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Political Climate with Mark Simon: The county schools chief race is the one to watch

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The race for San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools between Gary Waddell and Nancy Magee is the only truly contested campaign on the local June 5 ballot, and it’s a fascinating contrast of credentials, experience and intangibles as to who is best suited for the county’s top schools job.

Waddell emphasizes he is the only one with practical experience as a school principal and counselor, which means he understands the administrative complexities of running a school and the educational and emotional needs of students.

Magee emphasizes she is the only one with in-class experience as a teacher, which means she understands the direct impact of policies and practices handed down by policymakers and the practical requirements of both students and teachers in the classroom.

They have distinctly contrasting priorities. For Magee it’s “safe and inclusive schools,” “high-quality early learning opportunities” and “career education in the 21st century.” For Waddell it’s “world-class schools for every child,” “educating the whole child,” and “quality, affordable preschools for every child.”

You can read much more about the candidates and their priorities here.

This is part of a terrific election website,, a joint project of MapLight and the League of Women Voters of California. It contains everything you would want to know about the election and it’s a must-read.

The Superintendent of Schools runs the county Office of Education, which is charged with implementing the state mandates on the county’s 23 school districts, including ensuring the budgets meet all state funding formula requirements and that each district carries out the state’s unending desire to meddle in local school curriculum priorities and standards.

The job requires an ability to work with the county’s school districts in a collaborative manner, given the autonomy each both enjoys and prizes, and to have the kind of state-level connections to influence the mandates that emanate from Sacramento.

Both Waddell and Magee are in the eight-member “cabinet” established by Superintendent Anne Campbell, who is stepping down after eight years in the job.

Waddell’s title is Deputy Superintendent, Instructional Services Division, according to the County Office of Education website. But he hastens to add that he is the only deputy and he is “second in command” to Campbell, carrying with it the assertion that he has the broadest grasp of the responsibilities of the job.

Magee’s title is Associate Superintendent, Student Services Division, according to the Office website. But she hastens to add that all the cabinet members directly report to Campbell, and she asserts that she has just as broad a grasp of the broad and visionary responsibilities of the job.

One stark contrast is the endorsements each claims on their campaign websites —; Besides their websites, Waddell and Magee recently were guests on The Game, the cable TV show I co-host with Kevin Mullin. You can see the two candidates for yourself here.

Waddell’s list is remarkable for a first-time candidate and the kind of list candidates dream about, including Congresswomen Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier, Assemblymen Kevin Mullin, Marc Berman and Phil Ting, state Senator Scott Wiener, four of the five San Mateo County Supervisors (Dave Pine apparently did not endorse) and a long list of local elected officials and school district trustees, including five of the seven current members of the County Board of Education, to whom the superintendent reports.

Magee’s list is shorter on high-profile political figures, but includes Supervisor Don Horsley, who endorsed both candidates; countywide officeholders Treasurer-Tax Collector Sandie Arnott, Sheriff Carlos Bolanos, Coroner Robert Foucrault, Controller Juan Raigoza; former Supervisor Adrienne Tissier; and several mayors. Magee was endorsed by both local daily newspapers. And she also sports a substantial list of local officials, including school district trustees and educators.

As you would expect, both claim expertise in the other’s strongest suit.

If the job is all about impacting legislation and funding priorities, then the advantage would seem to go to Waddell, given the lineup of endorsements, suggesting that his current job has brought him in contact with the key leaders and policymakers. But Magee said she can step into that role easily. Both of them say the state needs to rework the tax code to better fund schools and, in particular, rethink Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 ballot measure that took property taxes out of the hands of local jurisdictions.

If the job is all about implementing programs at a school-district level, then the advantage would seem to go to Magee, whose job has been to develop countywide consensus on a number of priorities, the most prominent of which has been a countywide task force on safe schools that has worked to make sure the county’s 23 districts and 20 law enforcement agencies work together and communicate in a common language. But Waddell said his own experience has repeatedly called upon his abilities to coordinate policies and practices among the districts.

One of them will have to deal with an increasingly complex set of demands and challenges in the county schools.

We are raising a restless generation, made uneasy by the constant threat of gun violence, buffeted by a social interaction method that is undergoing continuous change, challenged by rapidly shifting economic demands, and whipsawed by widely varying academic demands and resources.

Waddell said he will work for a “system that is compassionate, flexible and considers the needs of kids who are not the norm.”

Magee said, “I’ve done the work to connect all these partners. I’m well-prepared to work on big, complex problems together in this county.” She wants the students of the county’s schools “to be able to see themselves in a positive way into the future.”

There is another distinctive element to the campaign, one that should not be overemphasized or ignored either: Both Waddell and Magee are openly gay.

Does it matter? It can, for very practical reasons.

In the past, Supervisors Tom Nolan and Rich Gordon, the first two openly gay countywide officeholders, became regional leaders in the LGBTQ community by virtue of their prominence in office. And they brought to the job priorities reflective of their own backgrounds, as does every elected official.

In this instance, the personal lives of Waddell and Magee provide them with an understanding of emerging issues on our school campuses, particularly bullying and the growing openness toward transgender youth.

Waddell said he has been openly gay for many years and says his personal background “is an asset” that allows him to “build an empathy and helps me understand the issues we need to work on.” He adds, “I’m not a single-issue guy.”

Magee “came out later in life,” after a marriage of 11 years and the birth of two sons. “I went through that experience, changing my identity to divorced, single woman who is gay.” In the end, she said, “It’s really not about being gay. It’s about being yourself.”

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.

The above photo is courtesy of the San Mateo County Office of Education. Gary Waddell is pictured on the left and Nancy Magee on the right.

SamTrans to hold public meeting on possible express bus service

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Post: It’s a regional measure, by and for the whole region.

SamTrans is inviting the public to weigh in on the study of possibly adding express bus service through San Mateo County, with some service potentially traveling in express lanes along Highway 101 that are expected to open in 2021.

The meeting is scheduled to occur from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, at SamTrans, 1250 San Carlos Ave. in San Carlos.

The SamTrans US-101 Express Bus Feasibility Study aims to speed up bus service through Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties with limited stops and use of northbound and southbound high occupancy vehicle lanes. The study is funded by grants from Caltrans and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Below is a draft of express routes being considered.

Photo courtesy of SamTrans.

The Peelers to open summer-long Music on the Square

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Music on the Square is back!

Opening night on the Square (Courthouse Square, Redwood City – but you knew that) is Friday, June 1 – and there’s music every Friday night after that until the “end” of summer, Aug. 31.

Opening on Opening Night – The Peelers – means mash-ups and medleys of hit songs from the 70s to today.  Or if you want a more technical explanation, “unique non-stop DJ-like dance remixes of the latest hits with your favorite classics.”  And if you go, you can ask them where the name came from.

Here’s a taste of their music.

Coming later in June:  Metal Shop (just what it sounds like), an evening of “Yacht Rock” with Mustache Harbor (that one, you might just have to be there to figure it out), a twin tribute night to Chicago and Steely Dan, and June closes out with Cisco Kid, a tribute to WAR (the band).

Meantime, you can get started, and start the new month in Redwood City’s “Living Room” (even better than your living room because the music is live, the neighboring restaurants do all the cooking, and – if you see a couch, yes, you CAN put your feet up on it.  If you’re not busy dancing, that is.).

The metaphorical curtain (since it’s outdoors) rises at 6, and the music goes till 8.

You can find the entire summer schedule for Music on the Square here.

Grand reopening for updated Fair Oaks Library set for June 23

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An expanded Fair Oaks Library is scheduled for a grand reopening and ribbon cutting on June 23, according to Redwood City Public Library, which shared the above photo from the ongoing construction on Wednesday.

“We have carpet, we have data and power, and we have the beginning of a Farmers Market Truck,” according to library officials. “Next week we’ll have some furniture, some books, and some computers.”

The construction will expand the library at 2510 Middlefield Road from 3,200 to 3,800 square feet, with new technology and furniture, a Bilingual Farmers Market Truck interactive play area for early literacy skills and nutrition education, new adult seating for studying, new carpet and upholstery library-wide and more.

Construction began in early February. While the library is closed, a more limited library space has opened in the Fair Oaks Community Center at 2600 Middlefield Road.

For more information, visit the Fair Oaks Branch Library project webpage here.

Redwood City council approves inclusionary housing ordinance

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The Redwood City council unanimously approved an inclusionary housing ordinance on Monday that requires multi-family residential developments to incorporate a certain percentage of affordable units.

The new ordinance applies to developments with a minimum of 20 units, of which 20 percent of rental units must be affordable.  Ten-percent must be set aside for moderate income levels, 5-percent for low-income levels and 5-percent for very low income levels. The ordinance allows the developer to request an alternative mix of housing of equal or greater value. For developments with units for sale, 15-percent must be set aside for moderate-income levels.

The inclusionary housing requirement is the result of state legislation passed last year that allows cities to require a certain amount of affordable rental housing units — one of several measures being used by cities and the state to address the housing crisis. Before the legislation, new developments could pay fees to the city’s Affordable Housing Fund in lieu of incorporating affordable units. Those funds go into an Affordable Housing Fund used to construct new affordable housing or convert existing units to low or very-low income.

The city acknowledged both benefits and drawbacks to implementing an inclusionary housing requirement. The benefits? Developers can construct affordable housing more quickly than nonprofit affordable units, which require more time for financing, the city said. Also, such a practice encourages a better mix of affordable housing throughout the city rather than concentrating affordable units in one development or area.

The drawbacks of an inclusionary housing requirement are that it can increase development costs and potentially reduce residential construction and ultimately hurt housing affordability.

City staff aimed to develop a policy that found “the right balance between these tradeoffs.”

Council expressed a desire to review the ordinance’s results annually in order to adjust as needed.

353 Main St. project moving forward after appeal denied

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An appeal of a 125-unit residential development at 353 Main St. was denied by Redwood City council in a unanimous vote Monday, meaning the project will move forward.

The group Better Neighborhoods Inc. filed the appeal over concerns about the development’s potential environmental impacts. The project was categorically exempt from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

On Monday, several councilmembers said concerns about the project had been adequately addressed during the lengthy planning process for the project by ROEM Development.

The project involves demolishing a single-story office building and constructing a residential development with 125 units, 19 set aside as affordable housing, and two levels of above-grade parking. The development would also have 182 private parking spaces and 42 bicycle parking spaces and includes constructing a scenic, 14-foot-wide trail and overlook point along Redwood Creek. Read more about the project here.

Tainted Love set to take Redwood City back to the ’80s

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Tainted Love set to take Redwood City back to the '80s

Feeling nostalgic for a kinder, simpler time?  Ok, we can’t help with you that – but if you’re nostalgic for the ‘80s – on THAT subject, we’ve got some advice:

Club Fox, Redwood City, Friday night.

Tainted Love (no, not the song – the band) takes the stage for a night of music that’s all about the ‘80s.  So you could be rocking out to “Let’s Dance” and “Whip It,” or “Love Shack” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” even “Call Me” or “Don’t You Forget About Me,”  Oh, and “Tainted Love.”  That too.

The band has a BIG playlist, so they might not get to all of those songs – but on the other hand, you might also hear “What I Like About You” – and that’s always a good thing.

Doors open at 8:30 p.m., and the ‘80s begin at 9:30.  For our younger readers, sorry, this is a 21 and over show.  On the other hand, if you’re over 21, and you’re still not over The Bangles and The Buggles after Friday night, Tainted Love is back again on Saturday.

And, want extra ‘80s credit?  Match the bands to their songs up above:

Human League, Blondie, B-52s, Devo, The Romantics, David Bowie, Prince and oh, Soft Cell.

San Mateo County launches ‘smart city’ lab

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Did you know that San Mateo County has a lab?

Not a Doctor Frankenstein sort of lab.  A “smart city” lab.  And it’s brand new.

SMC Labs was just launched by the County to tackle issues like parking, pollution, commuting and energy efficiency using smart technologies like “the Internet of Things, machine learning, big data and blockchain.”

In announcing the new lab, Jon Walton, Chief Information Officer for the county, said, “Housing, traffic, mobility and environmental issues don’t stop at city borders.  Regional problems require a borderless approach, and the County of San Mateo is uniquely positioned to address these issues.  We laid the groundwork last year when we started deploying a countywide fiber and public Wi-Fi network as the first step toward a Digital San Mateo County.  SMC Labs is the next step of this journey.”

That means asking what to do about:  “parking availability for electric vehicles and disabled parking spots; irrigation water conservation with smart moisture sensors; smart mobility, ride sharing, last mile commuting; localized air quality and environmental monitoring;” – and, using the power of technology, coming up with solutions tailored to San Mateo County.

“Despite being located in the heart of Silicon Valley, there are two very different populations in San Mateo County,” said Ulysses Vinson, Chief Smart Communities Officer for the county.  “One is technology-savvy and lives in the larger, resource-rich cities.  The other includes smaller suburban and underserved rural communities with limited digital infrastructure.  My goal is to bring innovative solutions from SMC Labs to serve all San Mateo County residents, leaving no one behind.”

Before anything goes county-wide though, two “test” zones have been set up, one at the San Mateo County Center campus in Redwood City, and the other at City Hall in East Palo Alto – so there will be plenty of opportunity to experiment, test, learn and improve.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Campaigns uncertain as homes become voting booths

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

Two weeks from today is Election Day, which used to be a major civic event with people streaming (or trickling) to their polling places to cast their votes.

This time, it’s different, and it’s much more complicated and uncertain for those brave souls on the ballot.

San Mateo County is one of five counties in California (Napa, Nevada, Madera and Sacramento are the others) that will vote almost entirely by mail. In fact, voting began May 7, when ballots were mailed to all registered voters.

And there’s where the uncertainty comes in.

As noted often by my friend and TV partner Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, who pushed for all-mail voting in the county, a candidate in a typical election would obtain a list of likely voters – usually those who voted in the last three or four statewide or national elections.

Then, the campaign would focus almost exclusively on contacting those households – by phone, by mail, in person – where likely voters resided.

By implication, all other registered voters were, in reality, people unlikely to vote. They couldn’t be bothered to leave their homes go to their local polling places, so skip them – no mail, no phone call, no in-person visit by the candidate.

But this time home is the voting booth. The universe of likely voters is likely to change.

And if he were going door-to-door in a tough re-election campaign, that would be just enough to give Mullin pause.

“How do I walk past a home, knowing there is a ballot in there?” Mullin mused recently. And should a candidate knock on the door and remind the resident there is a ballot at hand, does that cause the voter to actually vote – perhaps in gratitude to the candidate who made the effort?

Or does the disciplined candidate ignore this temptation and stay with the plan?

In fact, we are in uncharted territory. We don’t know who will vote, how big the numbers will be or whether the universe of voters will be significantly different.

LAUNCHING HALE: A day after her 39th birthday and with husband Brian and children Lula, 4, and Viva, just shy of 2, at her side, Giselle Hale kicked off her campaign for the Redwood City Council in front of about 100 friends and supporters Sunday at Cyclismo Café.

Hale, a marketing director at Facebook, a planning commissioner since 2014 and a veteran Democratic organizer, made clear her focus will be on the future of Redwood City as a place for families and the increasingly diverse population of the city.

“I am running to be a strong voice for all residents of Redwood City and a much-needed one for families and children. I want our children to grow up in a place where they can make friends for life and return home as adults,” she said.

Hale noted the average age in Redwood City is a surprisingly young 36, suggesting that the demographic shift to younger residents with school-age children is more pronounced than it might appear in the public debates over growth and housing. She said the largest demographic in Redwood City is the 0-14 age group.

“Redwood City is diverse, inclusive and multi-generational, all qualities worth protecting. We need entry points for all generations at all income levels to preserve the diversity that makes this city what it is,” Hale said.

She called for “a variety of solutions” in housing, including more affordable housing, inclusionary zoning, more single-family homes and “large apartment buildings” – in essence, more family housing. She said a review of Zillow last week showed only seven three-bedroom units for rent in the city.

Hale said she supports the city’s El Camino Real master transit plan, and she said she would tackle the issue of quality child care, of which there is a significant shortfall in Redwood City: “I want to see more developer community benefits directed toward our schools,” Hale said.

Hale’s campaign event was heavily populated with a wide swath of established political and community leaders.

Councilman John Seybert emceed the event and said Hale’s candidacy was a major factor in his decision not to seek another term this year. He repeatedly called Hale “the next generation of leadership in Redwood City.”

Also present were City Councilwoman Shelly Masur, who wrapped up the event with a pitch for money for Hale’s campaign; incumbent Councilman Jeff Gee, who is running for re-election this year; former Councilman Jeff Ira; incumbent Sheriff Carlos Bolanos, seeking election on June 5; Assemblyman Marc Berman; and community leaders Lori Lochtefeld, Daniela Gasparini, Adina Levin of the Friends of Caltrain; Connie Guerrero; and Jason Galisatus. Also on hand: Sequoia Union High School Trustee Georgia Jack; Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian; Menlo Park Councilwoman Kirsten Keith, also up for re-election this year; former Mountain View Councilwoman and Assemblywoman Sally Lieber; and the ubiquitous Belmont Councilman Charles Stone, also up for re-election this year.

DOWN AND DOTTY: Amid this long list, Lieber seems the odd person out, having had little or no political profile on the Peninsula for years. Ah, but take note: She has announced she is running for the state Senate seat to be vacated by Democrat Jerry Hill in 2020. … Lieber ran for the same seat in 2012, losing to Hill. … Masur also is running, of course, and both Lieber and Masur already have campaign Facebook pages up and running. … That may be enough to prompt some activity by the other rumored candidates, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine and, a new name in the mix, Burlingame Councilman Michael Brownrigg.

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.

The above photo is courtesy of the San Mateo County Facebook page.

2-hour parking limit approved around Jardin De Niños Park

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Redwood City council on Monday approved implementing a 2-hour parking limit around Jardin De Niños Park at Middlefield Road and Chestnut Street.

The parking restriction, which requires a second vote by council, will apply to two parking spaces on Chestnut Street and four spaces on Middlefield Road from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. all days except Sunday and holidays.

The move is aimed at limiting longterm parking near the park.

Neighbors and park users expressed concern that long-term parkers are forcing families to park long distances away from Jardin De Niños Park, often walking with children along a busy roadway.

A subsequent review by city staff confirmed that a significant number of parked cars in the area were either employees of nearby businesses or residents storing their vehicles on the street for long periods of time.

Similar restrictions used at Spinas Park on Second Avenue have improved access for visitors and neighborhood residents, the city says.

The restrictions become effective 30 days after council votes on a second reading of the ordinance, at which point staff will issue a work order to install signs and will notify affected neighborhood associations about the change.

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