Letter to Editor: Open letter on Council appointment process

South San Francisco, CA   December 8, 2020 by John Baker, **

Dear members of the South San Francisco City Council,


You will soon be deciding how to fill a vacancy on the council. If past practice is any guide, the likely course will be via an appointment by the rest of the council that will serve until the next general election. When considering whom to appoint to the City Council, I’d like you to consider one figure: 88 percent.


That’s the percentage of local incumbents running since 2000 who have been re-elected to either the South San Francisco City Council (16 of 18) or the SSFUSD Board (12 of 14). Yes, we had an incumbent fall short in each of the last two city council elections, but before that, councilmembers were a perfect 14 for 14. That combined 28 for 32 record rounds to 88 percent.


Someone being appointed to the council only has to have the initial support of four people, and, if eligible to run again, will certainly have the inside track when the position is up for election (likely at the end of Councilmember Nagales’ original term in November 2022). Local races are generally — and unfortunately — low-information races, so what a candidate lists as their occupation goes a long way. The word “incumbent” in that voter pamphlet generally goes even farther.


Recent events, both electoral and societal, have shown us that South San Francisco is changing. Let’s facilitate that change by appointing someone who will not run again in 2022 (or whenever the council determines the seat will next be up for election).


Unfortunately, as developments in other cities have shown, the Board cannot make it a requirement that appointed members not run for re-election. In fact, when the San Mateo County Community College District board had to appoint a new member in 2013, the remaining board members specifically eliminated all the applicants who either wavered on running or outright said they would not run in the next election. They said this was in the interest of “continuity.” It was also disappointing — and, yes, the appointed incumbent was promptly re-elected.


Being a councilmember is indeed a tough job that requires an understanding of a myriad of complicated responsibilities: fiscal, planning, and legal. I understand a desire for continuity. I don’t, however, believe that need for continuity overrides the key precept of our democracy — that the electors of the city choose their representatives.


Please, set an example by appointing someone to the council that pledges they will not run again. Further, because it seems you cannot compel that pledge, and because this seat is an “at-large” one rather than limited to a specific district, I encourage councilmembers to intentionally consider someone who will be ineligible to run again in 2022 because their home council district will not be up for election. (I realize this would likely result in yet another west of ECR councilmember, but I believe the gains would outweigh the optics.) I am in full recognition as I write this letter that I was myself the beneficiary of a school board appointment in 2016 and then won two elections with the strength of my incumbency playing a role. In fact, I think that fact gives me a unique insider perspective.


South San Francisco has been leading change on the Peninsula for decades. I suspect we’ll see that evolution continue in the next election, so let’s appoint a true caretaker who will allow that evolution to thrive rather than someone who will potentially occupy that seat for years.



John Baker



{NOTE: Mr. Baker is not writing on behalf of the school board or any other organization}



Please note, an update to our website resulted in a glitch that is not allowing public comments to be viewed. We are working on this and appreciate your patience. Thank you.

-Kamala Silva Wolfe, Founder/ Editor



Thank you, John Baker, for your very articulate message to the SSF Council. I think that you are correct that it is time to allow new eyes and ears and ideas on the SSF Council

-Dolores Piper


is the system broken? why tinker with
it, look just north of us, for an example
of good intentions, gone horrible

-Mel Perry


Who cares what other cities do to your own self be true

-Mary Andersen


Letter to Editor: Appoint the Best Candidate that Represents our Community  https://wp.me/p2ZEBO-7Tg

I agree, Mr. Baker, that from the Federal Government right down to the local levels, we should not have career politicians, but I must disagree that a potential candidate be disregarded because they may want to serve by running for the seat they’re appointed to if they are the most qualified.

I believe our City Council members, who have served our community so very well, representing the majority of our residents who moved here for a quality of life, not to be warehoused or over-built like San Francisco, believe we have the best Council members and do support them, as they have supported the residents all these years with their service.

This past election, where a virtual unknown unseated an incumbent by a mere 50 votes (which is not a mandate of the voters and I contend should have been a recount), shows beyond a doubt how outside organizations and people who are not members of our community, along with the big money financing this campaign with its flashy colorful flyers being delivered at least weekly to households, only demonstrates how these outside influences will forever change our city to push for their self-serving agenda.

Why is South City so eager to destroy our quality of life, the reason we moved here, by overbuilding almost every single area of the city and jamming more people in our city where our infrastructure cannot support it (sewage, roads, utility services and water)?

I urge the City Council to appoint the best candidate that represents our community, not what is forced down our throats by the State mandates of such career politicians as Scott Weiner and the like.

-Cynthia Marcopulos


would like to read the comments. please post them.




This is in response to the recommendation by Mr. Baker, that the person appointed to SSF City Council should agree to not run for election in 2022. Is this a fair and reasonable request?

Mr. Baker also recommended that SSF City Council could eliminate potential applicants from Districts 1, 3 and 5, or be asked to commit to not run in the 2022 election. If applicants from Districts 3 & 5 are eliminated from consideration or agree not to run, this would potentially benefit Councilpersons Nicolas & Addiego. They will avoid competing against an appointed incumbent if that person does not run for election.

In District 1 we must ask Mr. Baker if he is planning to run for City Council in 2022. Is this why the request was initiated? If so, will it be more difficult for Mr. Baker or anyone else in District 1, to win a District 1 election, if someone is appointed from District 1? In this regard, we should consider Mr. Baker’s position as an elected official and member of the SSFUSD School Board. Will this give Mr. Baker an advantage over other potential candidates who are not elected officials? Why should an appointed incumbent from District 1 be asked to not run for election, if Mr. Baker as an elected official can run? Is this fair?

Although appointment of an applicant from district 2 and 4 (who cannot run for election in 2022) will solve the problem for Mr. Baker, Ms. Nicholas, and Mr. Addiego, that would be unfair to over half the population of the city. Applicants from districts 1, 3 & 5 should not be eliminated from consideration or be asked to not run for election. It is unreasonable to ask anyone to not run for an election, if that is what they decide to do. It’s like asking someone not to vote. It is their constitutional right as a citizen to vote or to run for public office. They should not be asked to give up those rights… ever!

As an alternative SSF City Council and SSFUSD Board of Trustees should consider implementing term limits to avoid an incumbent advantage scenario. It may be easier to get elected if you are an incumbent but there are no guarantees as we have witnessed in recent elections. An incumbents advantage can be eliminated, if the number of terms that the individual may serve as a member of the School Board or City Council is limited.

Just my two cents worth… for what it’s worth.

Marty Romero



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