Supervisor Gordon suggests MCC has “outlived its usefulness”


Posted by on Wed, January 23, 2008

In a letter to the editor of the Half Moon Bay Review, County Supervisor Rich Gordon suggests that the Midcoast Community Council has outlived its usefulness. Gordon’s letter was a reply to Review editor Clay Lambert’s highly critical column about the Council in last week’s review.

Given the numerous paths and methods that now exist for communication between Coastside residents and the County, it may be the case that the MCC has served its purpose and possibly outlived its usefulness in its current form. As this is an issue of critical importance to me I need to hear your thoughts regarding the possibility of disbanding MCC along with any of your ideas for new and innovative ways that we can keep in touch. Again I must re-iterate that the MCC exists today at your request, if it is no longer the form of representation you desire, changes will come from your mandate. I look forward to hearing from all of you and thank you for your support.

Click to read Gordon’s letter, and to comment on this issue.

I read with interest Clay Lambert’s editorial from last week’s edition of this paper entitled: "Midcoast Community Council is not serving the Midcoast community," and felt it necessary to provide a direct response. While I will not specifically endorse or deny any of Mr. Lambert’s statements in the editorial, I do believe that he has struck upon a topic that is of utmost importance to the San Mateo County Midcoast and to me as your County Supervisor.

The Midcoast Community Council (MCC) was established in May 1991 through a unanimously approved Board of Supervisors Resolution called for by Midcoast residents who wanted a representative body of their own. There was then an election in November that provided public approval for the creation of the MCC and elected its first members. Through most of its existence, the MCC has been a successful conduit between Midcoast residents and the Board, providing valuable input on a range of important issues.

In recent years, however, the MCC has not performed its primary functions as effectively, and has often presided over sparsely attended meetings while gathering less than ample input from the general public. Through this period the County has remained supportive of the body by sending staff to meetings, and I have also kept close contact with the Council by either attending meetings in person or providing one of my Legislative Aides in my stead. We have continued to provide this support because the MCC is a democratically elected body that was created at the request of our constituents, but that does not mean I am not acutely aware of its deficiencies.

I have remained optimistic that the MCC has simply been enduring the undulations and periodic transformations that any democratically elected body encounters. During this period, I have trusted in the residents of the Midcoast to elect an MCC that best represents their viewpoints to our Board. Just this past November, rather than appoint the Council’s nominees, I pushed for an election so that the public would be actively engaged in selecting new members to invigorate the Council. What has become clear, however, is that there remains a significant portion of Midcoast residents who feel they are not being adequately represented by the MCC, and that troubles me very seriously.

However, the MCC has never been the County’s only method of communication with residents of the Midcoast. Representatives from our County Departments and Agencies regularly meet with individuals and groups on the Coastside to consult on issues affecting them. In my office we seek input from and provide information to the Coastside through many avenues. We hold Coastside office hours monthly at the Sheriff’s substation in Moss Beach, attend all MCC meetings, publish bi-monthly Supervisorial webcasts and attend numerous community meetings on the Coastside every week. In addition to these efforts my phone number and e-mail address are published on my website and I have always encouraged my constituents to contact me through those avenues at any time to discuss any issue. Finally, the Board meetings are open to public comment and anyone is always welcome to come speak with me, or my staff, in person at my office.

Given the numerous paths and methods that now exist for communication between Coastside residents and the County, it may be the case that the MCC has served its purpose and possibly outlived its usefulness in its current form. As this is an issue of critical importance to me I need to hear your thoughts regarding the possibility of disbanding MCC along with any of your ideas for new and innovative ways that we can keep in touch. Again I must re-iterate that the MCC exists today at your request, if it is no longer the form of representation you desire, changes will come from your mandate. I look forward to hearing from all of you and thank you for your support.


It’s ironic the disbanding of the MCC proposal is delivered not to the MCC, but to the Editor of The HMB Review.

The whole governance on the MidCoast has been poor.  Politics on the MidCoast is fractious.  The Sups. are elected at large and represent Districts the MidCoast being part of one.  So, election wise the MidCoast’s issues are diluted by County wide issues.  Taxation with disproportionate representation. The MCC was ostensibly formed to address part of that issue.  A lot of MidCoasters put a lot of work into the MCC, which was ultimately ignored by the BOS.  The LCP revision process was the real end of the MCC.

I suspect the BOS and the people that elected them interests would be better served by keeping the democratically elected political theater group called the MCC going as a sort of roach motel for MidCoast political activists(the cost is minimal). I’ll let the BOS worry about their own political interests. If the MCC was disbanded as Supervisor Gordon proposes, the old guard MCC political players of one faction would lose their tenuous hold on one of many local government bodies.  Maybe some fresh political ideas would emerge.

The MidCoast has more difficult political issues than the BOS and MCC.  It’s largely a bedroom community without civic centers.  It’s not clear the tax revenue exists to incorporate or the political will to annex to Half Moon Bay (preBeachwood) existed.  The politics are fractious and polarized.  Residents are frustrated that every issue gets polarized around the issue of growth.  The MCC has become one of the many ultimately worthless prizes the pro growth and slow growth factions fight over to gain some minute political advantage.  The other issue is all the special districts which are also prizes for the political factions to fight over.  The poor citizens have to keep their eyes on all this.

Another factor in the issue of the political relevance of the MCC is new media in terms of the internet, transparency of government, blogs, video and audio online.  They have changed the way we interact with government.  The MCC is rooted in paper copies, public access TV(that no one watches), and a public meeting style reminiscent of high schools student bodies circa 1970(try to watch the meeting on MontarFog).  It’s a different game now.

My personal experience has been that the Supervisors are accessible without going through the MCC.

Whatever happens, I appreciate the hard work of my fellow Coastsiders that contributed to the MCC in the past and to those that went to the effort to run last time and stimulate political discussion.  They have made this a better community.

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Supervisor Rich Gordon writes:

“Just this past November, rather than appoint the Council’s nominees, I pushed for an election so that the public would be actively engaged in selecting new members to invigorate the Council. What has become clear, however, is that there remains a significant portion of Midcoast residents who feel they are not being adequately represented by the MCC, and that troubles me very seriously.”

What?? Didn’t people have a chance to vote? Were the polls closed in some neighborhoods?

Translation: Rich Gordon didn’t like the outcome of the election so now he wants to disband the MCC altogether.

Perhaps Gordon wants to eliminate any local elected officials who might object to his plan to shove about 3000 more houses down the throats of Coastside residents (see links below).

https://coastsider.com/index.php/site/news/supervisors_vision_for_the_midcoast_double_the_number_of_houses_and_cars/

https://coastsider.com/index.php/site/news/1290/

Actually, Rich Gordon is close to having “outlived his usefulness” as a Supervisor. I think he only has about two years left before terms limits kick him out.

Many won’t be sorry to see him go; “there remains a significant portion of Midcoast residents who feel they are not being adequately represented” by the Board of Supervisors.

Comment 3
Thu, January 24, 2008 12:50am
Carl May
All my comments

Maybe someone with a philosophy background can provide a label for our situation in which the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, a group with no demonstrated “usefulness” (taking “usefulness” in a positive sense) for the coastside now declares a local advisory group that it has largely stifled and/or ignored to be possibly not useful. Not useful in helping the Supes to be not useful?

It’s an inherent problem with all purely advisory groups—no decision-making authority, no teeth. We’ve had some duds but mostly representative (we voted ‘em in), dedicated, knowledgeable, and hard-working people on the MCC—at least “mostly” until the past couple of years. They produced (or attempted to produce before they discovered they wouldn’t be heard in one area or another) plenty of useful advice that would have improved governance of the midcoast markedly. The Supes can look in the mirror for the reasons the MCC has not had more impact and utility.

Those who think individual direct communication with Redwood City will now be any more useful than the ugly failure it has always been must pardon the sarcastic laughter coming from those of us who have been around a while. Just look at the LCP revision process for a recent example of a total, sold-out sham when it comes to public participation and opinion.

Carl May

Vince Williams has a colorful, but extremely cynical, view of the Board of Supervisors.

Perhaps the Board really was embarrassed on many occasions when Coastside activists would scurry out of the woodwork to speak for two minutes each, bringing up inconvenient facts when the Board had already decided to approve some development scheme that stretched or violated the Local Coastal Program (or just hugely offended local sensibilities). After all, they were used to hearing from their SAMCAR (San Mateo County Association of Realtors) or SAMCEDA (San Mateo County Economic Development Association) or other lobbyist friends, who spoke with reverential praise of any proposed project, and rarely from actual members of the public who bluntly pointed out flaws or improvements that might serve the community better.

So I can imagine it would be like giving a dinner party to celebrate your campaign contributors, and then having your guests scream in horror when roaches turned up.

What better idea than to set up a powerless local “advisory” group, where those pesky residents could argue with each other outside the hallowed chambers of the Board of Supervisors (and off the official record), and hope everyone got so stuck and mired at the Midcoast Community Council (MCC) that no one would show up to speak directly to the Board.

But I think this is too cynical a vision, that the Board intentionally set up a “roach motel” to trap Coastside citizens, and then intended to ignore every inconvenient recommendation from the MCC. Even if that was the original plan, it hasn’t worked.

Coastside citizens still make the pilgrimage to Redwood City when a noxious proposal comes forth, and now our two-minute speeches are featured County-wide on the Board of Supervisor’s televised meetings.

Maybe it is time for the Board to provide actual support so the MCC can function more effectively, and honor the recommendations that come from the Council. It would save local residents much time in traveling over the hill and fulfill the stated purpose of the MCC.Vince Williams has a colorful, but extremely cynical, view of the Board of Supervisors.

Paul,

I’m flattered the LCP sent out one of their big guns to type me out.  I think I have been smeared.  But, I’m not sure with what.

I have more respect for the BOS than you paint me with.  I respect them for listening to me both in public meetings and in personal communications.  I also respect that they have many different supporters and deal with County wide and regional issues.  I recognize that were I live is 1/10 of their responsibilities and a very small fraction of the votes that elect them.  What I want in terms of a master plan and regulations is some reasonable equivalent of what citizens in the Bayside incorporated munis get (somewhere between Daly City and Woodside), that conforms to The Coastal Act.  Not some cherry picked set of loopholes picked by a developers association.  I can use my two minutes to PERSONALLY RESPECTFULLY ask for it.  I understand that the BOS won’t always agree with me.  I CAN LIVE WITH THAT.  I’m quite happy with the essential government services the County provides.

The roach motel comment was not about what the MCC was, but what it has become, its current utility to the community and the BOS.  I see no grand multi year conspiracy by the BOS, such as you allege. We can argue until our fingers fall off about whether it was conceived toothless, lacked the nurturing support of the BOS, the citizens elected the wrong candidates, it pushed too hard on the LCP(plan) or was hijacked by a bunch of forest fairy tree huggers.  I don’t see the point.

The MCC has become what I cynically referred to(and no one has, so far, challenged) a democratically elected political theater playing on MCTV 6 twice a month.  I don’t see a way to make it relevant.  I suspect that eliminating the MCC will create a political vacuum and a governance vacuum.  I look forward to seeing what fills that vacuum.

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Vince,

I’m not an LCP big gun, and no one sent me. My comment wasn’t intended as a smear, it was the only sense I could make out of your sentence, “I suspect the BOS and the people that elected them interests would be better served by keeping the democratically elected political theater group called the MCC going as a sort of roach motel for MidCoast political activists(the cost is minimal).”

A roach motel is a trap for unwanted intruders that you would prefer to keep out of sight.

It was not at all clear that you used that comparison to represent the situation now, as opposed to the intent of the Board when the Council was created.

My apologies for misunderstanding your earlier comment. We usually communicate better with each other. Thanks for clarifying your intended meaning.

Comment 7
Fri, January 25, 2008 3:29pm
Carl May
All my comments

When it was created, a few of the Supes were probably sincere; but some of the Supes may well have considered the MCC to be a place where midcoastsiders could talk amongst themselves and let off steam without interfering with the county’s special-interest and sometimes bureaucracy-driven agendas. Some certainly seemed to be irritated and antagonistic over the years when they got much more from MCC members and the public who actually wanted to have the coastside governed well for what we have here. Maybe a Supe or two along the way felt a little bit uneasy when hearing from the MCC (often after MCC members had worked extensively on their committees and in public forums to determine and analyze the facts of an issue and survey public sentiment) through reports and at least hundreds of trips to give testimony in Redwood City and then going ahead and voting on a coastside matter as if the MCC was of no importance at all.

Those who think local government should be nothing more than a benign, genuflecting social game often complain MCC members and other midcoast elected officials are too concerned with development. But that’s where emphasis needs to be in our location—and in most others if we are to believe the surveys of reasons localities everywhere desire to incorporate. (Of course, one seldom sees any survey that shows a lot of the places that incorporate and yet other places that have been incorporated for a long time become just as controlled by special interests, usually developers. It’s just easier for developers and other money interests to buy and otherwise influence one large government rather than a lot of smaller ones.)

Nowadays, it is character and degree of development that is the most important, in terms of human impact, determinant of the well-being of a geographic area and the people who live in it. Human population and all that goes with it is determined by development. Land use is determined by development. The use of both renewable and non-renewable natural resources is determined by development. Infrastructure is dictated by development. Energy use is determined by development. Our cost of living is heavily influenced by development. Similarly, taxation of all is influenced by development. Educational needs are determined by development. Public health is heavily influenced by development, including the health effects of pollution. Biodiversity and other ecological “subsidies” essential for long-term environmental health are determined by development.

In general, there is no other aspect of an area at this time that comes anywhere close to development in determining the quality of human life and the long-term sustainability of human activities in that area. It is much, much too important to a place like the midcoast to leave development up to a dozen or two developers and builders (and those relative few they dupe into going along with them) and to the somewhat ignorant of our lives, mostly disconnected from our area, elected officials and bureaucrats in Redwood City who give grossly distorted credence and authority to their wealth-seeking developer and landowner buddies.

Carl May

Is the MCC dead?

The Midcoast needs community based representation, planning, project funding and implementation.  That costs money and the county doesn’t want to pay for it.  How do we deal with that? 

The Midcoast Parks and Recreation plan has been approved by the county and is in a holding pattern until funding is allocated.  How many years will it take before this LONG OVERDUE plan is fully funded and implemented? 

The community has failed to keep the MCC going in a positive direction. This is not the fault of any one person.  We are the community and we are ALL responsible. 

It could be that the failure of the MCC is the result of a passive group of whiners unwilling to do the work it takes to build a strong community based organization.  Or it could be that anyone trying to effect change has to work outside the MCC because the advisory body is dysfunctional at it’s core.  Most likely it’s a little of both.

Unfortunately MCC leadership is way to internally focused.  It could be that we have a few people with allot of knowledge and limited communication skills.  That spells ineffective.  It also could be that self-interest prevents any true public service from taking place. 

Whatever the case it might well be beyond fixing.

Currently MCC is not using the internet effectively.  MCC could outline specific projects and post them on the website so the community and the county could take action. 

Email and web based communication are replacing the need for allot of meetings. Email and online forums (like this one) are an excellent way to hold people and government accountable.  Accountability is something the Coastside could use allot more of.

The whole monthly public meeting concept needs some rethinking.  Why not drop it and have quarterly community meetings.  MCC should be busy planning, meeting with officials and sourcing project funding.  Meetings should include reports on planning progress as a primary focus.

All private property owner “issues” should be posted on the MCC website by the property owner in a online forum (like this one) and not discussed at public meetings.  This would allow people to help each other online without looking to the MCC for help on private property issues. 

What is an advisory body with poor communication skills, a bad reputation and no support from the politicians they are advising?  It’s an excellent time to ask these questions and hold MCC (our elected advocates) accountable for all of it. 

Is the Midcoast a hopeless bunch of not-in-my-backyard, un-community minded individualists? 

Has the MCC become so tainted that those with the skills needs don’t want to touch it with a 10’ pole? 

Could a major overhaul and restructuring save the MCC? 

What would a new and improved MCC look like?

The MCC is not dead unless Rich Gordon and his helpers (one of whom is now on the MCC) succeed in silencing people who object to the Supervisors’ attempts to give this place away to their developer/realtor friends.

Rich Gordon makes a big deal about how he pushed for an election to “invigorate” the MCC. Then after the new council holds a grand total of one meeting, he tries to pull the plug on the whole operation. Does anybody believe this was not planned from the beginning?

Also, the guy does not even have the professional courtesy to sent his letter to the MCC itself. Instead, he blind-sides them (all but one of them) by having it published in the Review on the day of the second meeting of the new council.

How convenient to silence the locally elected voices right before the March Coastal Commission hearing that will consider the Supervisors’ travesty of an LCP update.

Hi this is Howard Lieberman an ex-MCC member.

With so many comments it is hard to address specific ones but some general thoughts:

1) In my opinion the MCC has now run its course and yes I do think that most qualified people would not want to touch it with a ten foot pole.  And I am qualified to say this. The one exception is Neil who is courageous for trying to right the wrongs but having been there myself will have a hard time dealing with irrational and inconclusive meetings. Clay from the Review is correct in his appraisal of the situation.

2) If the MCC gets out of the way then the board of supervisors will be able to deal directly with the public and vice-a-versa.  It does not serve either party to be help apart from the other. This will not solve the larger problem however - which is taxation without representation, what democracy was created to oppose.  In short the MCC does not work but neither will nothing.

3) The longer term solution is a real council,representing a real incorporated body.  This will take time and may require a grass roots type of effort building from the beginning once again just as the process that yielded the MCC.  Unfortunately the recent election did not result in changing the situation.


A proposed solution - dismantle the current MCC and create a new one (sorry Neil) - one member for each town - Montara, Moss Beach, Princeton, El Granada and Miramar.  Have them serve only one four year term, do not let them serve on any other bodies to avoid conflicts of interest. And require them to prove in some way that they represent more than themselves.

Just a thought.

Results of MCC election, November 6, 2007.

Neil Merrilees 1,266 votes 29.1%
Deborah Lardie 1,050 votes 24.1%
Leonard D. Woren 758 votes 17.4%
Howard Richard Lieberman 649 votes 14.9%
Bob Ptacek 632 votes 14.5%

Perhaps somebody can fill in which candidates were endorsed by Rich Gordon.

Hi Kevin,

I know you don’t agree with Neil Merrilee’s views but are you hinting that something subversive is going on? If so, I don’t see it.

Neil, as you point out, won with 29.1% of the vote in a five-way race. I believe that was the second highest percentage for a candidate in an MCC election ever, only bettered by a tiny fraction by April Vargas in a four-way race, way back when.

He was also endorsed by the whole spectrum of the coastside political establishment—the League for Coastside Protection, Put Community First (the pac of Coastside Community First), and the Half Moon Bay Review.

To my mind the only way to interpret those election results—Neil’s high percentage followed by Deborah Lardie’s—a complete newcomer to coastside politics—is that voters were looking for a change.

I believe the voters still want to see that change reflected in the actions of the MCC.

We’ll see if they get it.

—Darin

Sabrina,

You make some really good observations and raise some very important questions.  I agree with most of your analysis.  After reading your post, a possible mechanism for transforming the MCC or slowly determining its relevancy occurred to me.  Thanks.

One simple suggestion is a variant of what has happened informally over the last couple of years.  Develop a formal mechanism to take issues off the MCC’s agenda and transfer them to the BOS agenda. Further, don’t just reserve the right to initiate transfer of issues to the BOS, but extend that initiative right to individuals and local PAC’s.  So, if the BOS doesn’t want the MCC discussing an issue, a political faction raises enough public comments against the MCC continuing to deliberate an issue, or an individual with a project wants to deal with the BOS directly on their project, then transfer it off the MCC agenda and let the BOS handle it.  The BOS would be the final judge of whether an issue transfered off the MCC agenda to the BOS.

One proviso is the transfer off the MCC agenda process should be transparent. We should all get a report from the BOS on why an issue was transfered off the MCC agenda and put on the BOS agenda. Was it: real MidCoast citizens willing to put their names on letters or email or citizens that went to office hours and stated their position and were willing to be asked respectful questions by staff to clarify their position or an individual that filled out a form that wrote, I want to deal with the BOS directly on what color I paint my garage door or the BOS said we did it unilaterally.  For example: consider last Wednesdays MCC Agenda Item 9B.  Let’s say the BOS decides to transfer it off the MCC agenda onto its agenda.  It would be nice to know whether the BOS did it unilaterally on its own initiative, a CCWD administrator requested it, a bunch of PCF/CCF types wrote in or a bunch of LCP types wrote in.  I’m not sure about the legality of all this transparency.  But, without that transparency, we would have to assume Bayside interest groups dominated the BOS decision, or the BOS sold out to…

Now, some may argue, that this would make the MCC even more toothless.  It would.  But, the MCC would be able to focus 100% of their energy on the issues which the majority of the citizens want to move forward.  It could also result in no business for the MCC, in which case the citizens have expressed their opinion on the relevancy of the MCC or their deep fractiousness.  There would be no shame for the MCC members if something was transfered off their agenda; the BOS narrative could be the item just got too politically hot.  If the MCC attempted to politicize something, it could be taken away from them.  The people in the back of the room at the MCC meetings that get frustrated and walk out, would find a voice.  I suspect the BOS would be more willing to give more resources to an MCC that was moving forward on consensus issues.  There would probably be less burn out and frustration of MCC members.  The MCC would no longer be a political prize with the pro growth and limited growth factions turning it into political theater.  Over time the MCC membership would gravitate to those willing to build consensus representation and move government projects forward.  It would be easy to measure the accomplishments of the MCC members and vote for them.  A desirable political process would have the PAC’s grooming their candidates for the more prized elected Coastside offices by having them do a tour of duty on the consensus MCC.  A middle of the roader could get their foot in the political door without having to join a PAC.  A candidate for a more prized elected office that accomplished something at the consensus MCC would have a distinct advantage over other candidates.

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Comment 14
Mon, January 28, 2008 4:17pm
Carl May
All my comments

Yeah, it’ll sure do wonders for an already mismanaged and largely ignored set of communities to cede any significant rights and demands they might have to their absentee “rulers.” Really amazing how some think the goal of the MCC and our citizenry in general should be to serve the political whims of the special-interest-dominated Supes. Have they missed the part of setup for government in the U.S. that indicates power resides in the populace and is only designated in a limited way by the people to elected governmental officials?

In herently, we in the unincorporated midcoast communities owe the Supes/County nothing. They are elected to do certain jobs while serving *us*. It’s pitiful to observe all those among us who see a citizen’s task as one of groveling before those they recognize as their “rulers” in Redwood City, in order that the rulers might look more kindly on us. That sort of “getting along” has never produced a bit of significant good government for the midcoast over many decades. It simply gave the Supes and county bureaucrats an unobstructed path to have their way with us for the benefit of the narrow, few special interests they favor. Look at the people the Supes appoint to committees on our local affairs to see clearly what those special interests are.

The latest Parks and Rec Committee appointed by the county and any plans/recommendations it comes up with are plainly a sham. Are people so unaware of the several rounds of the same thing we have gone through over the past decade, from several public opinion polls and additional scoping meetings of the public through extensive reviews and comments, also with public input, by the Parks and Rec Committee of the MCC. How can you possibly look at the county’s unbalanced, unrepresentative appointees to this latest committee outside the MCC and see it as anything but a denial of and a cynical, arrogant run around previous public and community input that was not to the liking of our “rulers.”

Yes, the MCC fell off the Parks and Rec bandwagon, and gave up on several other formerly active areas of concern, the past couple of years with MCC members who let former MCC committees, and even the tasks for which we elected them, lapse. But *please* note it is those same recent, semi-dormant MCC members and a few naive, like-minded people who would have us bloody our knees as supplicants before the exalted Supes. They would have us not concern our small, local minds with anything of import—perhaps a kindly gesture to spare us the headaches of frustration that go with trying to get Redwood City to do anything right over here? How swell that these considerate people would confine us to what they think we can handle, the piddling things that the benevolent rulers at the county have no problem letting us decide for ourselves.

The capitulators would have us go back to the situation—no, make that a worse situation due to all the county’s failures in the interim—we had that inspired locals to militate for a say in our own lives in the first place, a say that became the MCC because an “advisory” council was the only form of governmental participation available. Don’t blame all the past citizen-supported MCC’s that tried to deal with more substantive issues than the color of paint on someone’s fence or what they could do as a local “go-fer” for a Supe. It’s not the MCC’s fault the county stonewalled and ignored our local input over many years on all matters where it served their selfish purposes to assert hegemony.

We give up our underlying power as citizens and as an electorate when we give in (more sadly, when we willingly or even happily give in) to that kind of crap. Our community is side-stepped, not served, when authority is abandoned to the Supes and their chosen cohorts.

Carl May

Here are the endorsements I referred to above:

Rich Gordon endorsed Merrilees, Lieberman, and Ptacek.

The HMB Review (editor Clay Lambert and publisher Debra Godshall) endorsed the same three candidates.

Voters chose only Merrileess.

After the election, we have both Rich Gordon and the HMB Review going negative on the new MCC.

This is really not hard to figure out folks.

Vince, Kevin, Carl, Paul & Howard:

Thanks for the lively discussion.  I am attempting to better understand our toothless advisory body.  I have a few questions.

Vince Williams please describe with some level of detail your experience with the Board of Supervisors and how you found the BOS to be accessible.  Why should the BOS have control over the MCC agenda?  Why can’t the MCC self-regulate?  Do they follow any self imposed rules?

Kevin Lansing please elaborate on why you believe a significant portion of Midcoast residents are not being adequately represented by Rich Gordon and the Board of Supervisors?

Carl May what is the point of an advisory body that has no teeth?  Why is the MCC in a dysfunctional relationship with the Board of Supervisors?  Why can’t the MCC be independent of the BOS and still make recommendations to the BOS with the community to back them up?  Shouldn’t the MCC file for a divorce?  Is incorporation the only solution? 

If only we could open a casino at the hideous new hotel at Pillar Point Harbor.  Cold-hard-cash might improve quality of life for the Midcoast community.  The casino could fund the county approved Midcoast Parks and Recreation Plan that Gael Erikson worked on.

Paul Perkovic I would like to hear more of your optimism.  Should we send the Board of Supervisors and the MCC to a monthly group therapy session or the Forum?  I’m still at a loss on how to develop an improved relationship.  What is your vision? 

Howard Lieberman would representation from each unincorporated town create a competitive environment or equality? How might a reorganized MCC function?  What would it take to incorporate?  If incorporation was possible how do you think it might benefit Midcoast quality of life? 

Sabrina Brennan

Vince, Kevin, Carl, Paul & Howard:

Thanks for the lively discussion.  I am attempting to better understand our toothless advisory body.  I have a few questions.

Vince Williams please describe with some level of detail your experience with the Board of Supervisors and why you found the BOS to be accessible.  Why should the BOS have control over the MCC agenda?  Why can’t the MCC self-regulate? 

Kevin Lansing please elaborate on why you believe a significant portion of Midcoast residents are not being adequately represented by Rich Gordon and the Board of Supervisors?

Carl May what is the point of an advisory body that has no teeth?  Why is the MCC in a dysfunctional relationship with the Board of Supervisors?  Why can’t the MCC be independent of the BOS and still make recommendations to the BOS with the community to back them up?  Shouldn’t the MCC file for a divorce?  Is incorporation the only solution? 

How about a casino at the hideous new Princeton Marina hotel?  Cold-hard-cash is needed to fund the county approved Midcoast Parks and Recreation Plan. Gael Erikson worked hard to develop the Midcoast Parks and Recreation Plan and the county gave her recognition for her contribution when County Parks & Recreation Commissioners unanimously approved the plan in 2007.  Let’s get it funded ASAP.

Paul Perkovic I would like to hear more of your optimism.  Should we send Rich Gordon’s clerks and the MCC to a monthly group therapy session at Seaton Medical Center or the Forum?  What is your vision?

Howard Lieberman would representation from each unincorporated town create a competitive environment or equality? How might a reorganized MCC function and what would it take to incorporate?  If incorporation was possible how do you think it might benefit Midcoast quality of life? 

Sabrina Brennan

Sabrina asked:

“Why [do] you believe a significant portion of Midcoast residents are not being adequately represented by Rich Gordon and the Board of Supervisors?”

I’ll keep my answer brief. That statement was based on the premise that most MidCoast residents don’t want to see another 3400 houses crammed into an area where the infrastructure (roads, schools, waters and sewer) are already overburdened (see link below).
  https://coastsider.com/index.php/site/news/supervisors_vision_for_the_midcoast_double_the_number_of_houses_and_cars/

The Supervisors sold out the Midcoast to realtors and builders by ignoring input from their own County Planning Commission, which had worked closely with the MCC to solicit residents’ views at numerous local hearings.
     
Of course if you happen to be a realtor or a builder, then 3400 more houses may sound just fine.

Comment 19
Tue, January 29, 2008 8:32am
jlundell
All my comments

On representation:

There are 350,000 registered voters in San Mateo County. 16,000, or less than 5%, live on the coastside, from Montara to Pescadero, of which 7300, about 2%, live on the Midcoast, from Montara to El Granada.

Another way of looking at it: Midcoaster voters are less that 1/4 of the 31,000 voters living in unincorporated SMC, who in turn are less than 9% of the county.

While supes nominally represent one of five districts, they’re elected at large, so the fact that the coastside is in Mr Gordon’s district isn’t particularly relevant to the question of representation.

These numbers illustrate the best argument for incorporation, whether with HMB or not: there’s no realistic way that Midcoast voters are going to be a significant constituency of any county supervisor. Home rule could be an answer to that problem.

Coming at the problem from another direction, if I were King of San Mateo County, I’d implement public campaign financing and proportional representation (using the Single Transferable Vote, so we can maintain the fiction that these are non-partisan offices).

PR gives a representative voice to voters countywide with an interest in the coastside; voters with common interests can join to elect their own representative. (I’d increase the size of the board as well, so that smaller constituencies could be represented.)

We need public campaign financing because running a countywide campaign is prohibitively expensive. This works to the benefit of those in a position to finance expensive campaigns, or to the benefit of incumbents. I’d probably need to be King of California while I’m at it, since we also need public campaign financing for state offices: as we see, the county board is often a way station on the path to higher, generally partisan, office, which means that ambitious supervisors need to please those who can fund Assembly campaigns as well.

Of the two solutions, home rule through midcoast incorporation seems more achievable, though if the other path appeals to you, I wear a 7 5/8 crown.

Kevin,

You wrote: “Here are the endorsements I referred to above:

Rich Gordon endorsed Merrilees, Lieberman, and Ptacek. “

This is news to me. When did Rich Gordon endorse candidates for election?

You also wrote: “That statement was based on the premise that most MidCoast residents don’t want to see another 3400 houses crammed into an area where the infrastructure (roads, schools, waters and sewer) are already overburdened (see link below). “

I think that is close to the mark. But it fails the reality test. Walk around Montara, for example. There’s an awful lot of houses newly built or being built.

It seems to me there are two inter-related parts needed for any strategy for controlling growth here on the coast—and so far only one exists, such as it is.

We are fairly good at slowing and stopping projects (although that claim is increasingly in doubt the more houses I see going up).

Where we have almost totally failed is to shape the growth that we are getting. It’s coming out in a random hodge-podge with no vision at all.

And by not admitting that we will get some level of growth no matter what we really want, we find ourselves opposing so-called “growth inducing” improvements.

You are an economist, Kevin. I’ve had plenty of economics classes. Show me the evidence that a crosswalk in Montara or a bathroom at Surfer’s Beach will induce meaningful growth. I believe such claims to be on the level of fables or reassuring stories that we tell ourselves because it represents (and fits in with) our larger goals of preserving the coast. That is, such stories *represent* something to us rather than serving as an accurate depiction of reality.

What we need is a strategy of controlling growth, stopping bad projects, while at the same time making common-sense improvements on the quality-of-life here on the coast by developing a vision of what the growth we are going to get should look like.

Control growth and shape the growth. We need both parts.

—Darin

Sabrina,

You had some questions:

“Vince Williams please describe with some level of detail your experience with the Board of Supervisors and how you found the BOS to be accessible.”

For a number of years I have been an advocate for a stable fire services on the Coastside.  I have met with Supervisors Gordon and Hill on that issue and talked candidly with them about it.  I won’t go into specifics. In the 2005 election I was endorsed by Supervisors Gordon and Hill.  Supervisors Gordon and Hill serve on the County LAFCo.  I spoke at LAFCo meetings on the Municipal Service Review(MSR) for Coastside Fire services and consolidation.  I found Both Supervisor Gordon and Hill very concerned with our local self created fire service problems. I don’t think the moved up MSR or the consolidation of HMBFPD and PMFPD would have happened without their support.  In 2006, Supervisor Gordon said that he favored a contract with The City of San Mateo for the Coastside(I didn’t).  In 2007, I did not seek Supervisor Hill or Gordon’s or any PAC’s endorsement, because I wanted to present myself as a candidate narrowly focused on the Fire Board issues.  I spoke a number of times at meetings on the County’s LCP.  I met with Supervisor Hill one time with a group.  I was disappointed in the whole LCP process.  I have gone to the office hours at the Sheriff’s Substation and found the staff respectful and helpful.  I should point out, I don’t expect staff or elected officials to agree with me 100% of the time.  I expect them to respectfully listen and respond, if they feel inclined.  They have done that.

“Why should the BOS have control over the MCC agenda?”

See Johnathan Lundell’s post on unincorporated governance.  He expressed it better than what I was intending to write.

Some other points:

The BOS is ultimately responsible for what happens on the MidCoast.  They are the ones that are going to get sued, not the MCC, if something actually goes wrong or some one feels wronged.  The BOS have a fiduciary responsibility to all the taxpayers of San Mateo County to minimize future litigation costs.  When a advisory council steps over the line into political theater and starts antagonizing some people, doesn’t the BOS have an obligation to reign it in?  The BOS have an obligation to spend the taxpayers moneys as efficiently as possible.  If an advisory Council wastes County staff’s time on items the BOS is not likely to move forward on, doesn’t the BOS have an obligation to control that?

The MCC is an advisory council to the BOS, not an elected group of lobbyists.  When the advice is given and the BOS takes an issue, the MCC’s role should be limited to clarifying any advice that was given on that issue.  While individual members of the MCC have every right to continue to advocate as a individuals or a member of a PAC, they should be careful not to associate the MCC with their advocacy.  That care has not been shown in the past.  I suspect that has rubbed some in the community and BOS the wrong way.


“Why can’t the MCC self-regulate?”

I don’t know this is probably better directed to those on the MCC and that served before.

“Do they follow any self imposed rules?”

I don’t know this is probably better directed to those on the MCC and that served before.


These are my personal experiences and opinions.  You may want to direct some of these questions to current and former MCC members.  They represent you, I don’t.  Their silence on this thread is curious.

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Comment 22
Tue, January 29, 2008 5:06pm
Carl May
All my comments

Sabrina,

Ultimately, the best education you can get is to follow the issues, comments, and behavior of the governmental and quasi-governmental bodies dealing with the midcoast. Take nothing at face value—a water pipe supposedly designed to serve a recreational facility can be grossly oversized so that it has the capacity to also serve urban development in the future. (And that same pipe may not be needed at all for the facility, such as a trail, at which it is supposedly aimed, so the entire impetus behind the scenes becomes one of serving development in the guise of recreation). This sort of game is played repeatedly and almost constantly.

So, unlike the contrived, subservient stance of people who have worked to diminish what little local control we have had of various aspects of government on the coastside—for example, through consolidating away our Point Montara Fire District and then sending away staffing of the consolidated district to an outside agency, all without a vote of the citizens affected by these matters—we had, when first elected, an MCC advisory council that reviewed almost every locally significant aspect of government, and especially our absentee county government.

This the MCC did for years, attempting to give a locally knowledgeable slant on what the county was doing. Of course, this pissed off the few hundred landowner/developer/builder/real estate sales types who intend to increase their personal wealth at the expense of others by filling in existing communities with more heavy-duty, problem-causing hardscaping (roofs and pavement) and who want to be entirely free (according to their whimsically-invented, self-serving “property rights”) to lay down the “final crop’ (development) when and where they wish. And developers have had grossly disproportionate influence with a sold-out county government since the county was formed, the hammer of this influence descending on the terraces and low hills of the coastside south of Devil’s Slide over the past 40 years as other places in the county, including all the bayside and northern coastside incorporated cities, approached buildout. In these matters, follow along, assuming nothing proposed by government and developers is what it is purported to be on the surface and in the media and that nothing from government comes in the form of freshly woven whole cloth created for the benefit of the local public. The patterns and camps, scams and games will emerge quickly enough.

The other thing that many find worthwhile as they try to get a picture of what is going on is familiarization with the California Coastal Act of 1976, as amended and shot full of holes ever since. This middling law—“middling” if coastal protection of the sort called for in Prop. 20, which forced the state legislature to create the Act, is one’s desire and if one cares about the quality of life on the coast for residents, visitors, and all the essential non-human species—dictated that every jurisdiction along the entire California coast, incorporated city or unincorporated county, form something called a Local Coastal Program (LCP) for the defined coastal zone in the jurisdiction. This LCP is to conform to the Coastal Act and must be blessed by the California Coastal Commission as doing so.

Local LCP’s are to be updated every ten years. Of course, coastal developers and the politicians who serve them hate the very idea of higher authority interfering with the coastal zone and do everything they can to weaken the Act’s requirements during the creation of and revision of LCP’s. Many try to get away with completely ignoring Chapters 1 and 2 of the Act, and do get away with it when the politically stacked Coastal Commission is willing to sign off that an LCP is compliant.

In any event, the San Mateo County LCP covers our local unincorporated communities, and the skewed, biased revision process that has now been going on for a number of years has resulted in proposals for revision that weaken our already weak coastal protections and call for further development of areas that have no remaining vital resources and that would greatly extend environmental damage in the developed coastal zone. The very modest comments on the current LCP revision that were made (after many months of meetings and study) by a more energetic MCC of a few years ago were, essentially, blithely waved off by Supervisors Gordon and Hill and their cronies. But the game isn’t over; there is still soundly based fighting to be done at the Coastal Commission by those with a stomach for such things.

The MCC is an advisory council to the county, originally approved by the Supes only after much formation work and a vote for it locally. It is a creature of the county. Anyone can form an ad hoc group unconnected formally to the county and try to influence the supes and county bureaucracy. As you investigate, you will learn there are special-interest groups like SAMCEDA that do just that in spades.

Jonathan Lundell gives you some of the numeric realities of our situation—supes elected countywide that act as our local municipal council. This is why any aspect of our lives we can influence and/or control locally is to be treasured and valued. Note that the unincorporated communities and the City of Half Moon Bay break out and vote very differently on many issues, though one really needs to break this down precinct by precinct to see where sympathies lie.

Carl May

Howard here - regarding how representation from different geographies
could help - I would refer you to the United States legislature -
seems like a reasonable model to follow.
Unfortunately incorporation would probably take a long time - on the
order of a decade and without the ability to have a convergent
political conversation it is unlikely.

The steps would have to begin with some representative body with
adequate rapport and maturity to make decisions, stay focused and
lead meaningful community dialog.  We are not heading in this
direction at present.
Once a coherent group proved itself to the community which would take
years not months then a fiscal plan demonstrating the ability to
provide needed services to the community would need to be crafted.
Then this plan would need to be approved by the Local Agency
Formation Commissions (LAFCO) and the Board of Supervisors.

If this could all be accomplished which I hope will happen, but am
not expecting - then the community will have the same amount of power
as a city like Half Moon Bay which will mean it has a budget, a city
manager and the discretion to determine what is needed by the
population instead of hoping the board of supervisors can act on our
behalf.  Members of both the board of supervisors and LAFCO have
stated to me personally that it is their mandate to encourage self
governance but that the capability to provide services must be
demonstrated.  This requires adequate funding from tax revenues to
fund basic services.  A not insignificant challenge but as property
values rise and business revenues increase the revenue base does grow
and at some point it should be possible.

Not everyone thinks this is a good idea and until there is a
representative public forum it will be hard to tell what the will of
the public truly is.

As far as a reorganized MCC - I am not sure what it would take - but
advisory status is probably not adequate to inspire competent
individuals to give up their time to participate.  It actually takes
a lot of time to do the job right which I personally was unable to
muster in light of the incredible time wasting that was going on
within the MCC.  And when I say a lot of time -  mean upwards of 20
hours per week.  If there were the concept of prioritization within
the MCC a lot could be accomplished.  After all management teams and
boards of directors spend a lot less than this and run all of the
large businesses in the world but and this is a big but - they have
to agree on ground rules and follow through on commitments.  In the
business world when things are not managed well the penalty is you go
out of business.  In the political world when things are not managed
well - the penalty is less clear.

I hate to be negative as I believe these problems can be solved.  It
is difficult to see a clear path from where the coastside is
politically, to self governance.  Maybe we need a charismatic,
affluent and dedicated person to lead the effort.  If we could find
one they should also run for president of the US.

Howard

MCC outlived usefulness?  A view from the other side of the table. 

As a newly elected member of the MCC, I thought I would throw in my rather belated two cents here-

When I ran for a seat on the Council it was with the, rather naïve as it turns out, thought of filling a need for participants.  As a relative newcomer to the coast I had little history and few preconceived notions about the Council- I saw what it was intended to be.  What I have been experiencing, as Vince aptly described, is at times political theater, and a lack of support from the local press, government and some community members (I am still pondering the roach motel concept).  Some of the most vocal critics, including this thread, cannot seem to express themselves without personally attacking the sanity, competence or integrity of council members. It is all a bit scary- government shouldn’t be this way.

The editorial in the HMB Review was the opinion of one person - the editor of a paper from a neighboring section of the coast.  It seems inaccurate for Supervisor Gordon to consider this to represent “a significant portion of Midcoast residents” unless he has conducted a poll of midcoast residents or received direct communications from a large enough group to represent a significant portion of them.

Supervisor Gordon has listed ways residents can communicate with him and various contributors here state that the Supervisors are accessible without going through the MCC.  I would question, however, whether community members are willing to take on the task of learning the legal and technical facts, and all of the hours involved, in presenting an issue to Redwood City?  I have done so and it was horrendous. I would also question whether they, as an individual, feel that they can be effective in doing so? I would ask Supervisor Gordon how many times, other than sending his representative to MCC meetings; he was personally on the midcoast in 2007 to connect with the community? 

The MCC is a volunteer council consisting of individuals with divergent styles and views. It takes any team some time to work out differences and function as a whole, much less one in this contentious atmosphere.  In addition the Council has two new members (including myself) who are inexperienced in the policies and procedures involved in sitting on a board as an elected official.  The county provided training with legal counsel on January 19th after the first two meetings.  Some critics seem to expect the Council to have hit the ground running, which, under the circumstances, is unrealistic.

In team sports there is a belief that when one player falters the rest of the team picks up the slack and carries the team to victory.  This analogy can be applied to the MCC in the context of the community at large.  The council bashing can continue, the Council possibly disbanded and the community members left to fend on their own.  Or the community, press and government, can cut the Council some slack, support our efforts to create order out of chaos, and a working council that represents the best interests of the community.

It is unfortunate that I have to come to this forum to obtain the informed overview, creative insights and suggestions for the MCC I am seeing here.  This is exactly what we need the community contributing to the Council. We are aware of the meeting deficiencies and are working on ways to make them more effective.  We intend to redefine the MCC, one meeting at a time.  Maybe a viability committee would be a good place to start.  Maybe the contributors here would like to be the first to sign up.  The Council has only outlived its usefulness if no one uses it, and, contrary to certain sources-we are all ears…

Deborah, thanks for posting.

I think maybe it’s a mistake to expect Midcoasters to come to MCC and perhaps MCC should be reaching out to the Midcoast. I don’t know how much of this you’ve already done, but by participating here on Coastsider and other places, you’re going to reach a broader cross-section of the community than you ever will by holding meetings and workshops.

That’s the reason you’re seeing a livelier discussion here than you might on a Wednesday night at Seton.

I think that MCC is really important to the Midcoast and I want to help increase its ties to the community. Americans tend to isolate themselves from their community and the lack of a downtown, the disconnection of Midcoast communities, and our powerlessness before the county makes it even worse here.

Deborah & Barry

This is a great place to get the public involved, which didn’t exist a few years ago.  Our community is changing, and we are all struggling with how to continue.  The recent post on this site (In response to Rich Gordon’s letter) included viewpoints from all over the political spectrum, yet I didn’t see it as bashing at all, I saw it as a reasonable, intelligent discussion by members of a community that is struggling to figure out exactly how to proceed.

If we have an issue, and we have many, but just take a random one, like a bathroom at Surfer’s Beach.  Anyone who is interested, can…Write letters to the Supervisors, Meet with Supervisor Gordon in Redwood City, meet with Supervisor Gordon during his office hours at the Sherrif’s substation, contact the director of environmental services (Lisa Grote), meet with the Parks Director, form a neighborhood group to promote the issue and start a letter writing campaign, post a thread on coastsider, make a slide show or video, start their own website, or go to a MidCoast Council Meeting, and bring up the idea.

In order to direct issues to the MCC, we have to; 1. Show coastsiders that their chances to effect change are greater than any of the above alternatives, and; 2. Show the Supervisors that the MCC speaks for a large number of the residents.  The MCC would be a great place for the community to come for information, and channel public input to the supervisors.

The ball is in our court, we have to accomplish something, and we have to bring in the public, and re-building our relationship with the County.  Lets keep talking, discussing, posting and find a way to effect change in a positive way.