No election. No debate. One overview.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here. I’ve been busy, or maybe nothing has motivated me to put together a post?  But having attended last night’s candidates forum at the Burlingame Woman’s Club featuring candidates Michael Brownrigg, Ricardo Ortiz and Peter Stevenson, I feel the urge to render an opinion. Let me get right to it. I was “disappointed.”

First, I was discouraged at the size of the crowd attending to listen to the candidates. It was a shadow of the size of the crowd that attended such forums in the past. The engagement of the crowd was underwhelming as well. The questions asked were few and not tough enough.

Most importantly, I was let down that all three candidates were running unopposed. This too is a far cry from the crowded fields we’ve seen in the  past here in Burlingame.

Alright, let’s not dwell on the past and focus on the present. I will be naming names here as I believe the readership has a right to know. I will most likely be an equal opportunity offender in this regard.

I’ll try to react to the questions and answers given.

First up, The answer Council member Ortiz gave regarding public safety and growth was weak at best. In short, he stated that the council has not been asked to increase the number of patrol personnel, so by inference, there is no need to increase the number of individuals on the BPD. Wait? What? Does he not see the increase in petty crime, car break-ins, porch pirates, catalytic converter thefts? Does the council need to be asked to increase staffing? Really? The question was trying to tie growth and development to a need to increase the force. In my opinion, there is a lack of patrol in our neighborhoods, there is no substation on the bayfront where massive development is slated ( and the crime rate is higher due to the transient nature of the area) and both Ortiz and Brownrigg are not concerned? This outlook has me concerned.

Bothered by the comments from both candidate Council member Brownrigg and first-time candidate Stevenson when discussing growth. Both agreed with one another that Burlingame can no longer be a quaint bedroom community to San Francisco, it’s simply no longer possible, according to them. I, for one, want council members that recognize that the beauty of our community has always been its quaint, smalltown community feel. If this notion is disregarded than the fabric of the community is at risk. I want council members to protect this town, not just add and support what seems like unbridled growth. Did I say disappointing?

Brownrigg also said that studies have shown that Burlingame can handle more growth and that we still have capacity for even more density.  Someone asked regarding the issue of growth, “When is enough, enough?” All candidates didn’t really know how to answer this question. To me this is a red flag moment. Isn’t this one of the biggest issues facing Burlingame today? Council member Ortiz made a convoluted comment that more density is actually making our property values even higher. Not sure I understand that logic, so I won’t dwell on this point.

From my perspective, there is much more density in the pipeline than I ever imagined when I moved here over 27 years ago. Reminder there are seven, eight, nine and ten story buildings ready for approval right now. I’ve said it here on The Voice years ago that Burlingame will be unrecognizable and sadly, it is coming true faster than I thought.

Simply put, there didn’t seem to be any real concern over growth from any of the candidates. In fact, there seemed to be a satisfaction that the revenue generated by growth is worth it. This gives me great cause for concern. On the east side of town, District 5, I would have thought candidate Stevenson would have a stronger position as much of the development has a direct effect on District 5. ( District 5 not only represents the residential neighborhoods on the east side of Burlingame, it also encompasses the bayfront.)

There was some justification that growth comes with benefits like open space like what is planned for the massive downtown development that is being constructed at the downtown post office site for example. Concerts, gathering spots, places to play chess were mentioned specifically by Council member Brownrigg. The notion of closing Burlingame Avenue to vehicular traffic was also mentioned. I would suggest that all three candidates talk to experts like those with the Project for Public Spaces to gather bonified expert opinions before rendering their so-called expert opinion on open space and street closures. These are issues have unintended consequences and that again will change the fabric of Burlingame and should be taken seriously before any decisions are made. Covid has made the talk of street closures a popular topic. Perhaps I will opine on this subject in a separate post as it is a complex issue that much of time is oversimplified. Proceed with caution, I say.

Finally, there was a topic upon which I actually agreed with an answer. The topic of Broadway was on the docket and Council member Ortiz eluded to the fact that property owners bore some responsibility for the look and feel of the street having lacked the pride of ownership of their respective storefronts. It’s not simply just a streetscape improvement issue. I would add that no one seems to have the institutional memory that Broadway improvements actually happened well before the improvements to Burlingame Avenue. New bulb outs were built that included seating capacity, the old Magnolia trees were removed and brand-new trees were planted and new sidewalks were poured. Granted those improvements are now about 20 years old, but what is the schedule for wholesale streetscape improvements anyway? Seems to me that based on Burlingame Avenue and nearby downtown’s, infrastructure improvements generally happen about once a century.

One observation. All three candidates seemed to agree with one another on all the issues presented. Where is the independent thinking? Where are the strong perspectives? Where’s the debate? Is this what we have to look forward to—four years of, ”I concur, I agree, good point, well said?” Good lord.

So, there you have it. My take on the forum was disappointment all the way around.

As forum moderator Renaldo Pasquali accurately stated, it was nice to hear from the candidates, but in the end there really is no election. All the candidates are running unopposed. Perhaps there should be a new rule? If there are uncontested district races at the time of final candidate filing, or a candidate who has filed pulls out of the race, the filing deadline should be extended so that candidates who might have been considering running have another moment in time to consider throwing their names into the hat so that elections aren’t a wasted exercise. Just a thought.


November 05, 2019

October 20, 2019

September 30, 2019

September 20, 2019

August 25, 2019

August 07, 2019

July 18, 2019

May 20, 2019

April 30, 2019

December 20, 2018

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