The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Four of the six county supervisor hopefuls agreed on several points yesterday at a forum sponsored by a collection of nonprofits, including the belief that there must definitely be a relationship between government and groups like those in the audience.
“We can’t do it all. That’s a given,” said Millbrae Councilwoman Gina Papan who emphasized her experiences with several nonprofits, including John’s Closet which she started with her sister to provide clothing to the needy.
Richard Holober, president of the San Mateo County Community College District Board and consumer advocate, said the nonprofit Boys Club kept his immigrant father off the streets of New York’s Lower East Side, propelling him to college. Nonprofits like that, he said, provide social justice not provided by private industry because it doesn’t fit their marketplace.
Burlingame Mayor Terry Nagel pointed to a decade of nonprofit experience and 34 years as a community volunteer which she said gives her the right mindset to understand that their mission is their bottom line.
Dave Pine, a member of the San Mateo Union High School District Board, has a connection with special needs nonprofits because his son falls into the category and Pine works with Community Gatepath. A county supervisor has to expand the relationship with all nonprofits and become an advocate because “we’re going to have less money, no question.”
The insights came at a candidate’s forum held by Thrive — the Alliance of San Mateo County Nonprofits. Two other candidates, Michael Stogner and Demetrios Nikas, did not respond to an inquiry by Thrive to attend.
All six are vying for the District One seat left vacant by the election of former officeholder Mark Church to the position of chief elections chief and assessor-county clerk-recorder.
An all-mail ballot May 3 for voters countywide will determine who represents the district which includes West San Mateo, Hillsborough, Burlingame, Millbrae, San Bruno, part of South San Francisco and the unincorporated areas of Burlingame Hills, Highlands/Baywood Park and San Francisco International Airport.
Although the Thrive forum had a nonprofit leaning, the four candidates were also thrown questions about the budget — how to cut, how to generate money and whether to back state tax extensions.
Holober asked attendees to look at his community college board’s record of cutting approximately 20 percent without furloughs and layoffs. Instead, he said, he and fellow trustees made difficult cuts to programs that were desired but didn’t represent the core values of a community college.
Nagel endorses the idea of priority budgeting in which the county budget is constructed holistically rather than asking individual departments to lop off a set amount across the board. The Board of Supervisors rejected the idea last fall, which Nagel said leaves them conducting “business as usual, only less of it.”
Pine’s number one priority is children and youth and Papan said the county needs to be more efficient. The county’s real estate portfolio includes unutilized buildings and lease contracts that cost $200,000 to $600,000 per month.
“That’s a good place we can start cutting,” she said, adding that the goal is to “do it without hurting the people we need to serve.”
Nagel would much rather raise revenue than taxes, although she does support the state tax extensions proposed by the governor.
“I really think we have been taxed to death already,” she said.
She proposed recruiting more business to the county, imposing a business license tax on the unincorporated area and improving account collection at San Mateo Medical Center.
Holober also mentioned the low rate of bill collection at the county hospital.
“The county leaves a lot of money on the table,” he said, adding that the county could also benefit from partnerships and better utilization of parks and the San Mateo County Event Center.
The ideas were similar to those expressed by the others. Papan said the county hasn’t reached its potential yet with partnerships and Pine highlighted the Event Center alone with green technology and job creation based on his experience in Silicon Valley.
But by 2012, voters will likely be asked if they want another tax or more cuts, he said.
“We’re not honest if we say we can do it all with efficiencies,” he said.
Holober agreed with Nagel’s assessment of residents being overtaxed but supports the state extensions if they are amended to include a 1 percent surcharge for the top 1 percent of income earners in California.
Pine and Papan are also behind the state extensions. Local governments are already in dire straits and will be even more so if voters don’t agree, Papan said.
Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.