The San Mateo County Harbor District has received more attention in recent years than the tiny, yet countywide, district should get.
To say that it has undergone a transitional period would be an understatement. However, there has been signs of progress in recent months and years with the Board of Commissioners and a new general manager setting its sights on fiscal management and establishing some solid goals, both short and long term.
There have been calls for the district to be dissolved and absorbed by other government agencies, which have largely served as a wake-up call for the board in making sure its priorities are straight. Dissolution should be a last resort as the district serves a very important fishing community on the coast and oversees the Oyster Point Marina/Park in South San Francisco. There is a lot of opportunity at both, and the elected officials who oversee the areas should have the best handle on how to progress into the future.
There are conflicting reports on what exactly has caused the controversy at the district but usually at its center is Commissioner Sabrina Brennan, who has made it her cause to change the previous climate of the district and has made a few waves on the way.
Change can be difficult, and there are bound to be some growing pains — which Brennan will readily admit.
Brennan certainly has her heart in the right place and seeks to make the district more fiscally responsible and responsive to its constituents. However, she has also had a difficult time in making the transition from hard-hitting community activist to an elected official keen on collaboration. However, within the current board structure and with the new general manager, there seems to be a good amount of progress in collaboration and establishment of common goals. Brennan is bright, creative, hard-working and aggressive. Her presence on the board and her focus on what she considers to be doing the right thing will more than likely turn out to be an overall asset, sharp elbows and all.
Three cheers for Tom Mattusch, current president of the board, for balancing the needs of the commissioners and constituents and seeking to do what is right for the district’s future and all the people it serves. Mattusch is knowledgeable, insightful, creative and collaborative and is proving to be the much-needed glue for the divergent personalities on the board.
Virginia Chang Kiraly has served on the board since November 2015, when she was appointed to fill a vacant seat. Though a newcomer, she has taken on the role with vigor and her focus on fiscal responsibility can only be seen as an asset.
Kiraly chose to run for a four-year seat vacated by longtime Commissioner Pietro Parravano, who decided to step down. That is opening up an opportunity for two newcomers, Ed Larenas and Brian Rogers, to run for the two-year seat. Both have a firm grip on the workings of the board and Rogers would bring a matter-of-fact attitude to its activities. However, Larenas has a wide breadth of experience in both the scientific and environmental world that would complement the work of the board right away. As a member of Surfrider, he has worked on coastal water quality and helped act as a go-between for government and citizens for the greater good. It is that spirit of collaboration that would serve the board well.
The Harbor District has been through a period of transition, though some may say disruption, and there is promise on the horizon. Though it has oversight of two tiny areas of the county on the Bayfront and the coast, it holds influence over the ever-important and changing fishing business and can act as a positive changemaker for one of the county’s legacy industries. Brennan, Mattusch, Kiraly and Larenas are the best bets for the continuation of that oversight and assistance and together can lead to progress both on the district board but also on our coastal and Bayside communities.