus, was passed over, even though he had been assured he had the votes to win the appointment. The other significance is that while 40 percent of the city’s residents are renters, there are no renters on the Council or the Commission, a point Galisatus made while running for Council. There still isn’t.

As for who had been promised votes, Janet Borgens, who found herself in the middle of that little controversy, denied committing her vote to anyone and she subsequently wrote to Galisatus, indicating “after our last conversation, I made that clear.”

Who knows? Even better, who cares?

Perhaps it’s a holdover from a divisive campaign and all this will settle down when real issues come before the Council. Perhaps it’s a harbinger of more 4-3 votes and that the promise of working together in January was wishful thinking. We’ll find out soon enough.

We’ll leave the last word to Borgens, who told me, “We’re going to butt heads and that’s a good thing because we can learn from our differences.”Contact Mark Simon at mark.simon24@yahoo.com

17 Comments

  1. No way! They chose a former principle planner for the Planning Commission instead of choosing someone for their “diversity”. Oh, the horror.

  2. I find it curious that Mark Simon, the author, fails to mention that RWC elected three women to its Council this past fall – making the ratio of women to men 6 to 1. And he fails to mention, the Planning Commission candidate in question, Jason Galisatus, ran for Council but his campaign was not without controversy some of it fueled by the real estate and special interests supporting his campaign and a false hate speech accusation. I think the author’s knickers are in a twist with fake diversity concerns that are a cover for worries that the Planning Commission will not be pro-Harbor View or Jay Paul. And for the record…Jay Paul is the client of PR firm Singer Associates – which publishes Climate Magazine. Details, details…

  3. I think that it will be “one giant leap for mankind” if we can reach the point when we no longer analyze world events by either gender or color.

    “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” (Neil Armstrong’s words, when first stepping on the moon, July 20, 1969).

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

  4. And here comes the entitlement and white privilege. Why should we talk about race and representation, where white and we are good–right? Perhaps you should use all the privilege and entitlement to help advance the cause you espouse. To use MLK to justify a defense of white male hegemony is probably missing the point. But you got yours, and probably were given much of it from your family-who cares that others didn’t share your experience. Try this MLK: “It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Therein lies the reason to think about diversity, in a diverse city that has historically tried to ignore and politically marginalize the non-white members of the community.

    • Tom,
      I think you misunderstand the intention of my comment.

      I think that if we are categorized and if we are viewed by those narrow perceptions, it automatically marginalizes us—all of us—according to to what degree we are viewed as “different from”.

      That is not the same thing as denying the struggles and difficulties and realities people are faced with.

      Categorization is dangerous. If Rosa Parks had not been perceived as “a black woman”, she would have never had to fight for her rightful equal place on that bus.

      Maybe what we need to strive for is “universality”: we are all one.

      • I don’t think I misunderstand your comment at all. The fact is that for whites people to advance other white folks while calling for being colorblind is a perpetuation of historical ignorance of the need to advocate for diversity. You were beyond wrong to use mlk in this manner and you also fail to recognize your white priveledgr being displayed in all its glory for all to see.

  5. Huh? No renters on the Planning Commission?? I’m sure that’s news to Nancy Radcliffe and Michael Smith.

    The author conveniently failed to mention that the last time we had a full 7-member Planning Commission (6 months ago) it included: two women, two renters, one African American, one Southeast Asian and one Latino.

    I know….those pesky details didn’t fit his false narrative.

  6. As past columns written by Mark Simon, facts are not important, and this column is no different. Planning Commissioners Nancy Radcliffe and Michael Smith are both renters, and by societal definition of diversity, they are minorities as well. Both facts were left out in Simon’s rendition.
    Outside of basic facts being omitted, we should look a little deeper into the column, and focus on Bill Shoe, the only Planning Commissioner with impeccable credentials for the position he was seeking. With the ommission of facts on a basic level (i.e.; Radcliffe and Smith), it is safe to say that Mark Simon did very little research for this column, which can be proven with the following comments “His appointment appears intended to satisfy those who want to slow the rate of growth in the city.” We have NO CLUE what projects Bill Shoe advocated for or against. If Simon had done the basic research, he would have had a conversation with Bill Shoe and inquired about which projects he did or did not advocate for as Santa Clara City Planner. Imagine what would have come from that bit of research.
    Moving forward, it would be best to do your own research and not rely on a former candidate that openly lied, omitted facts, called out property owners, residents, and violated his oath of candidacy when attacking other candidates.
    Lastly, I believe Mark left off his end of column disclaimer of: “*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Climate Online.” More than ever this disclaimer was needed.

  7. Oh the irony….

    “The council voted to appoint two middle-aged white men to the Planning Commission” and “there are some people who are furious that the commission now is less than diverse.”

    Says the “middle-aged white” columnist (Mark Simon) with his “middle-aged white” photographer ( Jim Kirkland) employed by a “middle-aged white man” Publisher (Adam Alberti) whom is employed by a “middle-aged white” man (Sam Singer).

  8. Anyone who would use MLK’s I have a dream speech to justify to the actions of a white body to further propel white appointments to a white board probably doesn’t truly embrace the message of MLK.

    • Troy,

      Did you even read Mark Simon’s article, wherein he listed the diversity represented by mayors holding office in the area?

      MLK Day is the perfect time to talk about equality. Equality—which means INCLUSION—not just for some, but for all, regardless of ethnic background.

  9. Mark Simon whining about diversity is hilarious! San Mateo County is a bastion of old white men (Mark included), and the Redwood City Chamber’s Progress Seminar is a great example of that. Look at Alameda, San Francisco, and Santa Clara Couty for what diversity really looks like, Mark. And help us understand all that you’ve done to promote diversity…funny, I don’t recall what you’ve done.

  10. I often hear community members speak of you in high regard Mark. That’s why I started reading what you write. Unfortunately I have yet to read an article, obviously I haven’t read them all, that I don’t find factual errors in. I find that very disheartening. Jason was not the only renter running for Council as he well knows as I told him personally. There are two renters on the Planning Commission. Jason also wasn’t the first openly gay person to run for City Council in Redwood City. That honor belongs to James Han. These are errors I’ve uncovered just from my own personal knowledge. I’m worried about what I would find if I actually fact-checked your articles.

  11. Oh, the irony….

    “The council voted to appoint two middle-aged white men to the Planning Commission” and “there are some people who are furious that the commission now is less than diverse.”

    Says the “middle-aged white” columnist (Mark Simon) with his “middle-aged white” photographer ( Jim Kirkland) employed by a “middle-aged white man” Publisher (Adam Alberti) whom is employed by a “middle-aged white” man (Sam Singer).

    **resubmission due to the first one on 1-20-2018 not being posted.**

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