Supervisor race: Issues and emphasis may distinguish candidates for District 4 seat
There is much that the two candidates agree on in their contest for a seat on the county Board of Supervisors. In the Nov. 6 election, Shelly Masur and Warren Slocum are seeking to represent District 4, which includes East Palo Alto, Redwood City, much of Menlo Park and the unincorporated communities of North Fair Oaks and Oak Knoll.
In interviews with the Almanac and on their websites, Ms. Masur and Mr. Slocum emphasize the importance of fiscal discipline, transparency in government, moving assertively toward greener practices at home and at work, and the need to speak up for District 4's unincorporated residents. (The Board of Supervisors acts as the town council for North Fair Oaks, Oak Knoll and the county's other unincorporated communities.)
Both candidates also talk about keeping tabs on realignment, the state's economizing measure to gradually transfer prison inmates convicted of certain nonviolent crimes to county jails to complete their sentences.
A closer look at their priorities, as each candidate has described them, may give hints as to how they would differ in their approaches to governing.
On their websites, both candidates discuss the $1.8 billion county budget, an important topic given its structural deficit and what has become an annual drawing down of reserves. The current budget projects a deficit of $50 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The county has held annual "structural deficit" workshops since 2007, and they will continue until the deficit is "eliminated," the budget states.
Ms. Masur writes that she would support an annual review of the activities of county employees and consultants making $100,000 or more "to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely." She advocates collaboration among the public, private and nonprofit sectors and among cities and schools (which are separate jurisdictions) to "eliminate duplicate services." She would increase government efficiency and make the necessary budget cuts while "protecting vital services."
Mr. Slocum has those priorities as well, and advocates further pension reforms, including a ban on spiking — the use of accumulated vacation time and strategic raises to drive up an employee's compensation during the years used to determine the annual retirement payout.
He would keep a "line by line" eye on the budget, modify investment policies to be safe and yet "earn a fair return," and encourage innovative thinking on a countywide and regional basis. "The county has weathered the current economic challenges relatively well through the vision and experience of its leadership, past and present," he writes. "However, vigilance remains the keystone in such an effort."
On the issue of revitalizing San Mateo County's economy, Mr. Slocum notes the importance of tourism to the county economy, the need for "quality, living wage" jobs in the county, and less red tape so as to improve the climate for businesses and their employees. One example: Shuttles to and from public transit. How would he pay for that? The federal government frequently helps fund local transportation initiatives, and "that's where the county can come in and provide leadership and sort of be the mother ship."
Urban renewal is a possibility he explores on his website, noting successes in downtown Half Moon Bay and Redwood City and AT&T Park in San Francisco. He endorses a recent supervisors' discussion on creating an economic-vitality unit within the county manager's office. Such an agency, he writes, could be particularly useful in North Fair Oaks, where there is a yet-to-be implemented community plan.
Ms. Masur is less specific. The board "must focus on creating local jobs and building our local economy, for today and our future. San Mateo County needs great jobs that allow people to live and work here — jobs for people of all skills and backgrounds." She would work to "stimulate the economy by attracting small business, including biotech and green companies." The county needs to figure out ways to "attract and retain start-up industries that will set up shop, grow and stay," she writes.
Ms. Masur, a member of the Redwood City School Board since 2005, also cites the importance of "a well-prepared workforce, equipped with quality education at all levels" in the pursuit of a healthy economy. She includes education as a major priority should she be elected.
The supervisors and the county Office of Education have no formal ties, but there are apparently already opportunities for collaboration. Nancy Magee of the county office said that while county education representatives do not encounter supervisors in a formal setting, they do meet through organizations such as the Peninsula Partnership Leadership Council. "I think the same thing is accomplished with the level of collaboration there is," she said.
Health, safety and technolgy
Ms. Masur, who has a public health degree and is on leave as executive director of Teen Talk — a nonprofit based in Redwood City and devoted to preventing teen pregnancies — said that, as supervisor, she would fight to "preserve healthcare options" for low-income women, seniors and children, for whom she would also advocate for better public education and preschools.
She said she would work to prevent state raids on local funds that support public safety.
Ms. Masur supports Measure A, the half-cent sales tax increase that would generate some $60 million annually for the county's general fund. But Measure A revenues may not be enough, she said. Service on the county's debt and operational expenses for the new jail could exhaust Measure A's revenues.
Mr. Slocum supports Measure A for its 10-year lifespan. "In that time, we don't have a day to lose" to get to fiscal stability, he said. "In the end, this passes or there will be significant changes."
He is voluble on public safety and technology. The paper-based communication between police departments, the Sheriff's Office and the courts and probation offices should be updated, he writes. Electronic case-management would be a step in that direction.
Mr. Slocum has a track record with technology during his 24 years as registrar of voters and county clerk-assessor-recorder. He was first in California, he writes, in allowing voters to track their mailed-in ballots. During his tenure, municipal officials acquired the capacity to track changes in property assessments.
"How can technology change our business and add to the bottom line? I've seen what it can do," he said. It's an outlook he would add to a board that lacks it, he said.
Some of his other ideas: increase online county services, consider consolidating purchases for volume discounts, and put the county's "checkbook" online so citizens could track expenses in real time.
As for public health, he writes that efficiencies based on technology could recoup around $10 million in health-care reimbursements.
Name: Shelly Masur
Town of Residence: Redwood City
Education: Bachelor's degree from Macalester College; master's degree in public health from Hunter College/City University of New York
Occupation: Nonprofit executive director
Public Service: Seven years on elementary and middle school board; member of hospital community advisory committee, county public health task force, Peninsula leadership groups
Name: Warren Slocum
Town of residence: Redwood City
Education: Bachelor's degree in U.S. history, San Diego State University
Occupation: Retired chief elections officer & assessor-county clerk-recorder for San Mateo County
Public Service: Twenty-four years as countywide elected official and, earlier, appointed to positions in government