First meeting of Measure A Oversight Committee takes place Tuesday, Feb. 4, at College of San Mateo

January 31, 2014

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The Measure A Oversight Committee, which was created following voters’ approval of a half-cent countywide sales tax in November 2012, will meet for the first time on Tuesday, February 4.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at the College of San Mateo, College Heights Conference Room, Building 10, Room 468, 1700 W. Hillsdale Blvd., San Mateo, 94402.

More than 65 percent of voters in November 2012 approved Measure A, which called for “an annual audit of the general fund revenues” generated by the half-cent sales tax. The tax took effect in April 2013.

The Board of Supervisors appointed 10 community members to the oversight committee, two from each supervisorial district. Those members will take the oath of office on Tuesday.

To view the agenda and other materials, visit www.smcgov.org/budget and click on “More” under “Measure A Oversight Committee.”

Following public hearings, the Board of Supervisors approved 22 separate proposals to be funded with Measure A. The full list along with accompanying staff reports is available with the agenda materials.

The College Heights Conference Room is located in Building 10, also known as College Center. The building is off of East Perimeter Road. Visitor parking is available in Forum Lot 8.

View a campus map: http://collegeofsanmateo.edu/map/images/Spring%202014%20Map.pdf


County Parks Presents Proposed Plans for Two Projects at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

January 29, 2014

San Mateo County Parks is in the early stages of preparing plans to manage the Cypress Forest on the bluff and enhance the habitat of San Vicente Creek at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.  Both projects were recommended in the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Master Plan, which was adopted by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 2004.

This past Saturday, January 25th, County Parks staff and consultants hosted a public site visit to discuss and receive comments on the proposed plans.  This was done to gather public concerns and ideas early in the planning process, prior to completing plans for more formal public review and comment in the permitting phases.

Cypress Forest Management Plan

The County is working with consultants from The Planning Center DC&E on the inventory, assessment and proposed plans for both projects.  The consulting team included a certified arborist who performed a tree assessment of the Cypress Forest to create a plan for restoring the health and improving public safety within the forest.  Of the approximately 1,068 trees, mostly Cypress trees, identified in the forest, 137 trees are dead.   Other trees are in need of trimming.  At this time, project implementation is anticipated to occur in six phases over a five-year period based on priorities.  The highest priority is given to trees which present a hazard to visitors.

San Vicente Creek Enhancement Plan

Another plan being developed in the same area is for the enhancement of San Vicente Creek habitat.  The consultant team included a biologist specializing in “riparian enhancement”.  He inventoried San Vicente Creek to determine opportunities to eradicate or manage exotic non-native plants and facilitate native plant cover. Priorities are being ranked in three phases over a five-year period.

Steps to Date

These two conceptual plans were introduced at the December 5, 2013 San Mateo

County Parks and Recreation Commission meeting where public comment was received.  Department staff at the Saturday, January 25th public site visit received additional comment on the conceptual plans.  The public comment period on the conceptual plans is open through February 3, 2014.  While this comment period end-date is important to make necessary improvements to the plans, we will continue to encourage public engagement as the plans develop.

Next Steps

County staff will use the comments received to make adjustments to both proposed plans as they are developed.  The initial project plans will be placed at www.smcoparks.org for public viewing (estimated mid-February 2014), with the permitting and additional public review process to follow. The San Mateo County Planning Department will be the lead agency for CEQA review and issuance of a Coastal Development Permit.  Federal and state permits will be secured specifically for the San Vicente Creek Enhancement Project.  The San Mateo Parks and Recreation Commission will review the projects prior to implementation.

Implementation of these proposed projects will be based on available funding with a goal to implement initial phases of both projects in the summer of 2014.

Send comments or questions about these proposed future projects to Senior Planner Sam Herzberg at sherzberg@smcgov.org.


STARS Awards highlight top performers

January 28, 2014

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – A chat line that helps people get quick answers from the Tax Collectors Office earned honors for customer service in this year’s STARS Awards presented Tuesday by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

The Board also presented STARS Awards to programs that increased patient satisfaction at a health clinic and reduced energy use in the County Hall of Justice.

“The STARS Awards allow us to highlight the great work that is done across our organization to continuously improve customer service, efficiency and program delivery,” said Dave Pine, president of the Board of Supervisors. “It’s important that we celebrate our successes while always striving to improve.”

Established in 2006, the STARS competition gives cash awards to County departments and programs that demonstrate excellence in performance and customer service. The program was expanded in 2008 to reward outstanding employee suggestions and environmental sustainability initiatives.

The cash awards must be used to support the winning department’s operations.

Two programs received awards for customer service.

The Treasurer-Tax Collector Office’s Live Chat allows customers to connect quickly the staff via the Internet. All staff members are signed into the chat system, allowing any available member to assist. The Health System/San Mateo Medical Center’s Patient Experience Project at the Willow Clinic improved customer satisfaction scores by 9 percentage points. Both programs received $5,000.

The Health System’s Kaizen Promotion Office received the Program Performance Award for training employees in ways to streamline operations. This has resulted in decreasing wait times for patients and improving services. Child Support Services also received the award for developing a dashboard system that helps employees prioritize work so they can collect child support and give the money to families more quickly. Both programs received $20,000.

The Green Award went to the Public Works Department’s Strategic Energy Master Plan for the Hall of Justice. Measurable results include an 18.4 percent decrease in electrical usage and an 80.4 percent reduction in natural gas use. The program received $5,000.

Honorable Mentions: Health System/Environmental Health’s Regional Approach to ReUsable Bag Ordinance ($1,500); County Manager’s Office’s Board Agenda Process ($1,500); and Sheriff’s Office Maple Street Complex Greening Project ($1,500).

Marina Yu of the Housing Department received $100 for the Employee Suggestion Award by recommending the County explore the feasibility of establishing community service activities for employees both to build teamwork and to provide service.

In all, County departments submitted 28 programs for award consideration and 14 employees submitted suggestions. All submissions were evaluated by a committee and programs with the highest scores were recommended for awards.


Local Farmers Gain Advocate: New Agricultural Ombudsman On the Job

January 23, 2014

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. – Brett Melone grew up on his parents’ fruit farm, learning all about what has kept farmers up at night for generations: pests, prices and precipitation. Later, as the director of a training program for aspiring farmers, he learned all about what keeps farmers up at night in the 21st Century: permits, process and policies.

Now at the Resource Conservation District as San Mateo County’s first agricultural ombudsman, Melone can’t do much about the former but he can ease concerns about the latter. His job is to act as a go-between farmers and the County to improve communication and to promote farming by helping to navigate regulations and rules.

“My goal is to help farming remain viable in our county by breaking down some of these regulatory barriers,” Melone said. “Agriculture may be small relative to other industries in San Mateo County.  But it’s a historic industry, an important industry. There are a lot of people in San Mateo County who make their living in agriculture, and in some ways are struggling to do so.”

San Mateo County’s agricultural industry in 2012 produced about $140 million in a variety of commodities. Many of these crops make their way to local farmers markets throughout the Peninsula and to international markets around the world.

“By promoting local agricultural, we’re helping to provide local, healthy food to our local markets and restaurants,” said Don Horsley, a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. Horsley represents District 3, which encompasses the majority of farming in the county, and worked to identify funding and gather support to create the new ombudsman position.

At the recent agricultural workshop, sponsored by Supervisor Horsley, local farmers asked for help in negotiating the complex permitting landscape. Farmers want to stay focused on the innovation needed to keep farms profitable in a fast-changing marketplace, not permitting processes .The permitting process can be particularly difficult for those who rarely interact with County Government.

At the same time, regulations help protect the environment and workers to ensure farming activities are done safely and in accordance with local, State, and federal codes. Melone will help farmers navigate a very complex permitting process.

The ombudsman services are free of charge, and in the first few weeks at his new job he has already worked with ranchers, organic growers and a greenhouse operator – “a real cross section of the ag community,” he said.

One of the knottier challenges to the job is the fact that farm operations, especially those near the coast, are often regulated by multiple agencies. “There is no one-stop shop to deal with all your permit needs,” Melone said. “While my focus is on the county’s regulations, I do what I can to help point people in the right direction.”

Melone can be reached at brett@sanmateorcd.org, or by calling 650-712-7765.

Media Contacts:

Fred Crowder, San Mateo County Agricultural Commissioner, 650-363-4700, fcrowder@smcgov.org

Kellyx Nelson, Executive Director, San Mateo County Resource Conservation District, 650-712-7765, or kellyx@sanmateorcd.org

Supervisor Don Horsley, 650-363-4569, dhorsley@smcogov.org


Free Dental Care to Low-Income Children on Give Kids a Smile Day

January 21, 2014

County celebrates 10 year anniversary of Give Kids a Smile Day  

SAN MATEO, Calif. – February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and on Friday, February 7,  San Mateo County dentists will provide free dental services to low-income children, ages 1 to 18, on Give Kids a Smile Day.

Give Kids a Smile Day is a one day event and residents are encouraged to call San Mateo County Health Coverage Unit at (650) 616-2002 to schedule an appointment.

Several San Mateo County dentists will participate in Give Kids a Smile Day by offering free services, such as oral exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments, to families with children, teens, and young adults who may otherwise not be able to afford or access dental care.  The families also receive assistance with health insurance enrollment.

For the past 10 years, San Mateo County Health System and San Mateo County Dental Society have been hosting Give Kids A Smile Day as a means to provide free dental care to local children and young adults who desperately need dental health education and treatment.

“Nearly one in four children, ages 2 to 11, has untreated cavities in their baby teeth,” said Dr. Gracia Cua, San Mateo County Dental Society. “Untreated dental disease is painful and affects a child’s physical, emotional, and social well-being, and yet it is preventable through brushing, flossing, proper diet and regular visits to the dentist.”

Give Kids a Smile Day is a national event where nearly a half million children benefit from dentists donating their time to raise awareness on the importance of dental care, and to help parents who cannot afford proper dental care for their children.

San Mateo County Health System ensures that all children ages 0 through 18 years in San Mateo County have access to comprehensive health and dental insurance coverage. To learn about health insurance enrollment for children, please call San Mateo County Health Coverage Unit at (650) 616-2002 or visit http://www.smcchi.org.

A healthy body starts with a healthy mouth.

 


Put the power of data in your hands: Data Innovation Day is January 23

January 16, 2014

Explore publicly available data

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Do we owe you $1.8 million?

Or at least a share of exactly $1,818,449 in unclaimed checks? Come find out on Thursday, January 23, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at San Mateo County’s first Data Innovation Day.smc_data_innovation_day_logo

Whether San Mateo County has an unclaimed check with your name on it is just one feature of Data Innovation Day, which will be held at 455 County Center, Redwood City.

We invite the public to take a virtual tour through data that we collect. This open data can then be used by entrepreneurs or individuals to build new businesses based on the data they collect or to act as cyber-watchdogs to gauge how tax dollars are being spent.

“Local government collects vast amounts of data on everything from building permits to crime data,” said Supervisor Dave Pine. “We want to put the power of information into the hands of the public to hold their government accountable, provide feedback and help local government respond to emerging needs and dynamics.”

During Data Innovation Day, we will have computers available and tech-savvy employees to help the public explore data. San Mateo County is one of many public agencies around the world participating in Data Innovation Day, which is held to highlight the benefits that can be found in government data.

Over the past year San Mateo County launched numerous initiatives to help the public better understand the role of county government and to track expenditures and performance. For instance, the Open Data Portal (data.smcgov.org) is an ever-growing database of publicly available information.

For example, the County’s Controller, Bob Adler, has launched Open Checkbook (data.smcgov.org/checkbook). Open Checkbook allows the public to track any payment of $5,000 or more for any good or service. “In combination with our audited financial reports, Open CheckBook provides the citizens of San Mateo County with even greater transparency on how the County uses taxpayer dollars,” said Adler.SMC_LOGO

Another example is SMC Performance (performance.smcgov.org). This tool allows the public to track the progress of key measures starting with initiatives funded by Measure A, the half-cent sales tax voters approved in November 2012.

“Data is powerful,” Pine said. “We encourage the public to explore our data and to find useful ways to use that data to launch a business or tell us how to do a better job.”

Data Innovation Day will feature events in Washington, DC and across the United States as well as in more than 100 global partners in India, Ireland, England, Turkey, Nepal, Russia, Ukraine and Australia.

What:   Data Innovation Day

When:  Thursday, January 23, 2014, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: 455 County Center (across the courtyard from the Hall of Justice), First Floor, Redwood City (Google map) Metered parking is available on the street and in the County garage on Middlefield Road just off Veterans Boulevard.


Discover San Mateo County Parks: Winter Newsletter

January 15, 2014

Now is a great time to visit your San Mateo County Parks.

View the latest newsletter to discover where to visit and what you will see.

You will also find updates on construction projects and a message from Parks Director Marlene Finley.

Read the newsletter.


Supervisor Pine elected Board president; calls for “more risk taking, innovation and efficiency” in 2014

January 8, 2014

Supervisor Dave Pine will serve as president of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in 2014. He was elected president by his four colleagues at a meeting Tuesday evening at Burlingame High School.

Pine is sworn in as president by his wife and two sons

Pine is sworn in as president by his wife and two sons

Pine, in a brief speech, said that for the most part, “the Great Recession is in the rear view mirror” and pointed to a low unemployment rate and high median family income as signs of good news in San Mateo County.

Yet, “In this county of great wealth, many struggle,” he said, due to the extremely high cost of living. One in seven residents, he said, receives public assistance from the County government while a Stanford study estimates that as many as 136,000 San Mateo County residents live in poverty when the high cost of housing is taken into account.

In the spirit of the New Year, Pine laid out four resolutions for San Mateo County government in 2014.  They are:

  • the importance of investing in prevention and early intervention;
  • fiscal discipline;
  • the need for government efficiency and innovation;
  • and the importance of bringing passion to the work of government.

The following are his prepared remarks:

Thank you so much for taking the time to be here tonight.  Our board meetings are not normally so well attended!  What I think we should do is have the Ragazzi Boys Chorus at all our meetings in the future as they definitely draw a crowd.

Pine addresses the audience at Burlingame High School

Pine addresses the audience at Burlingame High School

Let me begin with some special thank yous.

• First, I thank the San Mateo Union HS District for providing us with such a special venue for this event.  As a former San Mateo Union HS District school board member, I am glad to see they have put the taxpayer’s bond money to such good use by renovating this beautiful theater.

• I’d like to thank all who worked hard to put this event together including the county manager’s office, my staff, the VRS catering service, and the San Mateo Union HS District facilities personnel.

• I thank the Ragazzi Boys Chrous for treating us this evening with their singing talents.

• To my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, I thank you for all you have taught me about how to be a good supervisor, and I admire your incredible dedication and commitment to public service.

• And most of all, I thank my family for participating in this event, and for the love and support they give me every day.

OK.  So now it’s speech time.  Everyone perk-up.  Don’t glaze over.  This won’t take long, and when I am done, you will enjoy another song by the Ragazzi Boys Chorus plus a reception.

Things are going very well in San Mateo County.

For the most part, the great recession is in the rear view mirror.

• Our unemployment rate is at about 5%, which is the second lowest among all of California’s 58 counties.

Pine with outgoing Board President Don Horsley

Pine with outgoing Board President Don Horsley

• Our median family income is among the highest in the state.

• We are seeing robust business growth, particularly in the tech sector.

This is all good news.

But there is another side of San Mateo County.  In this county of great wealth, many struggle:

• One out of seven residents receives some type of medical or human service assistance from the County government.

• One out of three children in public school qualify for free and reduced lunch.

• 1,300 homeless people live on county streets, inside vehicles or in makeshift encampments.

• The dark side of the healthy real estate market is that it is becoming more and more difficult to pay the rent or the mortgage when the median price for a single family home is just under $1M and the median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment stands at about $2,000

• In fact, while federal statistics show that about 6.5% or 50,000 county residents live in poverty, according to a recent Stanford Study the actual number is 136,000 when the high cost of housing is taken into account.

• And of course, a booming economy means lots of traffic and a highway system that seems to be backed up almost every minute of the day.

But my purpose today is not to set forth a long list of possible policy solutions to address these specific issues and the many others that confront the County.  Instead, I would like to lay out four themes or frameworks that I think are important for guiding our work.  They are: (i) the importance of investing in prevention and early intervention; (ii) fiscal discipline; (iii) the need for government efficiency and innovation; and (iv) the importance of bringing passion to the work of government.

In a sense these are new year’s resolutions for the County.  And like the new year’s resolutions many of us make each year, they are easy to list, but not so easy to achieve

RESOLUTION #1:  FOCUS ON PREVENTION AND EARLY INTERVENTION

It is extremely difficult and costly to help people in crisis such as the homeless, the incarcerated, the severely mentally ill, and those suffering from substance abuse.

San Mateo County has the financial strength to make investments now in prevention and early intervention that will both (i) better serve our residents, and (ii) save tax payers’ dollars in the long run.

With the passage of the Measure A ½ (cent) sales tax, the County has made notable investments in early intervention and prevention and we must continue to do so.  For example:

• Under the leadership of Supervisor Groom, the County has initiated the “Big Lift program” with the goal of increasing the number of third graders that read at grade level.  This is a critical metric as before third grade you learn to read, after third grade you read to learn.  The Big Lift program has many components, but the most ambitious is to provide more opportunities for three and four year olds to attend quality preschools.

• The County has also committed to increase services for youth at risk of mental illness and substance abuse. These services will be focused on reaching youth BEFORE these issues lead to failure in school, broken families and involvement in the criminal justice system.

The Board of Supervisors, from left: Carole Groom, Dave Pine, Don Horsley, Adrienne J. Tissier and Warren Slocum

The Board of Supervisors, from left: Carole Groom, Dave Pine, Don Horsley, Adrienne J. Tissier and Warren Slocum

The principle of early intervention also applies to the challenge of sea level rise which I am committed to working on during my tenure on the Board of Supervisors.  Sea level rise is one of the most serious consequences of climate change and it will have a profound effect on San Mateo County which has more people and property at risk from the rising sea than any other county in California.

In the event of a 55 inch increase in the Bay, which some experts believe could happen by the end of the century, almost all of Foster City, Redwood Shores, SFO and route 101 would be underwater.  Sea level rise has been described as a “slow moving emergency.”  Now is the time to begin to think about how we to plan for it.

RESOLUTION #2:  MAINTAIN FISCAL DISCIPLINE

Right now the County’s financial situation is extremely strong.

The passage of the Measure A 1/2 cent sales tax brings in over $60 million a year in new revenue.  The voters also passed the Measure T tax on auto rentals which generates another incremental $10M annually.  And the growth in property taxes last year was the fourth largest in the history of the County.

But we know the good times won’t last.  The modern economy seems to becoming more and more subject to dramatic boom and bust cycles.  With the S&P index up 30% last year, red hot real estate prices, and all the frothy new social media IPOs, some in fact are worried that we are in another bubble right now

In this environment, we need to continue and expand on the fiscal practices which have resulted in San Mateo County having the highest bond rating of any County in California.

• That means continuing to look for opportunities to pay down future liabilities like we have done with our pension obligations.  I am very proud of the commitment the Board of Supervisors has made to contribute $50M over and above our required pension payment obligations this year and an additional $10M per year over the next nine years.

• We also must keep our headcount growth modest.  Before the great recession, the County had about 5,625 employees.  Today we have about 5,140.  We should increase that number very cautiously.

• We also need to make capital investments that will lower operating costs or generate new revenue, such as investing in energy efficiency and in a new Cordilleras Mental Health Center which when redesigned will allow the County to receive a higher federal reimbursement rate.

• And we need to be willing to stop programs that are not effective, even when there is not budget pressure to do so.

RESOLUTION #3:  BRING MORE RISK TAKING, INNOVATION AND EFFICIENCY TO THE WAY WE OPERATE GOVERNMENT

Before my public service career, I spent almost 20 years in the private sector and was fortunate to work for three high tech entrepreneurial companies.  The culture, pace of change and decision making process was, shall we say, more action oriented there.

However, it is misguided to assert, as many do, that government should be run like a business, because government’s mission and obligations are completely unlike those pursued by the private sector.  County government is responsible for implementing the social safety net no matter how difficult and costly that may be and the value of what we do cannot be easily quantified in dollars and cents.

But that said, there is plenty of room for innovation in government, and San Mateo County has started a number of initiatives to increase our efficiency and effectiveness. Some examples:

Through our Agile Workforce Initiative, we are looking hard at what is the right mix of permanent employees, short term employees, contractors and community volunteers for delivering services to our residents.

We have committed to increasing our IT investments.  For example, recently Code for America volunteers worked with the County to develop smartphone apps to simplify the process for residents to access CalFresh food stamps.  This is a great example of the direction we need to go.

The Health Department has done some tremendous work in implementing a thorough process improvement review, called the LEAN process, in order to create more value with less resources.  I believe the LEAN process should be expanded to other County departments.

And we must measure what we do.  The recently rolled out performance dashboard for the initiatives funded by Measure A is the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing effort to evaluate the value and effectiveness of our work.

RESOLUTION #4:  AND FINALLY, WE NEED TO BRING MORE PASSION TO OUR WORK

The challenges that county government faces at times seem completely intractable.  Often there are multiple agencies involved, a maze of regulatory concerns, and multiple stakeholders who all seem to want different outcomes.  In such an environment, it’s easy to get beaten down by the sheer complexity of the issues and the decision making process.  BUT THAT WE CANNOT DO.

Throughout San Mateo County, there are individuals who bring tremendous passion to their work and persevere no matter what the obstacles.  These are special people as, to quote the novelist Edward Forster, “One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.”  We would all do well to emulate them. Thank you again for attending this event tonight and for all your good wishes.  I am very privileged to have the opportunity to serve as a San Mateo County Supervisor and to work in one way or another with each and everyone one of you to make our community a better place.

Pine was elected in May 2011 to represent District 1, which includes Burlingame, Hillsborough, parts of San Bruno and South San Francisco and the unincorporated San Mateo Highlands and Burlingame Hills neighborhoods.


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