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Redwood City DMV to offer limited Saturday service

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Starting this month, limited Saturday service will be offered at 40 DMV offices statewide, including the office at 300 Brewster Ave. in Redwood City.

In an attempt to ease wait times, offices will open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 16 and June 23, and will then transition to the first and third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., beginning in July 2018, according to DMV. Behind-the-wheel exams will not be available Saturdays.

This will come as good news for locals. Just this afternoon on Facebook, someone posted, “DMV Redwood City – 4.5 hours waiting and still nowhere close to comping up — just renewing a drivers license that I couldn’t do online. Really? What is wrong?…”

All field offices that will have Saturday service are:

Wear Orange rally set for Redwood City Saturday

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A Wear Orange rally is set to take place in Redwood City on Saturday in recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

The rally will take place from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Arguello Plaza, 2500 Broadway St., next to the Caltrain station.

The event by Moms Demand Action Peninsula group will include orange cupcakes, orange cookies and orange balloons, and families are encouraged to attend wearing orange attire.

After the celebration, attendees will be encouraged to take the train to San Francisco to participate in the Wear Orange Golden Gate Bridge walk, which begins at 11:30 a.m.

“Let’s join to show that there is a movement of Americans committed to stop gun violence,” organizers said.

Wear Orange rallies are happening throughout the Bay Area and nation, inspired by friends of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago student killed by gunfire. They decided to honor her life by wearing orange, the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves.

You can have June 5 election results emailed to you

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Superintendent of Schools race still too close to call after latest Election update

Want to get election results delivered to your email inbox?

Because you live in San Mateo County, you can do that.  Just sign up before 5 p.m. on Monday, June 4, and Tuesday’s results will be coming your way  (This is for the June 5 primary.)

Just fill in your name and email address here:  Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder & Elections – and you are set.  Unless you want a pizza delivered along with your election results.  You’ll have to call somebody else about that.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Remembering our fallen and the complexity of war

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by
Political Climate with Mark Simon: Remembering our fallen and the complexity of war

Union Cemetery in Redwood City is an urban oasis of contemplation and consideration for those from our community who died in service go our country, dating back to the Civil War.

Each Memorial Day, the Historic Union Cemetery Association conducts a ceremony to honor those who have fallen on our behalf.

This year, was no exception and so, on Monday, about 200 people gathered at Union Cemetery to hear patriotic songs, a poem and to stand together to in remembrance. What made the event of particular gravity for me was that I was asked to deliver the keynote address. It was a chance to dig into some of the issues that have dominated my life and, I believe, the life of a generation. The speech seemed to be well received, so I provide it to you here.

MEMORIAL DAY REMARKS: Thank you for the distinct honor of speaking to you today and to be part of this day in which we memorialize those who gave, as Lincoln said, the “last full measure of devotion” in service to our nation.

I have significant doubts about my qualifications to speak to you today, having never served.

Who am I to be speaking on behalf of those who died for my right to speak – to hold our nation together, to end slavery, to save the world from enslavement?

Indeed, not only did I not serve, but I actively sought to be excluded from military service.

We are all a product of our times and my time was dominated by the Vietnam War.

My brother Rick served there, stationed at Da Nang air base where, apparently, he flew radio spy missions over China. His best friend, Mark Sprague, rather than serve in Vietnam, left the country for Canada, and never came back.

There were demonstrations and marches.  My Skyline Community College newspaper shared a print shop with the Black Panthers.

These were the times.

By the time I came of draft age in 1969, I had to face some difficult, sobering questions.

Should I serve? Should I fight? Should I find a way out?

What would it say about me as a principled human being if I avoided service, while others, often those without means, were doing the dirty work of fighting and dying?

In reality, I didn’t want to kill anyone. And I certainly didn’t want anyone to be shooting at me.

It was an uncomfortable time.

The war was wrong – misguided, dishonest, misled and unfair – and I developed an abiding sense that all war is wrong. I became, and remain to this day, a pacifist.

I decided I would refuse to serve.

I let my student deferment lapse. In a moment of significant anguish for my parents, I was prepared to go to prison rather than be drafted.

Then came the draft lottery.

I vividly recall sitting in my backyard with my best friend, Ed Sessler, listening on the radio while in Washington they pulled ping pong balls out of a basket.

My number came up – 278. At the time, they were drafting no higher than up to 60.

In an instant, the entire moral and practical dilemma passed.

I stayed in school. I studied journalism. I spent countless hours covering antiwar protests and marches – never as a participant, always as an observer.

But over the years, I pondered: What do I say to those who did serve? Did I stand aside and let them do the dirty work for me? Am I no different than those who paid their way out of the Civil War?

Well, I found some answers to these difficult questions.

I am a storyteller by nature and profession, so let me tell a few stories.

In 1982 – an incredible 36 years ago – I was in Washington, D.C., on Veteran’s Day – the day they had chosen to dedicate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

As part of the day, there was a long parade and prominently featured in it was a group of Vietnam Vets from the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital suffering from PTSD before we even knew what it was. They were in-patients at the hospital and as part of their therapy, they had formed a chorus. They were on a truck bed in the parade, singing at the top of their lungs.

I met up with them, interviewed them and got to know some of them, including an Army captain who had commanded an armored unit.

The day after the parade, the Menlo Park vets gathered together and went as brothers in arms to the memorial.

I walked toward the memorial with the captain. He began to tell me his story.

His unit had been overrun, they had abandoned their vehicles and they were running for cover.

There were five of them. First one was hit, and the four of them were carrying their wounded buddy to safety. Then another was hit and three of them were carrying the two wounded. Then another was hit and then another.

In the end, all five were hit. Wounded himself, the captain dragged each of his comrades to safety. He won the purple heart and the silver star. The others died.

At the memorial, the names are grouped chronologically in the order of the reports of their deaths.

As the captain arrived at the memorial, he saw the names of the other four, in order, one after the other. He grabbed me, buried his face on my shoulder and sobbed.

Later that day, as a group, they stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and sang America the Beautiful.

Five years later, I had befriended B.T. Collins, the former Green Beret who became the first head of the California Conservation Corps, was Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, served in the state Assembly and lost a leg and an arm in Vietnam when he fumbled a live grenade.

He was a larger than life character with a hook on his right arm he liked to extend to you when you first met him. He used to describe himself as six feet two on the left and three feet four on the right.

His Assembly office door featured a poster from the move Hook.

He also was a prime mover in the funding, design and creation of the California Vietnam Veterans memorial, dedicated to the more than 5,800 Californians who died in Vietnam. It’s a wonderful memorial and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so.

There, the names are organized by hometown and I decided to write a series of stories about the young men from the Peninsula who are listed there.

So, there I was in the living room of an East Palo Alto mother, talking to her about the loss of her son, a twin.

She said the loss never goes away. Sometimes, she said, when the front door opens, “I look up and expect to see him walk in.”

Just then, the front door opened, and her other son, the lone remaining twin, walked in. Both of us began to cry.

My generation still talks about the lessons of Vietnam, a loaded phrase that can mean widely varying things to different people.

Here’s the lesson I learned from Vietnam, from these forever-young Peninsula men, from their grieving families and their stories.

They went to war for different reasons.

Some of them had no other prospects – they couldn’t stay in school or didn’t want to.

Some thought it would be a way to change their lives. Some went out of duty and some just let themselves get drafted.

But they all served. They all went.

And they went, often, for the finest of reasons – out of duty, out of love of country, out of a desire to be of service to our nation and its ideals. And they fought and died, as soldiers always do, for their brothers in arms, for those at their side.

And this is what, ultimately, I learned and what gives me some solace as I try to reconcile their experiences with my own.

I can oppose war and still honor those who are willing to put their lives at risk to fight.

I honor their desire and their willingness to serve.

I honor their love of country and their willingness, no matter how reluctant, to do their duty.

And I believe the best way for us to honor them is to value their willingness to serve, to not squander this dedication and devotion.

That if we send our young people to fight and die for us, that we do so with honesty, with clarity of moral purpose and in the name of the finest of our values – freedom.

It has been my distinct honor to be with you here, on this day. Thank you.

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.

Home Depot theft suspect drops passport, birth certificate and cellphone while fleeing

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Shoplifter pleads no contest after threatening security at San Carlos Home Depot

A Redwood City man accused of shoplifting $672 worth of tools from the San Carlos Home Depot and for threatening employees with a knife when confronted dropped his U.S. passport, his Oregon birth certificate and his cellphone during his getaway, according to prosecutors.

The identifying items helped authorities track Eric David Mills down on May 17, when a San Mateo County sheriff’s deputy saw Mills in a car on 5th Avenue in Redwood City, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office. The car was stopped, the arrest was made, and now Mills is facing a three strikes case in connection with burglaries in 2002 and 2016.

Mills, 36, is set to appear today for a preliminary hearing on a felony and misdemeanor charge related to the Home Depot heist.

Prosecutors say two loss prevention officers chased after him after he left the store without paying.

“The defendant tried to run away but eventually turned, dropped the tools and took a fighting stance,” Mills said. “He then took off running to his car, which was parked in the store lot; at his car defendant pulled out a pocket knife and threatened the LPOs, saying he was going to come back for them since he knew where they worked.”

Mills remains in custody on $500,000 bail.

County program providing free summer program for 1,200 low-income students

in Education/Featured/Headline by

A four-week summer program at county libraries will be offered free of charge to 1,200 low-income children in seven San Mateo County school districts, including the Redwood City School District, according to the Redwood City Library’s June newsletter.

The annual, full-day program, called Big Lift Inspiring Summer, is for eligible kids entering kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades and includes “reading, science and art projects, field trips, yoga, fun and games,” according to its website. In Redwood City, the program operates at Roosevelt Elementary School from June 18 to July 13 for students entering the first grade.

The Redwood City Library, which takes part in the program, further states in its newsletter that the program provides literacy instruction in the morning taught by credentialed teachers. In the afternoon, kids partake in hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) activities. The STEAM program, led by college interns, was developed by the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s Center for Childhood Creativity and focuses on “child-directed, risk-friendly, exploratory activities on STEAM themes including Fairytale Engineering and Math All Around,” according to the newsletter.

The Big Lift has assisted families earning on average $31,974 per year in household income. And the program, funded through Measure A tax dollars, donors and foundations, apparently works.

A study conducted by the RAND Corporation found that children who participated in the Big Lift program have made promising gains.

Go here for more information.

Workshop details how locals can buy home with just 5-percent down

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Asking if it’s hard to buy a house in the Bay Area, is like asking if the Bay is wet.  But for some first-time homebuyers – a little help may be at hand.

If you have your eye on buying in San Mateo County, you may qualify to get your new home for just five percent down (and no requirement to buy expensive private mortgage insurance).

You can get all the details about the program at a free workshop for first-time buyers:

Monday, June 4th, 5 to 6 pm – at the Redwood City Community Activities Building (1400 Roosevelt Avenue) – sponsored by HEART (Housing Endowment and Regional Trust) and Meriwest Mortgage.

The key requirements to be eligible?  Families with incomes up to $150,000 and good credit – who live or work in San Mateo County – and who want to buy their first house or condo in the county.

HEART is a partnership between San Mateo County and the cities in the county, with business, nonprofit, education and labor – to create more affordable housing, and more opportunities to afford housing.

You can get the rest of the details about the program at Monday’s workshop – or if you want to learn more ahead of time, about HEART, about applying or about qualifying – HEART of San Mateo County has all that and more.

Since 1990, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment has more doubled.  The median home price has gone up more than three times.  If you live here, that won’t come as any surprise.  But HEART’s Opening Doors program may be a welcome surprise for families who thought buying a home was a closed door for them.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Councilman Jeff Gee will run for a third term

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As expected, incumbent Redwood City Councilman Jeff Gee told Political Climate he will be running for a third term and will formally kick off his campaign June 10.

“I care about our city,” he said.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes the community really asked for 20 years ago. It’s important to make sure the rest of the city gets caught up.”

Among the unfinished work: the Bayfront Canal, the Highway 101/84 interchange and the Whipple Avenue/Caltrain grade crossing, the latter on the verge of going forward more than 20 years ago and subsequently deferred by the City Council.

Gee said he wants Redwood City to be the same place of opportunity for jobs and families that his grandparents found when they came to this country.

“Our job is to create opportunities for those who come after us,” Gee said. “I just want to pay it forward.”

Putting progress in motion is the essence of why Gee is running: Any significant change takes years, sometimes decades, which means the work has to start now.

“Everything has a different gestation period,” he said. “You have to work on all of them at the same time to get there.”

And sometimes it takes a willingness to move beyond the immediate criticism, citing the push to use recycled water for public landscaping in Redwood Shores, a decision that was quite controversial in its time. He was a leader in that effort in 2004, which helped move him to run in 2009.

Gee acknowledged that divisive and harsh attacks on the city’s progress gave him pause about running again, particularly those that have focused on his position with prominent engineering and construction firm Swinerton.

“It does give you something to think about,” he said. “It’s very difficult to have a conversation with people these days who disagree with you and want to personally attack you. I’d like to think there is a point where most of can agree or at least discuss our differences.”

NOTIONS, SUNDRIES AND DOTS: It was almost exactly a year ago that Caltrain CEO Jim Hartnett signed the agreement to receive $647 million in federal funding for the Caltrain electrification project, despite a number of “supporters” who kept telling him to give up on getting the money out of the Trump administration.  Keeping the electrification project going forward is a challenge of almost absurd complexity, given the dizzying array of partners, all of whom have their own fish to fry. The outcome from a year ago is a tribute to Hartnett’s determination. … That’s a pretty sleazy, last-minute campaign mailer from Mark Melville, the nomadic deputy who thinks he should be sheriff. It includes photos of Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo and 11-year-old stories about the Las Vegas episode wherein then-Sheriff Greg Munks and then-Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos were briefly detained and released outside a massage parlor they both said they went to by accident, an assertion no one has effectively disputed. Neither Speier nor Eshoo has endorsed Melville. His campaign mailer lists one of his qualities as “integrity.” Except when it comes to misleading campaign mailers. … The race for San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools between Gary Waddell and Nancy Magee is said to be too close to call. At the outset, the race was seen as Waddell’s to lose, but as time and campaigning have unfolded, insiders say Magee has rallied strongly. Waddell has a long list of impressive endorsements, while Magee has the endorsement of the two local daily newspapers. Usually, the support of prominent officeholders carries more weight than the newspapers.

CORRECTION: In reporting on Giselle Hale’s own recent campaign kickoff, I probably didn’t convey her comments on housing with the greatest of accuracy. Acknowledging the city has single-family homes and large apartment buildings, she said she will push for “the missing middle of housing – condos, townhomes and small to mid-sized rentals, where families can get started and seniors can downsize with more certainty.”

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.

Vesta on list of most-buzzed about Bay Area food orders

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A particular pizza at Vesta in Redwood City was named on this list of the best, “most buzzed about” items at top-rated restaurants in the Bay Area.

The sausage and honey pizza at Vesta, located at 2022 Broadway, was named a must-order item, according to the popular news site.

“A 2017 Michelin 2017 Bib Gourmand selection, Vesta specializes in wood-fired pizzas with creative toppings,” according to “Chief among them is the sausage and honey pizza, which pairs subtly sweet honey with spicy sausage and peppers.”

Other San Mateo County eateries mentioned in the article, entitled “The best thing to eat in every Bay Area city,” includes the Falafel at Falafelle in Belmont, the ricotta gnocchi at 31st Union in San Mateo, and the jerk chicken at Back A Yard Caribbean American Grill in Menlo Park.

The list was compiled via an examination of Yelp reviews and interviews with sfgate staff and their family and friends.


McKinley Institute of Technology honored for family literacy initiative

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Students who don’t have a computer, who don’t have internet access at home, can find themselves falling farther and farther behind. In a time when many schools take those things for granted, parents who aren’t tech-savvy, or parents who are not comfortable speaking English, can feel frustrated and lost trying to help their kids.

Redwood City School District has taken that as a challenge – and now, the district has been recognized for that work.  McKinley Institute of Technology, a middle school focused on closing that digital divide for students and parents – received a 2018 Award from the San Mateo County School Boards Association, for the school’s “Family Literacy Initiative and Literacy Initiative.” The initiative was also honored with the inaugural Excellence in Education Award from the San Mateo County Office of Education.

McKinley is a little “old school” (Literally.  McKinley is in a classic school building that dates back to 1927.)  and a lot of new school:

Every McKinley student has a laptop, to use in school for classwork – and which they can take home, for homework.  (For students without Wi-Fi at home, the school sets up a “hotspot” so they can get internet access.)  But before any student starts using their new computer – they go through a ten-day “digital boot camp”, that teaches them how to think critically about what they see online, and how to behave online.

The middle schoolers at McKinley aren’t just using their computers to learn about computers either (though they do have a chance to dig into coding) – they’re using their electronics for online reading and writing activities, and to access personalized reading resources.

Maybe just as important, McKinley also works with the parents of all their students.  Every parent gets set up with email – they learn how to support their kids in digital homework assignments – and they can track their kids’ progress and assignments online.

In cooperation with Canada College, the school also offers free English language classes to parents – on site at McKinley.  And Principal Nick Fanourgiakis meets monthly with parents.

All of that, to help parents feel more connected to the school; and to help them, help their children to become better readers and better students.

The result?  In just two years, from 2015 to 2017, the percentage of students performing below grade level was cut in half.  Parent engagement is up across the board, with 100 percent participation in beginning-of-the-year orientations.  And a 2018 Kent Award.

Maybe it’s no accident that McKinley Institute of Technology is – MIT.

Photo courtesy of the Redwood City School District

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