Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rebuilding California - San Mateo County Summit

This past Saturday, January 9, I spent the morning at Canada College in Redwood City at a San Mateo County summit of elected officials and administrative officers from throughout San Mateo County to discuss the impact of the state budget woes on our community.

The event, called "Rebuilding California From the Ground Up" was moderated by San Mateo County Supervisor Rich Gordon, the Chair of The Cities Counties Schools Partnership. Also in attendance were Assemblyman Jerry Hill, Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom, and over 80 city council members, school board members, and administrative officials from throughout our county.

We heard from speakers who discussed the latest budget woes in California and met in small groups to discuss issues facing our particular communities.

As your new Councilperson, I was thankful to have recently met many of you face-to-face this summer and fall, and so was truly able to bring a personal perspective on the issues facing San Mateo.

Among some of the many items discussed at the summit included:

  • The problem created by the requirement that the budget in California must be passed by a 2/3 vote in the State legislature. Other than California, only two other states of our 50 states has this 2/3 requirement. This 2/3 requirement creates gridlock in Sacramento, and was described by one speakers as "extreme government that serves no logical purpose."

  • The creation of laws in Sacramento and through the initiative process that place additional requirements on cities and counties without providing sources of funding to enact these polices. These "unfunded mandates" require cities and counties to use general funds that could otherwise be used to fix roads, clean up our parks, or provide services to seniors and children.

  • The current efforts underway to reform California through a Constitutional Convention. California has not had a Constitutional Convention to rework our Constitution in over 90 years, and yet the idea is not a radical thought. Many states have a system in place to review their Constitutions ever 5-10 years to make sure that they are serving their citizens' needs. California's Constitution is currently a patchwork mess of amendments through initiatives that is unwieldy and confusing.
All of this is important to San Mateo because the quality of government in Sacramento directly affects our quality of life in San Mateo. As voters, you approved the sales tax measure and hotel tax measure this past November to help close a $4 million dollar gap in the city's budget that was due in some parts to decreased funding from Sacramento. In the upcoming fiscal year, the State estimates another $21 billion shortfall which will again trickle down to cities like San Mateo.

Already, the proposed budget of the Governor takes aim at the quaility of life in cities like San Mateo. For example, the Governor's proposed budget suggests raising revenue through the increased use of "red light cameras" at intersections throughout California. While I support red light cameras if they enhance public safety on our city streets, I absolutely oppose them if they are meant to simply generate revenue, especially if that revenue will not be used to enhance public safety in our own communities.

As your Councilman, I will continue to represent you at meetings that discuss the future of our great State. Cooperation between local, regional, and statewide interests will be necessary to protect our communities, and the communities of all Californians. San Mateo, as the second largest city in San Mateo County, must be part of that cooperative effort, and so I will continue to spend whatever time is necessary to be part of these crucial discussions.

I would also love to discuss what I learned at this summit with all of you, my fellow San Mateo neighbors. If you would like me to come talk to your neighborhood association, school, or church group about these of any other issues, I encourage you to contact me at:

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