Monday, May 24, 2010

San Mateo and Foster City to Share Fire Chief Dan Belville

The cities of San Mateo and Foster City are pleased to announce the appointment of San Mateo Fire Chief Dan Belville to also serve as Fire Chief for the Foster City Fire Department effective July 1, 2010.  Fire Chief Belville will succeed Foster City Fire Chief Tom Reaves who is retiring in June.  A shared services agreement is being prepared for approval by the City Councils of both San Mateo and Foster City.

Fire Chief Dan Belville is highly qualified to assume the leadership of both departments and to assess the potential for additional opportunities for shared fire services.  Fire Chief Belville has the full confidence and support of both City Managers.  Fire Chief Belville will remain an employee of San Mateo and San Mateo will be reimbursed by Foster City for its share (50%) of his compensation.  City Manager Susan Loftus will continue to provide overall supervision of Fire Chief Belville, who will also report to City Manager Jim Hardy to represent both cities for full-service emergency response services.

The retirement in June of Foster City Fire Chief Tom Reaves presents an opportunity to pursue shared fire services between our communities, particularly with respect to the management and administrative support functions and programs of the respective fire departments.  San Mateo and Foster City are interested in exploring shared fire services as a way of delivering these important public safety services to our communities at a reduced cost.  Both cities believe they have an obligation to the taxpayers to study cost-effective service delivery alternatives.

San Mateo and Foster City are natural partners for shared fire services given their geographic proximity and a long history of working together under the current County model of delivering fire services which includes the centralized dispatching of the closest fire resources to a particular call to minimize response times. Both San Mateo and Foster City are open to consider these shared fire service opportunities as they are identified.  The cities have made no decisions or predeterminations about the outcome of such an exploration but will keep an open mind as findings and recommendations are made.

The cities are committed to taking the time to fully analyze these shared fire service opportunities and evaluate their merits prior to making a decision.  Decisions will ultimately be made based on what is most advantageous to the cities of San Mateo and Foster City.  What is in the best interests of each community will be a guiding principle in this decision-making process.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Raising Awareness About Hepatitis B

This past Monday I attended the Jade Ribbon Youth Council's ribbon tying ceremony in downtown San Mateo to raise awareness about Hepatitis B. 

Hepatitis B is a health issue that affects all of us, killing over one million people worldwide each year.  And although anyone can be infected, people of Asian heritage are ten times more likely to contract liver cancer as a result of infection by "Hep B".

What is particularly tragic about this health concern is that there is a vaccine which will completely protect individuals from Hep B.  Language, cultural, and economic barriers prevent many Asians from getting tested and inoculated, which is why the work of the Jade Ribbon Youth Council and the San Mateo Hep B Free Organization are so important. 

Below are some photos from this week's event.  Keep an eye out during the coming year for a free Hep B screening near you! 

In downtown San Mateo to raise awareness about Hep B

Members of the Jade Ribbon Youth Council leading the flag salute at City Hall!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

San Mateo Kicks Off "Hep B Free" Awareness Week - Get Tested!

The City of San Mateo kicks off “Hepatitis B Awareness Week” today with a ribbon tying ceremony at 88 East 4th Avenue in Downtown San Mateo at 3:30 PM, followed by a proclamation from Mayor John Lee at the City Council meeting at 7:00 PM.

Organized by the Jade Ribbon Youth Council, a group of high school volunteers from San Mateo, the ribbon tying ceremony in Downtown San Mateo will tie green ribbons along 4th Avenue from El Camino Real to San Mateo Avenue to raise awareness among the public about the “silent killer” known as Hepatitis B. San Mateo City Councilmember David Lim will be on hand at 3:30 PM to tie the first ribbon at the corner of East 4th Avenue and San Mateo Avenue.

Following the ribbon tying event, representatives of the Jade Ribbon Youth Council will lead the Pledge of Allegiance to open the City Council meeting at 7:00 PM at City Hall, and will then receive a proclamation from Mayor John Lee declaring this week to be “Hepatitis B Awareness Week”. Over the next month, free screenings for “Hep B” will be held at various locations throughout the Peninsula.

Hepatitis B is a virus which affects people of Asian descent at a higher rate than any other group. Hep B attacks the liver and can cause one in four people to die of liver cancer if not properly monitored. Each year, over one million people die worldwide of complications from Hepatitis B despite the existence of a vaccine that will inoculate people from the virus.

Councilmember David Lim stated, “The real tragedy of Hep B is that there is a vaccine which will prevent infection, but due to a lack of public awareness about Hep B, especially among low-income and immigrant Asians, many people become needlessly infected and die each year from this virus.” Lim added, “Today’s ribbon tying ceremony and recognition by the San Mateo City Council will help raise awareness among our neighbors of the need to be screened and vaccinated against Hep B, especially in the 20% of our population who are Asian-American and thus are most susceptible to infection.”

Lim noted that he was screened for Hep B recently to show people how easy the process is, and also was vaccinated against the virus when he was younger. “I urge everyone to get screened,” said Lim.

Let's make San Mateo Hep B Free!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wonderful Art in San Mateo

Last week I was honored to attend two events that showcase the artistic talents and community spirit of our City.

On Thursday, May 6, I attended the installation of a painting by local artist Ruth Waters.  Ms. Waters donated to the City of San Mateo Library her painting, "September Sunset".  Her beautiful artwork now enhances the lounge area of the 3rd floor of the main library as you come up the stairs.  

Thank you to Ms. Waters for her generous donation to the San Mateo Library system, and to our Library Board of Trustees and Library staff for making this possible!

Artist Ruth Waters and her painting, "September Sunset" on display as a gift to the San Mateo City Library (3rd Floor)

On Friday, May 7 I was pleased to present awards to the winners of an art contest to raise awareness for the 2010 U.S. Census.  Sponsored by the Mural, Music and Arts Project, students from San Mateo High School won awards for visual arts, graffiti arts, multimedia arts, and written poetry.  Their wonderful artwork is currently on display in San Mateo City Hall.

Thanks to San Mateo art teachers Julie Stock and Elizabeth Yapp for organizing the event!

Thanks to San Mateo High School Faculty and Student Winners of the Census 2010 Art Contest!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Keeping Us Safe: Observing Our Police Department First Hand

As the City explores the possibility of consolidation of police services, this past weekend I rode along with the San Mateo Police Department to get a better idea of how our Police work in our community to keep us all safe.

On Friday night I rode along with the "Neighborhood Response Team" or NRT.   

NRT is a specialty unit of the San Mateo Police Department.  Comprised of various officers who patrol in uniform in unmarked patrol cars, they are not "bound" to patrol areas in black and white police cars.  This allows the NRT unit the flexibility to respond to community issues and "hot issues" that arise each day.

While the NRT runs operations as diverse as school truancy, illegal taxi cabs, and illegal massage parlors, some of their most important work is in gang suppression.

Many residents do not realize that San Mateo has a number of active gangs -- and we have the NRT unit to thank for this lack of knowledge!  Many of our gang members are felons convicted for dealing drugs or for committing violent assaults and robberies.  NRT officers spend time keeping track of known gang members by identifying when they enter our City, when they are trying to recruit our children into gangs, and when they are trying to stir up trouble. 

Besides keeping track of known gang members and letting them know that our community will not tolerate trouble, NRT officers also play a crucial role in community outreach.  NRT officers work hard to build relationships with at-risk youth by encouraging them to report crimes, steering them away from gangs, talking to their parents, and working to help them understand that there are positive benefits to staying out of gangs. 

On my ride-along with NRT units, I observed officers contact numerous known gang members just to let them know that the police were out there, and reminding them that no trouble would be tolerated.

I also got to see first hand as NRT officers contacted young kids loitering on various street corners and reminded them that there is nothing glamorous about gangs.  In every encounter, I was proud to see our officers conduct themselves with professionalism, courtesy, and poise.

In one instance, I observed how a number of youth first responded belligerently to police upon initial contact, but by the end of the conversation were sharing gum and jokes with the police officers before heeding the officers' advise to head home for the night.  Small encounters like that every day by our NRT unit and their fellow police officers help to keep our City safe. 

While police consolidation is an idea worth consolidating, we must be mindful to be aware of the delicate relationship built between units such as the NRT and the gangs and at-risk youth in our community.  These relationship take months, even years, to build, and once broken can not be easily rebuilt.  The issue of gangs and violence in our community is complex, and the days of having officers keep the peace in just black and white patrol cars is long gone.   Consolidation is worth exploring, but not at the expense of the specialty units that protect our City while we all sleep.

Thanks again to the men and women of the San Mateo Police Department who allowed me to observe what they do for us each night and day.