Editorial: Don't forget to vote for supervisorMany residents of southern San Mateo County might be surprised if they were told that there is an election going on right now to fill the seat on the Board of Supervisors recently vacated by Mark Church, who became chief elections officer, assessor and clerk-recorder in January.
In fact, the election began April 4, so any registered voter in the county should have received a mail-in ballot and if you have not, call the county elections office. This vote-by-mail experiment will save money and make it easier on everyone to vote and to count the ballots.
Unlike many elections, this one is fairly simple: the key question is which one of the six candidates you support. (In the Ravenswood City School District, there is also a parcel tax measure that requires approval of two-thirds of the voters for passage.)
After marking your choice, simply fold the ballot as instructed, place it in the postage-paid envelope and put it in the mail. Ballots must be received by the county elections office by 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 3.
The open seat is for District 1, which includes South San Francisco, San Bruno and Hillsborough. Residents in the Almanac's circulation area are in District 3, but all supervisor candidates run county-wide.
In prior years, supervisors planning to depart often waited to resign until after an election, which left it up to the board to fill the seat by appointment, allowing the candidate to run as an incumbent when the election arrived. This tactic was enough to scare competitors away who feared running an expensive county-wide campaign against a sitting supervisor.
But suddenly there is renewed interest in county elections. The recent District 3 race for Rich Gordon's seat, originally contested by five candidates, was won by Don Horsely but not before a run-off with Coastside resident April Vargas, and now a half-dozen candidates are in the race to fill the remainder of Mr. Church's term. With a mail-in ballot, such races are less expensive and are much easier for voters. We hope the results will show enough interest to justify continuing this trend.
At a recent candidate forum in Redwood City covered by the Almanac, all the candidates made their case to be elected to the board. Four of the six, Dave Pine, Terry Nagel, Gina Papan and Richard Holober are now serving in public office. The two others, Michael Stogner and Demetrios Nikas, have not run typical campaigns but are vocal about two of the most important issues: the county budget and pension reform.
The budget will be a huge issue for whoever wins the seat, as the county is facing major financial problems, including a fiscal deficit that is expected to reach $80 million by 2011-12 unless something is done. This year supervisors already have dipped into reserves to close part of the budget shortfall.
At the Redwood City forum, another issue arose — paying for a new county jail that some candidates said is a necessary expense to cope with up to 400 additional inmates that Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to ship back to the county this year. The jail, to be located at a site in Redwood City, would cost some $160 million and add $18 million or more in operating cost.
On another complex and controversial issue, most candidates at the forum did not express a position on the controversial Cargill Saltworks project to build 12,000 homes and 1 million square feet of commercial space on what is now salt-producing wetlands off Redwood City. Instead, they are willing to see Redwood City's review process play out. Only Mr. Stogner and Mr. Nikas voiced their opposition to the project, which has also been opposed by most local governments in the Almanac circulation area.
Although the Almanac has not interviewed each candidate, it is our opinion that Mr. Pine, Ms. Nagel, Ms. Papan and Mr. Holober are qualified for this office. All have worked hard as public servants in their communities, and are ready to take the next step. Please vote and mail in your ballot by May 1.