I’ve always thought of a boring public meeting as a sign of functioning government. Yes, occasionally a controversy comes along to spice things up, but that’s an exception, not the rule. Elected officials should project thoughtful competency, and that good decisions are being made with minimal drama. Ideally, watching a dull local meeting should work as a lullaby for late night insomnia.

Unfortunately, that is not the case with our San Mateo County Harbor District. The last 17 minutes of the April 15 meeting is a primer on the subject of dysfunctional governance. If you wish to see it for yourself, the longer unedited version may be viewed on YouTube. I caution you that it is not suitable for children to watch.

Forget the details of how badly this went, or where the fault falls for this feculent farrago. The Harbor District has a three-decade history of troublesome dynamics on its board; the responsibility for that may be distributed broadly. We should be more concerned now about what happens next with the governance of our harbor at Pillar Point.

County Supervisor Don Horsley understands that the Harbor District as it is now is problematic. At his urging, the Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to have the Harbor District reviewed by the Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCo’s review will undoubtedly recommend that the district dissolve; it has pushed that option in years past. Horsley has suggested that the district’s responsibilities could then be absorbed into the county’s bureaucracy, with ultimate authority and decision-making resting in Redwood City.

Pillar Point Harbor is critical to the Coastside’s commerce, tourism and identity. It is a working harbor, with local people and businesses depending on it for their livelihoods. As with our farms and open spaces, the best ideas and decisions often come from the folks who live with a resource every day. Does it make sense to govern our harbor from a county seat that’s 25 miles away?

There is a better solution.

Let’s retain local control by managing our harbor through the city of Half Moon Bay. The city already borders the harbor, with functions and responsibilities that overlap the district. The city has managed its own coastal resources for years, and has an exceptionally capable staff in place. The city can provide experienced planning, engineering, environmental, recreational, public works, legal, and fiscal support to this vital part of our Coastside. It’s a great fit that leverages the local talent we already have here.

This would mean splitting the district in two by dividing the management of Pillar Point harbor from the county’s other harbor in South San Francisco. I believe that makes a lot of sense. As we face the ocean and they face the bay, the focus of both facilities is often different. And, whenever a specific initiative is of common interest, both harbors could continue to collaborate.

On the governance side, the path is straightforward. With LAFCo we would form a new Harbor District encompassing the entire Coastside within its boundary. Then the City Council would form a Harbor Commission similar to its Planning and Park and Recreation commissions. Newly appointed commissioners would be drawn from the greater Coastside, not only from within the city limits.

A locally appointed Harbor Commission offers the advantage of a smooth transition, while breaking from the disruptive dynamics of the past. We could attract smart, knowledgeable candidates with a commitment to Pillar Point and its mission. These Coastsiders would be making the decisions affecting our harbor and its future, with city and harbor staff support, and local oversight in place.

Under a better governance model, that bizarre behavior we’ve seen on YouTube would vanish ... and our Harbor District will once again return to hosting effective and boring public meetings. That would be music to the Coastside’s ears.

Roy Salume serves as a director of Coastside News Group Inc., which owns the Half Moon Bay Review.

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(22) comments

Vince

Sometimes government "represents" the public's lack of consensus on how to proceed.

The legal sphere of influence for the SMCHD is THE WHOLE OF SMC or zero depending on whose lawyers, you are talking to.

Just because HMB gerrymandered a cherry stem sliver of sand and bluffs up to the vicinity of Princeton Harbor doesn't mean it's entitled to conquer the SMCHD and divide the spoils of their conquest with South City. But, hey, HMB knows what's best for the 'burbs. Has anyone even bothered to ask South City whether they really want to manage the Oyster Point Marina and open themselves up to all that liability, all by themselves, instead of continuing to hide behind the SMCHD dysfunction? Read the last LAFCo go around final report, for the estimate of the cost burdens both on what's left of the SMCHD under SMC management and South City. The previously proposed split (Oyster Point to South City and Princeton to SMC) didn't pencil out. The last go around, South City Council went from sabre rattling against SMCHD to we got more profitable(for council members) deals to pursue. But, hey, the politicos in HMB were never known for their political or financial genius.

Horsley and the SMC BOS have an agenda of raising the tax base in the SMC MidCoast in the suburbanized/urbanized EG, Princeton, Moss Beach and Montara area. The SMC BOS and the politicos in HMB agree, more development on the SMC MidCoast is good. However, they disagree on who the developers would be making their political campaign contributions to. Horsley and the SMC BOS would love to gentrify the unincorporated Town of Princeton and the Princeton Harbor. Maybe the "working harbor" can be preserved as a museum or "another roadside attraction" or nautical themed Disneyland surrounded by hotels and recreational vehicle parks? Then, the SMC MidCoast can pay its own way tax wise from the BOS perspective. Inadequate taxation without representation is a political crime, you know? However, insufficient tax revenue exists in the SMC MidCoast to incorporate and provide essential services.

I seriously doubt any of these agendas mesh with the agendas of the unincorporated SMC MidCoast residents or all the voters of SMC. The Bayside voters are faced with F rated highways anytime they want to go to the Coastisde, today. What will it be like, when Princeton becomes The Destination, "Horsleyland"?

SMC LAFCo is one of them quasi-funded mandates from Sacramento, not some laser focused death ray on bad governance. SMC LAFCo are the APPOINTED political handmaidens of the SMC BOS. If one looks at the California Statutes on dissolving or reorganizing California Special Districts, it's legally impossible unless the District is abandoned in terms of governance or all parties agree to the terms of restructuring. Viewing the May SMCHD meeting with the right set of eyes, it would seem impossible to embarrass the participants into giving up the show... and some of them just love stunts that lead to spending District money on lawsuits... and in my opinion, Chang-Kirlay still has a conflict of office between SMCHD and MPFD(overlapping sphere of influence of the two agencies, again a who's lawyers you are talking to) which could lead to her vote in any action with even the potential of a conflict being invalidated in a lawsuit.

Roy Salume

Hello Vince,

When I hear or read commentary on anything, it’s usually filled with a description of a particular problem.

Listed are a series of mistakes, structural flaws, and observations about the people involved. Motivations are questioned, as they always should be. I suppose even more so because this is the public’s business. And, when a writer is moved enough to speak or write about a subject in the first place, a dose of passion is usually mixed in there too.

Because the Harbor District is public business, and tax money is on the line, I don’t think that is enough. The People need more than a description of a mess, throwing up ones hands in disgust, and crying out “A pox on all your houses!”

People require a solution that will correct and improve. That is what I always look for when I listen to or read a commentary. You’ve obviously thought about this, and have dived into the details, so that’s what I would like to read from you. What would you suggest to fix this?

The fix doesn’t have to be perfect. In the case of the Harbor District, a good workable outcome is even more necessary because people’s livelihoods depend on it.

When anyone serves the public, it would help if they had a few good ideas to offer. But that’s not the only part of their job. Far more critical is looking for good ideas, exploring them, and giving them a chance to rise to the top for consideration. And then of course, putting a good idea into action.

I’ll bet that someone from both LAFCo and the Board of Supervisors is reading this string of commentary. They are always actively looking for good ideas. That’s what I see when I watch their meetings. Because they’re looking for those ideas, I know they’ve paid attention in the past to news stories and posted commentary ... like this one.

That’s why I’ve spent the time to consider this problem, and to propose the outline of a solution for the decision-makers to consider. With a workable idea in hand “consensus” can be built, and creative leadership can move with purpose to solve a problem.

I think, in the right structure, Half Moon Bay could step in as a successor agency for Pillar Point Harbor. It is close by, it has a serious interest in all things Coastside, and the City has the staff talent to augment a management team at the harbor. In my view, that’s a good fit that brings local control and oversight to an important resource.

So Vince, there is a problem, and some people are probably listening. What is your solution?

Vince

Hello Roy,

The short answer to your question is leave the situation alone. In a representational democracy the judgment and authority rests with the elected officials. The results of the elected official's actions falls on the populace. The voters can recall the elected officials or vote them out next election. While we all have opinions, have a right to speak and assemble on the issues, we need to respect the US and CA Constitutions and the rule of law.

Let's look at some facts here as regards, the legal sphere of influence of the SMCHD. SMCHD was formed as a Harbor District, a California Special District, under California Statutes. SMCHD has a right to collect taxes and fees throughout SMC. SMCHD Board of Commissioners has a right to expend those fees on things including their notion of what is in the best interests of the SMCHD. A majority of the Comissioners can even hire attorneys and initiate lawsuits to protect the interests of the District. The Commissioners are elected in County wide elections. One the other hand, we have one SMC agency with essentially legal advisory status, known as SMC LAFCo with an appointed Board. The SMC LAFCo Board declared henceforth SMCHD has a zero sphere of influence. Which essentially means, if there is ever a future need to restructure SMCHD, SMC LAFCo's going in position to that restructuring is that SMCHD should not exist. SMC CGJ's reports are advisory. Which designation more reasonable represents the current legal status of the SMCHD and its Board of Commissioners, the current legal operating position or a label a bunch of appointed bureaucrats laid on SMCHD as a political favor to the people that appointed them?

I'm not a lawyer, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck it's a duck or if it exhibits the sentience of the current POTUS, respect the office, not who's in it. So, by what legal authority do the political yahoos in HMB or RWC intend to to move on SMCHD? Their notions of good governance, their aesthetics of running public meetings or State Law and the will of the voters OF ALL OF SMC? Neither SMC BOS or the self appointed dogooders in HMB have the legal right to usurp the SMCHD or its Board of Commissioners. Harbors and Special Districts have a lot of legal autonomy within the counties in which they operate in California.

The issue of the future of the SMCHD belongs with all the voters in SMC, not with the minority of "leaders" or "fixers" or "problem solvers" in HMB, RWC, or South City.

The poor voters and taxpayers in HMB have paid how much for acquiring this or that, at great taxpayer expense and attempting to claim territories and control outside the borders of the City? SMCHD, like everything from El Granada to Montara is NO FISCAL BARGAIN. Ask the people that live there, ask SMC. At the last garage sale proposal for SMCHD both South City and the SMC Manager both said, No, on the costs and liabilities of the pieces of the SMCHD.

I'd assert many of the residents in the unincorporated SMC MidCoast are engaging in some eye rolling over this HMB save the SMCHD from itself movement. They have the direct experience of dealing with the SMC BOS, its various captive agencies, the lack of district elections in SMC, controlling development, leaning on local Special Districts... They also have direct experience on when push comes to shove, who will be left standing.

I'm sure, if the voters of SMC at large were informed of the issue with development on the Coastside, the role of SMCHD in preserving a working harbor at Pillar Point, visitor serving facilities and the real agenda of Horsley and the SMC BOS's MidCoast development plans for Pillar Point Harbor and Princeton, the voters at large in SMC would say, NO, preserve our Coastal access as limited as it is and preserve the SMCHD.

My credentials to characterize the voters? The joke about me is I'm the only Coastside "advocate" that lost two back to back elections and still kept all his campaign promises. I worked with SMC LAFCo staff on the early proposals of the consolidation of HMBFPD and PMFPD into CFPD. But, others will probably remember me for sounding the public alarm over three elected Fire Board Directors taking the fledgling CFPD off on a lark that wound up in a bitter year long struggle culminating in the recall of the majority of the Directors(that your newspaper endorsed). I also investigated various options of restructuring CFPD or even dissolving it to wrest control from the majority Directors(none were feasible). I had the distinction as a public speaker of being called a "despicable individual" by the CFPD Board President from the dais during a public meeting. I also witnessed citizens during public meeting comments, cursing the majority Directors and a year later a member of the SMCHD Board of Commissioners attempting to disrupt a vote of the CFPD Board. Those meeting were within the City Limits of HMB. So, the SMCHD meetings don't phase me and I'm not sure they would be any more civil in HMB. Now, CFPD meeting are boring and I'm retired.

I'm sure the staff in RWC are reading this, passing it on and I hope they are asking County Counsel, is this guy right? How much trouble can he or somebody like him cause us?

Roy Salume

Hello Vince, and thank you for your in-depth and thought provoking response. I’ll try to answer in kind to some of the points you brought up.

I completely agree: in the right situation, leaving things alone can absolutely be a good strategy. That’s because time works to your advantage. With an elected body, the voters ultimately have the say over what happens next when they select their representatives. That’s as it should be, because our system is configured to correct matters at the ballot box. A bit of patience and the next election cycle will trigger a change ... hopefully for the better. That’s how a conflict should be handled.

However, in the specific case of the harbor district, I believe that’s been tried. Elections held over time have not ended dysfunction. Facilitators have been paid for, and Redwood City has periodically attempted to step in and mediate. The record shows over three decades of strife in that body, and the GJ references almost five decades of that in its last report.

That tells me it’s not just personality driving this; there is something structural going on. It’s not just about getting the right people; it’s about good people acting within a flawed structure.

If there’s a flaw in the structure that continues to manifest itself, it should be corrected. That’s why the Constitutions we function under may be amended as needed. And, for all its flaws, California’s initiative process is intended to perform other corrective functions. Even at the local level we have the right to adjust the rules and boundaries of governance as circumstances dictate.

None of this is carved in stone. The jurisdictions we have now did not exist from the beginning of time. At their inception they were constructed to meet the needs of the people of that time. Times and conditions change, San Mateo County is not entirely as it once was, and some improvements might be made today. So, if something isn’t working well after a number of election cycles, we can and should fix it.

Yes, special districts do have a level of autonomy in California. Yet it is not without limits. Another elected body charters all special districts; after the voters, the duty of oversight falls to that body. In this case, it’s the Supervisors in consultation with LAFCo in an advisory role. This moment is an opportunity for Redwood City to get it right instead of tolerating a flawed status quo.

I’m not an attorney either, but it seems logical that the County as chartering body can reconfigure the harbor district to meet the needs of the current era. The long history of a dysfunctional commission is now the trigger for a rethink. They’ve called for a LAFCo review, so it looks like that process has begun. Reviews and changes like this aren’t frequent or easy, nor should they be. I’m more focused on what may come next.

In the structure of representative government there is a tension. The tension comes from two opposing goods: decision-making and control kept close to a need, and the combined economies of scale that result from a larger structure more removed from that need. For a city, it’s appropriate for decisions to be made and reviewed locally. For countywide concerns, Redwood City is the better place for that. However, the harbor district as it is now falls between those two poles, and that’s because of history.

When it was first chartered in the 1930s, SMCHD was intended to govern Pillar Point, Oyster Point, AND a new commercial port to be built on the shores of Redwood City. The Redwood City harbor was never built, yet the countywide harbor district remained with a truncated mission. That’s at the heart of the structural flaw.

With just two facilities, we now have a bifurcated district, where Pillar Point Harbor is ocean facing, and Oyster Point Marina serves the bay. As the Grand Jury noted, the current district provides multiple and varied services. The size, uses and needs of both facilities are clearly different. Separate local governance targeted to each facility’s specific needs would better serve the public.

I can’t speak to South San Francisco’s Oyster Point politics; I’m more familiar with the Coastside. South San Francisco has a more mixed economy than that of the coast, and their marina is a smaller part of their economy. Pillar Point is a critical local resource, more integrated into the local economy here, and many who depend on it live nearby. In this environment, local decision-making and control by the stakeholders directly affected makes a lot of sense.

Vince

This is a reply to Roy Salume positing on Jun 09,2020 9:06am

Hello Roy,

To be direct, I see a lot of words, mostly platitudes, covering up your ignorance of the issues.

Your understanding of California Special District Law, specialties of Harbor and Navigation Code and Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Act are limited and aspirational to your agenda. I'd respectfully suggest you contact the staff at SMC LAFCo and get a briefing on what they can legally and practically accomplish with SMCHD.

In my opinion, you are clueless to the agenda of Horsley and the SMC BOS for Princeton, Pillar Point Harbor and SMCHD, out of the loop or deliberately baiting local opposition by floating aspirational trial balloons. I'd respectfully, suggest you contact Horsley, as a courtesy, and run your proposal by him.

Sabrina Brennan

Hello Roy,

Last time I checked, City of Half Moon Bay population was slightly smaller than the population of the Coastside unincorporated areas.

Everyone living on the Coastside would benefit from local representation, with district elections comes great opportunity. Based on your remarks it appears that you support doubling the size of the City of Half Moon Bay. It won’t be easy. There are numerous fiscal and political hurdles to overcome.

If Moonridge, Half Moon Bay, Miramar, El Granada, Princeton by-the-sea, Moss Beach and Montara were incorporated into one Coastside city your proposal would make sense. Is there any political will on the part of the current city council to consider this? If I remember correctly, discussions about the inclusion of Moonridge were dismissed by Farmer John when he was a councilmember.

I’ve been reading about the financial hardships the City of Half Moon Bay is facing with devastating losses in tax revenue. The global pandemic isn’t over. These are unprecedented times for all levels of government.

At some point during the past 7 years, both the City of South San Francisco and the County conducted studies to consider the financial implications of splitting management of Oyster Point Marina and Pillar Point Harbor. South City demanded half the property tax funding that the Harbor District currently receives and the County concluded that splitting the funding with South City would put them on the losing end of a potential deal. After reviewing the analysis in the LAFCo funded financial study, the County manager strongly recommended a do-nothing approach, thereby pulling the plug on further discussion about operating Pillar Point Harbor.

If formed, a Coastside city with district elections could study operating Pillar Point Harbor.

Email if you want the County and South City financial analysis.

Sabrina

Roy Salume

Hi Sabrina, I hope you’re doing well and that you are safe.

I’ve always thought of the Coastside’s population roughly split between the City and the unincorporated areas to the north. I could be wrong, and I think the new census data will clarify that. I do know that our school district conducts cohort studies of families with children. These are used to predict the numbers of new children entering the schools in the future.

In the past, families who don’t show up anywhere else show up in the cohort studies, and the delta was significant. That’s because the one place they are counted institutionally is when their kids go to school. This uncounted population has been primarily Hispanic, and tended to have a lower household income level. At least that’s the way it’s been in years past.

As for Coastside Unity, from the tunnel to the south of Half Moon Bay, I do favor it. I believe that there’s now serious interest in unification throughout our area of San Mateo County. I can’t speak for the Council, but when I discuss it in the community the buzz is strongly positive. That’s because our conditions have changed, and the challenges are now greater.

We’re all facing congested traffic, sea level rise, a real risk of fire from the unmanaged eucalyptus groves, the strain of increasing numbers of visitors, old infrastructure, and new development proposals. And with property values rising and increased taxes, housing has become unaffordable for many.

We also suffer divided government where the Coastside’s management, planning and initiatives are split between the City and the County. In my view, there is every reason that the People of the Coastside should unite to manage their own affairs and begin solving their own problems.

Is the City of Half Moon Bay facing a constricted budget? You bet! Yet they’ve built reserves to weather tough times, and they have good options to manage a few years of difficulty. It’s serious, but not bleak. That’s what I see when I follow their budget closely.

As for splitting the Harbor District along the lines that have been studied in the past, what I’ve suggested is different. To my knowledge, those studies haven’t considered having the City of Half Moon Bay act as a successor agency for Pillar Point Harbor on its own.

Under that model, the City Council would appoint harbor commissioners who would manage the harbor’s budget, policy, and other matters. This new Harbor Commission would function much like the current Planning Commission, only with additional budgetary and management authority. The City would provide periodic oversight, along with support from its various departments as may be needed. This could result in savings and efficiency, especially when harbor staff may not have particular expertise in-house.

But ... I’m not suggesting that the City manage (or raid) Pillar Point’s budget. As I see it, the revenue the harbor generates, as well as its percentage of property taxes in a defined western district, should all go towards the harbor. Those funds are meant for operations, staff, maintenance, and to fund a budget reserve. Pillar Point Harbor needs that money to operate and thrive as a community resource.

Finally ... district elections: yes, definitely, and that’s the way it is now. A City Council encompassing more of the Coastside would be bound by district elections. So ... if Montara and Moss Beach were part of it, they’d get a seat based on numbers of people. We’d have to see what the population distribution looked like. Doable and desirable.

-Roy

Jim Larimer

The Coastside Harbor is a regional resource. The Harbor serves people in Half Moon Bay, Miramar, El Granada, Princeton by the Sea, Moss Beach, and Montara. Individuals who make a living through activities at the Harbor live in these communities as well as other parts of San Mateo County. Adding yet another function to the divide and resulting dysfunction within our community of many small governing districts is not a good solution. We already have too many “local” government entities in conflict with each other. Giving more responsibilities to one of these will just add to the gridlock within our small community.

We should ask ourselves why do we have so many unsolved problems in this community?

We lack parks, but we recently added a responsibility for parks to the Granada Sanitary District which is now called the Granada Community Services District. Where are the new basketball courts, picnic tables and fire pits, park toilets and beach parking lots, or changing houses for surfers and swimmers? Just like the new middle school we passed a bond to build when my daughters were just starting school, both now have graduated from university, these will never be built.

Instead of new parks, now the Montara Water and Sewer District is angling to become a parks district too. The soccer and baseball fields these new districts promise are not likely to be built before the end of this century if we keep adding park districts instead of adding parks.

This process of duplication and division within government is wasteful. It duplicates overhead costs for managers and staff. Even worse, it fosters internecine battles between the government agencies with overlapping responsibilities and territories all within our Coastside Community.

Look at our water and sewer system as an example of what is so terribly wrong with our government. In the past 18 months the sewer authority joint powers, HMB, GCSD, MWSD, and SAM, were fined a half million-dollar penalty when a sewer main released hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the ocean at Surfers Beach. They had been told a decade earlier by their engineering firm, SRT, that this main needed replacement, yet did nothing. They also settled a lawsuit with the Ecological Rights Foundation which cost over $100,000 including contributions to two regional environmental nonprofits. In the agreement they promise to spend an estimated $40,000,000 making neglected maintenance repairs that have accumulated over decades of their mismanagement. And all of this by 2023 or they will be back in court. They are still locked in an unsettled court battle with each other over how to pay for all of this!

And that is not all. For the last 20 years there have been in discussions about implementing recycled water here. We are stuck at decisions over how to do it or who will do it.

Anyone who has paid attention to the issues of water in California, and in every state west of the Mississippi, understands that a essential and critical part of life on Earth depends upon our threatened water supply. Of the total amount of water on Earth, only 3% of it is fresh water and most of that has been frozen for centuries. We are running out of fresh water and recycling is not a gilding of the lily of our water system, it will become a dire necessity in the near future. A sensible solution depends on consolidation of government functions, not more government or more lopsided government responsibilities.

Everyone who commutes to work over the hill experiences daily problems with our inadequate roads. Years ago, one of the few Community minded members of the Half Moon Bay City Council told me privately that they did not worry about commuters living north of HWY 92 because the majority of HMB voters lived south of HWY 92. Gads, that came from someone who I know loves this community and wants to solve its problems!!

Sorry Roy, I completely disagree with your plan. Just like the Compromise of 1877 that elected Rutherford B. Hayes President, your solution would be like the Republican Party of that era handing the South the final victory in the Civil War. It would just create a Century more of our own local form of Jim Crow politics over infrastructure instead of skin color.

Roy Salume has raised and important issue. Let’s put your considerable energy behind that will fix this problem and other problems too. What will make our Coastside Community better is a consolidation of government function for the entire Coastside.

Roy Salume

Ha! Jim, I dig that you referenced some U.S. history. I’m aware that you know it quite well, so I’ll go down that road a bit ...

The Articles of Confederation governed the first few years of our young nation. The structure of that government was seen to be deeply inadequate, so in time the Founders crafted the foundations of the Constitution we live with today.

Things obviously weren’t perfect under the Constitution, and bitter clashes of personality regularly happened. And of course, a Civil war came decades later to resolve by violence the intractable issue of slavery. Yet the structure of a Constitution that was able to evolve with the times through Amendments was clearly a functional improvement over what had come before.

I think that the seminal wisdom of the Founders was not in writing a new Constitution. It was in first recognizing that the governmental structure they were operating under was fatally flawed, and then moving to change. They saw, they learned, they argued, they understood, and then they acted to compose a solution. The same people operating under a better governmental structure managed to improve the conduct of the people’s business. There’s a lesson there for us.

With respect to the Harbor District, that is exactly where we are today. We have before us a structural problem to correct, and the difficulties we see on YouTube are symptoms of that problem. I’ll agree with you that the greater Coastside with its multiple jurisdictions suffers other structural flaws and conflicting overlaps. But the governance of our harbor is something that can be improved now. Let’s do what we can do today and make progress, while keeping mindful of that bigger picture you just painted.

What is required at the harbor are adequate checks and balances. We also have the opportunity to eliminate some of the jurisdictional inefficiencies of overlapping effort. And there’s the opportunity to employ existing City staff in a variety of departments in a supportive role. That employs expertise that we’re already paying for, and will help to cut the harbor district’s costly reliance on consultants.

As an efficiency, you’ve suggested turning over the operation of harbor, and many of our other special districts, over to the county to run. That seems to me like the Founders running back to Great Britain to form a commonwealth instead of doing the hard work of running their own affairs. There was some talk about that at the time ... but fortunately the notion was ignored.

But to be serious, there’s work to do if we’re to achieve the Founder’s vision of civic engagement and responsibility at the local level. On the Coastside the residents not only live here, but also serve as the custodians of public resources. Pillar Point Harbor is one of those vital resources, and we hold it in trust for the public and future generations. That means active engagement, not abrogating our responsibilities and duties to the county.

Oh, I’m not suggesting an adversarial posture with the county. I believe that we should see Redwood City as our ally in constructive change. They want this structural stuff on the Coastside fixed as badly as we do. But on our side we need to step up, propose workable solutions, and execute them. Putting Pillar Point Harbor under the City of Half Moon Bay’s jurisdiction is one of those steps.

-Roy

Jim Larimer

The Civil War was about a great deal more than slavery, it was also about State’s Rights too. State’s Rights is about local control, people in California should not be telling people in South Carolina how to govern. Some here think that people in Half Moon Bay should not be telling people in Montara how to govern. Giving the Harbor to the City of Half Moon Bay will just stoke those fires and those suspicions.

State’s Rights was also one of the convoluted concepts that enabled the Founders to ignore the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Local control is the solution Roy Salume is proposing for the Harbor District, but the City of Half Moon Bay is a best half of the local’s who live here on the Coastside.

Roy is inferring that letting the County control a resource that benefits a broad community within the County and region means giving all government functions over to the County. That is not what I said, nor is it an idea that I would champion. It is a straw man, just like the equally straw-ish idea that the City Council of Half Moon Bay represents the entire Coastside – they do not.

The unsolved problems we face here on the Coastside, and managing the Harbor soundly is just one of them, are the result of our divided government. It is not divided by ideological differences within one community, we are a divided community with a crazy quilt of government entities that control our public infrastructure.

If we had a single governing body for the entire Coastside community, adding the Harbor to their responsibilities would be a reasonable solution, but we do not. Giving control of the Harbor to Half Moon Bay will just increase our local battles between the Northern Coastside Community fighting with the Southern Coastside Community for “local control”.

Roy Salume

Jim ... perhaps deliberating on civic matters, in the time of corona and self-imposed house arrest, may help to stretch softened mental muscles. Okay, I like thought-walks as much as the next citizen, so let’s do another lap on the treadmill...

Our philosophical alignment is on efficiency in governmental operations, value for the tax dollar, and the elimination of overlapping functions ... where there isn’t constructive competition between different jurisdictions. I also look for right-sizing a district, and having it stick to charter with a well-defined mission.

With respect to the Harbor District, deviance from those ideas stem from a lack of oversight, and possible structural flaws. I see those as a root causes of its woes, and they are intertwined. Those personality clashes on YouTube, in my view, are a symptom of structural flaws. That’s why we’ve seen decades of conflict on the Commission, regardless of whoever sits on it. Good people in a bad structure produce bad outcomes.

Inconsistent oversight has hobbled the District too. According to the Grand Jury, attempts at effective oversight and correction have been tried periodically, but those haven’t gone very far. I think the reason is that the County has been reluctant to take on the role of successor agency to replace the Harbor District. Managing special district functions in the long-term is understandably unattractive to the Board of Supervisors. That’s why they’ve opted in the past to pay for mediation and facilitators for commissioners in times of strife.

But with the City of Half Moon Bay as a successor agency to its neighboring harbor, there’s a combination of aligned interest, resources, and staff expertise. That is a very workable, permanent solution for LAFCo and SMC to consider and support.

I’ll put aside your mention of States Rights and the Civil War for the moment; I believe that’s for another kind of thread, and it feels like a straw-ish argument of your own. But the point of your example is spot on.

Obviously the people in one part of our community should never dictate their will upon another. The reason that canard comes up is the belief that there is an US and a THEM. It’s a flaw in logic that’s grown out of our history of divided local government and peevish rivalries. Full civic unity is the correction that will erase the flaw.

So divided Coastside government is at the very heart of our local jurisdictional conflicts. And yes, the answer isn’t to be found in handing our responsibility for self-management to the County. Let’s combine those local jurisdictions, eliminate redundancies ... and give our voters the ultimate say on the running of their public business.

At the moment the Coastside is split between the City of Half Moon Bay and the County ... with several local agencies providing water and sewer services. Yet district elections have become the norm, so by consolidating our government every neighborhood will select who represents them. For example, Montara will definitely get its own seat on a unified city council; they could also produce a mayor. More local control and engagement is the solution, not continued division.

The Coastside’s jurisdictions with their multiple boundaries are flawed, artificial constructs. They offer the illusion of local control, while acting as impediments to solving serious regional Coastside challenges that affect us all. On my list are traffic, insensitive development, sea level rise, affordable housing, ailing infrastructure, expanded parks, and dealing with the real danger of fire in the eucalyptus.

The right solution is full local control under one civic entity, from the tunnel in the north to the southern border of Half Moon Bay. A unified City, water/sewer authority, & the school district all governed by district elections.

The fact that we don’t have unity right now is no reason to not begin building it. If the City of Half Moon Bay ultimately steps in to keep Pillar Point Harbor on track, I’ll see it as a step in the right direction.

Jim Larimer

Roy uses the phrase “right-size” to argue for adding functions to one government entity which he admits is not adequately structured to serve the public’s interests. He believes his solution is closer to the “right-size.” But government is not a pair of pants. The metaphor of what size works best is the wrong way to look at government.

Right-size is a diversionary tactic to change the conversation, to focus attention on the wrong issue. Our problem with local government here is not its size, it is its structure. Our small units of government have divided up responsibilities for infrastructure that serves all of us into a patch quilt of barriers that prevents needed solutions to pressing issues of public infrastructure.

It was just over 20 years ago that our Community passed a bond issue to build a new middle school which was certainly needed. This was a community problem that a super majority of voters, more than two thirds, saw and voted to approve the funds to fix. What followed was a decade of debate where the losing super-minority on that issue, the people who opposed improving public schools, argued for “right-sizing” our public schools.

Their opposition to a super majority won in the end, but did we really “right-size” our public schools? What followed was the creation of a new private school, Seacrest, and a flight of families from our public schools to private ones. We really needed that new middle school. What was accomplished instead was a weakening of our public-school system. It is at serious risk of financial failure and being taken over by the state today largely thanks to a victory for minority rule. It is easier for minorities to win when government is divided inappropriately as it is here today.

Right-sizing is the wrong way to look at the problems we are facing. It is not too much or too little government, it is the structure within our government that is wrong. Because of the way our government is structured there are lots of problems that are not getting solved. The Granada Sanitary District became the Granada Community Services District so it could solve the parks problem in El Granada, but the parks problem exists everywhere so now MWSD wants to adds parks to their jurisdiction. This is just feature creep within a poorly structured array of overlapping government entities.

We need to consolidate government here, nothing short of that will solve the problems our community faces today. Let’s stay focused on the issues, we need to consolidate.

Roy Salume

Jim ... it feels to me like we’re trying to sell goats to each other that we already happen to own. Well, that does pass the time in a somewhat interesting fashion, and may serve to attract other thoughtful people with good ideas and goats of their own. Let us hope there’s a community play date somewhere soon for bright folks offering constructive solutions. And good grass for the goats.

I am unsurprised that the divisive and long settled debate over the location of the middle school would get mentioned again. The remembrance of things past is useful because memories inform the present. Yet to improve our Coastside’s lot we need substantive solutions more than rehashes of the past. Of course, that’s my own opinion.

Okay, the term “right-sizing” has attracted your attention. So be it. To the best of my memory, I have never used the term right sizing in reference to our schools. I should know: as I recall, I served in office on our school board during that period.

But if I did use that term back then, it was certainly to support expanded facilities for mixed use. Because the school fields serve as community parks when school’s out, I wanted to see more property for that, and for other shared facilities with room to meet the uncertain needs of the future.

For anyone who’s curious (or bored), a search of the Review’s online archive will reveal my thinking on the issue at the time, and yours as well. (Pssst: That’s one reason I use my name whenever I write in the Review; I want you, Our Gentle Reader, to look up stuff and learn...)

As you know, it takes a dozen years or more to graduate students from the CUSD. To support those students, the school district must project into the future a series of decisions based on educated guesses. This is a difficult exercise, made more so when funding and political support is in flux over time. To borrow from your metaphor, generations of children often outgrow their facilities ... along with their pants.

The school board was compelled at that time to do the best it could with the choices it had. Were there other, perhaps better options for the middle school? I believe so. After I left office, was the execution of that construction project handled poorly? Of course it was. Have there been expensive mistakes made by the district and its board? Definitely. And looking back, those who care about the schools and remember the history are not entirely happy with how that project unfolded. That’s what I hear.

In my view, the challenges facing the Coastside’s schools today don’t entirely stem from a single decision to pick an expedient site for a school years ago. Those challenges are structural in nature because the way we govern districts, and our school funding models, are deeply flawed.

Pondering school district issues is really a subject for another thread, so I won’t risk boring the reader by commenting further. As the saying goes, a dead duck doesn’t require further killing.

And speaking of structural flaws and pants that don’t fit (are those the same thing?), back to the Harbor District and the City of Half Moon Bay...

A local government must be dynamic. That’s not strictly an issue of size; it’s about a structure that allows responsiveness. To be dynamic and responsive, the jurisdiction’s structure should be (and here’s another word you might wish to glom on to) “flatter”. That’s what the City can bring to the management of Pillar Point Harbor: a flatter organizational model.

This means locally appointed commissioners to make decisions, existing City staff to support the Harbor, and periodic oversight by the elected City Council. That is a very responsive and dynamic structure, without adding a layer of elected officialdom. Remote county management with a few levels of internal bureaucracy probably can’t do that with both efficiency and responsiveness ... and judging from SMC’s reluctance to absorb the Harbor District, they don’t want to.

As an example of how local control would work, we can see the way community input is conducted on the Planning Commission today. It is collegial, polite, deliberative, and effective when dealing with complexity and competing needs. They make tough decisions. In practice I think an appointed harbor commission would behave in the same fashion. And, because appointed commissioners would be making both policy AND management decisions, they’d be more nimble and responsive to the public. More stuff would get done quickly after full public input.

I’ll add that the City is also attentive to the health of the Coastside’s commercial ecosystem. That’s even truer today with government revenues dropping. Obviously, the Harbor is a vital part of our commerce. That resource needs to be managed in a responsive manner, with the health of the businesses and people at Pillar Point a top concern ... along with safety, the environment, and sustainability. Again, a flatter, locally based organizational structure produces that result.

If you truly love government consolidation, and want it to be responsive, with local controls in place, then that’s what is being preached. Put your hand on the keyboard and type “I believe!” All are welcome in the tent, but get your own goat.

Jim Larimer

Governments have jurisdictions, these are the geographic regions they serve. A central purpose of government is to promote the general welfare by providing public services. The harbor is a public service that serves the region and the Coastside.

The government entity that manages the Harbor should answer to the community it serves. The City of Half Moon Bay is just half of our Coastside community and disconnected entirely from other San Mateo County communities also served by the Harbor.

Government jurisdictions create barriers to governance. Redwood City government cannot decide what the transient occupancy tax should be for hotels in Half Moon Bay because these communities are outside Redwood City’s jurisdiction. Giving oversight responsibilities for the Harbor to the City of Half Moon Bay would create a jurisdictional barrier disenfranchising a larger group of Harbor constituents here on the Coastside and across the County.

The problems we face today on the Coastside have been created by barriers, the artificial and arbitrary jurisdictional boundaries of government, that prevent us from solving problems common to all of us.

The justification for this dysfunctional structure of government has been local control and it hand maiden, right sizing. What is local? Your neighborhood, a short section of street on which my house sits, our community as a whole? What is the right size?

Looking over the array of public services that are floundering here on the Coastside, it is not hard to see that something is wrong with the structure of our government. We have too many arbitrary jurisdictional barriers.

The Harbor District has been dominated by minority special interest factions and recently by an individual with disruptive personal agenda. The Grand Jury and Lafco have both recommended abolishing it. That remains the best solution.

Government here on the Coastside should be inclusive. With our many small districts, exclusion is the rule. These small district boards are controlled by minority special interest factions, all champions of local control and right sizing. Problems that are common to all of us and that require cooperation to be solved languish unsolved due to these jurisdictional barriers.

The structure of our local government is not up to the job it needs to accomplish. There are too many small districts. We should consolidate government here on the Coastside. Let the County manage the Harbor until a functioning, problem solving, consolidated local government has demonstrated its readiness to take on more responsibility. The City of Half Moon Bay with its limited jurisdiction on the Coastside is not up to that job.

Roy Salume

Jim, I’ve had to take a little time to think about what we’ve been discussing, and done some rereading of what we’ve posted so far.

I’m reminded of the story of the blind commissioners examining an elephant by touch ... and each member declaring in confidence that it’s like a wall, a tree, a snake, a rope, or a huge leaf.

The Coastside’s governmental elephant has many manifestations and aspects, but suffers from the further complication of disarticulation. How much better would this creature function if were not in pieces but unified, with its various parts working together and complimenting each other in harmony? How much more effective would the result be for the people of the Coastside without its parts in argumentative conflict, each often attempting to perform functions in duplication?

Looking at the history, it’s understandable how these districts evolved. The Coastside’s various jurisdictions are the artifacts of different eras that have long past. Their charters go back to the 20th century, and in the case of the school district, the middle of the 19th century. It’s usually forgotten that the village of Spanishtown, what is now Half Moon Bay, was the first modern settlement in San Mateo County, predating the gold rush. (Yes, we are all aware that indigenous peoples lived here long before the modern era began.)

We now take for granted traveling up and down the Coastside in minutes, when before 1900 the journey would have taken hours by horse and wagon over rough roads. With the passage of time and the separation of distance, it’s understandable that small coastal population groups would cluster together to form their own institutions to conduct business, and those institutions would run independently from others.

To date, the Coastside has been fortunate in its isolation from the urban megalopolises to the north, east, and southeast. Because of farming and historically low speculative demand for land, the open spaces and vistas here were preserved. In recent decades more active, organized preservation has replaced historical accident as the prime mover of Coastside preservation.

One of the agents of preservation has been our multiplicity of jurisdictions. Today the gauntlet of approvals for any kind of development or change, large or small, is daunting. Project review is long, and appeals are frequent. The process has evolved to be deliberately cumbersome. As you accurately described, proposed changes are hobbled by “arbitrary and artificial jurisdictional boundaries”.

We live in a different time, in a different environment. The goal of preservation, and the review of any proposed change, is now enshrined in law and process. Yet these jurisdictional divisions at the local level generate unnecessary inefficiency and expensive conflict daily. More often than not they are the playgrounds of factions. These divisions are historical artifacts that require a rethink, some fixing, and some unity.

I believe the philosophical difference between us is how to put this Coastside elephant’s parts together in a coherent fashion. The comprehensive solution that you seem to wish for, where jurisdictions would be erased and every piece would be reunited at once, is difficult to do. You’ve pointed that out. To stretch the metaphor a bit further, we don’t have an operating room large enough for an elephant, and we lack the medical staff to tackle a grand surgery.

The stresses of joining the formally separate into one functioning whole at one time could kill the patient. Or even worse, we might end up with some kind of unruly Franken-Elephant ... but I think that’s very unlikely. Fortunately, Coastsiders are by nature an opinionated, active and participatory bunch. Full representation is the lifeblood of any community’s government, so greater unity would bring more people into public affairs, generating more engagement. We’d eventually get a well-managed pachyderm.

I favor a more selective approach to achieving unity. We should look for opportunities to combine jurisdictions where possible. Over time, manageable bits of our elephant may be stitched together piece by piece. Adjustments can be made, functions adapted to work in concert with fluidity, and the patient will have time to become familiar with how its newly joined parts compliment each other.

That kind of incremental surgery, and its outcome, is manageable and would yield better results. We’d assemble a Coastside government that works much better than it does today. It’s a long-term vision, and should be the Coastside’s long-term goal.

Of course we could look at the problematic local districts we have today, throw up our hands in helplessness, and tolerate the status quo. We might consider an attempt to hand over the entire jurisdictional mess to LAFCo and SMC to sort out. Ultimately that would mean running chunks of the Coastside from Redwood City, like some cross between a colony and a jerky puppet moved by remote strings. What an unhappy Franken-creature that would look like.

Given the choice, I don’t believe anyone really wants full County control, including our friends in San Mateo County. On the contrary, Redwood City is pulling for us to get organized and to get our act together. They want to see local services handled locally, and managed well. They are frustrated with years of infighting and acting as referee to local squabbles. That’s what I’ve heard time and again from them.

And that first step is fixing the Harbor District...

Joining the City of Half Moon Bay and Pillar Point Harbor is the best incremental move today. The City would own the harbor it already borders. It appoints a capable Harbor Commission representing the entire Coastside and service area. It eliminates overlapping functions, leverages City staff, and adds some high-level oversight from the Council. We get functioning local harbor management, and a tight focus on the business of Pillar Point.

As a successor agency to a troubled Harbor District, the City is a good fit for right now. Other coastal cities own their own harbors, so this is not a novel notion. What is required is an adjustment of our thinking. We have a chance to see how this institution could work well ... if we’re willing to bend an artificial and troublesome jurisdictional construct conceived almost 90 years ago.

That was then, this is now, and it’s past time for change.

Perspective

I'd need to see more that words: numbers, and guarantees. Even LAFCO could provide no benchmarks or case study evidence for $$$ benefits from consolidation - when I wrote last year. I am agnostic on the solution for the Harbor District, and if it could help HMB financially, that would be a point in favor. However, HMB hasn't shown it can manage ITSELF well financially these past couple of decades, so giving it more to do sounds like a recipe for disaster. Keep in mind it was HMB's directors who voted AGAINST necessary investment in the SAM IPS, going back to 2009, and which let to the deterioration and SAM spill in 2017. Further, HMB didn't want to fund the expansion tanks, so MWSD and GCSD did. Maybe that's why GCSD hasn't added parks sooner (they just did reopen an improved one in Moss Beach)? NOW, HMB wants some expansion tanks, as they realize it's a part of an integrated sewer system that allows them to consume 100% of SAM's plant during wet weather events. Doh! Of course, they sued everyone, including themselves over it. Bottom line: HMB has zero to negative credibility in its management and oversight - ESPECIALLY financially. I'm open to a new governance structure for agencies, but not with HMB in charge. They're bad enough as an apartment mate, we sure as heck don't want to share a bed with them!

Jim Larimer

Roy Salume is suggesting that small changes will have big consequences. He is right they might. There is no reason however to believe that the consequences will be good. There are more reasons to believe they will be bad.

Our coastal community has a history of a north versus the south mentality. This “US and THEM” factional war has been ongoing for decades here. People living on Coastside within the boundaries of Half Moon Bay see themselves as different from those who live on the Coastside outside of Half Moon Bay. That belief is shared, both sides the other side as different. This US versus THEM mentality plays out in internecine warfare over who should PAY for shared problems. These warring special interest factions are locked in a court battle right now over who should pay to fix our broken sewer system.

Handing over the $12,000,000 budget of the Harbor District thus increasing the City of Half Moon Bay’s operating budget by over 33% will not convert the City into a Coastside player, it will still be US and THEM.

The immediate past is the best indicator of the near future. The City Councils, old and new alike, have been just as responsible for the decades of dysfunctional divide in this community as every other elected board here on the Coastside.

Give the City a bigger budget and expect to see them change their behavior and represent all of us is foolish optimism. An entity that represents just some of us will not suddenly decide to represent all of us despite most of us having no vote to influence their decisions.

We need to Consolidate our local government and stop pretending that WE know more than THEM regarding what is best for all of us. Democracy works when everyone gets a vote, it does not work when we do not.

Roy Salume

Factions; it always seems to come down to that, doesn’t it? The US and the THEM.

The premise is that teams have formed, and we must pick a side to join. That choice defines our values, our self-image and our place in some externally defined pecking order.

George Carlin once commented that we live in an age of confrontation and conflict, instead of one that values cooperation and collaboration. He went further, saying conflict spikes the news cycle, but it’s cooperation and collaboration that quietly builds civilization. Civilization takes time and patience as bonds are forged, one upon another.

Building civilization, or even a functioning community, isn’t about being noble; it’s about self-interest. And the very best kind of self-interest is broad and deep, not narrow and shallow. It sees past the petty, and far beyond some grudge. What we need on the Coastside is real self-interest ... the kind that understands that we should all control our own destiny. And yes Jim, as you’ve pointed out, that means consolidating local government ... and putting aside the idiotic factional politics that keeps us divided.

Look, we all don’t have to love each other ... heck, we don’t even have to like each other. We just have to be willing to do business with everyone and anyone. That is what is in our true self-interest. It takes thinking; it takes some trust ... and sometimes some forgiveness. There are no absolutes here, and no final resolutions or victory. The goal is results that yield benefits for all. I think of it as unity built on a pragmatic foundation.

Now to those Harbor District numbers you mentioned...

No, Pillar Point Harbor’s budget wouldn’t be $12M. In a separate western harbor authority, where our harbor would be bifurcated from Oyster Point Marina, it would be roughly half, or $6M. As it does now, the revenue for Pillar Point would come from (2) sources: fees & rents, and a percentage of property tax revenue from the defined area of the authority.

As the Grand Jury pointed out, harbor fees & rents should pay for operations. In contrast, property taxes should go to pay for maintenance, harbor improvements, and maintaining the budgetary reserve. For those of you familiar with business accounting, the (2) budgetary buckets would be called expenses and capital improvements. One category is intended for short-term spending; the other is more long-term in focus.

As a successor agency to a Pillar Point Harbor Authority, the City of Half Moon Bay wouldn’t see a $6M “increase” in its budget. Frankly, that’s a misrepresentation of how the City’s stewardship over the harbor would work. The City wouldn’t touch Pillar Point’s money.

The appointed harbor commission would oversee Pillar Point, and also manage its own budget and revenues. The role of the City Council is to provide periodic oversight of the commission. As the elected body of the successor agency, oversight falls to the Council. That’s the mechanism that ultimately keeps the harbor authority on track.

What’s more interesting is the savings Pillar Point could see working with the City. The harbor now has to pay for outside consultants because it doesn’t have deep expertise in-house. However, the City has the staff to support the harbor as needed. So, with a tighter focus on harbor operations (and not on extraneous projects), coupled with a reduced need for consultants, the taxpayers would see savings and efficiency. Of course, if the harbor occasionally needed City staff time, they’d cover that cost.

It’s a great, workable model for Pillar Point, AND creates local control of a local resource.

John Charles Ullom

Roy. Even though the Harbor District is subsidizing Oyster Point, South San Francisco owns it. Now you might ask why a tiny little agency subsidizes a failed project owned by a much larger agency. And that would be a good question.

But I’ll give you a really good reason why the district has to go.

A couple of years ago the developer at Oyster Point decided not to honor the deal it had with the district. The then SMCHD manager tried to hold them account. Kiraly and her boys on the board decided to let the developers renege on the deal.

The result? Millions in liability are now on taxpayers. The fuel dock closed. The fuel tanks drained and condemned.

The multi billion dollar company then sold out to another multi billion dollar company. Tax payers are on the hook because Kiraly and her boys chose to allow the developers go back on their word. I'll email you all you need to see that the Harbor District should be dissolved.

As for your contention that any of the city councils over the last two decades could have done better, HA!

Jim Larimer

Lafco has already recommended that the Harbor District be abolished. Supervisor Horsely’s suggestion that they reevaluate it one more time is unlikely to come to a different conclusion. Horsely in effect is kicking the problem down the road instead of fixing it.

The Harbor District is supposed to be oversight for two San Mateo County facilities: Oyster Point Marina and Park on the Bay side and Pillar Point Harbor here on the Coastside. Roy Salume is perhaps suggesting dividing one district into two new districts. Will that make matters better or worse?

The “feculent farrago” at the Harbor District was generated by a Board member from here on the Coastside. Would adding four more Coastside Board members to a new and smaller Coastside Harbor District add four more disruptive voices or eliminate just one?

Our Coastside Community from Montara to the southern boundary of Half Moon Bay has a population of somewhere between 25,000 and 27,000. Adding one more elected board of directors to our already over-governed list of Boards and elected officials would mean finding at least four more members of the public to serve on a continuing basis. Raising the total number of elected seats here from 35 to 40.

We already have the highest density of local representatives in government of any area in the County, perhaps even in the entire State. Despite locally controlled government, the list of unsolved problems here continues to grow: We have inadequately funded public schools, inadequate road infrastructure, a failure prone and polluting sewer system managed by a local confederation of governments that does not work, inadequate housing and city legislated housing policies that end up in court losing millions of dollars of community funds required to pay off developers for taken properties, hardly any active parks beyond the few community athletic facilities provided by the school district, which, by the way, is first on this list of failing local government.

Adding seats to our clearly under-performing overly representative local government will not make things better. It is more likely to add to the gridlock of decision making resulting from too many elected cooks in the kitchen arguing over how to make the soup.

Lafco and Grand Jury Reports have already said we should consolidate our government to make it work. So yes to getting rid of the Harbor District. The Harbor serves the region and not just the Coastside, the County should management it.

Coastside

Agreed. The SAM Board meetings can make one want to fake their own death but that doesn't mean anything regarding good oversight.

Roy Salume

John and Jim, I’m delighted that you read our newspaper and took the time to share your thoughts.

John, thanks for highlighting a couple of key points ...

SSF owns its harbor, but we don’t own ours. In my view, the Oyster Point Marina outcomes that you refer to were partially due to an expansion of the harbor initiatives beyond its charter, and to a historical lack of effective oversight. The last Grand Jury report on the district alludes to some of this history as background to its primary recommendation of district dissolution.

It’s always tempting to focus on clashing personalities as the cause of dysfunction. I grant that it contributes, but I think the root causes are more often structural in nature. In this case, poor oversight is one reason that the harbor district has gotten into trouble.

And Jim ... I have not suggested anywhere that we add yet another locally elected district on the Coastside.

On the contrary, the better option I outlined was ownership by the city of Half Moon Bay, and the Council appointing a harbor commission to oversee it. That would work much like the appointed Planning commission we have today. Other cities that own their own harbors do this.

There are a few advantages to this approach -

1) Eliminating the current overlap of responsibilities between the harbor and the city, saving taxpayer money and increasing efficiency

2) The harbor gains the advantage of knowledgeable and experienced city staff in a variety department, reducing the need for outside consultants/services.

3) Eliminating charter/mission drift, where harbor officials take on initiatives and projects that may go beyond the governance of the harbor

4) Bringing the harbor into the city’s general plan and Local Coastal Plan

5) Retaining a local body where the businesses that operate in our harbor, and the Coastsiders who use it, may have a local forum to discuss their harbor’s policy and operations.

The 2013-2014 Grand Jury report, “What is the Price of Dysfunction?” is well thought out. It specifically mentions successor agencies taking over for the current harbor district after dissolution. The county is one such successor ... and the city of Half Moon Bay would qualify as another with respect to Pillar Point.

I prefer a local successor with local accountability to a distant one. The city would be a much better as a successor because our community has more direct skin in the game. The health and success of our harbor is a vital piece of our local economy. Better to put it in our care than in those of a distant bureaucracy where staff and initiatives come and go, and the promise of long-term engagement is an illusion.

Again, splitting the harbor district makes sense. Pillar Point Harbor faces the ocean; Oyster Point Marina faces the bay. They have different focuses; combining the two into one harbor district has contributed to what we have today. Better that each facility concentrate on its own mission, and dispense with the artificial construct of a combined jurisdiction.

As for the consolidation of government ... that’s exactly what I propose. There will always be a tension between decisions made at the lowest level, and the economies of scale from combined governance in a higher-level structure.

However, by combining the city of Half Moon Bay and the harbor district into one governing body, we get more of both. That includes local control, responsiveness, cost savings, and oversight. Do you honestly believe that county governance of Pillar Point Harbor will give us those things? The county does many things competently, but this harbor should be within the Coastside’s jurisdiction.

-Roy

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