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San Mateo County Board of Supervisors candidates set record straight on 'defunding police'

Law enforcement issues among topics at Half Moon Bay candidate forum for District 3 hopefuls

Candidates for District 3 San Mateo County Board of Supervisor's Office speak in a forum hosted at Half Moon Bay Library on April 21. Photo by Lloyd Lee.

During a candidate forum for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors' race held in Half Moon Bay on April 21, the four candidates, all Democrats, broached topics perennial not just to residents of District 3 they hope to represent, but to most of California, from traffic to public education to affordable housing.

The race to secure a spot in the November general election to represent District 3's 27 jurisdictions, including Portola Valley, Woodside and West Menlo Park, is nonpartisan.

But in a blue state stronghold like San Mateo County, voters might expect candidates to hold one or more progressive angles on some core issues, no matter where they might place themselves on the Democratic spectrum.

Laura Parmer-Lohan, a San Carlos City Council member, wants to look at wraparound services to end homelessness. Ray Mueller, Menlo Park council member, calls for equity in public education. Steven Booker, a former U.S. Air Force member, supports workforce housing for teachers and other essential workers. Even Virginia Chang Kiraly, a recent former Republican who calls herself a "fiscal watchdog," said that she wants to turn government property into more housing.

"I believe the government can do a lot better job in terms of efficiency in uses of their property," she said.

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But when it comes to defunding the police, that's where candidates all drew a line.

Moderator Aisha Baro posed a question that she said had been at the top of mind for many: "What changes, if any, would you make to how the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office operates in the coastside communities? Do you support the establishment of a community oversight committee of the Sheriff's Office?"

"I'm not a fan of defunding the police department," Booker said.

The term that called for local governments to shift funding away from law enforcement agencies and towards public safety and community resources was popularized in May 2020, after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer during his arrest.

Cities across the nation, especially those in the Bay Area, made pledges to reform their local law enforcement agencies or, at the very least, re-examine funding decisions. By March 2021, more than 20 major cities reported direct cuts to their police departments, according to a report from the Guardian. A total of $840 million in direct cuts were made to U.S. police departments and at least $160 million were invested into community services, the article states, citing a study from the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

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But the movement has lost momentum. A month after protests erupted, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors passed a budget that set aside $1 million for the sheriff's office to purchase 310 new Tasers.

In an interview, Booker explained that he felt the need to emphasize he doesn't support defunding the police because he's often associated with the movement.

"Because I'm Black, everybody associated individuals like me with Black Lives Matter," he said. He clarified that he supports some of Black Lives Matter's calls for greater police transparency and accountability.

District 3 candidates at the forum agreed that changes have to be made in the Sheriff's Office, but doing so so requires greater investment. All of them backed more funding for training in mental health crisis cases, for example.

"I do think that law enforcement is under a lot of pressure ... but at the same time they are not trained adequately for addressing mental health issues," Chang Kiraly said, later adding that the Sheriff's Office is also not staffed well enough.

Palmer-Lohan, who pointed out that trust between police and communities of color and undocumented workers has eroded, said that she was called upon as mayor of San Carlos to advocate for funding for mental health training and was pleased that the county sheriff's department received $350,000 in federal funds for its Enhanced Crisis Intervention Training Program.

Mueller, who is endorsed by the Menlo Park Police Association, said that the county should invest in surveillance technology that may help decrease the number of interactions between police and community members. In a brief interview, he added that he would also want investments in technology to make data on who gets stopped by law enforcement more transparent.

"We have to go ahead and make investments to (the Sheriff's Office) to build that trust in the community," he said, adding that it needs funding to respond to mental health calls and the ability to respond to more domestic violence calls.

Booker said that citizens have a right to know what happens in their local law enforcement agencies.

His demand for transparency and community oversight is informed by a fatal incident with Chinedu Okobi, an unarmed jaywalker who died in Millbrae from cardiac arrest after being struck by Tasers by several deputies. A lawyer representing his family claimed that the Okobi was stopped due to racial profiling. An internal investigation cleared the four deputies and one sergeant involved in the incident.

But when it comes to defunding the police? "It was bad messaging," he said. "It puts our law enforcement on the defensive."

The forum also focused on addressing issues specific to coastside communities, including affordable housing, traffic, funding in local school districts and how candidates would support those in unincorporated areas who don't have other representation.

The primary election will be held June 7. The top two candidates will move on to the general election on Nov. 8.

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San Mateo County Board of Supervisors candidates set record straight on 'defunding police'

Law enforcement issues among topics at Half Moon Bay candidate forum for District 3 hopefuls

by Lloyd Lee / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 28, 2022, 11:53 am

During a candidate forum for the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors' race held in Half Moon Bay on April 21, the four candidates, all Democrats, broached topics perennial not just to residents of District 3 they hope to represent, but to most of California, from traffic to public education to affordable housing.

The race to secure a spot in the November general election to represent District 3's 27 jurisdictions, including Portola Valley, Woodside and West Menlo Park, is nonpartisan.

But in a blue state stronghold like San Mateo County, voters might expect candidates to hold one or more progressive angles on some core issues, no matter where they might place themselves on the Democratic spectrum.

Laura Parmer-Lohan, a San Carlos City Council member, wants to look at wraparound services to end homelessness. Ray Mueller, Menlo Park council member, calls for equity in public education. Steven Booker, a former U.S. Air Force member, supports workforce housing for teachers and other essential workers. Even Virginia Chang Kiraly, a recent former Republican who calls herself a "fiscal watchdog," said that she wants to turn government property into more housing.

"I believe the government can do a lot better job in terms of efficiency in uses of their property," she said.

But when it comes to defunding the police, that's where candidates all drew a line.

Moderator Aisha Baro posed a question that she said had been at the top of mind for many: "What changes, if any, would you make to how the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office operates in the coastside communities? Do you support the establishment of a community oversight committee of the Sheriff's Office?"

"I'm not a fan of defunding the police department," Booker said.

The term that called for local governments to shift funding away from law enforcement agencies and towards public safety and community resources was popularized in May 2020, after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer during his arrest.

Cities across the nation, especially those in the Bay Area, made pledges to reform their local law enforcement agencies or, at the very least, re-examine funding decisions. By March 2021, more than 20 major cities reported direct cuts to their police departments, according to a report from the Guardian. A total of $840 million in direct cuts were made to U.S. police departments and at least $160 million were invested into community services, the article states, citing a study from the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

But the movement has lost momentum. A month after protests erupted, San Mateo County Board of Supervisors passed a budget that set aside $1 million for the sheriff's office to purchase 310 new Tasers.

In an interview, Booker explained that he felt the need to emphasize he doesn't support defunding the police because he's often associated with the movement.

"Because I'm Black, everybody associated individuals like me with Black Lives Matter," he said. He clarified that he supports some of Black Lives Matter's calls for greater police transparency and accountability.

District 3 candidates at the forum agreed that changes have to be made in the Sheriff's Office, but doing so so requires greater investment. All of them backed more funding for training in mental health crisis cases, for example.

"I do think that law enforcement is under a lot of pressure ... but at the same time they are not trained adequately for addressing mental health issues," Chang Kiraly said, later adding that the Sheriff's Office is also not staffed well enough.

Palmer-Lohan, who pointed out that trust between police and communities of color and undocumented workers has eroded, said that she was called upon as mayor of San Carlos to advocate for funding for mental health training and was pleased that the county sheriff's department received $350,000 in federal funds for its Enhanced Crisis Intervention Training Program.

Mueller, who is endorsed by the Menlo Park Police Association, said that the county should invest in surveillance technology that may help decrease the number of interactions between police and community members. In a brief interview, he added that he would also want investments in technology to make data on who gets stopped by law enforcement more transparent.

"We have to go ahead and make investments to (the Sheriff's Office) to build that trust in the community," he said, adding that it needs funding to respond to mental health calls and the ability to respond to more domestic violence calls.

Booker said that citizens have a right to know what happens in their local law enforcement agencies.

His demand for transparency and community oversight is informed by a fatal incident with Chinedu Okobi, an unarmed jaywalker who died in Millbrae from cardiac arrest after being struck by Tasers by several deputies. A lawyer representing his family claimed that the Okobi was stopped due to racial profiling. An internal investigation cleared the four deputies and one sergeant involved in the incident.

But when it comes to defunding the police? "It was bad messaging," he said. "It puts our law enforcement on the defensive."

The forum also focused on addressing issues specific to coastside communities, including affordable housing, traffic, funding in local school districts and how candidates would support those in unincorporated areas who don't have other representation.

The primary election will be held June 7. The top two candidates will move on to the general election on Nov. 8.

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