Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mayors, libraries and buses

One of the best parts of living in medium-sized town is that one's not too far removed from their political representatives.

For example, I basically had dinner tonight with the mayor of South San Francisco, Karyl Matsumoto, one night after which she was selected by the council for her third (non-consecutive) term in the office. Matsumoto represents north county cities on the SamTrans Board of Directors and showed up at tonight's SamTrans Citizens Advisory Committee for our annual "thank you" celebration. (Only Matsumoto and Shirley Harris attended our meeting, a disappointing one-sixth of the Board).

Matsumoto and I spoke about several issues in South San Francisco, including the decrepit Caltrain station and her selection as mayor the night before (a ceremony which I attended with Ian -- there was a great non-taxpayer funded food spread!). But we mostly spoke of the need for a new main library in South City to replace the current overcrowded 1960s-era facility. As a former South San Francisco Library Trustee, I am familiar with the fact that there is not enough room for all the library's books now, not to mention all the assorted DVDs, audio CDs and computers. The aisle space is limited and much of the building barely skirts ADA requirements. Due to a small property footprint, there is no room on the current site to expand and very little room in the city to build a new library.

The new mayor's idea to use the city's Redevelopment Agency to leverage funds for a new building intrigued me. As a redevelopment agency's mandate is to stimulate growth in blighted areas, I think a new library is a very appropriate use of such funds. New libraries recently built in Cerritos, San Mateo and San Jose have both improved their surrounding neighborhoods and helped keep libraries relevant in this modern era. Some have said that the library's day is past, but I disagree. Information is more important than ever, and libraries are still the information centers of many cities. They provide not only books, but DVDs, Internet access, homework tutoring and much more. Often they also serve as a community center as well. The time has come to build a new main library in South San Francisco.

(The mayor and I also discussed sites, including land the city recently bought from a defunct auto dealership, but I think that's supposed to be hush-hush for now.)

In the CAC meeting itself, we discussed a number of issues including the pending purchase by the district of new Gillig buses to replace some 15-year-old models. Apparently the technology in seat construction has advanced to the point where the seats can be made thin enough that you can put an extra row in a bus without reducing the pitch (or legroom) for existing passengers.

We also held our reorganization meeting, deciding on our chair and vice chair for the year. Besides managing our meetings, the chair is the public face of the CAC and briefs the actual board of directors on our activities and concerns. I had let the nominating committee know that I was interested in the post, not that I have any real problems with our current chair Wayne Kingsford-Smith, but I thought that I could be a little more visible before the Board and with the public. Then I learned that Kingsford-Smith was interested in another term and I had a dilemma: do I pursue my campaign or bow to Wayne's experience?

I put off a decision while I was in Australia, then -- when my name came up tonight and Kingsford-Smith and I were put into competition -- decided to defer. When offered the chance to give a statement, I endorsed Wayne and asked to be considered for vice chair. Wayne was elected unanimously.

Peter Ratto and I were the candidates for vice chair. In debates, I stated that I was happy that the CAC has over time better focused on its mission of advising the Board and that my platform would continue to focus on my pet issues of east-west feeder transportation in San Mateo County and connectivity between buses and trains. Ratto, to my gratitude, endorsed me for vice chair much as I had endorsed Wayne. I was also elected unanimously. After the fact, I wondered if I had violated some protocol by voting for myself ...

In other news, my iPhone has been liberated from the United Airlines office in Sydney and should at this very moment be jetting over the Pacific thanks to the folks at Australian Airborne Express. Let's hope Qantas' famed safety record (made famous in "Rain Man") continues at least until this weekend.


Rob Roy said...

Another library? What the world really needs is more strip clubs! Hey wait a sec...let's combine them! I can see it now; reading circles with brass poles in the center; catwalks with book shelves built under them; table dancers who read Proust while they twirl pasties. And of course those private lapdance rooms with Marion the Naughty Librarian. Now that will get you elected!

Claire said...

John have you forgotten that this blog is public. Why would you write anything that is "hush hush" up here. That is not a very smart idea.

JOHN C. BAKER said...

I didn't say which of the defunct auto dealers ... and yes, I know it's hush-hush. So does Perez Hilton. :-)