Midcoast Power Grab: Letter to the MCC
Friday, February 4, 2011
Chair Len Erickson and Members
Midcoast Community Council
Post Office Box 248
Moss Beach, CA 94038
Re: Serving on Multiple Boards with Overlapping Responsibilities
Dear Chair Erickson and Members of the Council,
At the February 1, 2011 Midcoast Park Lands (MPL) meeting the directors and members of the public discussed concerns about the MPL, Vice President serving on multiple boards with overlapping responsibilities. Both of the Midcoast Community Council (MCC) designated representatives on the MPL board, and members of the public raised concerns about the overlapping leadership role that one person — MPL Vice President — has on multiple unincorporated Midcoast groups. It should be noted that the wife of the Vice President also serves on the MPL board and is an elected board member of Granada Sanitary District (GSD).
I would like to bring to your attention the fact that the unincorporated Midcoast currently has ten or more groups with overlapping responsibilities, relating to parks and recreation. They are:
• Surfrider, San Mateo Chapter, Ed Larenas, Chair, board meetings are open to the public.
• Friends of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (FMR), Ellen Gartside, Chair, board meetings are not open to the public.
• Midcoast Parks and Recreation Committee (MPRC) Len Erickson, “Volunteer Coordinator” appointed by Dave Holland, County staff. Meetings held at GSD are open to the public.
• Midcoast Park Lands (MPL) Jim Blanchard, President, Len Erickson, Vice President and Dave Holland, County staff representative. Meetings held at GSD are open to the public.
• Friends of Quarry Park (FoQP), Jim Blanchard and Len Erickson. Meetings held at Quarry Park and GSD are open to the public.
Burnham Strip Committee (BSC), Len Erickson, Co-Chair and Leni Schultz, Co-Chair. Meetings are held at GSD and are open to the public.
• Coastside Preservation and Recreation, Inc. (CP&R), Todd Bazzill, President and Bill Hill, Treasurer. Status of group and board meetings are unknown.
• Highway 1 Citizens Committee (H1CC) Len Erickson, “manager” appointed by Dave Holland, County staff to select committee members and Neil Merrilees “group leader” also appointed by county staff. The first H1CC meeting held in February 2011 was closed to the public. Read HMB Review article for more info on appointments: </b>http://www.hmbreview.com/news/article_952d580c-9cef-5824-bc78-5fec88bc3f83.html
• Citizens Beach Access (CBA), Neil Merrilees, Leader. Meetings are not open to the public.
• Dredge the Harbor, Brian Overfelt, Group Organizer. Meetings are open to the public.
Ten or more groups dealing with recreation does seem just a tad problematic, but the really problematic part, in my opinion, is that the Midcoast Community Council (MCC) chair and past chair currently serve in leadership roles on the above named groups. The current MCC Chair is Chair, Co-Chair, Vice President, County staff appointed “Coordinator”, County staff appointed “Manager” and a leader of six unincorporated Midcoast groups.
Membership on the Highway 1 Citizens Committee (H1CC) and the Citizens Beach Access group is not open to the public and not open to public review. Membership on H1CC and CBA should be primarily selected by majority action of the MCC at a public meeting.
I appreciate the volunteer community work of the MCC Chair and of the past MCC Chair, nevertheless, I believe simultaneously serving in leadership roles on multiple boards with overlapping responsibilities causes groups to become incestuously controlled by the narrowly conceived agendas, opinions, and biases, coming largely from a lack of diverse leadership.
Community decisions should be made by community participation.
In short, I am concerned that the lack of diverse leadership stifles healthy dialogue, limits community outreach, and deters public input from effectively influencing the organizational structure of the MCC, MPRC, MPL, H1CC, FoQP, BSC and CBA.
The Doctrine of Incompatible Offices forbids someone from holding two public offices that have even a potential overlap in public duties. The Doctrine has been a part of English common law for hundreds of years and began appearing in California judicial opinions over 70 years ago. This was made an explicit part of California law in 2005 (SB 274).
Technically the “doctrine of incompatible office” does not apply to a body that only has advisory powers, however in 2009 the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors forbid the election of current members of existing Coastside boards to the MCC.
No one can serve two masters. Someone’s loyalty to one office may mean a compromise of their responsibilities to another. More importantly, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the process may be compromised.
While the “doctrine of incompatible office” does not technically apply to advisory groups, the “doctrine” should still be followed, and therefore I ask that both Len Erickson, MCC Chair and Neil Merrilees, past MCC Chair step down from leading all but one board, citizens group, or council.
Looks like Len Erickson and his good-old-boy buddy Dave Holland, Assistant County Manager are continuing to lead the sheep to slaughter in this boring meeting video.
During the Traffic and Trails “charrette” in 2009 the public overwhelmingly voiced support for the parallel trail and safe Highway 1 crossings. The Parallel Trail is a pedestrian and bicycle trail “parallel” to Highway 1 that will go from Montara to Half Moon Bay. The trail will provide safe access for children riding bicycles to and from school, people commuting to work and shopping.
“The Parallel Trail” and Highway 1 crossings near the Devil’s Slide Tunnel were left out of the Highway 1 Safety and Mobility Improvement Study. The report produced by the Local Government Commission does not accurately represent community priorities. This overt omission is not helpful to Midcoast residents who voiced a strong need for common sense traffic and trail improvements. For more info on the Clatrans plans for Highway 1 crossings near the Devil’s Slide Tunnel please go to: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45820096/Devil’s-Slide-Pedestrian-Bicycle-Crossings
Erickson and Holland hand selected a group that met with the Local Government Commission trail/traffic engineers in advance of the Traffic and Trails “charrette” workshop. Unfortunately the hand selected group of “yes men” did not question Erickson and Holland’s agenda and never raised concerns about the omission of the parallel trail and safe Highway 1 crossings from the report funded by a Caltrans grant.
Link to Highway 1 Safety and Mobility Improvement Study: http://www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/Attachments/parks/Files/Parks Planning/Highway 1 Safety and Mobility Improvement Study.pdf
Hopefully members of the new exclusive Highway 1 Citizens Committee (H1CC) will amend the report to accurately reflect the needs of the community. HICC members please don’t go along with this charade! Please refuse to attend closed meeting and invite the public to all future meetings. Stop perpetuating shadow government on the Midcoast.
Barry Parr, editor and publisher of Coastsider and April Vargas, past MCC member and candidate for county supervisor are both members of the Highway 1 Citizens Committee.
All this recent Highway 1 hoo-rah over the past few years is simply in service of the county’s desire to urbanize infrastructure in order to support greater midcoast overdevelopment. Just as the county rejiggered requirements for membership on the MCC to serve its political desires, handpicked county committees are chosen to operate with a range of options that serve the county’s unsustainable overdevelopment agenda. Should such a committee stray from the county’s desired outcome; represent most citizens in midcoast communities; and come up with appropriate suggestions for the coastside that are consistent with the physical environment, the LCP, and the Coastal Act, it would be replaced, just as the work of a prior standing Parks and Rec Committee of the previously (more representative) MCC that dealt with the same topics over quite a few years is being ignored.
Thus we get expensive, paved, road-width projects to fill “gaps” in the coastal trail that do not exist because we already have established, serviceable coastal trails on better routes in the places involved. And we get primary attention to unnecessary expansions of Highway 1 and urban “solutions” to intersections rather than the modest parallel bikepath/trail we could use for alternative transportation and the safe crossings of 1 that can prevent some of the injuries and loss of life to locals. Only if we first buy into the development-boosting, money-wasting urban infrastructure expansions will we get the things we really need. It is one job of the stacked committees to see to that, whether all members realize it or not.
Carl May: “All this [fill in the blank] over the past few years is simply in service of the county’s desire to urbanize infrastructure in order to support greater midcoast overdevelopment.”
That simple framework, Ladies and Gentlemen, allows you to understand everything that happens in local and County government.
In this regard, it is interesting to note that County-favored MCC politician Neil Merillees is in the business of building and selling multi-million dollar ocean front “homes” that were orginally permitted for construction under the assumption that the structure would be “visitor-serving.”
>>That simple framework, Ladies and Gentlemen, allows you to understand everything that happens in local and County government.<<
Oh, it’s either that or maybe certain individuals come off as so shrill and paranoid, not to mention disagreeable, that they have effectively made themselves political eunuchs. People in the county government think we’re crazy. They are attracted to people who don’t come off as crazy. Go figure.
C’mon Carl, c’mon Kevin. I haven’t even seen either of you at a local meeting in years. How can you complain that you are being ignored?
The County has earned a reputation for unresponsiveness. At public meetings Midcoast residents have asked County Supervisors and staff for assistance with drainage problems, road closure, safe Highway 1 crossings and the “Parallel Trail” with little or no response. These public safety and emergency concerns have been put off indefinitely.
Midcoast residents can’t help but notice that unintelligent planning is on the front burner. Designing and building a million dollar staircase in the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve without addressing a major drainage problem is a shame and waste of public funds. The staircase is currently being undermined by stormwater runoff from an open drain pipe located next to the foundation of the staircase. Midcoast residents should expect a project that took over 30 years to build and was completed less than four months ago to be designed with adequate drainage in mind.
It is my understanding that the engineering of the new staircase cost considerably more than construction. If you look into the cost be sure to request the engineering costs as well as the construction cost. The project was outsourced to outside firms.
I would like to know why the staircase engineering didn’t include an intelligent plan to address stormwater drainage.
Link to Staircase Ribbion Cutting: http://www.thepelicaneye.com/2010/10/fmr-seal-cove-staircase-ribbon-cutting.html
Hereabouts, part of an individual’s learning process, what was once described to me as an element of my “civics lesson,” is getting to know when participation in something has a chance of being productive. “Productive” in a sense of positive results. If your life counts for anything, it makes good sense to avoid efforts that are a waste of time or, worse, counted as support for a controlled, manipulated, short-term-money-making, growth agenda to make the midcoast a worse place to live by destroying its features and character.
You only encourage politicians and bureaucrats by taking part in their contrived games. At the very least, it encourages the lie “there was public participation in the decision.”
The immediate decisions promoting further overdevelopment on the midcoast are predetermined on a political and bureaucratic level, primarily at the county level. Studies by outside consultants, meetings, and hearings merely provide an artificial rationale for formalizing those decisions and expose areas that will have to be explained away in order to grease the skids for the outcome. Even if some members of the purely advisory MCC were not of a “go along to get along” bent and sometimes took a stand with fellow council members against the desires of our foreign masters in Redwood City, the council would be ignored when it did not produce the desired “advice.” Decades, now, of experience bear out the truth of these simple observations of the special-interest-serving, political realities.
The facts of our geography, resources, and population make the anti-democratic overlords in county government the crazy ones. A kind of craziness that coddles an innumerate religious belief in unsustainable “growth.” A kind of craziness that shoots bursts of short-term dollars to a favored few while sentencing all of us to a meaner, more expensive future in a degraded environment over the long term. We are already dealing with those problems bigtime due to past policies, deals, and dictates forced by our absentee government. A future on the set track we are on now promises more of the same. Those who think they can get positive results for our communities and environment by joining in cake-baking parties with county politicians and department heads are, at best, enablers or, more likely if they join in the urbanizing mind-set, also certifiable.
Apologies…failing to log in under my own, I mistakenly posted the previous message under Kay’s name.
One’s opinion doesn’t lose its value due to failure to participate in local meetings.
And it’s understandable that Coastsiders don’t participate.
I haven’t seen any evidence that the Board of Supervisors—when considering policy for the Coastside—gives as much weight to the MCC as it does to SAMCAR.
Speak of the devil! Any news on the lawsuit Michon Coleman, SAMCAR Director of Government Affairs filed against her employer Steve Blanton, SAMCAR Executive Officer and the SAMCAR Board of Directors?
>>One’s opinion doesn’t lose its value due to failure to participate in local meetings.<<
It sure does in my eyes if the claim is that the powers-that-be are ignoring us.
>>I haven’t seen any evidence that the Board of Supervisors—when considering policy for the Coastside—gives as much weight to the MCC as it does to SAMCAR.<<
It’s an error to consider any government institution a monolithic entity. The “Board of Supervisors” is not a fixed thing with one brain. We’ve got a new supervisor. Can you list for me the things our local people have done to welcome him and communicate their views to him? Or has our little local ideology already written him off as just one more of—can I quote Carl here?—“our foreign masters in Redwood City,” those “anti-democratic overlords in county government the crazy ones” who kowtow to a “controlled, manipulated, short-term-money-making, growth agenda” who require us to join their “cake-baking parties” tricking us into “taking part in their contrived games.”
Ohhh, that’s politically effective. I bet the Board will reconsider their behavior after reading *that* post. Showed them good.
If you have been paying attention to local midcoast dealings with the county’s would-be dictators over the years, you learn that the midcoast situation is twisted to the benefit of the rulers not because the overdevelopment-pushing county is not hearing from coastsiders (including thousands of hours of input from members of the MCC when it was more representative and less capitulative), but because the county, from the supes through most departmental staff, can get away with what they wish because there are no negative consequences for doing so. They can serve themselves or whatever supporters they wish without significant repercussions. The material facts of the midcoast will remain irrelevant to them.
What’s truly silly, given the record of decades, is to imagine that playing footsie with the supes and department heads will give more juice to one’s position. Welcome a new supe as if he is still a blank slate in terms of positions on matters of importance to the midcoast? Do his statements and political connections over the years, his campaign for supe, and behavior so far while a supe not count for anything? He is the one who has plugged himself into the traditional coastbusting political hole in the pegboard.
Being “politically effective” when an entire political arena, such as our county government, is stacked and constrained so as to omit anything that is not within the agenda of the “powers that be” is as useless as trying to project a spitball into Olympus Mons.
The self-annointed “politically practical” souls who cozy up to the sold-out “leaders” in Redwood City might get known at meetings and claim an occasional victory as they get appointed to a committee full of rubber-stampers or get name recognition at the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors, but they have proven entirely ineffective when it comes to changing the direction of county government from one of making the coast worse to making the place better for its citizens. Some are nothing better than our local members of the money-interest groups that push the supes’ buttons. Often, they are the ones who couch their approach in the false reason that one kind of softer, slower-growth overdevelopment is better than another or that slowing the rate at which life on the midcoast gets worse (due to the environmental and resource degradation that goes with overdevelopment and its attendant overpopulation) is actually making our place a bit better.
So bake your cakes, film meaningless meetings of powerless groups, and post insipid exit interviews with long-time corrupt (or corrupted—same difference in outcome) supes,
Darin, if your epic-fail-loving philosophy demands. Maybe you have a compliant urban mind-set and look forward to documenting more of our area’s county-facilitated parcel-by-parcel, project-by-project environmental death march. How would I know?
We’ll have a chance to gauge each Supervisor’s prioritization of SAMCAR vs. the MCC in the upcoming vote on the LCP Update. There are a series of issues (lot retirement, security of our water supply, adequacy of infrastructure, etc) that pit one against the other.
Darin: What odds are you offering for those who want to bet on SAMCAR?
>>Darin: What odds are you offering for those who want to bet on SAMCAR?<<
Vs. the MCC? Thanks for my first laugh of the morning! At the last MCC meeting the members got into a near fistfight and one stormed out. Not too unusual for an MCC meeting. Normally it seems content with being a letter-writing sock puppet.
The MCC seems hell bent on destroying what little credibility it has left.
Which would you choose? Any contest between SAMCAR and the MCC is a mere illusion. It would have to be SAMCAR—there’s no one else in the ring.
Some may never get it: the MCC, as it has become through county dictates and manipulation, is a powerless plaything of the county. Go along with what the county wants to please its favored special interests, and the MCC (or any other political sycophant sucking up) will be cited and counted as support. Do anything contrary to the agenda of those running the county for the benefit of a few, and you will be dismissed. Either way, more decline and nothing good for the midcoast comes of one’s efforts.
Why waste effort on a lost cause? I feel sorry for all the members of the MCC, including ones now on the council, who have worked long and hard to make the midcoast a better place to live, to protect the values of our place, to further the possibility of a good and sustainable life for us citizens. To no avail. Because when push comes to shove on contentious matters, the MCC has no oomph. What the county cannot bend to its will, as with stacked committees it designates, it will discount.
Playing political footsie gets nowhere. Nowhere better, anyway. You can become one of them, go along with their agenda, or go fish. You can paint smiley faces on the hippo butts of county politicians to your heart’s satisfaction, but the hippos will still do what hippos do best out of that end.
On a midcoast level, there are currently only two obvious avenues that have even a remote possibility of achieving any governmental improvement concerning place-related aspects of our lives: change those in county government holding political power over our area and challenge county misdeeds at state and federal levels when there are over-riding laws and regulations violated. Good luck with finding the long-term dedication, organization, money, and agreement to achieve anything significant by those routes. But sincere thanks to those who try.
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