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Off-Year Election Offers Limited Controversy

School Districts ask for your money; candidates ask for your vote.

Within some Peninsula cities next Tuesday night, candidates for various elected positions will be able to go to bed and sleep soundly before a single ballot is counted, knowing they've already won. That's because many are running unopposed.

In San Mateo, two city council seats are open. Only two candidates - Mayor Jack Mathews and Planning Commission Chair Maureen Freschet - filed and qualified for the election. It's safe to say Mathews and Freschet would be well-served to organize victory parties.

In San Bruno, three council members up for re-election - Mayor Jim Ruane, Vice-Mayor Michael Salazar and Councilwoman Irene O'Connell - will be uncontested. The city, having no ballots to count, saved about $80,000

In San Mateo County, only three cities, Millbrae, Foster City, and Belmont have an abundance of candidates running for open council positions; six are running for three open positions in both Millbrae and Foster City, and five are running for two positions on the council in Belmont.

A board of high visibility, the San Mateo County Community College District, sees six candidates vying for three spots.

School districts in Redwood City, Hillsborough, San Bruno, San Carlos, and the combined district in San Mateo-Foster City have open positions. San Bruno may have the most controversial candidate, Charles "Chuck" Zelnik, Jr, who lists among his credentials former PTA president at Portola and Crestmoor Elementary. According to statements Zelnik made at an election forum in San Bruno, the school district lied when it told the state that it wouldn’t need any capital improvements for at least five years.

As a result, Zelnik opposes Measure O, a $40 million school bond sought by the San Bruno Park School District. Millbrae's school district hopes voters will pass Measure N, a $30 million bond, which would, among other things, allow monies to build a new cafeteria at Taylor Middle School. Burlingame voters are being asked to pay $76 per owned parcel for four years to upgrade educational facilities in Measure E. Measure L, in Pacifica, is virtually the same ask, only more expensive, costing taxpayers $118 per parcel, for five years.

The largest school bond - Measure H - may be the most discussed. The San Mateo County Community College District, covering the College of San Mateo, Canada College and Skyline College, seeks approval of $564 million in bond funding. Voters may remember passing two previous bond measures for the district within the past 10 years: $207 million in 2001 and $468 million in 2005. Approval of the newest bond proposal would put the district's debt at over $1 billion.

Virtually all cities on the Peninsula struggle to find affordable housing for the less fortunate.  San Mateo's Measure G would "amend the city's general plan to allow for a housing impact fee to be imposed on developers of rental housing," according to an impartial analysis by the city attorney. The fee would be used by the city for either the development or subsidy of affordable rental housing.

Both Redwood City (Measure I) and Foster City (Measure P) seek to increase the hotel taxes charged guests who visit their fair cities. Redwood City's proposal would move the tax from 10 percent to 12 percent, Foster City's from 8 percent to 9.5 percent.

Detailed information about Tuesday night's election can be found in a myriad of places, including the county election site, and the Smartvoter.org site.

Polling locations throughout the county open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, and close at 8 p.m. Results of vote-by-mail balloting will be available as early as 8:05 p.m. that evening, according to Elections Supervisor Narda Barrientos. If you have questions, you may call the elections office at (650) 312-5222, e-mail them at registrar@smcare.org, or find them online at www.shapethefuture.org.

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