Category archive

PoliticalClimate - page 3

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Your guide to Redwood City council candidates

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by

The ballots in this all-mail election begin arriving in local mailboxes in less than two weeks and we can expect the pace of this long campaign to begin to resemble a ferret that has had too much coffee.

Meanwhile, so many things are being said by so many people about the candidates for the Redwood City Council that it might be useful to review what they are saying about themselves.

It might also be more accurate than the hints and allegations too frequently generated on local social media.

Based on recent candidates’ forums, public appearances and campaign materials, here is your current Political Climate guide to each of the candidates and the main message they highlight:

Vice Mayor Diane Howard, a 19-year veteran of the council: She says she will be the voice of experience on a council that is likely becoming increasingly inexperienced. Assuming she is re-elected, the seven-member council will have two new members at the end of the year. Assuming Councilwoman Shelly Masur goes forward with her plans to run for the state Senate and with Mayor Ian Bain termed out, another two new members will join the council in 2020. That means the majority of the council will be in their first terms. And with district elections possibly in place by 2020, the number could be higher.

“It’s important to have someone (on the council) with the authority and deep history of our community,” she said.

Certified Public Accountant and community activist Rick Hunter: He is the self-described man in the middle – allied with no contingent of established points of view. His campaign literature bears three word: “Balanced. Independent. Experienced.” He says most people are “in the middle” on the issues facing Redwood City, neither fully opposed to the growth that has occurred nor comfortable with the changes that have taken place. They are seeking solutions without predetermined ideology, he says.

Businesswoman, mother and Planning Commissioner Giselle Hale: She is seeking to be a voice of a new generation of families in Redwood City, while upholding what she calls the values and diversity of the community. Her campaign literature describes her as “a new candidate” and she frequently says she and her husband “chose” Redwood City as a place to live and raise a young family. She notes she will be the only member of the council with children currently in the city’s school district and among the issues she highlights is an increase in childcare options for working families with small children.

Small business owner Christina Umhofer: She is the one candidate who speaks most directly to those who are uneasy about the changes that have occurred in the city, couching it this way: “I plan to help Redwood City move into the future with residents’ quality of life in mind.” She also says, “I want to represent the residents of Redwood City, not out-of-town corporations.” Her campaign slogan is: “From Redwood City, For Redwood City.” She cites her experience owning local small businesses and as a property owner as examples of practical experience she will bring to the council. “I am solution-oriented,” she says.

Stanford community relations representative and community activist Jason Galisatus: He says he brings a “fresh perspective” to city politics and seeks to speak for Millennials who work in Redwood City and can’t afford to live here. Many of them are like Galisatus – born and raised and now priced out. He speaks most directly to the positive changes that have occurred and capitalizing on those changes. “I grew up in Redwood City at a time when it was an affordable city where working families like mine could afford to buy a home,” he says. “… I want to lead us into the future while respecting where we’ve come from.” If elected, he would be the only renter on the council.

Community organizer Diana Reddy: She calls herself the “community’s voice” and cites her long experience as a community level organizer on issues of “social justice,” including immigration reform, low-income housing and pay equity/living wage. She is a steadfast advocate for housing and seeks to speak to residents who have been bypassed or pushed aside by the economic boom overtaking the region. “I have the courage to fight for the residents of Redwood City and focus on working- and middle-class interests rather than special interests,” she says. She will “bring openness, transparency and accountability back to city government.”

Businessman and Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt: He has been in the middle of the approvals that revitalized the city’s downtown, and he seemingly knows everyone. Vice Chair of the Planning Commission for more than nine years and a manager at the Fox Theater, a downtown anchor, Schmidt’s experience is broad, matched by the number of people who know him and have worked with him, particularly in volunteer benefits for the community. He touts his relationships – in the community and throughout the state – as a measure of his ability to build consensus on the issues facing the city.

Contact Mark Simon at

In photo above, top-left to top-right: Jason Galisatus, Giselle Hale, Diane Howard and Rick Hunter. Bottom-left to bottom-right: Diana Reddy, Ernie Schmidt, and Christina Umhofer.

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

Political Climate by Mark Simon: Sign of the Times?

in Business/Community/Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by

Perhaps centuries from now, when the waters of the Great Global Warming Flood have subsided and the human race has restored itself, an archaeological dig will stumble onto a sealed chamber at what used to be the campus of Stanford University.

There, with great excitement, they will find an artifact that will astound them, a great and awesome monolith that they will reverently place in the same pantheon as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Rosetta Stone.

Six feet high, 40-feet long, it will speak to them across the centuries, mystical and from a bygone era lost in the mists of time: And it shall read: “Ampex.”

Yes, they’ve stashed the sign in a storage room, perhaps never to be seen again, judging by the efforts Stanford is making to find the sign a new home.

And, size notwithstanding, don’t plan on putting the sign in your front yard.

That’s exactly what Tim Harrison wants to do – he’s got a spot all picked out adjacent to his parking lot at the Canyon Inn, a landmark in its own right.

Like so many others, Ampex engineers were not immune to the alluring burgers and fish tacos of the Canyon Inn and they frequented the local bistro with some regularity.

Asked why he’d want to host this piece of local memorabilia, Harrison said, “Look around,” and pointed to the staggering array of sports and local history items that coat the walls of the Canyon Inn. “I’m just that kind of guy,” he said.

There is a history of these things working out. When Mel’s Bowl was torn down in 2011 to make way for apartments, the city required the developer to find another location for the art deco neon sign.

It found a home at the Redwood City Car Wash on El Camino Real in the northern end of the city after Elaine Breeze, vice president of developer Urban Housing Group successfully weaved her way through various agencies.

But Stanford, with all the academic dignity it can muster, doesn’t want the Ampex sign ending up at some random business location.

“We are primarily interested in groups that have some affiliation to preserving historic and/or technological elements of the Peninsula,” said John Donahoe, director of Planning and Entitlement at Stanford’s Land, Buildings and Real Estate office.

“While we have received some recent requests for the sign,” Donahoe said, “I would characterize these requests as from private individuals who want the sign for private use. While we appreciate their interest in the sign, we remain hopeful that we can find a public home for the sign.”

Specifically, Donahoe said, “Our preference is to work with a local historical society or technology museum, preferably on the San Francisco Peninsula.”

In short, he said, somewhere “appropriate.”:

No car washes need apply.

Or, to put it another way, you’re never going to see that sign again.

But it should be quite a find for those archaeologists.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Where do the candidates line up?

in Community/Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by
Superintendent of Schools race still too close to call after latest Election update

In a political campaign, endorsements by well-regarded and influential Individuals and by organizations with influence and resources can be an important boost to a candidate and an early indication of who the political establishment regards as a likely winner.

By that measure, while there clearly are favorites emerging in the seven-candidate race for three seats on the Redwood City Council, there is hardly unanimity among the county’s leaders, or among the current members of the Council.

But as the campaign enters its latter stages, clearly there are some lines being drawn between a group of three candidates – Diane Howard, Giselle Hale and Jason Galisatus – and the remaining four candidates, Rick Hunter, Christina Umhofer, Diana Reddy and Ernie Schmidt.

And those lines appear to be, very broadly stated, the issues of growth and development.

It is important to note that none of the candidates is an avowed supporter of a continuation of the pace of growth that has characterized Redwood City in the past five years. Nor has anyone called for a complete reversal of the development that has occurred.

But the interests that are involved in the campaign – on either side — clearly see one group of candidates as preferable to the other.

Vice Mayor and incumbent Howard and businesswoman/mother Giselle Hale have been endorsed by the San Mateo County Association of Realtors and the county Central Labor Council, whose political process is heavily influenced by the Building Trades Council. In addition, Howard has been endorsed by the California Apartment Association and Hale directly by the Building Trades Council. Galisatus shares many of the same individual endorsements, as well as the Central Labor Council.

Among the remaining four candidates, three – Hunter, Umhofer and Reddy – were endorsed yesterday by the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club.

In addition, those three and Schmidt clearly are operating their campaigns in support of one another, sharing endorsements, exchanging campaign donations and on September 22, holding a campaign event together.

While all four have insisted they are not running as a slate, it is clear they share campaign supporters and support each other.

It is equally clear that much of the political establishment in the county – although certainly not all – is leaning toward Howard, Hale and Galisatus.

The candidates with the most endorsements are incumbent Howard and Hale, each of whom has compiled a long list of prominent political leaders.

Howard and Hale both have been endorsed by the area’s two members of Congress – Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo, each of whom shows up in political polling as the endorsements most likely to affect voters’ choices.

Howard and Hale also share endorsements from state Senator Jerry Hill, Assemblymen Kevin Mullin and Marc Berman, current Council members Shelly Masur and John Seybert and San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley.

The two candidates also have been endorsed by organizations that usually bring campaign support – SAMCAR, the Labor Council, the Redwood City Firefighters Association (RCFA) and the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC), a long-established and effective organization dedicated to electing candidates in support of key LGBTQ rights issues.

Close behind Hale and Howard is university community relations rep Jason Galisatus, also endorsed by Mullin and Berman, as well as Assemblyman Evan Low and state Senator Scott Wiener, BAYMEC and the RCFA, the Labor Council and Masur and Seybert.

A WORD OF CAUTION: It’s a local race, of course, which means there are alliances and endorsements that defy analysis and, undoubtedly, are based on personal connections and prior common experience.

Speier endorsed four candidates in the race for three seats – Howard, Hale, Hunter and Reddy. Hill also endorsed businessman Schmidt, who endorsed Umhofer and Howard.

Current council members spread their endorsements around: Alicia Aguirre endorsed Galisatus, Schmidt and Howard; Mayor Ian Bain endorsed Howard and Hunter; Janet Borgens endorsed Umhofer, Howard and Schmidt.

The Board of Supervisors are equally spread out among the council candidates. Supervisor Horsley also endorsed Hunter; David Canepa endorsed Hale, Galisatus and Schmidt; Warren Slocum endorsed Schmidt and Howard; Dave Pine and Carole Groom endorsed Howard, the only candidate to win the support of four of the five supes.

Service Employees International Union Local 521, which represents a large bloc of Redwood City employees, endorsed Reddy, Howard and Schmidt.

Other endorsements of note: Howard is endorsed by the Harbor Village Mobile Home Park; Reddy is endorsed by the San Mateo County Democratic Party and Silicon Valley and Peninsula chapters of the Democratic Socialists, the self-described progressives of the Democratic Party.

MORE MOHR: There are many local figures who are widely and well regarded. Few engender the genuine affection and respect that accrues to Tom Mohr, the San Mateo County Community College District trustee seeking re-election and being challenged by fellow trustee Richard Holober.

At a recent campaign kickoff, a lineup of electeds from throughout the county was on hand in a cross-section of support rarely seen:  Jackie Speier (sporting a cast on her right leg), Kevin Mullin, Dave Pine, Foster City Mayor Sam Hindi, Shelly Masur, Belmont Councilman Charles Stone, Burlingame Councilwoman Emily Beach, San Mateo Councilman Rick Bonilla, San Carlos Mayor Bob Grassilli, East Palo Alto Councilman Larry Moody and fellow college trustee Maurice Goodman.

Contact Mark Simon at

Political Climate with Mark Simon: It’s truly change versus status quo this campaign season

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by
Election results, San Mateo County

Labor Day, just a few days away, is the traditional start of the fall campaign season.

Well, tradition has taken a buyout.

The local supermarket has had Halloween candy on sale since mid-August, so you can load up your trick and treat basket with tradition and all the kids in the neighborhood will skip your house.

The political manifestation of this break from tradition is what may be an unprecedented level of activity on the local ballots – 15 local tax measures, 10 contested city council races out of 16 on the ballot in San Mateo County.

Incumbency, the usual safeguard against a meaningful challenge, seems to carry less weight this time around. Except in Atherton, Colma, Hillsborough and Portola Valley, where incumbents have a free ride, the living is easy and the cotton is high.

Tradition would dictate that everyone should be satisfied with the way things are going.

Unemployment is at an historic low and every community on the Peninsula is thriving, bobbing on a wake of unprecedented growth in new and established businesses. Restaurants are packed. Public events draw huge crowds. Downtowns are thriving, spurred by young professionals flocking to communities adjacent to Caltrain. Local populations are growing, after decades of 1 percent growth a decade, and growing more diverse and interesting.

Instead, we seem to be victims of our success, not just in traffic congestion and housing prices, but in a broader uneasiness that with the changes in our community, something else has been lost.

We always hear loudest from the unhappiest among us – those who often want a city from 25 years ago, a city that exists more in memory than it ever did in reality. But surveys by local governments show a widespread and general sense that our cities are heading in the right direction.

It’s about change. The closing of a local business. The addition of a traffic diversion. New apartment buildings and new offices.

With change comes a battle to maintain the status quo – whether real or imaginary – and that appears to be playing out in some of these races.

CHALLENGING INCUMBENTS: In Menlo Park, where they are voting by district for the first time, incumbents Kirsten Keith and Peter Ohtaki, are both facing serious challenges and you can expect the main debate to be over the changes brought about by the dominating presence of Facebook in that town. … In Half Moon Bay, incumbents Deborah Penrose and Debbie Ruddock face three challengers in a town where resistance to change (growth) is always a perennial favorite. … In South San Francisco, incumbents Mark Addiego and Pradeep Gupta face four challengers. … In Daly City, incumbent Ray Buenaventura faces three challengers. … In East Palo Alto, incumbents Ruben Abrica and Donna Rutherford face five challengers.

In Belmont, three incumbents – Warren Lieberman, Charles Stone and appointed incumbent Julia Mates – were hours away from running unopposed, when nonprofit consultant Deniz Marie Bolbol became the fourth candidate in a race for three seats. … Bolbol applied for the appointment to the council seat vacated by the death of Eric Reed. The council appointed Mates. Nonetheless, Bolbol brings an irresistibly fascinating background to the campaign – a career in public relations and television production, lobbying San Francisco to change its treatment of elephants at the city’s zoo, an internship in the White House Press Office during the George H.W. Bush administration and, currently, field director for the American Wild Horse Campaign. In her application for the council vacancy, she said she returned to Belmont three years ago and swiftly joined the Belmont Heights Civic Improvement Association. … Perhaps most revealing, she was promptly endorsed by former Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach, which would put Bolbol squarely in the camp of the group of insiders who used to dominate the City Council and are profoundly unhappy with the current council majority.

OPEN, OPEN, OPEN: Where there are open seats, the races are quite crowded – seven candidates for three seats in Redwood City with only one incumbent, six candidates for two open seats in Foster City, five candidates for three open seats in San Carlos, seven candidates for three open seats in Pacifica.

And at a time when cities should be enjoying the windfall of a booming economy, nine cities have put a combined total of 15 tax measures on the ballot, including a parcel tax, hotel taxes and the increasingly popular cannabis business tax.

What this means is an election year not only of near-unprecedented activity, but one of highly uncertain outcomes.

It’s a boom time for your local political columnist – a cause behind which we can all unite — and several columns full of tidbits, items and dots will be forthcoming in the next several days.

Meanwhile, if someone tells you they know how these races will turn out, keep your hand on your wallet.

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.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Labor Council endorsements exclude ally

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by
Hale, Howard and Reddy win Redwood City council seats

It’s not just the Political Climate, it’s the season:

LABORING ON: The San Mateo County Central Labor Council is out with its first list of endorsements. A handful of other races will be decided after Labor Day.

There are some surprises, most notably that long-time labor ally Diana Reddy did not win an outright endorsement in the hot race for Redwood City Council.

By her own description, and that of many others, Reddy has walked, stood and picketed shoulder-to-shoulder with labor on a long list of social justice issues.

Instead, the labor council endorsed incumbent Vice Mayor Diane Howard and challengers Giselle Hale and Jason Galisatus in the three-seat race.

Reddy received what is known as an “open” endorsement – local unions, such as SEIU, which dominates union representation in Redwood City, can endorse her, but she will not have the benefit of the county labor council’s support.

That means Howard, Hale and Galisatus will appear on the slate mailing that will go to union households in Redwood City. It also can mean direct contact of union members by the labor council and it can provide some fundraising opportunities.

The “open” endorsement means Reddy fell short of the two-thirds needed among the delegates who attend the labor council’s endorsement sessions – roughly 50 or so.

The Building Trades Council unions are the most active in the process and it can be surmised that while Reddy is the most aggressive advocate in the race for low-income housing, the other three candidates probably have a broader agenda of support for development.

The labor council endorsed Measure W, the countywide half-cent sales tax for transportation projects and programs, which means their support will be featured on the countywide slate mail piece sent to all union households in San Mateo County. That’s 40,000 households and 74,000 union members. … In most races, the labor council endorsed incumbents, including Pamela Digiovanni in Daly City and Mark Nagales in South San Francisco. …. In the race for the San Mateo County Community College District Area 4 seat pitting fellow trustees Richard Holober and Tom Mohr, the labor council endorsed Holober. Technically, Mohr is the incumbent – he has lived in Area 4 for a while and Holober moved there to challenge Mohr, who received an “open” endorsement. … On September 10, the labor council will announce its endorsements in Half Moon Bay, Pacifica, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Jefferson Elementary School District in Daly City.

OUT-FOXED: A complaint has been filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission against Redwood City Council candidate Ernie Schmidt over a campaign expense he failed to report in his race for the council in 2013.

Schmidt, vice president at the Fox Theater in downtown, kicked off his 2013 campaign at the Fox and never reported the use of the facility as campaign expense.

He paid for the use of the venue, $700, but never reported on his campaign finance disclosure statement, Schmidt said.

“It was just an oversight from the accountant at that time,” Schmidt said. As soon as he was notified of the complaint by the FPPC, “I corrected it immediately – literally that same week,” and filed a new report on the expense item, Schmidt said.

The complaint was filed anonymously, of course, and the complainant, ever-helpful, wrote to the FPPC: “This candidate is in the midst of a campaign for the same office for election in November 2018 and so this needs to be handled quickly.”

Contact Mark Simon at

Editor’s Note — this column was updated in order to correct details on the nature of Schmidt’s FPPC violation. While the initial report stated the violation was a failure to report a contribution, the violation was in fact about not reporting the expense.

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

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Redwood City facing legal pressure to move to district elections

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by
Redwood City Council approves salary increases for city manager, city attorney

Add Redwood City to the growing list of jurisdictions on the Peninsula and throughout California that are being urged to move to district elections under threat of legal action.

The City Council has received a letter asserting that its system of at-large elections systematically discriminates against minority voters and severely constrains the ability of minorities to win a seat on the council. These discriminatory actions are in violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, according to the letter.

The letter, from Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman, notes that Latinos are 39 percent of the city’s population and yet the city has only one Latina councilmember, Alicia Aguirre, who was first appointed to the council in 2003, “underscoring the inability of Latinos to elect in the first place a candidate of their choice. … The virtual absence of Latinos to run for or be elected to the city’s council (is) outwardly disturbing, it is also fundamentally hostile toward Latino participation.”

Seven other local jurisdictions have adopted district elections, or are preparing to do so: Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park, South San Francisco, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the San Mateo County Community College District, Sequoia Union High School District and the Redwood City Elementary School District.

In the city of Santa Clara, a court recently ordered the city to go to district elections despite a June ballot measure in which voters rejected such a proposal.

Most of them undertook the shift from at-large elections under threat of a lawsuit from Shenkman, who has forced several California cities to make similar transitions.

The letter states that the city’s at-large system “dilutes the ability of Latinos to elect candidates of their choice or otherwise influence the outcome of the city’s council elections.

As if in confirmation of Shenkman’s contentions, the current race for three seats on the Redwood City Council has attracted seven candidates and only one, Ernie Schmidt, is a Latino.

City spokeswoman Meghan Horrigan said “staff is evaluating next steps.”

But if the response of other cities is any indication, Redwood City will soon begin the process of conducting public input on how best to divide the city into City Council districts, followed by the adoption of the new districts, quite likely in time for the 2020 election.

As has been the case in other instances, this can cause some problems for incumbents who may live in the same district and face the prospect of running against one another or moving into a new district.

In Menlo Park, where district elections are underway this year, it is clear the prospect of running in a smaller district has drawn challenges to incumbents that might not have occurred in a citywide race.

Incumbent Kirsten Keith is being challenged by Drew Combs, who almost won a citywide election in the last election. Incumbent Peter Ohtaki has two challengers, Ronald W. Shepherd and Betsy Nash and an open seat has drawn three candidates, Cecilia T. Taylor, Mike Dunn and George Yang. It’s worth noting in this context that of the eight candidates running, four are minorities – Combs, Taylor, Ohtaki and Yang.

The adoption of district elections is no guarantee that minority representatives will be elected. Since the Board of Supervisors adopted district elections in 2014 and the five board members are unmistakably white. The first race for a seat without an incumbent occurred in 2016 and of the four candidates, only one, Mike Guingona, was a minority – a Filipino in a district that is more than 50 percent Asian. The seat was won by David Canepa.

Shenkman’s hint of a lawsuit is hardly an empty threat – his firm successfully sued the city of Palmdale on the same set of issues and won after an eight-day trial.

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.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: A free, independent press

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by
a free and independent press

It is easy to think we live in cynical times.

Our national political divisions are acutely drawn and described. Sometimes it seems as though suspicion is the order of the day. Any decision, move or statement seems to be greeted by the assertion that there is a hidden agenda of self-interest or in service to a special interest.

Nothing is what it seems to be.

Throughout the Peninsula, we struggle with seemingly intractable concerns such as a housing crisis, traffic and congestion and the changes being forced upon us by a booming economy.

In the face of these difficult issues, we proceed toward a November election that may be a critical turning point in our region, and it seems we are not immune to this sometimes-toxic atmosphere.

The antidote is openness. That’s why the campaign finance disclosure requirements are such an essential part of our elections.

That’s why a free and independent press remains a critical element of our public discourse – a press that proceeds without fear or favor and that does its best to present unbiased facts and to treat everyone fairly and with integrity. And that opinions within a column such as this one are clearly stated and arrived at honestly.

Much of my professional life has been devoted to such principles. In that spirit, as a still relatively new online columnist for Climate and as the political campaigns roll full steam ahead, it is wholly appropriate to introduce myself and my own expectations for how I will live up to the principles of fairness and integrity.

I began my local news career at the Redwood City Tribune in 1976, where I first was a courthouse and police reporter, then a political reporter. Incidentally, my desk mate was Janet McGovern, now the editor of Climate Magazine and whose own journalistic integrity and love for this community are unimpeachable.

The Tribune was acquired by the Tribune Company of Chicago, merged with its sister paper, the Palo Alto Times and became the short-lived Peninsula Times Tribune. I continued there are a political writer and, later, a daily columnist.

When that paper went out of business, I joined the San Francisco Chronicle as a daily columnist, a job I held for more than a decade before returning to political reporting.

Throughout my journalism career, I have covered six national political conventions, three presidential campaigns, six races for governor and U.S. senator and countless local races for political office.

In 2004, for a variety of reasons, I left the news business – something I thought I’d never do – to join the executive staff of the San Mateo County Transit District, which manages SamTrans, Caltrain and the county Transportation Authority.

I assumed a series of jobs — Special Assistant to the CEO, Executive Officer for Public Affairs and, under former Redwood City Mayor Jim Hartnett, a friend of many years, Senior Advisor/Strategic Initiatives and ultimately Chief of Staff. Among the projects I worked on during these latter stages was the effort to put a sales tax measure on the ballot.

I retired from the transit district in December and I was offered a contract to write an online and print column for Climate.

The offer was from Adam Alberti, a senior executive at the public relations and crisis management firm Singer Associates. I have been friends with Sam Singer since my days as a political writer. Both Sam and Adam were employed by the transit district at my direction on occasions when we needed advice on difficult public relations and political issues.

Climate is owned by SF Bay Media and Adam is the publisher. Adam has extensive political and public affairs experience in San Mateo County, representing developers, major employers and a long list of business interests. He revived Climate so that attention would be paid to the issues of growth, development and a thriving economy, and the consequences of such things.

Much has been said in tweets and online postings about the interests behind Climate. If you want to know about the clients Singer Associates has served over many years, you can look at their website. They’re all right there, fully disclosed. As to who is funding Climate, Adam says that there are several investors and they prefer not to be disclosed.

And here’s what I say: It makes no difference to me. Throughout my career in the news business, publishers always have had financial interests, newspapers have had investors and all news organizations have advertisers.

They didn’t influence what I wrote or how I wrote about them, and they won’t now. Adam has never prevailed on me to slant a story or to favor one candidate over another, and he has made a commitment to me that he won’t.

If any of the interests Singer Associates represents comes before a Peninsula city for any reason, they will get the same coverage as every other organization. They won’t get special treatment – not here, and, if I can presume to speak for Janet McGovern, not in the print magazine.

I have lived on the Peninsula since 1960 and in Redwood City since 1980. I raised my children here, coached Little League and AYSO, swam on the masters’ team at Peninsula Covenant Community Center and taught my boys to drive in the parking lot of Canada College.

A life lived in this wonderful, beautiful Peninsula means I have associations, friendships and affections. This is particularly true in Redwood City, where seven candidates are running for the City Council.

I coached Rick Hunter’s son, Tommy, in Little League. My youngest son went to North Star Academy with Jason Galisatus, so I’ve known him since he was in the fourth grade and his parents since before he was born. I serve on the board of the Sequoia Awards scholarship foundation with Diane Howard and have known her for more than two decades. Ernie Schmidt and I belong to the same church and also serve together at Sequoia Awards.

I’m just getting to know Giselle Hale, Diana Reddy and Christina Umhofer and, believe it or not, I like them all. I admire anyone who is willing to run for office, something I could never do.

I don’t apologize for my friendships, but those same friends can tell you that I take my responsibilities seriously and that I will work hard to report accurately and I will not shade the truth for them.

I believe in the electoral process and the role of an unbiased press. I will cover this campaign fairly and without a desire – overt or secret – to favor one candidate over another. I’m not in someone’s camp. I don’t have a desire to tilt the election one way or the other.

That’s what you should expect. That’s what I expect of myself.

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.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Climate joining Redeemer Lutheran, Peninsula TV, to host council candidate forums

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by
Redwood City staff recommends transition to district-based elections

Climate Magazine, Redeemer Lutheran Church of Redwood City and Peninsula TV are set to host two forums for the seven candidates running for the Redwood City Council.

Co-hosted by Redeemer Lutheran, the forums will be open to the public and efforts are underway to have the events recorded and later aired on Peninsula TV. We expect the public forums will allow members of the audience to pose questions directly to the candidates.

We are delighted to work with Jim Gordon and Redeemer Lutheran, a venerated local institution. In each of the last four city council elections, Gordon and Redeemer Lutheran have hosted a candidates’ forum and they are well established as fair and informative events.

Dates, times, locations and formats are under discussion and as details become available, be assured we will widely disperse them.

“This is a critical election year and we believe these community forums will provide an important community service,” said Adam Alberti, publisher of Climate Magazine and ClimateRWC online. “We are thrilled to partner with a well-established community organization like Redeemer Lutheran.”

Efforts also have begun to schedule the candidates for a special one-hour edition of The Game, the Peninsula TV public affairs show I co-host with Assemblyman Kevin Mullin.

In addition to co-hosting the TV show, it is likely I will moderate the public forum.

Both of these events are an opportunity to hear from the candidates directly, to allow them to respond to questions and to react to comments made by their fellow candidates.

We want to afford the candidates the opportunity to distinguish themselves in these forums – to make clear the significant differences between them in how they will lead the city into the future.

We want each of them to be able to put their best foot forward.

SIGNING OFF: Someone will always be unhappy when there is a change in the landscape and the removal of the Ampex sign from its home alongside Highway 101 appears to be no exception.

Ampex has been gone from Redwood City for 22 years, and it was a shadow of its former glory when it abandoned its 10-building, 46-acre site, which since has been torn down and rebuilt, largely by Stanford Health Care and Stanford University. At one point, Ampex employed 13,000 workers, including 3,000 in Redwood City. When it left town, it was down to 350 employees.

So, what does that make the sign? A landmark? Or just a sign?

If Ampex was just coming to town, would the same people trying to save the sign see the new sign as a landmark? Or just a sign?

By the way, Ampex is a combination of the initials of the founder, Alexander M. Poniatoff, and the first two letters in the word Excellence. This kind of word construction is known as a portmanteau, a word so cool that it’s the only reason I told you about the origin of the name.

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.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Giselle Hale has big lead in campaign fundraising

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by

In the hotly contested race for the Redwood City Council, where candidates are predicting a campaign that could cost as much as $90,000, Planning Commissioner and first-time candidate Giselle Hale has raised more than $48,000, nearly double that of her nearest competitor.

Labor and housing advocate Diana Reddy raised more than $28,000, including a $5,000 loan she made to the campaign. In addition, she spent $1,870 on items to get her campaign up and running.

In terms of direct, non-candidate contributions, Hale out-raised Reddy $48,946 to $14,681, more than three times as much.

Hale, a director at Facebook, relied heavily on contacts within the technology industry and colleagues and top executives at Facebook for the majority of the contributions she received, according to campaign finance disclosure statements for January 1 through June 30.

Hale raised more than $19,000 from individuals with ties to the technology industry, more than 40 percent of her donors.

It would mark the first time individuals from the technology sector have played such a substantial role in a city election. Hale is the first high-profile city council candidate directly tied to an industry that rivals property development as the dominant economic influence in Redwood City.

Hale spent more than $8,800 in the first half of the year and had $44,281 in cash on hand as the campaign began in earnest. Reddy had $18,620 in cash on hand.

Community activist Christina Umhofer and former Planning Commissioner Rick Hunter and raised nearly identical amounts. Umhofer raised $10,773 and Hunter raised $10,652. Umhofer had $9,279 in cash on hand as of June 30; Hunter had $9,891.

Of the five candidates who raised money during the period, incumbent Diane Howard raised the least — $4,165. That’s 10 percent of what Hale raised, but as the incumbent, Howard starts with considerable advantages in name recognition. She finished the reporting period with $8,217 in cash on hand.

Neither community activist Jason Galisatus nor Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt reported raising any money, both of them having announced their candidacy after June 30.

PARDINI ANTES UP: One individual was the single largest donor combined in this fundraising cycle — Julie Pardini, founder and moderator of the busy Facebook page “Redwood City Residents Say: What?”

Pardini gave a total of $6,970 to three candidates – Reddy ($3,970), Umhofer ($2000) and Hunter ($1,000).

Pardini has done this before. In 2015, she gave more than $12,000 to unsuccessful council candidate Tania Sole. She donated that much because “we were expecting more contributions and I kept picking up the slack,” Pardini.

She said she is supporting Reddy, Umhofer and Hunter this campaign because they are “good candidates” with a grassroots approach to running for office.

She said she has worked with Reddy for four years on a host of issues and “I’ve stood by her and seen her work.” Umhofer “has done some wonderful things for housing.” She doesn’t know Hunter as well “but I trust his judgment” as demonstrated during his tenure on the Planning Commission.

Asked if she thought the city is going in the wrong direction, Pardini said, “I don’t know what the right direction is. I know we have a lot of problems. … Some of the problems are regional, but I’m thinking some of them are the result of decisions that were made innocently but have led to an imbalance in the city.” In particular, she is concerned that rising rents are driving residents away or into economic distress.

JUST AMONG FRIENDS: None of the candidates says he or she is running on a slate, but some of them seem to like each other.

Hunter received $100 from Umhofer and $250 from Schmidt. Reddy received $100 from Umhofer. And Umhofer received $100 from Reddy.

THERE IS OTHER STUFF GOING ON: With San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine’s recent decision not to run for termed-out Jerry Hill’s state Senate seat, the scramble already is on for that 2020 election. Redwood City Councilwoman Shelly Masur is already running, as is ex-Assemblymember Sally Lieber. Rumored to be looking at it are Josh Becker, venture capitalist and CEO of a firm that provides data analytics for the legal profession, and an unsuccessful Assembly candidate in 2016; and Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff.

SHOWING UP: The same group of high school students who put together the massively successful anti-gun March for Our Lives on March 24 are planning another event Saturday, also at Redwood City’s Courthouse Square, to register new voters and inform students about how to vote, particularly when away at college. The event is from 6 to 9 p.m.

FAREWELL: It was my distinct pleasure to get to know Jack Bunzel in the latter years. Former president of San Jose State University when I was a student there and subsequently one of the token liberals at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, Jack was many things – social scholar, political scientist, civil rights advocate, baseball lover — but he reveled in being the quintessential raconteur. He performed regularly at local venues in a well-honed comedy act that harkened to the great stand-up social commentators of the 1960s. He died a few weeks ago and I will miss our luncheons and his gentle swipes at the political condition.

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.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: San Mateo and Santa Clara dispute over Stanford expansion plans heats up

in Featured/Headline/PoliticalClimate by
Political Climate with Mark Simon: San Mateo and Santa Clara dispute over Stanford expansion plans heats up

The fight is escalating between San Mateo and Santa Clara counties over Stanford University’s plans for expansion and now includes the threat of possible legal action.

San Mateo County wants more of a say in the university’s expansion plans, which would have regional impacts with the proposed addition of 2.275 million square feet of academic and academic-related development and 3,150 new housing units.

A letter from San Mateo County issued this week alleges Santa Clara County has ignored a prior series of comments from San Mateo County on the Stanford project draft environmental impact report. The revised draft “exacerbates the concerns expressed by San Mateo County” in a manner that appears to be disrespectful, according to the letter.

It is clear San Mateo County officials feel they are being shunted aside, and that has added an emotionally charged element to the letter.

Santa Clara County’s “failure to address San Mateo County’s prior comments … reflects poorly on Santa Clara County’s respect for the very serious and legitimate concerns of its neighboring jurisdictions.

“It has put San Mateo County in the unfortunate position of having to vigorously challenge the adequacy of these environmental documents,” the letter states.

It concludes that San Mateo County “will evaluate all available options,” an implicit threat that San Mateo County could sue its southern neighbor to challenge the adequacy of the environmental impact report and the assumptions contained within it.

The sharply worded letter is signed on behalf of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors by President Dave Pine to David Rader.

The proposal has been the subject of heated debate, focused largely on a proposal, led by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, to impose a substantial housing impact fee on Stanford.

In advocating for the fee, Simitian has said it is necessary to mitigate the impact of Stanford’s proposal on the regional housing market, already struggling with a significant shortage.

The Pine letter specifically objects to the draft report’s focus on off-campus housing proposed throughout the region to accommodate the growth in the Stanford plan, which, the letter states, could have major impacts on adjacent communities in San Mateo County.

“The assumption that these impacts can be reduced in any meaningful way by constructing housing anywhere within the Bay Area, or within a six-mile radius, under an ill-defined methodology that provides little to no involvement by San Mateo County, is both incorrect and contrary to the need for the project to mitigate its impacts on San Mateo County,” the letter states.

The letter also asserts that the draft environmental report inadequately addresses traffic impacts on the San Mateo County communities adjacent to the Stanford campus and that it is replete with insufficient study and misguided assumptions.

The technical objections notwithstanding, it is clear that San Mateo County is angry on an almost-personal level that it is being treated as a nonentity in a regional matter.

“We urge Santa Clara County to give the above comments the consideration they deserve, and to cease conducting its analyses in isolation,” the letter states.

“Coordinating this review with neighboring jurisdictions is not only needed to comply with (California environmental law), but is consistent with courtesy and comity principles that we would expect Santa Clara County to honor.”

Calls are pending with the various parties to this dispute and as we hear from them, we will report on that.

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.

1 2 3 4 5 7
Go to Top