Atherton council has wide choice of applicants for vacant seat | July 10, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - July 10, 2013

Atherton council has wide choice of applicants for vacant seat

by Renee Batti

With only hours left to file, six Atherton residents had applied before the Almanac's press time for appointment to a vacant seat on the City Council. The filing period ended at 5 p.m. Monday, July 8, and the council will meet Thursday, July 11, to interview the applicants and try to agree on one to serve out Jerry Carlson's term.

The six are: Audit/Finance Committee chair and Rail Committee member Greg Conlon; longtime council watcher and Transportation Commissioner John Ruggeiro; Community Center Advisory Committee vice-chair Rick DeGolia; Audit/Finance Committee member Diane Sandhu; Transportation Committee and Rail Committee member Michael Lempres; and Atherton newcomer and former San Mateo County supervisor candidate Michael Stogner.

The six are hoping to serve out Mr. Carlson's council term, which expires in December 2014. Mr. Carlson resigned July 1 and is moving out of town.

Ms. Sandhu, Mr. Lempres and Mr. Stogner filed their applications on Monday, July 8. They could not be reached for comment before the Almanac's press time.

Among the issues council members are focused on as they seek to fill the vacant seat are renewal of the town's parcel tax — a question likely to be put before voters in November; and negotiating a new contract with the town's police officers.

In interviews with the Almanac, Mr. Ruggeiro, Mr. Conlon and Mr. DeGolia all said they support renewing the parcel tax, which raises about $1.85 million for the town annually. The tax expires in June 2014.

The parcel tax issue is inseparable with the question of whether the town can maintain its own police force: 60 percent of the tax's revenue supports the police department, which some residents have advocated outsourcing.

The three candidates interviewed by the Almanac say they don't support outsourcing police services, noting that Atherton residents appear to be willing to spend an estimated 55 to 60 percent of the town's budget on maintaining the city-governed police force.

Mr. Ruggeiro and Mr. DeGolia noted, however, that the town needs to look at ways to adjust pension and health benefit packages to reduce the town's contributions to them and address a massive unfunded liability — estimated at between $12 million and $30 million. Mr. Conlon said he needs more data to determine whether benefit adjustments should be made in the next police contract.

Mr. Conlon was one of four residents who ran for two open council seats in November. He came in third place behind incumbent Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest.

Mr. Ruggeiro has been a regular attendee of council meetings since 1982. He has served on the Transportation Committee for 10 years, and is its current vice-chair.

Mr. DeGolia's appointment to the Community Center Advisory Committee in January, and his subsequent appointment as chair of that group's library subcommittee, represent his first forays into Atherton civic affairs. He said he has focused on family, work, and service on nonprofit boards before becoming involved in town matters.

Ms. Sandhu was appointed to the Audit/Finance Committee last September, and was reappointed to a two-year term last month.

Mr. Lempres has served on the transportation and rail committees since 2012.

Mr. Stogner, who lived in San Carlos until recently and is locally known as a civic activist, noted in his application: "I promise if appointed I will not seek this position in 2014. This will allow the residents to fill this position."

Council members will interview applicants on July 11, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 91 Ashfield Ave. in the Town Center. If they fail to appoint anyone to the seat that night, they will vote on whether to call for an election in November.

If the council appoints an applicant, that person would be sworn into office at the July 17 council meeting.