June 3 election: Voice editorial endorsements

Endorsements for the county sheriff, Prop. 42, Measure AA bond and Superior Court judges

California's system of electing county sheriffs, especially in metropolitan areas, does not generally serve the public well.

Santa Clara County is a good example of this, where most of the votes cast are from voters in cities served by local police departments and where the only interest in the sheriff is to make sure the jails are running smoothly and the courts are secure.

The sheriff's office is responsible for law enforcement in all unincorporated county lands (except for Stanford, where a unique arrangement delegates authority to the University's own private police force), plus the three smaller cities of Los Altos Hills, Saratoga and Cupertino, which contract with the sheriff for police services.

The current campaign being waged by retired sheriff's Capt. Kevin Jensen against Sheriff Laurie Smith demonstrates why a better system would be for county boards of supervisors to hire sheriffs rather than having them elected.

Through mailings, robo-phone calls and anonymous blog postings, Jensen and his supporters are slinging lots of accusations against Smith with little substance to back them up.

They have cherry-picked and distorted some inartfully-handled incidents during Smith's 12 years in office, but their overriding argument is that deputies don't like her or her management style and believe she lacks "vision" for the department.

Not surprisingly, this criticism won Jensen the backing and financial support of the deputy sheriff's union and the union of correctional officers, as well as most of the unions of city police departments and a contingent of retired police chiefs, including former Palo Alto chief Lynn Johnson.

Smith enjoys the support and respect of all five county supervisors, including Joe Simitian, and a long list of elected officials. Perhaps most significant is the fact she has been endorsed by almost every council member in the three cities that contract with the sheriff for police services, in other words, her customers.

With no one other than deputy sheriffs complaining about Smith's management abilities, the public has little reason to turn Smith out of office. The county supervisors who approve her budget and most closely monitor her work and the cities that directly receive services from her department agree she is doing a good, competent job.

Jensen, who retired last year at age 50 after 28 years in the department, is able to draw the maximum pension of approximately $150,000 a year. The sheriff earns roughly $240,000 a year.

Jensen has had a long and distinguished career with the sheriff's department, but we are uncomfortable with his campaign tactics, union backing and distorted criticisms of the incumbent. And we find little to fault in Smith's tenure except for her occasional missteps that stem more from a lack of political polish and public communication skills than from a deficiency in her management ability.

We recommend the re-election of Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.

Yes on Prop. 42

Although Proposition 42 faces only token opposition, its passage is critically important to fix a problem that threatens the transparency of local government operations in California.

The measure, approved without a dissenting vote by both the state Assembly and Senate, will amend the Constitution to make local governments responsible for the costs of making their official documents available to the public.

Under current law, because complying with the Public Records Act is considered a state mandate, the state must reimburse local governments for their costs. While many, if not most, local agencies don't bother to seek reimbursement because the costs are so small, the reimbursement process has led to confusion and recently, to a brief suspension of the law due to the state's financial situation.

Prop. 42 makes clear that cost should never be a factor in whether local governments comply with the Public Records Act. As we have seen many times locally, the Public Records Act is an essential tool to ensure public accountability and cast sunshine on the inner workings of government.

We urge a 'yes' vote on Proposition 42.

The Voice also recommends...

Vote yes on Measure AA, the bond issue for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Vote for Julianne Sylva for the Office 21 and Matt Harris for the Office 24 seats on the Superior Court bench.

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3 people like this
Posted by Jenell
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Laurie Smith and Kevin Jensen sat down with The Mercury News for an on camera interview. If anyone is still on the fence about voting, it would be worth a watch. It was eye opening to see both candidates without a political filter. The interview is here: Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by Jes' Sayin'
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jun 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm

Dunno how many actually read Measure AA, but it is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-hodgepodge that doesn't actually specify that it will do anything, except collect more taxes. Many potential projects are identified; which ones might be completed is never definitively stated. What an exercise in subterfuge. Some of the things it mentions have been done via private donations in the past. This is a mess. I recommend voting no on this one and forcing proponents to come up with definite, smaller projects where money -- $300 million of yours -- can't so easily be hidden via corruptive practices. I suspect the true hidden purpose here is to take over projects for city governments, money-wise, so that they can use their own money for other things. Let's face it; if so that's dishonest government.

3 people like this
Posted by Ann B.
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2014 at 11:12 pm

I couldn't disagree more with Jes' Sayin's comments. I appreciated the list of proposed projects, providing transparency and a clear explanation of how the money would be spent and how each city/county would benefit. I feel the money would be very wisely spent and an invaluable investment in the future. Jes' Sayin' sounds as if he's purposely misinterpreting the proponents' statements. The only voters against this measure would be real estate developers who have set their sites in a massive way on the Peninsula, and/or TPers who are automatically against fees of any kind for any reason. The Bay Area tradition has been preserving the environment and that should be continued with Measure AA.

3 people like this
Posted by Tardy
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jun 3, 2014 at 2:51 am

Given the increasing use of mail-in ballots, suggest that these recommendations be published much earlier... similar to other local news outlets.

3 people like this
Posted by Casey Thomas
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2014 at 8:45 am

Vote Laurie Smith and this could be you the day someone in your neighborhood goes against her.

Web Link

Do you dare? The deputies say they have no confidence in her, why should you?
Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by Charlene
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 3, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I too watched the Mercury News interview and believe Mr. Jensen is the better person to lead the Sheriff Department. He came across sincere, honest and well qualified coming up through the rank and file. He has the backing of all our local Law Enforcement including our own MVPD. When I factor his credentials, backing of Law Enforcement and our very own Deputies and Correctional Officers I can't vote for Laurie Smith. I am surprised the Voice endorsed the incumbent when the Mercury News stated it was time for her to RETIRE.

3 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Laurie Smith. Long and verified track record of giving concealed gun permits to those who give money to her.

Note also when an organization doesn't endorse her, it's because of a small group in leadership... Are we to assume that if an organization endorses her it is the same? Or that magically that everyone in the organization is for her?

3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Slater
on Jun 3, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Robert is a registered user.

I strongly urge a NO vote on AA for the following reasons. A lot of the "open Space" is not open to the public as it needs certain things done before it can be opened. The MROSD has shone a strong tendency to use its money to acquire property but not fix up the property it already has so it can be open to the public, the purported reason for its existence. I also feel that the open space usage rules are narrowly drawn to cater to an extreme element and not the general public. No camping, fishing, bow hunting, ORV's, and very limited horse and trail bike usage. Everyone pays but only a few can use. I would support if all traditional outdoor recreation usages were accommodated and not just the extremely selfish ones currently allowed. Vote NO on AA.

3 people like this
Posted by @ Robert
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 3, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I completely understand your opinion. I appreciate that you said it politely (well except maybe that "selfish" remark at the end). But, I have to disagree.

The idea behind open space is not always that it is open to the public.

It is open space because there is no development. It is meant to be nature - plants/grass growing because it belongs there, rather than plants brought in from somewhere else to make the area look pretty.

It is open space not to be trampled and littered by the public; not to have the animals overfed or over-run by a specific breed. It is meant to have animals policing themselves because they are free and unencumbered by people.

We need more open space, whether the public is allowed on it or not.

I recommend a YES vote on AA

3 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Sheriff Smith is pretty sick to to be using Sierra Lamar to promote herself. She has an arrest but no conviction. Obviously she has gone into panic mode to be invoking a presumed dead girl to help her win.

3 people like this
Posted by Transparency?!?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Ann B's comments suggest she never saw Dave Price's incisive May-5 Daily Post editorial on how badly crafted Measure AA is, or the many thoughtful supporting letters it prompted.

No one, or almost no one, opposes MROSD's overall mission and preservation efforts. That isn't the issue AT ALL with AA.

1. AA raises funds via bonds. Bonds are a mechanism for spend-now pay-later expenditures, like school construction. With this financing method, interest payments equal or exceed funds spent. The "$300 million" for MROSD costs taxpayers $600 million or more. But AA's proposed projects have no particular timetable. Why not just raise 300 million, by the same tax source, over time, without the expensive interest?

2. Priorities and expenditures are vague AND subject to revision after AA takes effect.

3. Questions have been raised about MROSD's current expenditures, on top of which its expensive bureaucracy with high salaries has hired consultants for planning tasks that other organizations would do in-house.

Backed by an extraordinarily lavish $550,000 advertising campaign that yields more-than-daily mailings (all ultimately to be paid with our tax money), AA was "spun" as a feel-good Open-Space-District endorsement that people WON'T examine closely. Shallow rhetoric above about "the only voters against" AA show this strategy working.

I've actively supported MROSD for decades, but I voted against AA.

3 people like this
Posted by Grateful
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 3, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Big thanks to Transparency and Robert for your comments on the Open Space issue.
Your comments are important, and are exactly what we need to be considering.
I just wish we'd entered into this discussion long before voting day. Your careful and
well-worded comments are valuable to this process.

3 people like this
Posted by Transparency
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 4, 2014 at 8:55 am

Grateful: I take it your lament was meant for the Voice staff (since this article appeared on this web site less than two days ago).

Public controversy over Measure AA was prominent a month ago in other media, as I mentioned.

3 people like this
Posted by Thanks Voice
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I voted exactly the opposite of what your liberal bosses told you to publish.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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