Changes coming to Harbor Board (Daily Post, Oct,19, 2020)

Two familiar mid-Peninsula political figures are going head-to-head for a seat on the San Mateo County Harbor District board, an entity known for its litigation and rancorous meetings.

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In the election, former Menlo Park councilwoman and mayor Kirsten Keith is facing Virginia Chang Kiraly, who has served on the harbor board since 2015 and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board since 2011.

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Now Keith and Kiraly are running for the Harbor District’s 5th District seat, which encompasses southern San Mateo County, spanning from Pescadero to East Palo Alto.

Keith, 53, an attorney, says she is running because she loves the county’s beaches and harbors and wants to protect them while also supporting recreational activities.

Keith says if she is elected she will move the meeting time back to the evening. A few months ago, the board decided to move its meetings from 6:30 p.m. to 1 p.m., which Keith disagrees with. She says the move “dampened” the board’s transparency. Another goal of hers would be to advocate for funding the renovation of Johnson Pier at Pillar Point.


Keith adds that the district has an opportunity with new board members to have decorum at meetings. She says the lack of decorum demeans the work of the district.

Keith’s endorsements include Rep. Anna Eshoo, state Sen. Jerry Hill, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, Harbor Commissioner Ed Larenas, Menlo Park Fire board member Rob Silano and former fire board member Peter Carpenter, East Palo Alto council members Larry Moody and Lisa Gauthier, Redwood City councilwomen Alicia Aguirre and Diana Reddy and Atherton councilmen Bill Widmer, Cary Wiest and Rick DeGolia.

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The board has long been called dysfunctional. A 2014 San Mateo County Grand Jury report said the district has a history of dysfunction going back at least to 2001, and commission meetings often turn into shouting matches. The grand jury’s top recommendation was to dissolve the Harbor District and have the county take over its functions.

The Harbor District is an independent agency that operates two facilities — Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay and Oyster Point Marina in South San Francisco. It is funded by property taxes and commercial activities.

— Emily Mibach, Daily Post, Oct 19,2020