Andy Cohen enters supervisor race
A crowded race for a seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors got even more crammed as Menlo Park Councilman Andy Cohen joined the contenders. And as expected, the candidate's stance on issues raised during his time on council are coming under scrutiny.
Mr. Cohen announced his intention to run on Feb. 17, joining fellow council member Kirsten Keith and five others who say they plan to run for the District 4 seat that will be left open when Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson terms out this year after serving on the board since 1999. The district includes Menlo Park, Redwood City, East Palo Alto and unincorporated North Fair Oaks and Oak Knoll.
He listed several reasons for running, including housing needs in the county created by the elimination of local redevelopment agencies, transportation issues, and budget bottlenecks from reduced tax revenue and economic downturn.
"Although Menlo Park is relatively fortunate, many of the problems our city council has faced over the past 8 years are affecting other cities and the county more severely. I hope to be allowed to offer my experience and training in these three areas and generally," Mr. Cohen wrote in an email to the Almanac.
The former judge, known for casting unpredictable votes that often left him in the minority on council issues, and combative discussions with staff, finishes his second term on the City Council this year. During the 2010 election he campaigned against two incumbents — Rich Cline, who won re-election, and Heyward Robinson, who lost.
Mr. Robinson questioned the candidate's stance on taxing hotel guests, saying in a letter to the editor that if Mr. Cohen, who now supports a county proposal to raise the tax, had backed increasing Menlo Park's transient occupancy tax in 2010, it could've meant an additional $500,000 to $600,000 for the city's tight budget.
"I have changed my position. ... The reasons for this change are several, but suffice it to say that elimination of the (redevelopment agency) alone justifies this change in policy," Mr. Cohen responded. "At the time of my prior vote there was information in my possession that several of the smaller family run local hotels were already feeling the effects of the recession. I felt it had not been shown that Menlo Park was in such distress as to justify an increase."
Board of Supervisors candidates have until March 9 to file the paperwork. The field to date includes Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith, East Palo Alto councilmen Carlos Romero and David Woods, Redwood City Planning Commissioner Ernie Schmidt, Redwood City school board member Shelly Masur, and county education board trustee Guillermo "Memo" Morantes.
If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote during the June 5 primary, votes cast for a runoff election in November election will determine the winner.