Mike’s Musings: SSF Councilmembers Voted by Neighborhood District- an Interesting Concept

South San Francisco, CA            August 4, 2015                        Submitted by Michael Harris

PREFACE: Many cities vote their representatives based on the neighborhood, or district, in which they reside, as we do for our San Mateo County Supervisors and State representatives. This has been a conversation in South San Francisco for many years as we currently vote for the five candidates across the City, which can leave some neighborhoods over represented and others underrepresented, especially as our City continues to grow.

In addition, many have talked about voting for term limits. Some believe our current voting process addresses term limits in that an incumbent can be voted out. The other side of that equation is qualified candidates historically will not run against incumbents since they may lack the name recognition and finances incumbents have built up during their years of service.  

It is an interesting conversation and we thank Mike Harris for his musing’s on this subject.


How can we change the SSF Municipal At Large Election to Election by Districts?


There are vast areas of South San Francisco with no representation at City Hall. I live in one of those districts.


If the 2014 South San Francisco Unified School District election had been by districts different school board candidates would have been elected. Had the last SSFUSD election been by District, Patricia Murray may have won. Pat lives near me.


As it stands, 3 of 5 Council Members live in the same area, near city hall. The other 2 incumbents running for 2015 reelection live near each other.


A simple redistricting scheme would have 2 seats east of El Camino Real and 3 seats west of El Camino. One of these Council Members would live in my area & represent me.


I am one of the disenfranchised. The population is mostly on the west side of El Camino Real. There are natural North / South divisions as well


I talked to Assemblymember Kevin Mullin‘s office about this last week. I favored Municipal Elections by district for cities larger than 50000 vs 100000 which is in the Assembly right now. We would have more representative government in SSF with District Elections vs At Large Elections.


The city has major problems with SSFUSD School Bond Measure J reconstruction harm inflicted on local residents. We have no council person to complain to in my area. We have no school board member to complain to in my area. They all just ignore our complaints, both the school district and city officials. There are numerous complaints about noise, dirt, flat tires. These are ignored by the powers that be in the school district and city hall.


We complain to city officials who do not even live in the city.The new SSFUSD Superintendent does not live here.


It is virtually impossible to unseat an incumbent with At Large elections.


I just called City Hall. Only the 2 incumbents have filed for reelection, Mayor Richard Garbarino and Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto. The filing period ends August 7.


This is not exactly Representative Government.


SSFUSD Board Member Maurice Goodman would have run for City Council, but Karyl Matsumoto decided to run for reelection instead of retiring. With District elections, Maurice would have a chance at this seat. We have never had a Black City Council Member elected. Maurice ran last election & did fairly well. Had that council election been by district, he would have won.Maurice would never have the financial resources to run a viable city wide campaign.


People should not be able to buy local elections. This is bad enough on the National Level with Citizens United in effect.


I posed this question to David Soldani, a Partner in the Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo Law Firm to which he replied, “The city process requires an election, that is to say, the electorate has to vote in FAVOR of changing to election by districts. There’s a way to get there. Many cities have done so recently. Some use an appointed redistricting commission. “



ESC NOTE: Additional blogs on At Large vs District Voting can be found on these links. Modesto/Santa Barbara,   Alabama,   LA Times.   &    Term Limits


Michael Harris has a long time following to his regular musings on life and he has granted Everything South City the privilege to share his writings with our followers. Harris was in the first graduating class from El Camino High School in 1964.  He further served in the military during the Vietnam Era and also in Desert Storm. His life experience includes; USNR Radioman, USMM Radio Officer, Auto Mechanic. He has earned a MS in Statistics, BS in Statistics, BA in Psychology, a Minor in Anthropology, AA CSM. He qualified for his Ham Radio license in 1960 and  received his first set of tools Christmas 1951 and has been interested in electronics since 1953. Harris resides in South City in the home his parents bought in June 1959. He offers an interesting perspective on a variety of subjects.
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John Baker
5 years ago

Michael, I disagree with you on so many things about our city, but this is not one of them. District elections are necessary for ensuring unrepresented groups get represented and not just letting the moneyed achieve office. Although, I doubt it’s going to be as simplistic as three west of ECR and two east — one man, one vote requires each district be as close to each other in population as possible. Some work with census maps will help there.

5 years ago

If we want to change things in this relatively small city, we need to organize. The
council can be voted out, but it takes organization ,campaigning and a grass roots effort.

This is important because our city is undergoing a major transformation and transition into the digital age, with a new team at city hall. The downtown is being modernized to fit our new biotech image,even though SSF remains the Industrial City. Citizens will soon be voting for a new first ever sales tax, for what the City believes we need to impose on our citizens.

I would like to see term limits. I supported the State Assembly term limits and glad we still have it,or we’d still have Willie Brown.

I live near Orange Park, and seems that Westborough area is hardly seen or mentioned when we had the town halls earlier this year. We need representation for all districts, not only pockets of neighborhoods.