Voters call for change. Will they get it?

Newcomer Deborah Penrose and former City Councilwoman Deborah Ruddock dominated the voting for the open seats on the Half Moon Bay City Council. The two Debbies were followed by a pack of second-tier vote getters, incumbent Rick Kowalczyk, Allan Alifano, and David Eblovi, each of whom hovered around 12-14% of the vote.

Kowalczyk will be returned to office but Alifano is out (does that sound familiar?). Two questions jump out from the voting numbers:

First question: Did the decisive recall of Allan’s son, Mike Alifano, from the fire board just eighteen months ago stain the Alifano name in HMB politics? Just fifty-five votes separated Alifano from a victory tonight. If there is a stain on the Alifano name, even a slight one, it played a critical role in tonight’s outcome. A possible double (or triple) whammy on the Alifano name—it is said that Allan’s son Mike ran Allan’s campaign and also that of Don Prestosz, who came in last out of the candidates actually running.

Second Question: Harvey Rarback. With three open slots on the council running four candidates to oppose the HMB “Old Guard” seemed like a recipe for dilution. Plus Harvey was already on the fire board. Confusion resulted which was little diminished by Rarback bowing out of the race, but too late to keep his name off the ballot. Do the math: Rarback’s 467 votes divided equally amongst the three others challenging the Old Guard gives David Eblovi the victory over Kowalczyk for third place. The two Debbie minority becomes a “3-D” (Deborah, Deborah, and David) majority. But it is not to be.

Penrose is new to HMB elected office but well known among HMB citizens. Ruddock is well known from her prior time on the council as a friend of the environmentalists. They should work well together. But will the City Council itself work well together or will they continue their long streak of astonishingly bad decisions? Will new perspectives give power to the council to vet ideas more thoroughly or will it just be a series of 3-2 votes, the usual HMB political polarization, from now until the next election?

Over at the fire board the election was a quiet one. Michael Clardy, worked against the fire board recall but now suggests his views have changed over the past year and a half—he wants to strengthen the Cal Fire contract. Lots of voters weren’t so sure. Bill Kehoe, who basically tied Clardy, worked for the recall. Although Kehoe did an excellent job of running the Midcoast Community Council in a business-like manner in his time there—a big change from its past and no small feat—some voters worried that Kehoe represented the “Montara Mafia” and would bring into the fire board intense concern over land use issues, the red-hot dividing line on most issues in coastside politics, which, until recently, the fire board has managed to avoid.

The big winner in the fire board race is Bruce MacKimmie who breezed to victory with 43% of the vote without breaking a sweat. Literally. He barely campaigned and only put up a few signs late in the campaign. MacKimmie is a former fire board member who strongly supported the recall and as a board member helped bring in Cal Fire to run the Coastside’s fire services. He ran, quietly, purely on his record and won by a landslide.

The Harbor District election outcome is a huge victory for Sabrina Brennan, who wasn’t even on the ballot. When she won her seat on the board of the Harbor District in 2012 with a record number of votes she interrupted the most secretive “Old Boys Club” on the coast where board members paid themselves cash and benefits each month in an amount larger than other Coastside officials received all year. A lot more. And that was just the beginning of a string of revelations that were by turns stunning, hilarious, and pathetic. Tens of thousands of uncashed checks, aggressive behavior by board members to any challenge, harassment allegations and investigations, a harbor manager who secretly ran a bank out of his office. It goes on and on.

All of which leads directly to tonight’s vote with two of Brennan’s allies, Nicole David and Tom Mattusch, winning by substantial margins. The ringleader of the old boys club, Jim Tucker, also returns (but not his henchman Holsinger). But Tucker is smarter than most and may quickly realize that it is far wiser to work with the new majority rather than shrink to irrelevance by opposing it.

David and Captain Tom bring highly useful perspectives to the Harbor governing body—David is a marine scientist and Mattusch is a legitimate boat captain and fisherman, the first on the harbor board in recent memory.

But now that Brennan has her majority will she be able to govern? Will she learn the art of compromise, deal-making and teamwork?

Finally, Measure O. Oh! Measure O was billed as necessary to build a new public library in Half Moon Bay. Opponents pointed out that the language of the measure did not actually obligate the money to go to a library and that the City Council would, in fact, be free to spend it in any number of ways. And so the measure was drowned by a lack of confidence in the Old Guard dominated City Council (see large margins of victory for Penrose and Ruddock, above).

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