Mark Simon

It is 77 days until Election Day, 48 days until ballots are mailed out, and, that’s a blatant invitation for Notes, Quotes and Dust Motes, 2020 Election Edition.

COMING SOON TO A BUTTON NEAR YOU: The ever-creative Nicole Fernandez, chair of the San Mateo County Democratic Party, posted a clever item on the party Facebook page — a virtual Get Out of Jail Free Card, except it’s a Get Out of Zoom Card. Party stalwart Mike Aydelott designed it — in the signature pink of a Chance card with the Monopoly guy on it, dressed in red, white and blue. Fernandez is offering it as a way to raise money and avoid being hounded for further contributions. “It’s the party’s version of not hitting you up for the bake sale,” she said. Right now, the card is only virtual, but at the urging of a local columnist, Fernandez said she’ll think about getting actual cards or a button made.

I GET IT. I GET IT.: Yes, the regional measure to fund Caltrain is Measure RR, and isn’t that just adorable?

I know the folks behind the measure are hopeful, but it sure feels like the “deal” that was made to get a “clean” measure on the ballot was one more example of San Mateo County blinking in the face of regional bullying. It bears repeating as often as possible — San Francisco and Santa Clara County officials think they should run the railroad, which is laughable given the disastrous state of their own transit systems. … Meanwhile, I’ll be eager to see if those same political leaders raise their share of the money necessary to run a winning campaign. Word is a win will cost $1 million.

A nice suggestion to ponder from a reader: Maybe it’s time to charge a toll for San Francisco and San Jose commuters who go through San Mateo County on their way to work.

LEFTOVER AND LEFT OUT: I know some of you think these columns go on long enough, but I ran out of room last week to list all the races and candidates worth watching.

In East Palo Alto, I failed to mention by name the three city council incumbents facing four challengers. They are Lisa Gauthier, Larry Moody and Carlos Romero. …In the race against Tom Mattusch for one of the seats on the San Mateo County Harbor Board of Commissioners, I noted that Lemoine “Lee” Fernandez, the mother of outgoing Commissioner Sabrina Brennan, is running, but I overlooked the other candidate, project manager Dawn North.

AS SPOCK WOULD SAY, ‘FASCINATING’: At the San Mateo County Community College District, Dave Mandelkern, an incumbent running against colleague Maurice Goodman, posted this heartfelt message on his campaign website: “In order to win this election I am going to need to garner 50,000-60,000 votes on Election Day. … At a typical cost-per-vote of $1.50-$2, that would suggest that I will need to raise $75,000-$120,000 to run a successful campaign.” Why, how calculating. … In Belmont, incumbents Tom McCune and Davina Hurt are being challenged by firefighter Ken Loo and by Pat Cuviello, the husband of Deniz Bolbol, who ran in 2018 and finished fourth in a race for three seats. She lost by nearly 2,000 votes, which is a lot in a town the size of Belmont. He says in his candidate statement that he’s a veteran free speech advocate who has been arrested several times. Yes, often in skirmishes with circus workers over animal rights. … The race for two seats on the San Mateo City Council has three strong candidates: Incumbent Diane Papan, appointed incumbent Amourence Lee and Lisa Diaz Nash, who unsuccessfully sought the appointment that went to Lee. There may be plenty of real issues to address here, but a recent social media attack accuses Lee of raising racial tension in the city, rhetoric that does no one any good. The same author complains he is “sick and tired of people new to our city (who) preach to use that we don’t have a long-term systemic problem with race.” Well, if the shoe fits. … In San Bruno, there are five candidates running for two seats, including incumbent Michael Salazar, retired managing director Stephen Seymour, Planning Commissioner Tom Hamilton, research associate/microbiologist Jeremy Sarnecky and Realtor Stephan Marshall, the latter the brother of Millbrae Councilwoman Anne Oliva.

Last week, I got a couple of items wrong. The candidate in Redwood City’s District 7 is Mark Wolohan. … And college district candidate Eugene Whitlock’s correct title at University of California at Berkeley is assistant vice chancellor.


Mark Simon is a veteran journalist, whose career included 15 years as an executive at SamTrans and Caltrain. He can be reached at



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(6) comments

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

The race between Dave Mandelkern and Maurice Goodman is unique. Both are currently SMCCCD Trustee. They are running against each other due to redistricting. Their behavior during the curious case of Ron Galatolo deserves greater scrutiny.

As sung in Hamilton by Aaron Burr, "No one else (except the Trustees) were in the room where it happened." Both Goodman and Mandelkern were in that room when the District Board of Trustees decided a year ago to cut a sweetheart deal, a quid pro quo, to remove Chancellor Ron Galatolo, but gave him a "new job" with incredible perks as Chancellor Emeritus. 

I wrote the following Letter to the Editor that was not published, but the story about "An arrangement to conceal — separation agreement prevents officials from explaining Galatolo’s removal" should be investigated by citizens whose money was used to buy-off Galatolo. At a public institution, why isn't this public?

 ***Submitted to the San Mateo Daily Journal (August 17, 2020):

“What did the President know and when did he know it.” 

Sue Lempert (August 17, 2020) paraphrased that exhortation about Richard Nixon.  She asked it of the SMCCCD Board of Trustees about former Chancellor, and now Chancellor Emeritus, Ron Galatolo.

Galatolo is currently under investigation by the DA, but that does not make him guilty.

Ms. Lempert implied that the Board of Trustees may have known “what” and “when.” As elected officials, their job was to provide oversight and accountability. They could have fired Galatolo, as “Employee serves in the Position at the pleasure (at-will) of the District.” (Galatolo's 2017 contract). Similar to what happened to chancellors at City College of San Francisco and the Peralta Community College District, a chancellor dismissed without cause gets a severance (six to twelve months) and a "goodbye" as the door is closed behind them.

What caused the final rift a year ago between Galatolo and the Board? Was it an impending DA investigation? If so, Galatolo was mistreated; someone is not guilty until proven so. Most institutions of integrity in cases like this put the Chancellor on paid administrative leave, announce the reason (e.g., recently, the Provost at the University of Michigan was put on leave due to accusations of sexual harassment), initiate an external investigation by a law firm, and make a judgment about employment thereafter.

Of course, the Board could have outright fired him. However, rather than use their prerogative to end the employment relationship, the settlement agreement they signed indicated the intent was to "avoid litigation." About what?

The Board gave Galatolo the kitchen sink: a newly created job of Chancellor Emeritus with no responsibility; a contract extension until March 2022 at $39,000 a month; benefits, including retirement; held harmless for past infractions as chancellor; and, for the crème de la crème, the Board’s abdication its authority to fire the Chancellor Emeritus.

Why would the Board give Galatolo, someone they wanted out, a new contract as Chancellor Emeritus with unheard of perks? Clearly, Galatolo had the stronger hand when negotiating his exit; why was the Board so weak?

That begs the question, why did the Board agree to a quid pro quo, at taxpayers' expense, to silence Galatolo, yet contracted to keep him around until March of 2022 as Chancellor Emeritus?

Inquiring minds want to know. Do you?


Michael B. Reiner, PhD, is a higher education consultant and educational researcher. Previously, he was a professor of psychology and college administrator at City University of New York (CUNY), Miami Dade College, the Riverside Community College District, and the San Mateo County Community College District.  LinkedIn:

Christopher Conway

In the San Mateo City council race, voters are going to need a little bit of strategy when voting. Diane Papan is going to be elected, that is pretty much a given. No problem with that. We then have to hold our nose and pick either Ms. Lee or Ms. Nash. Two very poor choices but the facts are the facts. My advice is to vote for Ms. Nash, she is a much safer pick to our city then the BLM supporting, racial justice warrior Amourence Lee who has brought nothing but racial division and an us vs. them posture to the people of San Mateo. I feel she is very dangerous going forward so do not give her a mandate for her policies. Ms. Nash is the better of the two evils. I don't think Ms. Nash will be as divisive as Ms. Lee has been and I think it would be a very good thing for San Mateo voters to show the appointed Ms. Lee the exit door from City Hall. So let's join together to remove the SJW Ms. Lee by voting for Ms. Papan and Ms. Nash in Novembers election. Next election cycle we are going to have to make sure we have better candidates to select from, but this election, removing Ms. Lee from office if job #1.


Chris, you must be proud to be the one featured in Mark Simon's column above...You and Trump hold the same verbal distinction, when either of you don't like somebody, you resort to name calling (hold our nose)

Tommy Tee

JustMike: You forgot another one of his mantras: "If you're a Republican you love America, and if you're a Democrat you hate America.

Christopher Conway

I couldn't say it better myself Tommy T. Thank you

Christopher Conway

Is holding ones nose name calling. Come on whoever you are, you can do better than that. Can't you?

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