UPDATED 4:40 p.m.: Incumbents Tom Mattusch and Virginia Chang Kiraly appear to have won reelection to the San Mateo County Harbor District board of commissioners. As of Friday, Nov. 13, Mattusch was ahead by nearly 16 percentage points in a three-person race. Chang Kiraly was reporting 50.7 percent of the vote on Friday, just edging out her opponent, political newcomer Kirsten Keith.
The Harbor District has been plagued with discord between board members that slowed response to issues like the poor water quality at Pillar Point and the district’s deteriorating facilities.
The three-person race for District 4 included incumbent Tom Mattusch, as well as newcomers Dawn Korth and Lemoine “Lee” Fernandez. District 4 encompasses much of the Coastside and the midsection of the county stretching from Pillar Point to the Baylands.
Mattusch has held this seat for six years and, as treasurer, noted his biggest accomplishment was helping the board reach financial stability. That included paying down $2.3 million in unfunded pension liability during his time as the board’s treasurer. He promised to finalize the district’s strategic plan and to assess the pandemic’s impact on the agency’s finances to better plan capital improvement projects.
“The public spoke, and, as the majority vote-getter, I want to bring positive change and development to the Harbor District in a way that’s more respectful of people’s time,” Mattusch said.
In District 5, which encompasses much of the southern end of the county including La Honda and Pescadero, incumbent Chang Kiraly continues to carry her lead. Chang Kiraly, who has held this district seat since 2015, is ahead with a 717-vote margin. She said in her new term she would prioritize renegotiating the district’s general manager contract, continuing private-public partnerships on district projects and advocating for a workplace that is free of harassment and micromanagement.
“I’d be honored to continue serving,” she said. “It takes a lot of courage. And I thank all of the candidates who wanted to step up to the plate and to bring up issues. For me, hearing the concerns of other people who wanted to run was a good thing.”
Mattusch and Chang Kiraly would continue on the five-member board of commissioners. The three other Harbor District seats were not up for reelection this year.
MIDCOAST COMMUNITY COUNCIL
Three winners have emerged in the Midcoast Community Council race. Incumbent Dan Haggerty, Gregg Dieguez and Jill Grant each pulled ahead of newcomer Andra Anderson with 29.7, 27.1 and 27.0 percent of the vote, respectively.
This year, four Midcoast residents were competing for three at-large slots on the council, which is an advisory board to the county representing Coastside residents living in the Montara, Moss Beach, El Granada, Princeton and Miramar neighborhoods.
El Granada resident Anderson came up more than 1,000 votes short after being recommended by the council to fill Tamar Powell’s vacated seat in the spring before the council realized its rules dictate an election for the seat. Moss Beach resident Barbra Mathewson did not seek reelection.
Over the past few years, the MCC has tackled a heavy load of issues, from proposed housing development in Moss Beach to fire safety and emergency preparedness to ongoing transportation planning across the Midcoast. New board members will take on all of these and emerging county issues as they advocate on behalf of residents throughout their four-year terms.
El Granada resident Haggerty was the only incumbent candidate on the ballot, having served on the MCC since 2011. He won the largest share of the votes at nearly 30 percent. Haggerty said that in his next term he plans to continue his focus on wildfire safety and prevention and will be advocating for pedestrian underpasses on Highway 1 as a solution to the Coastside’s traffic problems.
“I just have a deep sense of gratitude to the community for coming out and participating in the election,” Haggerty said.
El Granada resident Grant said she hopes to bring her meticulous approach to project planning and execution to be a strong voice on behalf of the community, starting with the Mirada-Medio Bridge project and wildfire prevention.
“I spent Saturday morning walking the Miramar area to better evaluate the options and talk to homeowners in the area,” Grant said. “I also spent some time today walking through Quarry Park to get a better understanding of the fire danger in this area and am excited to contribute to a solution for eradication of the eucalyptus groves.”
Dieguez said he will prioritize sustainability, affordability and safety in the coming years. He wants to home in on the region’s water issues and use his analytical skills to hold county officials accountable as a member of the MCC.
“Our job is to inform them and, in essence, dare them not to do their jobs,” Dieguez said. “My hope is to merely give them a fully formed view of the priorities of the residents.”
CABRILLO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Incumbents Kimberly Hines and Sophia Layne appear to have won the two contested seats for the Cabrillo Unified School District governing board. Hines garnered 69.3 percent of the vote, positioning her to be reelected to Area B, representing most of El Granada and the rural areas surrounding Highway 92. Layne won handily as well, with 61.4 percent of the vote to represent most of the downtown area of Half Moon Bay in Area D.
The CUSD board oversees four elementary, one intermediate and one high school along the Coastside. Over the past year, the district has faced ongoing budget challenges, facilities breakdowns and reckoning with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hines faced challenger David Seaton, who campaigned on the promise of shaking up the board with new ideas about tackling the district’s learning gap and finding practical solutions to its budget woes. Hines said she hopes to “be a stable force through the pandemic” by working to get detailed and accurate information to the board and community through study sessions on topics like the budget, surplus property owned by the district and how to create a strong educational foundation for kindergarten through third-grade students.
“I'm delighted to be able to serve a second term and make use of some of those lessons learned,” Hines said.
The three-person race for Area D included attorney Yvonne Seeley, incumbent Layne and educator and realtor Nicholas Wrotniewski. This coming year, board members will make decisions on the district’s return to in-person learning and be tasked with navigating its budget instability. Layne said she is up to the challenge, and intends to focus on addressing equity and justice, fiscal sustainability and continuous improvement.
“The big picture is being able to take the students’ point of view and look at what we do and how we do it,” Layne said.
The CUSD board moved from at-large representation to a by-trustee-area system this year in response to legal threats from advocacy groups looking to enforce the California Voting Rights Act. This means that the board’s five members now must run and be elected to four-year terms by their trustee areas. Both of this year’s incumbents faced at least one challenger, but prevailed.
LA HONDA-PESCADERO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Lisa Mateja, Renee Erridge and incumbent Mary Windram each appear to have won election to the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District board. The three candidates each garnered more than 27 percent of the vote, securing their seats on the South Coast governing board, which directs the La Honda and Pescadero elementary schools as well as Pescadero Middle and High School.
Former board member Andy Wilson fell short with just 13.5 percent of the vote. Cindy Hayes and Lynne Bowman, whose four-year terms end this year, did not run for reelection.
This year, the board was tasked with deciding how the relatively small school district would handle the COVID-19 crisis, and recently voted to try to bring students back to campus in light of improving case metrics locally.
Windram said she hopes to work with new and old members alike to make board policies and decisions more equitable in the future, and wants student voices front and center when planning for the future.
“Creating a place where everyone is given the tools they need to be as successful as they can be, that’s what I'd like to see happen,” Windram said. “Where we create a much stronger community doing that … and where all feel welcomed and like they belong.”
This next board will have to take on balancing classroom safety for in-person learners and equity for students learning from home. While the small size of LHPUSD schools has worked to their advantage during the pandemic, finding solutions that work for every family, teacher and administrator hasn’t been easy.
Erridge said she will bring her background in leadership development to strengthen the board’s response to these new challenges.
“Recently, I've been supporting many of the district's efforts to improve accessibility and student learning and I see many opportunities to apply my technology, communication, and learning design expertise in service of the parents, staff, and students of our district,” Erridge wrote in an email to the Review.
Mateja said she ran for school board to fulfill the promise of quality public education for all students.
“My top priorities are to create an equitable school district, engage our community in educational decisions, and ensure safe infrastructure for all district students,” Mateja wrote.
Early on Tuesday night, the Half Moon Bay city clerk called Measure U, the city-backed measure that would raise the tax paid by overnight visitors and boost the city’s general fund. The measure passed easily with nearly 73 percent of the vote.
Measure U’s passage locks in an increase in the transient occupancy tax from its current 12 percent to 14 percent beginning on July 1, 2021, with a bump to 15 percent scheduled for 2022. Only hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and inns located within the Half Moon Bay city limits will be impacted by the tax increase.
“It certainly shows that locals were supportive of the concept, locals were supportive of raising the hotel tax to increase revenue for the city and allow additional revenue back into city services,” said City Manager Bob Nisbet. “The hotel tax is our number one revenue source. We're a tourist town. We have 15 hotels in the city. To the visitors who come, the city welcomes them and realizes the city depends on them.”
The hospitality industry and the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau opposed Measure U because they feared the proposed tax raise would jeopardize local hotels’ recovery during the pandemic. But the city, which sources about a third of its general fund from the transient occupancy tax, argued it was hard-pressed for general funds that, upon further budget planning, could be used toward public safety and emergency preparedness.
This version corrects the size of Harbor District candidate Virginia Chang Kiraly's vote margin to 717 votes, as of Friday, Nov. 13.