About this site

I was a Governing Board Member of the San Carlos School District, elected November 2007 and again in November 2011. This site was originally used for the purpose of communicating with school district constituents, however now it is used for surfacing ideas and expressing opinions on various subjects in education, politics, business, or otherwise.

Please note that any opinion express here is purely personal and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of anyone else or any organization with which I am, or have been, associated.

I will not accept anonymous comments, and all persons who post comments must have a valid e-mail address. Note that I reserve the right to edit, reject, or delete posts based on spelling, grammar, readability, or my judgment of what is appropriate discourse.

 

September 2018
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Rak, Palmer-Lohan, and S. McDowell for City Council

Having served as an elected official for eight years in this town, I’m often asked about my views on other candidates and generally what someone should look for in their local representatives. Whether one is examining the school board, city council, or even county supervisors, it’s natural to go through a litany of issues we think are important and research where each of the candidates stands on such issues. This approach is particularly tempting when we live in a community that has seen much change over the last few decades.

Although it is of course important to hear candidates’ opinions on the many issues and opportunities facing our town, we can’t predict with certainty what the new issues may be next year or even tomorrow, and even if we did it’s unlikely we as residents would have the background and perspective (let alone accountability) to be so certain in our position on them. I would argue that the strongest public servants (particularly on the local level) have seven defining characteristics:

1) They are critical, creative thinkers with good judgment;
2) They take the role very seriously, believe they can represent the entire community, and are not there to promote a single issue or constituency, be a spoiler, or otherwise lead some crusade;
3) They put in the time and effort to understand the complexity, nuance, and larger ecosystem around every issue;
4) They understand the proper (and potentially very positive) role of government as it relates to how we manage public goods, externalities, and other structural issues that don’t normally get addressed absent such government;
5) They appreciate the balance between representing the interests and viewpoints of their constituents and being a thought leader for their constituents;
6) They understand the balance between being accountable to the taxpayer and empowering the organization, its leaderships, and its staff; and
7) They can clearly articulate their vision and their overall thinking when they make decisions.

Picture1Serving on the city council is a tough job – I would say more difficult than it was for me on the school board because the breadth of both the issues and the constituents is much greater. Therefore, it’s even more critical that we apply the above criteria to our candidates.

Based on that, I am supporting three people for San Carlos City Council: Adam Rak, Laura Palmer-Lohan, and Sara McDowell. As you are probably aware, the San Carlos City Council has three open seats this year (three incumbents – Bob Grassilli, Cameron Johnson, and Matt Grocott – have decided not to run again), and five people have declared their candidacy for those three seats.

Of these three candidates I support, I have known Adam the longest. He and I served on the school board together for four years. Adam has a long history of community service and public policy, and he is absolutely dedicated to the notion that our public institutions have both the power and obligation to improve our community. On the school board, we worked together on many issues including building capacity for increasing enrollment, supporting the district’s vision for 21st century education, and improving the financial health of the district. He is an honest broker who works with his team to drive toward solutions, and most of you know he has been an active volunteer in the community since he moved to San Carlos almost two decades ago.

Laura Palmer-Lohan is also a long-time, active community member whom I’ve known for a number of years. She runs her own business and has been active in youth sports, arts, and involved in citywide issues such as serving on the San Carlos Single-Family Housing Advisory Committee. She is intelligent, thoughtful, and nuanced in her approach to the many issues facing San Carlos. In fact, what I find most appealing about Laura’s candidacy is that she seems to view all issues as opportunities – how can government agencies work together and/or work with businesses or its citizens to find creative solutions that serve everyone’s interests.

Although I only met Sara McDowell this year, I was impressed by both her background and her thoughtful approach to issues. She has a strong history of working in public policy, both from her many years of working at the federal level as well from her experience locally, such as serving as the Chair of the San Carlos Economic Development Advisory Commission and being on the board of the San Carlos Education Foundation. Her background and perspective makes her a real pragmatist, someone who understand the tradeoffs and balance that is inherent in every decision. (BTW, note that Sara is in the unfortunate position of having an opponent on the ballot – unrelated – with the same last name. It’s important to be careful when casting your ballot).

Adam, Laura, and Sara declared their intent to run many months ago, and they each have been working hard to meet with folks across the city, learn more and more about the issues, and properly prepare themselves for the role. They have been unique among the candidates in taking this approach, and it’s no coincidence that they are the ones that have earned the endorsements of dozens of community leaders. They all understand the big issues around growth, funding, recreation, and safety. All three take a comprehensive view of the city’s role and how, for example, it can work with partners to find necessary solutions. I’m particularly excited that they all seem to understand there is much potential for the City of San Carlos and the San Carlos School District to work together more to tackle issues related to teacher housing, transportation of students (and others), and youth sports.

I’m excited for the prospect of a San Carlos City Council composed of veterans Mark Olbert and Ron Collins (both of whom have proved to be thoughtful, critical thinkers who understand the ecosystem of our city and the power of its leaders to make positive change) with newcomers Adam Rak, Laura Palmer-Lohan, and Sara McDowell. These five have the potential to be an extremely thoughtful and productive body that will find (and fund) creative solutions to make San Carlos even more the “City of Good Living.”

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