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Q & A with Kirsten Keith

She's running for the District 4 seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Rose Jacobs Gibson will vacate her seat on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors this year. 

Six people want her job, which is to represent the interests of District 4. The district encompasses Redwood City, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and houses about 150,000 people, according to the latest census data. 

Patch sent all of them a list of questions about their candidacy, so that you could become more familiar with them in advance of the June 5 election.

1) Talk to me about why you’re the best candidate to represent District 4.

For the past few years, San Mateo County has used reserves to cover budget shortfalls, this cannot continue. Every family knows, if you keep spending your savings account on everyday expenses, eventually you will have no savings left. The County has to look for ways to trim more costs, and more importantly for the long-term, it has to foster a business-friendly climate to increase local economic development so we can generate new tax revenue without adding additional tax burdens on residents. 

As the current Mayor of Menlo Park, I am part of a council team that is taking both these steps. 

First, we've cut costs. When faced with a drastic budget shortfall as a result of the state eliminating redevelopment, we had to trim an entire department in the city dedicated to housing. It was difficult, but had to be done. 

Second, we're working hard to ensure that Facebook keeps their world headquarters in Menlo Park. That's over 6,000 local jobs. We certainly have some challenges to meet to make sure it happens, but I am a very strong advocate to get this approved. The economic benefit to Menlo Park and San Mateo County will be enormous, and I am excited to help make this a reality. We are also poised to meet the spin off economic demands of a Facebook headquarters with the recently approved Menlo Gateway project in our industrial area of town, east of Highway 101. The office buildings and hotel that have already been approved, and that will be built by local union construction workers, will help meet the business demand generated by Facebook. That means even more local jobs. 

I've made the tough and difficult budget decisions and I am a strong advocate to improve our local job climate. That's what distinguishes me from other candidates.

2) What would you prioritize if you got voted in? 

Keith moved this question down in her answers next to question four and placed the word "and" after it, which incidcated that she is coalescing the response to question two with question four. See below. 

3)   Who are your primary supporters?

I have many supporters from across the County, that may be viewed at kirstenkeith.com. These include Mary Griffin and Mike Nevin, both former Presidents of the Board of Supervisors, and many current and former mayors and elected officials from cities throughout the County, including Atherton, Brisbane, Daly City, Foster City, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Redwood City and San Carlos.

4) What issue in the county is the most important in your eyes and what’s your position on it?
There are many important issues facing the County. Our County is in financial trouble, with a significant structural budget deficit. The County continues to use reserves to balance the budget and spending outpaces revenues. The deficit is 77 million dollars for fiscal year 2013. If no action to cut spending is taken by the Board, the deficit will increase to 149 million dollars in fiscal year 2017. This is unacceptable. 

We must create more jobs and bring economic development to our County, just as the council is doing in Menlo Park. Facebook became the largest employer in Menlo Park when they moved their headquarters last year. Menlo Park and San Mateo County will benefit, as this move will encourage new businesses to develop in the area, creating additional jobs, housing, and an improved transit corridor.

We must improve our transportation options so that people can use reliable public transit to get to their jobs, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and congestion on roads and highways. Ensuring that Caltrain has a dedicated source of funding for operations and maintenance is crucial. Caltrain must be modernized and electrified, which will allow for more stops and reduced travel time.

5) What is one line item that you think could be eliminated from the county budget?

If you look at the budget, there are many one line items that could be eliminated, but some are so small that removal would have little impact. The real question is how do we get to a position that we do not need to use reserves to fill in the gap. The budget must be analyzed as a whole and we must continually look for ways to reduce costs.

6) Tell me about a way that you would raise revenue for the county.

We need to attract jobs and businesses to the County. We need to encourage businesses that are here already to remain in San Mateo County and expand, especially businesses that produce sales tax revenue or pay in lieu fees. There should be outreach to current businesses to make sure that their needs are being met. Members of the Board of Supervisors should attend Conferences to attract businesses to our County, such as the BioNetwork East Conference in March. We should also discuss the benefits of hiring a Business Development Director.

7) What’s your background?

My grandparents purchased their Menlo Park home in the 1950s, and my mother attended Menlo Park public schools. I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, and moved to Redwood Shores in 1980. I started high school at Sequoia in Redwood City, and later attended Carlmont in Belmont. In 1996, my husband and I purchased our home in Menlo Park, and our children attend Menlo Park public schools.

Before I was elected to the Council,  I served on the Menlo Park Planning Commission for nearly seven years and the Housing Commission prior to that. I gained significant knowledge of land use issues, which are issues frequently addressed by the Board of Supervisors.

Long before I was involved in Menlo Park commissions, I was a County Commissioner for eight years, serving on the Commission on the Status of Women and was the Chair for two years. I have volunteered my time with many other non-profits over the past twenty years, including the International Institute at the Fair Oaks Community Center in Redwood City. I served on the Board of Directors of Sor Juana Inez, a battered women’s service agency, and now serve on the Advisory Board of CORA - Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse. I have also been a member of the San Mateo County Legal Aid Luncheon Committee, that diligently raises money to help people in our County obtain legal services, for the past fourteen years.

8) What is one thing that most constituents don’t know about you?

I enjoy the challenge and excitement of climbing mountains. I have been fortunate to summit Mount Shasta (14,179 feet) from the Northeast/Hotlum Bolam Ridge, Mount Whitney (14,505 feet) via the East face, and Mount Ranier (14,410 feet) from the Ingraham Glacier/Disappointment Cleaver route.  

9) Do you speak any other languages, besides English? 

I learned to speak Spanish when I was twelve, and living in Santiago, Chile, with my family.

10) If someone wants to contact you, what is the best way for them to do so?

The best way to reach me is by email: kirsten.keith@gmail.com.

Diana Reddy February 25, 2012 at 07:10 PM
So, Mayor Keith served on the Menlo Park Housing and Planning Commissions for over seven years and doesn't see the disconnect between wanting Facebook to stay in Menlo Park (and expand to an ultimate 9500 employees) and eliminating the Housing Department? For over ten years Menlo Park has not had a certified Housing Element nor has it added any credible developments to the region's housing stock. Under her leadership, there is still no Housing Element nor any plans to increase the region's housing stock, thereby putting pressure on neighboring cities, which will ultimately increase rents and housing prices, forcing most people who currently live and work in the area, out. Maybe it's me! I defnitely feel disconnected from a candidate who isn't able to visualize regional impacts.
Buck Shaw February 26, 2012 at 06:19 PM
#5 "A penny saved is a penny earned" I say. You say "so small that removal would have little impact" for the line item. Are you for real. Sorry I just think that it a ludicrus way to approach things. It all ads up. Your favorite or your voter base has some little funded project that your hidding by not bothering to go after it. Anyone can move a ton of bricks, albeit one at a time... Let them eat cake. Right ?
Henry Riggs April 17, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Odd comment from Diana Reddy. In the year that Keith has been on council, the Housing Element has been moved off the back burner, and is now a top priority according to new City Manager Alex McIntyre. And during Keith's time on the Planning Commission the Downtown Specirfic Plan has covered all bases w residents and merchants (w/ expected controversy) to promote housing near the CalTrain station - also a top council priority and due for final vote in eight weeks.
Jennifer Tegnerud May 01, 2012 at 02:56 PM
At least she realizes that SMC is in debt and spending needs to be cut.
Buck Shaw May 02, 2012 at 12:59 AM
So do I young lady. So does everybody. Lemmings do too..... But she has said little ones don't matter. That says to me. I don't care... The people want a LEADER. Someone who will "Damn the Torpedo's" Without the guts to cut some little special project. 42K say, what are my expectations for other line items. ZERO

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