If the two candidates for county supervisor can agree on anything — and the pair, frankly, have similar views on several issues — it is that little really has changed since the June primary in which both were the top vote-getters out of a six-candidate pool.
Both Warren Slocum and Shelly Masur say their focus and platforms haven’t changed since prevailing in June; if anything, they say, the goal now is refining their message and preparing for a Nov. 6 presidential ballot in which voter turnout and the stakes will be greater. The victor will represent District Four, currently represented by termed-out Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, and whose constituents they say are clamoring for an elected leader more visible and responsive.
"That is part of your role — take that time and effort and commitment to just show up,” Masur said.
District Four includes Redwood City, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto and the unincorporated areas of North Fair Oaks and Oak Knoll. Although a supervisor represents his or her district, they are chosen by voters countywide.
Slocum, the retired chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk-recorder, secured 39.03 percent of the June vote followed by Masur, a trustee on the Redwood City Elementary School District Board, who received 21.13 percent.
But while most issues — the jail, pensions, health care, just to name some examples — are largely unchanged, the county since June has placed measures on the November ballot to shift the controller from an elected to appointed position, change to district elections and impose a half-cent general sales tax with a laundry list of possible uses, including seismic upgrades at private Seton Medical Center in Daly City.
Slocum already has a six-month plan if elected. While he refuses to set a specific timeline — no 100-day goals for him — he does want to look at the North Fair Oaks community plan, including the allocation of resources to follow through on its details. He knows the effort goes beyond the Board of Supervisors; the Sheriff’s Office, for one, will need to provide data on crime to keep the community abreast if he and others are following through.
"Residents need to know with real data things are getting safer or things are getting worse,” he said.
Slocum, with dozens of county experience under his belt, said his already established relationships will be a key factor in getting others to go along with his ideas because they know he has a track record of honesty, innovation and accuracy.
Masur also credits her experience but said, unlike a county department head, it was honed heading a nonprofit and sitting on a school board. She knows firsthand how to lead and how to work with peers to reach a majority vote, she said.
Plus, she said, the county and school district budgets have many similarities as both entities must incorporate and use funding from the state. The school board also must be responsive to constituents.
"A lot of people need a lot of different things from us,” she said.
Slocum concedes running a department is different than sitting on a board but said his history of promoting innovation, for example, will give him a keen eye when looking at nonprofits and community-based organizations to provide services — he wants to use groups with measurable success but said his soft spot for out-of-the-box thinking won’t automatically rule out newcomers with new ways of approaching problems and needs.
He also wants to promote economic development, not just for companies the county would like to court but those already in place. One question he has is how the county and its cities can be more employee-friendly, brainstorming shuttle service from Caltrain to buildings outside public transit routes.
Getting experts on pension reform is another prong of his six-month plan as is looking at governmental reorganization like that recently launched by County Manager John Maltbie. Even so, he said, "I don’t really think there is a magic bullet answer.”
Like Slocum, Masur doesn’t think switching to a 401(k) style plan is necessarily the right fix for the county’s retirement system. However, she said any changes need to be negotiated rather than imposed from a ballot. She’s like to cap upper-end pensions like that received by opponent Slocum and look at pension spiking and double dipping reform although its unclear how much of either may be happening locally.
The hiring of a new county manager to replace interim Maltbie after he departs is "critical to the future of the county,” Masur said.
The county manager sets the tone for the organization from the top and she foresees the county beginning its search in January after the new supervisor is installed.
Masur also considers smaller changes the county can make to improve access for residents, such as a more user-friendly county website and helping strengthen the North Fair Oaks Council’s voice.
Masur and Warren will be joined on the November ballot with three county measures.
Slocum said he’s not a huge fan of taxes but is backing Measure A, the county’s half-cent sales tax measure. If passed, he said the county needs to have a set of controls in place and a disciplined list of uses although, as a general tax, the county can’t legally set requirements prior to election day. He favors investing in items that will have a return, like how he invested in technology as the assessor which he said resulted in less carpal tunnel syndrome, less bloated staff and overall savings. He’s not so certain of the specific return of Seton Medical Center improvements but believes the county must work collaboratively with the hospital because of its record providing charity care to underserved communities. If it were to close, Slocum said the impact to the county would be "severe.”
Masur also sees the need for the tax but said Seton is "not the best argument” for South County voters who probably haven’t used the facility.
What Masur and Slocum both wonder is what is the county’s Plan B if the measure does not pass.
Slocum and Masur both support changing the controller to an appointed position and moving from at-large to district elections. Even had the former been in place during the June primary it likely wouldn’t have altered voters’ options in November — both were the two top vote-getters in District Four, too.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.