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Views on the council race from two who stayed out

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It is often the case that the issues addressed in a political campaign disappear as soon as the ballots are counted and the subsequent term in office is spent dealing with matters that never came up.

What may be most critical, then, it could be argued, are the inherent qualities of the people elected – who they are on the most fundamental level, how they make decisions, how they learn about new issues, how they interact with others to win support and whether they can embrace new ideas and look beyond the positions they took in the campaign.

Good political leaders bring to office a determination to achieve the specific agenda they set during the campaign.

Great political leaders grow beyond their initial understanding of the job and expand their own knowledge and agendas to address not only current problems, but future needs.

This sensibility of how to lead and how to anticipate what comes next is very much on the minds of two incumbent members of the Redwood City Council who have opted to bow out of the process after nine years – Jeff Gee and John Seybert.

They certainly understand the current problems – costly and insufficient housing, congestion and traffic, development and a municipal fiscal crisis.

But their concern is what comes next and how can the city gain control over a future that is likely to be full of unexpected issues and unintended consequences.
So, when the two outgoing incumbents met with Climate over coffee in San Carlos to discuss the current campaign and the state of the city they love, their focus was not on the current roster of seven candidates seeking three seats on the City Council.

They were focused on the voters, offering advice for how they should be thinking about the election as they begin to decide who will lead the city into the next decade and beyond.

The best thing voters can do, according to Gee and Seybert, is to vote for those candidates who can look beyond the moment, who have a vision for what Redwood City should be like 25 years from now.

And look, they say, for those who can build coalitions among council colleagues, who can best work with a diverse group of local and regional leaders to address issues that are not on anyone’s agenda yet and who can reach beyond a momentary disagreement to sustain civility in local politics.

“Redwood City has always been known as a council that is looking ahead,” Gee said. “What is their vision for the city, not today, but 10, 20, 30 years from now?”

“What will it take to balance the budget in the next downturn, which will come?” said Seybert. “What tough decisions are you prepared to make?”

As an example of unintended consequences, they cite the decisions – or non-decisions — of prior councils that have contributed to today’s costly housing crisis.

“Decisions that were made in the mid-1990s are why we don’t have enough housing today,” Seybert said. “No one was building any housing.”

In 2009, said Gee, the city was the number one developer of housing, demonstrating how different the atmosphere was then, and how decisions made then could have alleviated today’s housing crisis.

Gee and Seybert were elected together in 2009 – campaigned together and have remained close friends and council allies. Each chose separately not to seek a third term on the council, Gee some weeks after he actually kicked off his campaign.

The result is a wide-open race for three council seats among a field of seven candidates with uncommonly extensive and wide-ranging experience: Incumbent Vice Mayor Diane Howard, businessman Ernie Schmidt, community organizer Diana Reddy, businesswoman/mother Giselle Hale, small business owner Christina Umhofer, university community relations representative Jason Galisatus and certified public accountant Rick Hunter.

For both Gee and Seybert, a difficult decision was influenced by a political atmosphere dominated by tweets and Facebook posts, accusations and suspicions, hints and allegations.

“The personal attacks, the drive-bys, having to put cameras on the outside of your house – it’s not worth it,” Gee said.

Even as he announced his candidacy, hanging over his campaign was a still-unresolved complaint against Gee filed anonymously with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging he had failed to recuse himself from voting on some Stanford-related projects in Redwood City that were awarded to his employer, Swinerton. The complaint alleged Gee was financially benefiting from the projects. Gee has steadfastly asserted that he behaved appropriately and that the allegations are untrue.
Nonetheless, questions of his integrity frequently were raised on local Facebook pages and sweeping assertions were made, most of them offered without a factual foundation.

For Gee, it meant a campaign with this issue ever-present and with a cadre of local residents who would have been determined to make him the central focus of the campaign.

Gee said he opted not to run because of increased responsibilities at his job, a leadership position at Swinerton that requires extensive overseas travel.

While he insists he did not shrink from the fight he was facing, it was clear that he was expecting an entirely unpleasant experience.

“Not just this race, but politics in general has been a very toxic environment,” said Seybert. “The cost of leadership is a lot higher now. It got beyond what I was willing to pay. Most people won’t run because most people can’t stomach it.”

Both of them remain alarmed at the way accusers hide behind social media.

“Some people who attack you in social media, when they see you in person, they act like it never happened,” said Seybert. He called it “digital cowardice.”

The ability to succeed in such an environment will require council members with a willingness to withstand the slings and arrows that come with the job, and look beyond the momentary passions of a particular issue.

“Leadership isn’t a popularity contest, but an election is,” said Gee. “There will be decisions a councilmember has to make that are not popular decisions.”

“What tough decisions are you prepared to make?” said Seybert. “I look for people who will make the decisions, whether they agree with me or not. … I don’t like some of the effects of the rapid growth that has occurred. They make me uncomfortable. But I’m not doing this to be comfortable today. You don’t save for college when your kids are 2 because it’s comfortable.”

Gee and Seybert have endorsed Hale and Galisatus. Seybert also has endorsed Howard. Gee said no one else has asked for his endorsement.
“I endorsed people who have what it takes to make these hard decisions,” Seybert said.

Gee urged voters to look among the candidates for those “with the ability to learn and represent the young and the demographics who are not represented. … What do they envision Redwood City to be in 20 or 30 years? What happens when autonomous vehicles hit the road.”

He called it being able to “look around the corner” to see what might be coming.

Ultimately, Seybert and Gee said, there are some essential qualities a council member must possess.

Gee called them basic skills: Leadership, values, guiding principles, vision, working well with others, knowledge and the ability to learn, a breadth of capabilities.
He said voters should be looking for council members who have relevant work experience in day-to-day finance, in borrowing and financing, in asset management, in recruiting and retaining good staff.

Gee and Seybert said that to be effective, a council member must be able to do certain things.

Can the person win over a majority of the council – can he or she get four votes? That implies an ability to work with others and, ultimately, to compromise for the greater good.

Will the candidate represent Redwood City effectively on the many critical regional boards and commissions, winning the respect of colleagues and serving as a useful advocate for the city’s interests?

Gee currently chairs the SamTrans Board of Directors and represents San Mateo County on the Caltrain Board of Directors, positions he obtained by a vote of his peers at every city council in the county.

These regional bodies make decisions that are critical for the region and, therefore, for Redwood City. A council member cannot assume that the issues facing Redwood City are unique and isolated, they said.

“The drawbridge doesn’t work,” Gee said. “We have to work together.”

And will the council member look beyond a council chamber full of angry residents to see the bigger issues that could face the city in the future?

“Can unpopular decisions be made and lead the city?” Gee asked.

“Can they do their homework?” Gee asked. “Will they come to meetings prepared? Do they believe in being a diverse and welcoming city? If so, what have they done? What nonprofits do they support and participate in? What and where and how regularly do they volunteer? Will they represent all parts of Redwood City or just a portion?”

“It’s not about who shows up the city council meetings,” Seybert said, describing the meetings as the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to council duties.

“Paying attention to social media is like running to the front of a crowd and yelling, ‘Follow me,’” Seybert said.

Today is last day to register to vote in Nov. 6 elections

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Latest San Mateo County election results released

Today, Oct. 22, is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 statewide general election.

And this is a big one, with jurisdictions seeing significant increases in voter registration in an election that will determine California’s next governor and three hotly contested Redwood City council seats (See Climate columnist Mark Simon’s guide on the council candidates here).

Voter registration forms sent by mail must be postmarked on or before Oct. 22. To register online, visit the San Mateo County official elections website at and click on “Register to Vote.” Registrations online must be submitted by midnight tonight.

If you don’t have a voter registration form, you can fetch one at public libraries, city and town halls, post offices, the Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and any of the county’s vote centers. The list of Vote Center locations can be found online at

Voters who miss today’s registration deadline can “conditionally” register to vote and vote provisionally on the same day at any County Vote Center, according to the San Mateo County Elections Office.

“Under this law, once the county elections official processes the affidavit of registration, determines the individual’s eligibility to register, and validates the individual’s information, the registration becomes permanent and the CVR provisional ballot will be counted,” the county said.

Vote Centers are currently open for the November Election from 8 5 p.m. at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo; 555 County Center, 1st Floor, Redwood City; 840 West Orange Avenue, South San Francisco; and 550 Bell Street, East Palo Alto. From there, five more Vote Centers will open daily beginning Oct. 27 through Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Thirty-nine more Vote Centers will be open Saturday, Nov. 3 through Monday, Nov. 5 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. All Vote Centers will be open Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Extra notes: Voters who move to a new address, change their name or would like to change party affiliation must re-register; you can confirm your current registration status online at by clicking on “Check My Registration;” San Mateo County residents were delayed in receiving their mailed ballots for more than a week, after a San Mateo County Board of Education race was inadvertently left off the ballot, as reported by Simon.

Political Climate with Mark Simon: Why ballots showed up late in county mailboxes

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Political Climate with Mark Simon: Why ballots showed up late in county mailboxes

Ballots finally are showing up in San Mateo County mailboxes, more than a week after they were supposed to be in the hands of voters.

The all-mail ballots are a grand experiment in democracy with a lot of things to recommend it, but the reason for the delay is mundane, problematic and potentially consequential.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that the elections officials, under the management of Mark Church, San Mateo County’s elections chief, left a race off the ballot. Specifically, it is the race for the San Mateo County Board of Education. The board members run for the seats from a district, but they’re elected countywide.

Apparently, someone thought the election was district-only, and didn’t include it in all the county ballots. A delay ensued while a separate page was prepared solely for the Board of Education, which explains why there’s a page in your ballot with a huge amount of blank space and only one item on it.

This is the second time in recent elections that something was omitted from the ballot, the other being a race for local judgeship.

Church was re-elected in June with token opposition to the post of Clerk-Recorder-Assessor, a job that puts him in charge, among other things, of all local elections. While it’s an independent office, he doesn’t have control over the size of his budget – that’s set by the Board of Supervisors.

The budget is relevant because Church has been known to assert that his office is under-funded and, therefore, understaffed.

Which could be an explanation, but it’s certainly no excuse. Particularly when San Mateo County is at the center of a huge experiment in all-mail balloting.

I’m a big fan of vote-by-mail. I like the idea of voters taking time to go over their ballots, rather than hurriedly whipping through it while standing at a voting station with other voters lined up behind.

I like to think it prompts more people to vote and that they will spend time culling through social media to inform themselves about the down-ballot races, such as city councils, school boards and city ballot measures.

Certainly, the all-mail balloting can be credited for an extraordinary voter turnout in the June statewide gubernatorial primary – 44.3 percent voter turnout compared to 27.5 percent in the 2014 June gubernatorial primary.

So, put me down as an enthusiastic supporter, assuming the people in charge of the elections do their jobs properly.

Mundane: Someone who knows what’s on the ballot should have checked it and re-checked it. Whatever Quality Assurance steps are in place weren’t good enough.

Problematic: If one of the benefits of all-mail balloting is the time voters have to go over the ballot and consider all the races, sending the ballots out more than a week late may meet some legal requirement, but it certainly doesn’t serve the larger purpose.

Consequential: Even though he has just been re-elected, there already is speculation in political circles about a challenge to Church in four years. The names making the rounds include state Senator Jerry Hill, who is termed out of office in 2020, Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, whose legislative record includes substantial time and attention to election and campaign issues, including sponsorship of the bill that made it possible for the all-mail balloting, and Virginia Chang Kiraly, current member of the San Mateo County Harbor Commission and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board of Directors.

Full disclosure: Mullin and I co-host a public affairs show, The Game, on Peninsula TV. The mention of his name here was done without his knowledge and is not an attempt by him to float a trial balloon. The same can be said, by the way, about Hill and Kiraly – the trial balloon part, not the TV show part.

Shameless plug: Kevin and I will be co-hosting a live Election Night show on Pen TV from 8 p.m. until the last results are in and digested. It’s the only place devoted exclusively to the local races you’re following.

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: CAA campaign mailer sparks controversy

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Political Climate with Mark Simon: CAA campaign mailer sparks controversy

Two Redwood City Council candidates who received $1,000 in campaign contributions each from the California Apartment Association have donated those funds to charity in protest over a negative campaign mailing by the CAA.

Businesswoman Giselle Hale donated $1,000 to Emerge California, which works to elect Democratic women to office and trains them to run for office. Stanford community representative Jason Galisatus donated $1,000 to the San Mateo County Pride Center, a facility in San Mateo that provides support and services to members of the LGBTQ community.

The mail piece that went too far for Hale and Galisatus was a postcard titled: “Diana Reddy Is Wrong for Redwood City,” and cites her involvement and endorsement by Democratic Socialists of America, whose website describes it as “the largest socialist organization in the United States.” Reddy, a community organizer, is also running for one of three seats up for election this year.

The mail piece goes on to cite three DSA positions – the elimination of police and prisons, the abolition of capitalism and the elimination of private businesses. More on the piece and the CAA further on in this column.

The piece states that Reddy will “push for extreme policies that would hurt homeowners, raise taxes and destroy jobs.”

Hale said her protest is about the tone of the mail piece.

“I don’t know if it’s true or not true. I just object to the negative tone,” Hale said.

Similarly, Galisatus said, “I don’t agree with negative campaign tactics having been the subject of relentless attacks on social media, more so than other candidates.”

The CAA has emerged as a major factor in the City Council race, having spent $15,382 thus far on research and mail pieces targeting Reddy, which have been denounced by her supporters and by Reddy as “smears” on her campaign.

The CAA’s local organization also has received an additional $80,000 from the CAA’s Sacramento-based statewide political action committee, although officials from the local association say those funds are to support and oppose candidates in races throughout the Peninsula, including Redwood City, Daly City, Sunnyvale and San Jose.

A PROBLEMATIC PIECE: The latest mail piece from CAA relies entirely on Reddy’s association with the Democratic Socialists of America, states that she is endorsed by the DSA and cites information from the DSA website and news reports as support for the assertions that she wants to eliminate police and prisons, abolish capitalism and eliminate private businesses.

These are positions Reddy has not taken during the campaign. In an interview, she said the mail piece is a “hit piece.”

“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” Reddy said. “I don’t have any desire to get rid of capitalism,” she said, chuckling.

In fact, the piece exaggerates the relationship Reddy may have with the Democratic Socialists of America. She has been endorsed by two local chapters – Peninsula DSA and Silicon Valley DSA – but she has not been endorsed by the national organization, whose positions are the ones cited in the CAA mailer.

On the Peninsula chapter’s web page, it states: “Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. Throughout the area of San Mateo County, California, our chapter fights for the many and not the few.”

Reddy said she agrees with the progressive views of the organization and “their point of view on supporting working families.”

The reference in the mail piece to the elimination of police and prisons stems from a 2017 DSA convention resolution that calls for the elimination, ultimately, of the need for prisons or police. It’s clearly an aspirational position and not a call for tearing down prisons as an immediate policy.

It’s an aspiration Reddy shares.

“We shouldn’t have more prisons than colleges in our country,” she said, adding that the great majority of prison inmates are minorities, and frequently they have substance abuse problems.

Nonetheless, representatives of the California Apartment Association defended the mailer as accurate and well within the acceptable parameters of campaign rhetoric.

“I think we avoided any type of name-calling,” said Rhovy Lyn Antonio, vice president for Public Affairs for the CAA’s Bay Area organization. “She’s being supported by this specific organization and we’re pointing out verbatim what the DSA stands for and asking the question: What does Diana Reddy stand for?”

Reddy publicly and assertively supports rent control, a position at direct odds with the California Apartment Association, which represents landlords and property owners. The CAA consistently asserts that restrictions on evictions and rent control are harmful to homeowners and will damage the local economy.

The information in the mail piece “is taken from her social media presence, her website, articles written about her and statements she’s made in public,” said Joshua Howard, CAA senior vice president, Northern California.

“She can complain about a comment that was made or a picture that was used but it’s just a distraction from the fact that she has questionable affiliations with groups that seek to undermine protections for homeowners and the addition of rental housing in our community,” Howard said.

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: Big money flowing into Redwood City council campaign

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Political Climate with Mark Simon: Big money flowing into Redwood City council campaign

Big money has started to flow into the Redwood City Council campaign – most of it in support of community activist Jason Galisatus or in opposition to community advocate Diana Reddy.

The money in support of Galisatus has included $12,609 from the National Association of Realtors, including $11,300 in online advertisements.

The support of the national association clearly triggered another $11,000 from real estate-related interests, including $1,000 from the California Real Estate Political Action Committee, $3,000 from the Newmark commercial real estate firm and $1,000 from the California Apartment Association.

It is the Apartment Association that has made an independent expenditure of $9,632 for a mass mailing opposing the election of Reddy.

The mail piece dropped yesterday, a postcard asking, “Do you know the real Diana Reddy?” The piece also states, “Diana Reddy wants government to control your home.” Reddy, a long-time advocate for rent control, is described in the piece as being against private property and homeowner property rights and it says she “ran the local organization that tried to remove homeowner protections.”

In fact, Reddy was a leader of what is now Faith In Action, a grassroots, faith-based organization that long has advocated for tenant rights and protections, along with a longer list social justice and equity issues.

Reddy was a supporter of a 2016 ballot measure in Burlingame, Measure R, that sought to implement rent control, a measure that would have affected single-family homes available for rent.

She continues to support rent control and has said in campaign appearances that she supports the lifting of state law that restricts the ability of local governments to implement rent control.

As for the donations to Galisatus, a community relations representative at Stanford University, they are likely to be cited by his opponents as evidence that he is the favored candidate of development interests, although, in campaign appearances, his stated positions are in the mainstream of comments by all of the candidates: That additional growth is likely in the city, needs to be managed effectively and needs to emphasize a wide range of housing options.

SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE: Development interests also are beginning to assert their presence in other campaign donations, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

The Western Housing Manufacturing Association gave $1,000 each to Incumbent Diane Howard, businesswoman Giselle Hale and Galisatus. … Harbor Village Mobile Home Park gave $2,500 each to Howard, Hale and Galisatus.

AT LONG LAST, A SLATE MAILER: Ever since the field of Redwood City candidates was set, there has been speculation, bordering on suspicion, that three of the candidates – Reddy, accountant Rick Hunter and small business owner Christina Umhofer – would run as a slate.

That sentiment was further fueled when the three and Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt recently held an ice cream social event organized by Umhofer and held at her home.

Asked about it, Hunter said, with some sign of frustration, “Why does everyone think there has to be a slate?

Well, there is one, it involves Hunter and Howard. It hit mailboxes yesterday in the form of a mail piece from four former mayors – Dick Claire, Georgi LaBerge, Barbara Pierce and Brent Britschgi – and their spouses, along with community leader Dee Eva and her husband, urging support for Howard and Hunter. The mail piece is paid for by Hunter and Howard.

MORE MONEY: From the last round of spending reports, there are some interesting matters worthy of note. Howard received almost 20 percent of her cash donations from people who listed their occupations as “retired.” … The Asian community is always a presence in politics and can be relied on to support members of their community, and they are doing so for Galisatus, who received $3,250 from donors with Asian surnames, not always an accurate measure of ancestry, admittedly. … Fox Theater executive Schmidt received $4,000 total from his former employers, Eric and Lori Lochtefeld. … I’m trying to think if I’ve ever had a boss who would give me $4,000.

NOT ABOUT REDWOOD CITY: Having moderated a recent debate between the four candidates for the Belmont City Council – incumbents Charles Stone, Warren Lieberman and Julia Mates, challenged by Deniz Bolbol for three seats – it is particularly strange to hear the principal argument made by Bolbol for her candidacy: The current council gets along too well.

In a city once so riven with disagreements that they had to hire a relationship counselor, it is more than a little odd to hear someone complain when the council is working together well. Sure, there’s an argument to be made for some dissent, but any unified council tends to get things done, usually because they’ve worked together to develop a consensus around which they can unify. To argue that a council needs someone to disagree for the sake of disagreement sounds pretty argumentative.

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: Redwood City council candidate has voted just once in last 8 council elections

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Redwood City Council approves salary increases for city manager, city attorney

The seven candidates running for three seats on the Redwood City Council are working hard to drive voters to fill out their ballots in the November 6 election.

But some of the candidates have a spotty record when it comes to casting their own ballots in local elections.

Since 2001, according to San Mateo County elections records, small business owner Christina Umhofer has voted only once in eight city council elections. Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt has voted in half the elections since 2001. And community advocate Diana Reddy missed two of the eight elections.

Incumbent Vice Mayor Diane Howard, community activists Rick Hunter and Jason Galisatus all have voted in every election for which they were eligible since 2001.

Businesswoman Giselle Hale, who has only been eligible to vote in Redwood City elections since 2013, voted in 2015, but not in 2013. She said her first child, Lula, was due to be born on Election Day 2013.

Along with eight elections for city council since 2001, the ballots have also included elections for local school boards, the San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees, the Sequoia Healthcare District Board of Directors, and several city ballot measures.

Over that period of time, Umhofer voted only in the 2005 city council election, which also included elections for the local school boards, the community college district and three city ballot measures.

During the same period, Umhofer voted regularly in statewide gubernatorial elections and national presidential elections.

An interview with Umhofer regarding this matter was requested via email. She opted to respond via email:

“Like many in our country, I woke up with the 2016 election and decided to pay far more attention to not only national politics, but local politics as well. Given the changes I saw in our community, I started researching more of the why’s and how’s we came to the current state of our City (i.e., the Downtown Precise Plan, the General Plan, the Stanford Precise Plan, El Camino Corridor Plan, to name a few). I deeply recognize that voting is very important and I have made it a priority to be fully engaged locally and nationally, which I have proven by running for City Council.”

Schmidt did not participate in the four elections from 2001 through 2007, but has voted in every other city council election since then.

In a phone interview, Schmidt acknowledged he had not been very active in city affairs until he became involved in his neighborhood association. Then, he said, “As I became more aware of what was happening in Redwood City, it became more important to me to know who I trusted on the council.”

Reddy, whose political and community activism frequently has led her to speak before many local city councils and to engage in protests at Redwood City Hall, has been a consistent voter in all elections since 2001, but she did not vote in the city elections in 2007 and 2009. She has voted in every local election since then. She said her failure to vote in 2007 and 2009 probably was an oversight. Reddy said she was working on other campaigns, political and community, at that time. She said she routinely filled out a mail-in ballot and dropped it off at the elections office. “I probably misplaced my ballot and may just have forgot,” she said.

Howard and Hunter have voting participation records that extend well beyond 2001, but a review of county records show that neither of them has missed a local election – or any other – in the past 17 years.

Galisatus has only been eligible to vote since the 2012 election and he participated in the 2013 and 2015 elections.

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: Who’s winning the campaign cash race for Redwood City council?

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Election results, San Mateo County

The latest campaign spending reports in the Redwood City Council race show businesswoman and Planning Commissioner Giselle Hale continues to out-raise her opponents by a substantial amount – almost twice as much as the next nearest candidate, grassroots activist Diana Reddy.

And community activist Jason Galisatus, who entered the race late, raised a remarkable amount of campaign money in a shortened period of time.

Hale has raised a total of $78,166 for the campaign, including $29,220 during the most recent reporting period, which ran from July 1 through September 22. The deadline to file reports for that period was last week.

The surprise in the latest set of spending reports is Reddy, who has raised $46,941 for the campaign, including $18,048 during the latest reporting period.

While many of her reported contributions were in small amounts of less than $100, Reddy has raised more than one-third of her campaign funds — $17,838 – from only two sources: herself and Julie Pardini, the founder and moderator of the Facebook page “Redwood City Residents Say What,” which Pardini has used as a platform to advance Reddy’s candidacy.

Reddy has made a personal loan to the campaign of $5,000 and has contributed another $5,398 in in-kind donations. Pardini has donated $7,440 to Reddy’s campaign.

PARDINI’S CAMPAIGN REPORTING VIOLATION: Pardini also has donated an additional $4,000 to three other candidates — $2,000 to small business owner Christina Umhofer, $1,500 to accountant and community volunteer Rick Hunter and $500 to Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt.

That brings Pardini’s total campaign contributions in this election to $11,440, which, under state campaign laws, qualifies her as a major donor. As such, she is required to organize her own campaign committee and file a separate form reporting her donation activities.

She has failed to do so.

Pardini also failed to file a major donor report in 2015, when she donated $12,000 to the unsuccessful city council candidacy of Tania Sole.

Asked about her failure to file the campaign statements, Pardini, with characteristic forthrightness, said she was unaware of the requirement and that she would correct what she acknowledged was a mistake.

“What’s done is done,” she said. “It’s just carelessness on my part. I was told it was not my personal responsibility to file. Whatever I have to do, I have to do. … I need to call my accountant and will not only be reporting for this campaign, but the previous one as well. I’m glad you’re telling me this.”

THE MONEY RACE: Meanwhile, back at the race for campaign contributions, Galisatus came in a strong third, having raised $39,323 during the 83-day period covered by the latest report, all of it in direct dollar contributions.

Schmidt has raised a total of $28,259, all of it during the 83-day reporting period, since he was a late entrant into the race. Nearly half the money he raised was a personal loan he made to his campaign of $12,500.

Umhofer has raised a total of $27,781, including $11,576 during the reporting period.

Hunter has raised a total of $25,538 for the campaign, including $14,886 during the period.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, incumbent Vice Mayor Diane Howard raised the least amount of money — a total of $22,837 for the campaign and $18,672 for the reporting period. This includes a $5,000 loan from her husband, Dr. Steve Howard.

THERE’S MONEY, AND THEN THERE’S CASH: As a 19-year incumbent, Howard undoubtedly has the highest voter name recognition and the most extensive network of supporters, built over more than two decades of civic involvement. That would seem to require less from her in terms of campaign spending.

It is likely, however, that neither Howard nor any of the other candidates is widely known, given the relatively anonymous nature of local politics everywhere and the great majority of people who pay little or no attention to the city council.

Similarly, it is clear that Hunter and Umhofer are relying on their own extensive personal connections to balance the fundraising of Hale, Galisatus and Reddy.

It is equally clear that Hale and Galisatus, in particular, are planning on a more traditional approach to the campaign, raising substantial funds to pay for extensive voter outreach in terms of mail and other forms of contact.

Both of them have the most background in the nuts and bolts of campaigning, having worked on political campaigns in support of other candidates.

With ballots arriving in homes in a week and with only a month to Election Day, the campaign could come down to who has contacted voters the most, and that would tend to favor the candidates who have the most money on hand for the final days of the campaign.

That would be Hale, who began the last stretch of the campaign with $53,868 in cash on hand, and Galisatus, who had $29,744.

In descending order, the other candidates and the amount of cash they had on hand as of September 22 are: Howard, $18,310; Umhofer, $17,078; Reddy, $14,902; Schmidt, $14,369; and Hunter, $11,353.

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: Your guide to Redwood City council candidates

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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

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