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San Mateo County voters to consider transportation sales tax measure in November

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San Mateo County voters will see a 30-year, half-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot that would “invest approximately $2.4 billion” into relieving traffic and improving transit countywide, according to SamTrans.

On Tuesday, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved placing the “San Mateo County Congestion Relief Plan” on the November ballot.

The plan would dedicate 50-percent of proceeds toward maintaining and enhancing bus, paratransit, rail and other countywide mobility services; 22.5-percent for countywide highway congestion improvement aiming to improve throughput and travel times; 12.5-percent for local safety, pothole and congestion relief improvements, including efforts to separate the rail corridor from local roads and improve traffic flow in congested areas; 5-percent toward bicycle and pedestrian improvements; and 10-percent toward regional transit connections with neighboring counties.

The plan derived from the Get Us Moving San Mateo County community engagement initiative, a nine-month outreach process that gathered feedback from more than 16,000 county residents, not including hundreds-of-thousands more via mail, online surveys, social media town halls and over 100 presentations countywide, the county says. Get Us Moving was led by the San Mateo County Transit District and Board of Supervisors.

“San Mateo County residents are tired of the transportation gridlock in our region,” Dave Pine, president of the Board of Supervisors, said in a statement Tuesday.

Passage of the measure, which requires two-thirds approval from voters, will enable the county “to invest in a wide variety of transportation solutions that will reduce traffic congestion and provide a diversity of transit options for residents and visitors alike,” Pine added.

Rosanne Foust, President and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA), supports the measure.

“SAMCEDA applauds today’s final approval of the Congestion Relief Plan so we can get moving on reducing traffic, improving Caltrain and SamTrans, making streets safer, and leveraging technology and electric vehicles to modernize mobility,” she said in the statement.

Get Us Moving came to be following Assemblymember Kevin Mullin’s (D-South San Francisco) legislation allowing the Transit District Board of Directors and Board of Supervisors to ask voters to consider transportation investment revenue options.

AWOL soldier who stole military vehicle stopped in Redwood City

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AWOL soldier who stole military vehicle stopped in Redwood City

A soldier who went AWOL and stole a military vehicle from a base south of Big Sur was stopped and detained in Redwood City Tuesday evening, according to reports by the military and news outlets.

At about 10 a.m. Tuesday, 34-year-old Spencer Slick, who had been participating in a Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort Hunter Liggett, was reported absent without leave (AWOL). He “left his post with a Humvee without authorization at an unknown time,” officials at Fort Hunter Liggett reported.

According to news reports, the California Highway Patrol received Be on the Lookout order for the Humvee. Just after 6 p.m., the Humvee was pulled over near State Routes 92 and 35 in Redwood City, according to ABC7 Bay Area, and confirmed by Fort Hunter Liggett.

“AWOL Soldier will be returned to the custody of military authorities while they complete an investigation on the incident,” military base officials reported last night. “No further info at this time.”

Photo: Fort Hunter Liggett

3D plastic models of Redwood City Library director part of STEM game

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Forget about Waldo.  Where’s Derek?

It’s a new game at the Redwood City Public Library.

Hidden around the library are 3D plastic models of Derek Wolfgram, Library Director (and now action figure).  Kids who find one of the figures are entered into a raffle for a chance to win a 3D-printing pen (maybe they can make a 3D printed version of their favorite book).

It’s part of an ongoing STEM (“Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”) initiative at the library.  The image for the 3D model was produced by Pocket Me, of San Francisco. If you’re curious, you can find out about their work here.  But in this case, the library printed Derek on its own 3D printers. And they did a pretty good job, although if you run into him in person, he’s not really that green.

Now, if you do find a Derek – the rule is that you tell a library staff person where you found it, but leave the figure where you found it.  The contest ends Aug. 18 though, so don’t wait too long to start looking.  And, good luck.

Photos courtesy of the Redwood City Library


Community mourns passing of former longtime Redwood City librarian

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Community mourns passing of former longtime Redwood City librarian

The community is mourning the death earlier this month of Arloene “Val” Hamilton, a retired longtime Redwood City librarian and generous donor to the library.

Hamilton died July 9 just short of her 84th birthday. On Monday, Redwood City councilmembers took a moment to remember her at their council meeting.

“I have seen a lot of online tributes to Val in the past week or so,” Mayor Ian Bain said. “She will be greatly missed in this community.”

Nicknamed Val after becoming Valedictorian of her high school class, Hamilton was born in Ortonville, MN and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1956. After moving to California in the 1960s, she worked as a children’s librarian for several San Mateo County branches before being appointed as a children’s librarian for Redwood City Library in May 1968, according to Bain’s memorial to her.

“After the reorganization following passage of Prop 13 in 1978, Val managed the book selection and technical processing department in the library for the rest of her career,” Bain said.

She was “very involved” in the the design, selection and processing operation of the new library in 1988, and supervised the transition from the physical card catalog to the online catalog used today.

Hamilton spent the rest of her life as a Redwood City resident. She was an enthusiast of the opera and San Francisco Giants fan and described by loved ones as having a quirky sense of humor and eclectic interests.

“She loved her community and those around her loved her dearly,” her obituary states.

Redwood City voters will see half-cent sales tax measure on November ballot

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Political Climate with Mark Simon: Controversial districting process will change status quo

Redwood City voters will see a half-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved the ballot measure, which will require a simple majority of voters to pass (50-percent plus one vote). All funds generated from the new sales tax would be placed in the city’s general fund to be used for city services.

While Redwood City’s downtown is booming, generating $7 million more annually in property and sales tax compared to five years ago, the city is facing a growing annual budget deficit projected to reach $12 million in five years, a sum that adds up to about 10-percent of the city’s current year operating budget, city officials said.

The projected shortfalls are in large part due to the statewide crisis of growing public pension costs, which the League of California Cities states “will require cities over the next seven years to nearly double the percentage of their general fund dollars paid to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS).” In five years, Redwood City’s annual pension payment is projected to increase by $10 million. Reasons for pension increases are cited here.

Meanwhile, other factors are impacting the city’s revenue.

“Residents are spending more on housing or services, rather than taxed goods, leading to weaker sales tax revenue,” City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz told council Monday. “More people are choosing streaming rather than cable service, resulting in weaker utility users tax (revenue).”

While the city has taken steps to address future costs such as increasing developer fees and negotiating pension changes for current and future employees, service cuts are unavoidable, officials said. In this year’s budget, $3.7 million in reductions were made to every city department, Diaz said. The reductions eliminated three vacant Police Department positions, three vacant Fire Department positions, some after school programming, reduced funding for code enforcement and will reduce library staffing and hours effective in January, Diaz said.

“Even after those steps, and the cuts I’ve just described, without new revenue our only option is to continue to reduce costs, and this will affect services,” Diaz said. “Without new revenue, about $3 million will need to be cut from operations next year, and more after that.”

Redwood City PAL invites community to Courthouse Square music festival

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Salsa?  Blues?  Reggae?  Country?  If you like music, you’re almost certain to hear music you like on Saturday at Redwood City Courthouse Square.

From noon to 8, the PAL Music Festival fills the Square with music (and there’s a dance band on the bill too, so by mid-afternoon, if you’ve got to move, they’ll have the groove).  This is a brand new addition to summer in Redwood City – it’s free – and there’ll also be BBQ from some of the best in the Bay Area, and a special section for kids (in case your kids don’t like their parents’ music).

PAL is the Police Athletic League, which sponsors a wide range of programs for kids – including summer camps, sports like baseball and soccer, after school help (during the school year) and a digital literacy program.  You can learn more about all that on Saturday as well.

And, if you can’t wait till Saturday – the festival kicks off Friday night, when Journey Revisited (a Journey tribute band) takes the stage from 6pm till 8:30 (and, previous to that, there will be a celebration of life for the late Steve Penna, otherwise known as Mr. Redwood City).  So be there, “when the lights go down in the city.”  And come back the next day for all the rest.

Redwood City extending Zoppe Circus fall shows to 4 weekends

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The 176-year-old Zoppé Circus is set to make its return to Redwood City for an 11th straight year, and this time they will offer even more performances.

At its meeting Tuesday, the City Council approved an agreement inviting Zoppé Circus to put on four weekends of shows starting in October rather than last year’s three. Shows will run weekdays and weekends from Oct. 12 through Nov. 4.

The agreement, costing the city up to $150,000, brings Zoppé Circus back to the city in October to perform up to 40 shows in a tent set to be located at Red Morton Park.

“Hosting the event provides the public benefit of bringing activity and commerce to the Redwood City area,” city staff says.

Redwood City may extend Zoppe Circus shows to 4 weekends this fall

The Zoppé Circus has come to Redwood City since 2008 and has “provided an incredible draw to Redwood City,” according to the city. In 2013, the circus was relocated to Red Morton Park and extended to three weekends after ticket sales for two weeks of shows were sold out.

“The Circus continues to receive rave reviews, and in 2017, more than 11,000 tickets were sold for over 27 shows,” the city said.

After selling out all weekend shows last year, the city recommends extending performances to four weekends.

“With the continued use of the ticket pricing structure with lower rates for midweek performances and higher rates for traditionally filled weekend performances, we expect to maximize revenue to ensure that all costs are covered,” the city said. “Profit from ticket sales is one of several revenue streams identified through our Downtown Events Sustainability Plan.”

To learn more about about the Zoppé Circus, go here. For information about its visit to Redwood City, go here.

Suspect arrested in burglary at Sigona’s Market

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A 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of burglarizing Sigona’s Market at 2345 Middlefield Road on July 11, Redwood City police reported on Saturday.

At about 12:29 a.m., officers responded to an alarm call at the market, and while en route learned from the alarm company that surveillance video showed the suspect inside.

Officers arrived on the scene and saw a man inside the fenced area of the business collecting numerous items and placing them in a pile outside the fence, police said.

After seeing the officers, he tried to flee, jumping a fence and running across lanes of traffic, police said. Officers were able to apprehend the suspect after a brief foot pursuit.

He was identified as Domingo Molina Jr., “who has a history of theft and fleeing from police officers after committing crimes.”

Molina was booked into the San Mateo County Jail on charges of commercial burglary and resisting arrest.

All of the stolen property was recovered at the scene, police said.

San Mateo County takes 3rd in national ‘tech-savvy’ rankings

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San Mateo County takes third place in national 'tech-savvy' rankings

How tech-savvy is San Mateo County?  How about third in the entire U.S., among counties its size?

The 2018 Digital Counties Survey rankings are out, and San Mateo takes third place (moving up from sixth last year)!

Here’s some of what the judges said:

“In keeping with its Silicon Valley roots, San Mateo County does not disappoint when it comes to using tech to serve its more than 764,000 residents. … San Mateo is also making great strides in its smart city work … [like] SMC Labs…which serves as a regional IoT and smart city innovation zone [and] … [and] as open as the county is with data, it’s also committed to intensive countywide cybersecurity efforts.”

In acknowledging the award, Dave Pine, president of the county Board of Supervisors said, “As a county located in Silicon Valley, we understand how technology profoundly affects all aspects of our lives…”.

Key elements of the county’s tech work include its open data initiative, collaboration with a wide range of public and private partners, creation of more than 70 free SMC Public Wi-Fi sites (to help tackle the digital divide) and SMC Labs’ efforts to connect both people and “things” like air quality sensors and smart streetlights.

You can read the full write-up from the Digital Counties Survey 2018 here:

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Gee’s departure opens council race wide open

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Redwood City Council meeting roundup for April 8, 2019

Two leading Peninsula political figures made the same decision this week — not to run — and the result is a wide open race for the Redwood City Council and deferred ambitions for a seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

As reported by Climate Online, high-profile incumbent Jeff Gee announced yesterday via his web page that he would not seek a third term on the Redwood City Council, a little more than six weeks after a campaign kickoff event that showed off an array of support from prominent political leaders throughout the Peninsula.

Right around the same time, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine decided not to run for the state Senate seat due to be vacated by Jerry Hill in 2020. Pine, currently president of the board, will run for re-election instead.

But Pine’s decision carries with it implications for the 2020 Senate race and 2024, when Assemblyman Kevin Mullin is termed out.

First, the Gee decision.  He said that the combination of growing work opportunities and responsibilities, his desire to spend more time with his family and his own expectations for how he would do the job of Councilmember left him convinced he couldn’t do it all.

Unaddressed was the reality that it would have been a bruising campaign Gee, whose challengers represent voters convinced the last decade-plus of decision-making has been a disaster for Redwood City.

Gee does not seem like someone to shrink from a fight, but there must be some relief in knowing he won’t have to endure such a campaign.

His departure from the race means it is now a wide open campaign for three seats with only one incumbent – Diane Howard. Generally, she has been given a pass on the criticism of how Redwood City has changed, but she may be more closely scrutinized with Gee out of the race.

For those who wanted to make Gee the issue, they now have to look to their own background, positions and voting record, or lack of one, as a foundation for running.

In short, those who loved to accuse Gee of being in the pocket of developers will have to find some other way to campaign.

Gee’s announcement also means other candidates may enter the race. Community activist Jason Galisatus, who considered running and opted out until 2020, is said to be reconsidering. Also in the rumor mill: Kris Johnson, one of the most frequent posters in the Redwood City Residents Say What? Facebook page, and long a harsh critic of Gee and the changing profile of Redwood City. Lately, Johnson’s rhetoric has quieted down, perhaps in anticipation of running.

In any case, with the filing period just open, the field of candidates is not set yet.

As for Pine, he opted for an easy re-election campaign in 2020 over a tough Senate race against hard-charging Redwood City Councilwoman Shelly Masur, who announced she was running via social media several days ago.

That assumes he draws no serious opposition for re-election. Weren’t district elections supposed to mean more challengers? A topic for another day.

Still, there is nothing more attractive to a potential candidate than a seat without an incumbent, which means we can expect that Masur will face at least one serious opponent.

As for Pine’s own political future, he is looking at 2024, when Mullin’s terms in the Assembly reach their 12-year limit.

Contact Mark Simon at

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

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