Almanac

News - August 31, 2011

Council election in Woodside, not Portola Valley

by Dave Boyce

Tradition has held once again in Woodside and Portola Valley. Woodside will hold a Town Council election this fall, even though there are only four candidates for four seats. Whereas in Portola Valley, where there are two candidates for two seats, the town will forgo the election.

Each council met Aug. 24 to make these decisions.

Woodside

With Woodside Mayor Ron Romines and councilmen Dave Burow and Peter Mason recusing themselves and temporarily out of the room because they are running for re-election, the remaining members voted 4-0 to spend about $10,000 and have an election this fall.

Three-term Councilwoman Sue Boynton stayed to vote because she is not running again. Investment banker Tom Shanahan is running unopposed for the fourth open seat.

There are seven council districts in Woodside, and each of the four candidates is running in a different district.

After informing the council of one downside of an election, the cost, Woodside Town Manager Susan George noted two upsides: write-in candidates can run and the nominated candidates, rather than being appointed, have the distinction of being duly elected.

In 1997, a write-in candidate ran and defeated the nominated candidate for the District 2 seat on the Woodside council, Ms. George said.

The window during which a write-in candidate can file with the elections office opens Monday, Sept. 12, and closes Tuesday, Oct. 25, San Mateo County Elections Officer David Tom said. The candidate must file a declaration of candidacy and collect signatures like a nominated candidate. Candidates should check with the Woodside town clerk, Mr. Tom said.

During the public comment period, in an otherwise mostly empty Woodside chamber occupied by one reporter and one visitor from Atherton, Mr. Romines returned to briefly testify as a resident.

"I just think that, on balance, democratic processes suggest that we should go ahead and have an election," he said at the public's microphone. "Nominees should appear on the ballot." Mr. Romines then departed the room again.

Councilwoman Deborah Gordon agreed. Elections allow candidates to meet constituents, she said, and the cost, given the town's strong fiscal state, is not an issue.

"We should go ahead and allow the public to participate," she said. "I'm disappointed that there doesn't seem to be more interest in running from other people."

An election "shows we're trying to be very correct in our behavior," Councilwoman Anne Kasten added.

Portola Valley

In Portola Valley, the town clerk recommended against an election, citing the $10,000 cost, and the council agreed.

"I think we cancel," Councilman John Richards said.

Councilman Steve Toben raised his thumb in agreement.

There being no other comments and no comment from the public in a chamber empty but for one reporter, the council voted 3-0 to cancel the election, with Mayor Ted Driscoll absent and Councilwoman Ann Wengert abstaining because she is running for re-election.

Vice Mayor Maryann Derwin ran the meeting.

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