In the wake of today’s release of a grand jury report that is severely critical of the present management of the San Mateo County Harbor District, Nicole David, a marine biologist from Half Moon Bay, is announcing her candidacy for a seat on the Harbor Commission in the upcoming November election.
The report from a San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury details a long string of budget deficits, rancorous meetings, lack of transparency, excessive benefits to commissioners, a stream of unfavorable media coverage, and a lack of public trust in the District’s ability to manage its $10 million annual budget, of which $5 million each year consists of taxpayer dollars.
The Grand Jury recommends dissolution of the Harbor District, and until that occurs, improvements in financial reporting, governance, and divestiture from some of the many activities that the District has assumed responsibility for.
Nicole David is eager to take on the challenge and improve operations at the Harbor District. Ms. David has a master’s degree in marine biology and has worked at the San Francisco Estuary Institute for 16 years, studying human impacts on the marine environment, particularly water quality in San francisco Bay. She has also served as president of the Northern California chapter of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Ms. David is an avid ocean swimmer, kayaker, and scuba diver.
“I'm excited to announce my candidacy for San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner in the November 2014 election,” said Ms. David. “If elected, I will honor commitments and not make excuses because accountability is important to me. I want to make a difference for the coast of San Mateo County, be fiscally responsible, and bring true transparency to District actions.”
More information on the candidate is available at Nicole David
Nicole David for Harbor District 2014 (FPPC ID # 1365892)
Richmond City Council has had it with foul-mouthed hecklers at its public meetings. The council votes July 15 on a proposal to ban disruptive speakers for six months. At present, policy is simply to remove loudmouths from the meeting in progress.
"Allowing a handful of troublemakers to take control of public meetings has consequences beyond just inappropriately insulting elected officials," writes San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson (June 20). "This kind of behavior is the antithesis of free speech and expression -- it's a toxic practice that thwarts the democratic process...it discourages public participation, the very essence of democratic rule. People stop listening and watching, and soon enough they might stop caring altogether."
Anyone who has watched the freak show at Pacifica City Council "oral communications" (sounds like a dental procedure!) over the years should appreciate what Richmond proposes to protect democracy from demagogues. Take a hint, Pacifica City Council. Stand up to bullies.
John Maybury, Editor & Publisher
We've long suspected that Mayor Nihart doesn't care enough to be here. Now we see it's true: Mayor Nihart IS phoning it in!
June 23, 2014 City Council meeting:
"This closed session meeting will include participation of Mayor Mary Ann Nihart by teleconference located at 4370 Dickerson Road, Charlottesville, VA 22911-5805."
A lengthy closed session presumably had secure phone lines. Concerned citizens wonder how it is that the mayor can phone in to council meetings yet not have General Plan/Local Coastal Plan/DEIR meetings videotaped for the electorate!
Stay posted for video!
By John Keener, Special to Riptide
At the Pacifica General Plan Update open house the other night, I became aware of a change in land use designation that I believe calls into question the transparency of the planning process.
In question is the "Calson property" on Pedro Point, approximately five acres immediately west of Pedro Point shopping center, separated from the Pacific Ocean by the old Ocean Shore Railroad embankment. It is a low-lying tract subject to seasonal flooding. One would imagine the flooding will only get worse as the sea level rises.
This property was changed from a land use of "vacant/undeveloped" in the existing Coastal Land Use Plan to "coastal residential mixed use" in the updated draft. It is the only tract with this land use designation in Pacifica. It is currently zoned "commercial," but with the new land use designation, rezoning to "residential" would be necessary to be consistent with the new Coastal Land Use Plan. Once rezoned, the "Calson property" could accommodate up to 80 houses. For comparison, there are about 230 houses in the entire Pedro Point neighborhood.
The Pedro Point Community Association has repeatedly asked throughout this process that the property retain the original use of "vacant/undeveloped" with a zoning of "commercial." This would prevent residential development. There is no mention of the community association's comments, and apparently no "paper trail" that would tell us how and why the land use designation for this property was changed. But it is very likely that the property owner was involved in the change.
In my opinion, this change in land use designation is an example of the lack of transparency that many have complained about in city government. It taints the planning process with backroom dealing hidden from public view. The city should explain exactly what caused this change, and reverse it.
Opinion from Fix Our Harbors:
Taxpayers are upset about questionable activities by the San Mateo County Harbor District, most recently its admission that reserve funds are used to cover operating costs—up to $2 million this fiscal year. Read more:
"Harbor district details missing checks"
The harbor district made headlines in October 2013 when some $38,000 in undeposited checks were found in an employee's desk drawer in July 2013. In some cases, boat owners who had paid rent had ended up falling in arrears, according to the district’s records. Other tenants were never charged their monthly berth fees. ..." Read the rest of the story here:
After that revelation, the harbor district made a bid to destroy records, including meeting minutes:
By John Keener, Special to Riptide
There's a common misconception that the public is in favor of the Highway 1 widening plan between Rockaway and Vallemar put forward by Caltrans.
Residents of Linda Mar bear the full effect of traffic on Highway 1 in the mornings and evenings, and would also bear the brunt of construction delays for years. My results from canvassing door-to-door refute the notion that Linda Mar residents favor widening Highway 1.
I knocked randomly on about 1,100 doors in Linda Mar in the order they were on the streets. At about half of the doors, someone answered. Of the folks I talked to, about 60 percent signed the petition to City Council asking it to hold hearings on alternatives to widening. This was about a 4-1 margin over those in favor of widening.
The most frequent reason they gave for signing the petition was the merge from three lanes down to two in each direction that would occur at either end of the widening project. Comments like "Are they (Caltrans) stupid?" were common.
Caltrans has run roughshod over residents in Linda Mar and other Pacifica neighborhoods in both the draft and final environmental impact reports on the widening, finding (without exception) that the suggestions and objections put forward by citizens were without merit.
City Council has not listened to pleas for public hearings on alternatives, choosing to hide behind excuses that it would wait for lawsuits to be settled. Council should hire a traffic consultant to do the job that Caltrans did not do – exploring alternatives to widening that are less damaging to Pacifica.
When will Linda Mar and other Pacifica neighborhoods be heard?
By Ian Butler, Riptide Correspondent
As one who has closely followed events that led to the shooting of Errol Chang by the Daly City SWAT team on March 18, 2014, I was shocked to read District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe's report on the incident and find what appears to be a deliberate attempt to whitewash the real story.
My concerns about the D.A.’s objectivity began with the press release he sent out a few days prior, in particular this quote: "It is our belief that both officers… to the last moment sought to avoid the very result demanded by the conduct of Errol Chang."
This statement shows an ignorance of mental illness. How can the conduct of a diagnosed schizophrenic in the midst of a psychotic episode demand that he be killed? If anything, his conduct demanded patience and de-escalation, but the police exhibited neither.
My concerns were affirmed when the full report came out, playing up the officers' heroism while ignoring or even misrepresenting the most troubling parts. In particular, after the police deployed their Tasers on Errol, the report reads: “He fell into his brother at one point, but was able to right himself and pull out the prongs.”
This doesn’t jibe with his brother Matt's account, which he shared at a Pacifica City Council meeting and which was reprinted in the Pacifica Tribune. As Matt put it, “One of the officers Tased Errol, and he started to run towards the house passing an officer and I tackled him. The officers were pointing their guns and yelling at me to get off of him, and pulled me off.”
I asked Matt and he said that he told the D.A. the same story, and said the officers involved later referred to him as the guy who “tackled his brother.” So how did that turn into Errol falling on him? Did the police change their story, and if the stories didn’t jibe, why would the D.A. report include only one side?
This is important because that moment was the best chance to prevent a standoff. Unfortunately, rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to restrain Errol, the six police officers pulled Matt off him, allowing Errol to enter the house.
Once in the house, the situation escalated further. Learning that there was a rifle in the house, albeit taken apart and hidden in three locations, police called in the SWAT team. It is tempting to second-guess the wisdom of parking a tank full of armed SWAT members in full view of a man who just said “Obama was trying to assassinate” him, confirming his worst delusions.
But the police did have to take the threat to public safety seriously. Nevertheless, they must have known that doing so could only increase Errol’s agitation and paranoia.
Six hours later, according to the report, the decision was made to enter the home, “as the approaching darkness would have compromised the safety of the officers.” At the time Errol had his arms out the front window in the surrender position, seemingly contained, but the police didn’t want to risk Errol finding the rifle after darkness fell.
Once the officers got into the home from the back, they discovered that Errol had constructed a barricade of “mattresses and furniture, which blocked the hallway from the front room where Mr. Chang was.”
What the report leaves out is that Errol’s father had told the officers that he had hidden the rifle in the bathroom, which was NOT behind the barricade. All they had to do at this point was search the bathroom for the rifle. If they had, they would have found that it was still there and that Errol was unarmed. Once Errol was known to be unarmed, the standoff could have continued indefinitely, with no risk to anyone.
But instead, the police chose to shoot flash-bang grenades into the living room—further agitating Errol—and tore down the barrier Errol had constructed, leaving themselves vulnerable to a frightened, psychotic, schizophrenic man with a knife. The outcome was inevitable. Errol tried to defend himself from this invading force, stabbing an officer in the arm, resulting in seven shots fired at him, killing him instantly.
When an officer is in imminent danger, using lethal force to stop the attacker is perfectly legal. The real question is, why put yourself in imminent danger when there is no need to do so? And why doesn’t the report even ask this question?
It also doesn’t ask why no mental health professionals were called to the scene. Surely, in six hours they could get an expert who might have steered them toward a more peaceful conclusion. All the report says is that Errol’s own doctor was unavailable.
Other parts of the report also leave out important context. It says that Errol “had been incarcerated for criminal conduct, including robbery” but leaves out the critical fact that the “criminal conduct” in question had occurred during his only previous psychotic breakdown, when he took a person’s cell phone because he believed the person was following him.
In addition, the report leaves out the fact that the police failed to collect five or six of the potentially dangerous flash-bangs from the house, and one was found under the neighbor’s home as well.
Of course, mere incompetence doesn’t rise to the level of criminal behavior, and perhaps is outside the scope of a D.A. investigation. But the report goes out of its way to show the officers' heroism, while leaving out any details that might show the heroic acts may have been unnecessarily dangerous. And it doesn’t begin to question the wisdom of treating a mentally ill man like a common criminal.
This is just one more step on a long road to justice. It may take a civil trial for the full story to emerge. Meanwhile, more people are being shot in eerily similar circumstances, most recently in Half Moon Bay, where Yanira Serrano-Garcia, an 18-year-old woman with special needs armed with only a butter knife, was killed by a police officer a mere 20 seconds after he arrived on the scene. There are many reasons why this kind of thing is so prevalent, and this D.A. report underscores one of them—officers who do so face little fear of recrimination.
It is time for our society to have a serious discussion of how we treat our mentally ill. Often they don’t get the treatment they need and end up homeless or in prison, and sometimes far worse than that. To add insult to injury, Matt’s mother Christine Goias recently received a letter from Social Security informing her that Errol’s disability claim had been denied. According to the letter, he was deemed “not disabled under our rules.” The events of March 18 suggest otherwise.
I recently interviewed Matt Chang, as well as Martin Fox, a lawyer working to implement Laura’s Law in the county, which makes it possible to intervene when the mentally ill become unstable.
By Lionel Emde, Riptide Correspondent
Pacifica City Council's agenda packet for the June 9 meeting was a long one, but if you read only one thing in it, it should be our new City Manager Lori Tinfow's budget report. In it, she details things such as:
§ Fund 25, Parking In-Lieu Fund. "This fund holds developer fees paid for meeting parking requirements in-lieu of building the actual parking required for a project. Of note here is that in November 2012, a sizable portion of the funds held ($308,000) was mistakenly included in information reported to the State of California as part of the Redevelopment Agency and transferred to the State. While unfortunate, such mistakes are not surprising given the high level of confusion for cities trying to meet changing State requirements surrounding the elimination of Redevelopment Agencies. The City will be requesting the return of the funds from the State in the next fiscal year."
And even better is the loan that time forgot: § Fund 09, Street Construction Fund. "This fund loaned approx. $2.2 million to Fund 22 in 2003. So far, staff has not discovered any repayment of the loan to date so the entire amount is shown as an “outstanding receivable” or “amount due” to the fund. Should we find evidence of any payment, an adjustment will be made."
Then there is deficit spending, which municipalities aren't supposed to engage in: § Fund 22, General Capital Improvement Fund. "In this fund, there are two items of note. First is the deficit shown at the end of each fiscal year-as of June 2014, the amount totals approx. $1.08 million. The City has been spending on projects that are not fully funded. Second, in parallel to Fund 09, the interfund loan of $2.2 million is shown here as well, as an 'outstanding loan repayment obligation.'"
I think these are the most logical questions I've heard from a public official in a long time: Fixing the Fund Deficits and Getting a Second Opinion. "A natural question after reviewing the All Funds Budget Summary (Attachment 2) and adding together the deficits would be “how did we get here?” While staff is still collecting history to better understand the answer to this question, our primary focus at this time is 'How are we going to fix this?' and the answer to this question is where I plan to focus most of my attention."
But the sum total of past fiscal mismanagement is staggering: "… the approximately $4 million total deficit shown across several funds is a problem that isn’t required to be fixed overnight. The City will continue to meet its obligations and City services will continue to be provided. …These deficits surfaced over the past few weeks in large part because of a new approach to presenting this information... As such, I have not had adequate time to fashion a complete plan to correct a problem that has likely been years in the making."
No kidding. Seven years to be precise, since our last finance director was shown the door by council, and an interim city manager going out the door. It's hard to know what went on, because apparently no one knew what they were doing. Tinfow states that she'll have to hire more outside financial help to figure out what's going on.
One of the best things council has done is to hire Tinfow as city manager. Her documents, methodology, and language are clear and straightforward. And council members should be hanging their heads in shame at what has been revealed – it's inexcusable.
REDWOOD CITY – Today, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution to establish California’s first county or city commission focused on the needs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community.
“This commission will further the cause of inclusiveness, create a resource to help inform future policy decisions affecting the LGBTQ community, and serve as a model for counties and cities in the State,” said Board President Dave Pine, the sponsor of the resolution to establish the commission.
In February of 2014, members of the San Mateo County LGBTQ community came together to request that the Board of Supervisors establish a San Mateo County LGBTQ Commission in order to improve the quality of life and well-being of LGBTQ County residents. In the ensuring months, at the direction of Supervisor Dave Pine, county staff worked with community representatives to develop guidelines for the commission and to define its potential goals.
"A perception exists that the LGBTQ folks in the Bay Area only flock to major urban cities like San Francisco or San Jose. But in reality, San Mateo County is home to a large number of LGBTQ citizens who currently lack a centralized body to express their needs to their local government,” said Jason Galisatus, past president of the Bay Area Youth Summit and the primary community activist who worked to establish the Commission. “I advocated to create this commission as it will provide a forum for developing collaborative solutions to the problems LGBTQ people face."
The Commission will have nine voting members appointed by the Board of Supervisors to serve three-year terms. The Commission will meet at least six times a year, implement a yearly work plan, and provide recommendations to the Board of Supervisors at least once a year.
Board of Supervisors President Dave Pine
Supervisor Adrienne Tissier
Contacts for the LGBTQ Commission working group representatives:
Rev. Terri Echelberger
Peninsula Metropolitan Community Church
Former Executive Director, Bay Area Youth Summit
President, Peninsula Stonewall Democratic Club
Four years ago I reached out to local Pacifica officials in an effort to have a crosswalk installed at the intersection of Palmetto and Clarendon by Sharp Park Golf Course.
As most residents are aware, this intersection provides access to a park, the beach, and Mori Point. It is also the path that many residents take to get to the 7-11, the Pottery Shop, as well as other small businesses in the area.
There are currently two crosswalks in that area. One crosswalk is a block away in one direction and almost three blocks away in the other direction, therefore, most pedestrians just cross the streets wherever and whenever the traffic allows.
The traffic is heavier now on Palmetto and Clarendon, especially during rush hour, weekends, and most sunny days. Currently, a Highway 1 exit sign points to the direction for coastal access (which is to cross the Palmetto/Clarendon intersection).
Four years ago the city engineer’s office responded to my inquiry. I was told that the intersection didn’t warrant enough traffic. My response was that I’ve never seen anyone or any meters counting vehicles.
I was told that crosswalks give a false sense of security to pedestrians when there is no stop sign. My response was that there are a number of crosswalks in Pacifica without stop signs, for example, the crosswalk one block away by 7-11 or the crosswalk by Eureka Square, or the lighted crosswalk at Manor by Tam’s Restaurant, just to name a few.
The city engineer’s office even said that there have NOT been any known casualties at that location. It was then that I realized the dialog had ended. Since then, Palmetto has undergone a major project putting in underground cables.
Although it seems that this would have been an opportune time to paint the street, nothing happened. Since then there have been several Fogfests, bike races, beach cleanup groups, and running events, all of which pass THAT intersection.
I have watched people walk their dogs, and children ride their bikes across this intersection. I’ve witnessed "close calls" between seniors on mobile scooters and motorists at this intersection. And I’ve seen horseback riders cross the street to ride on the sandy berm.
This month, I reached out to local officials again. I received an encouraging response from a City Council member that the city should re-evaluate the practices in determining when, how, and by whom the traffic count takes place.
I’m not sure whether anything will change at this intersection, but I am calling upon the good people of Pacifica who are familiar with this beautiful area to support this effort. We want to be proactive about this effort and not wait for a tragedy like the rip current warning signs at the beach that were deemed necessary only after people had drowned.
For the safety of pedestrians as well as bicyclists and motorists, I ask that everyone request that the City of Pacifica install a crosswalk to enable pedestrians to cross Palmetto Drive at Clarendon Road. I believe it is in our best interest to not only increase pedestrian safety, but also to create a broader mission to have livable streets and develop a cultural "share-the-road" mind-set in Pacifica.
Along with pavement markings, it is requested that signage notifying drivers of the presence of pedestrians and possibly improved lighting in the vicinity be added as well. Marked crosswalks are used to raise driver awareness of pedestrian crossings and direct pedestrians to preferred crossing points.
Please join other residents who believe increased infrastructure enhancements could better protect our community. If it is determined by officials that un-signalized intersections are a breeding ground for bad motorist behavior, then a crosswalk with a light system or stop sign is requested.
Pacificans and visitors deserve an option considered to be safe, accessible, and comfortable for walkers, the disabled, cyclists, and motorists, whether it be to access the bus stops, coastal recreational areas, and/or the local neighborhood businesses. We are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to give this issue priority attention.
SAMOS says: Here's a starter list of questions to ask Pacifica City Council candidates in the upcoming November election. Add your own questions to the list.
1. Other than family members, who are the top three financial contributors to your campaign?
2. No City Council members told us when they ran last time that they would try to raise our taxes. Would you seek another tax hike?
3. Did you support the purge of the Planning Commission? If so, why?
4. What changes do you want in a revised General Plan? Do you think Pacifica should promote more housing?
5. Do you think that alternatives to widening Highway 1 should be studied before City Council votes on widening Highway 1?
6. How would commuters get to and from work during the widening if lanes were closed during construction?
7. Why do you want to be on City Council?
The Coastside Democratic Club elected a new progressive board on May 22.
Coastside Dems Elect Activist Board
"In the past, the City has indicated to some, if not all, of these groups that funding would likely be discontinued in the future and that the group should work to find other funding sources. A summary follows:
Library JPA (extra hours) $75,000
Pacifica Resource Center $83,000
Chamber of Commerce (visitor center) $10,000
Pacifica Beach Coalition $3,000
The recommended budget under discussion tonight does not include funding for these organizations next year. Each of these group’s services are highly valuable to the community and this recommendation is no reflection on the quality of the services or activities they provide nor the appreciation that the City has for their efforts -- it’s just a result of our limited resources. All the organizations have been alerted that their funding would be discussed during the budget process." (May 12, page 220: COUNCIL AGENDA)
Pacifica Resource Center's funding represents approximately .003 percent of the General Fund. That's three one-thousandths of the fund. Yet the city has large pension bond obligations, and it plans to borrow money from the sewage treatment plant enterprise fund, designated for plant replacement, in the form of a loan, to refinance some of this debt.
It seems creative financing is good for the city's work force -- why isn't it good for the public?
Pacifica has a 24 percent poverty rate. The Resource Center is able to leverage the $83,000 contribution from the city more than six times over from other funders, due largely to legitimacy gained from municipal support.
A budget cut to the Resource Center will affect thousands of people here. The bonds that the city is refinancing might affect a couple of hundred people.
What is the purpose of government, and whom does it really serve?
By Nicole David, Marine Biologist
We are extremely fortunate in San Mateo County to live on the shore of the beautiful Pacific Ocean, which provides a bountiful supply of fresh local seafood that offers excellent nutrition and a low carbon footprint.
The fishing industry it supports greatly benefits the county economy, including Pillar Point Harbor's many fishing families; stores, markets, and restaurants that sell fish; recreational fishermen; tourism; and more.
The San Mateo County Harbor District also benefits directly from revenue generated from these activities. Unfortunately, the district mismanages this source of revenue. The district has imposed the highest fees in California on the companies that buy fish from fishing boats and then distribute them to stores, markets, and restaurants.
Ultimately, these high fees are passed on to consumers. These high fees also reduce profits for fishing businesses, and drive fishing boats to offload their catch at rival ports in San Francisco and Monterey.
In response to sharp criticism by fishermen and the public last year, the district limited public participation by suspending video coverage of its biweekly meetings—a decision it reversed eight months later.
The district should work to promote this valuable and sustainable sector of our economy. The district should reconsider its fee structures to promote (rather than discourage) use of its facilities, provide fair treatment of all fishing companies on Johnson Pier, and make decisions in the public interest by soliciting and carefully considering public input.
By Tom Clifford, Special to Riptide
City of Pacifica staff proposes that we borrow $2.1 million over three years from the wastewater treatment fund (Enterprise Fund).The proposed use of this borrowing is to pay off the pension obligation bond. Wasn’t this bond just refinanced in 2010?
The fund was set up to repair and replace the wastewater treatment system starting in 2020. The fund also owes $21 million in state loans payable by 2022, and another $11 million in bond obligations.
The fund now has the additional burden of being the primary source of funding for the $50 million judgment under the Clean Water Act (to correct conditions that led to a sewer spill on Linda Mar Beach).
This is the same fund that was plundered by City Council for years until the courts put a stop to it: $750,000 a year was transferred to the General Fund. That money has never been paid back.
City Council has a terrible record with paying back internal loans. Council loaned the Rockaway Beach Redevelopment Agency $6.5 million from the General Fund, and for years the agency found reason after reason not to repay that money. When the state took over the agency, Pacifica taxpayers lost.
Even if council does set up a repayment program, the Enterprise Fund will not have sufficient money left in it to meet all its obligations in a timely manner. The net result will be that our already high sewer fees will go much higher. Local businesses, hotels, and restaurants will see sewer bills that could put them out of business.
Homeowners on fixed incomes could find themselves unable to pay their property taxes and could lose their homes (sewer fees are collected as part of the total property tax bill).
Please contact your council members and say NO to this unwise plan.
Len Stone 650-355-5700
Mary Ann Nihart 650-359-7624
Karen Ervin 650-483-2692
Mike O’Neill 650-302-2470
Sue Digre 650-278-1606