It’s been six months since Warren Slocum was sworn in as District Four supervisor and the former chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk-recorder has a little more than the shorter title to get used to.
Though he spent 24 years in the former office and definitely knows his way around the County Center, there is a fairly steep learning curve when it comes to becoming one of five members of Board of Supervisors.
Both positions are shot-callers, but the primary difference is that a department heads have a larger staff they can call upon to do certain things quickly while supervisors have to follow more of a protocol with the county manager and department heads.
Then there is the larger scope of the job which covers the gamut of development, planning, health and human services, public safety and others. And then there is the budget.
This year appeared to be better than years past since the county just passed Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase that would pad its coffers with about $60 million a year. County officials have heard from a number of people with hands out for a piece of that pie. The measure was written very generally, so in essence anything was on the table. There was a direction to separate the Parks Department from Public Works and provide help for libraries, homeless services, preschool and health services. Two other requests, from Seton Medical Center to help retrofit its Daly City facilities and from SamTrans to help pay for certain services, have yet to formally discussed.
In the meantime, Gov. Jerry Brown presented a budget he signed yesterday that was friendly to schools but took away money from certain counties. In San Mateo County, that will be an estimated $30 million. In addition, the governor wants to take away millions from counties in health care funding with the assumption that the Affordable Care Act will pick up the tab, though that is a large unknown. Also, there is the ongoing question about who would be on the hook for emergency health services for those without insurance since, despite the new federal mandate, there will be those still needing those services. All that adds up to a pretty penny and Board of Supervisors will take that up again in September when the numbers are more solidified.
So there is a chance that all that extra money just might get sucked up into backfilling the hole the state dug for the county. In the meantime, the board will continue with its hearings on allocating the new tax money so the needs can be prioritized and there is at least a template moving forward if the money is there.
Slocum represents District Four, which includes East Palo Alto, portions of Redwood City, Menlo Park and the North Fair Oaks neighborhood, which is in unincorporated San Mateo County. And because voters in November changed how supervisors are elected from countywide to individual districts, Slocum said he now has the freedom to truly focus on his district. The sweet spot for him is definitely North Fair Oaks. For Slocum, district elections, combined with the potential for local sales tax money and the finalization of the North Fair Oaks Community Plan process, has created the perfect starting point for some improvements. So far, he’s starting small and letting it build. The first key step was to create an internal North Fair Oaks working group with about 10 to 15 county workers from various departments. A first big accomplishment was removing old communication lines near Caltrain with help from transit officials. Next up is other basic improvements such as new street lights, undergrounding utilities, improvements near the rail crossing and welcome signs. The work would require approximately $4.3 million and Slocum is pushing hard to have that included in the priorities for Measure A money. That is, of course, if there is anything left when the state is done. But that’s all part of the learning curve.
Jon Mays is the editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.