May 20, 2012

Warren Slocum for District Four Supervisor


May 16, 2012, 05:00 AM Editorial

There are seven high-quality candidates for District Four supervisor who all bring key points of view to the discussion about who would be best to serve as the district’s representative on the five-member Board of Supervisors.

However, there is one candidate who has the experience and track record of innovation who is the best choice for the position — Warren Slocum.

Slocum served as chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk-recorder in San Mateo County since 1986 before he retired in 2010. In that position, Slocum was well known for his interest in technology, innovation, democracy and civic engagement. Slocum has differentiated himself as a technologically savvy proponent of updated voting systems, all-mail ballots and an overall push for voter participation.

After the contentious 2000 presidential election revamped voting rules and equipment — typically lumped together under the 2002 Help America Vote Act — Slocum moved away from his support of paper voting to embrace the handicap-accessible eSlate electronic voting system and would still like to see all-mail ballots for their savings in both time and money.

Slocum also established shapethefuture.org and smcare.org websites to help residents navigate the office remotely and increase accessibility and transparency.

In his time in office, he also properly handled what could have been a controversy when same-sex couples asked him to allow for them to be married. In a 2007 letter to 57 other county clerks and copied to state leaders, Slocum asked his peers to support the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act which would have granted clerks the authority to conduct marriages for same-sex couples. Slocum’s stance drew wide praise in the local LGBT community and attention on a wider scale.

As assessor, Slocum also oversaw a number of declining valued property reassessments — maintaining paperwork on ownership and foreclosure proceedings all while managing budget cuts to his departments.

In this campaign, no one has been able to knock Slocum on his government experience, which is sterling. One concern may be the situation in which a former elected official is seeking another elected office after retiring and his ability to question the establishment both in the County Manager’s Office and the sitting Board of Supervisors. However, those concerns can be diminished in two ways. First, elected officials returning to another elected office is nothing new. Supervisor Don Horsley’s experience as a former sheriff was seen as a benefit. And voters supported Jerry Brown when he returned to office as mayor of Oakland, California attorney general and governor, his former office. Political experience is important in elected office and should not be seen as a liability unless that person’s tenure was less than sterling, which is clearly not the case with Slocum. As far as questioning establishment, Slocum’s experience in county government should give him the stature to stand up for what he believes without suffering from a steep learning curve that a newcomer would encounter. One decision the board made recently that Slocum disagreed with was the purchase of the Circle Star properties in San Carlos for $40 million because the county should be investing in properties that make money. More than a year after the purchase, the county is contemplating leasing part of the property after moving certain county offices there didn’t make sense. Slocum also believed the board should have placed the issue of district elections on the ballot for voters to decide — an example of him standing apart from the status quo.

But more importantly, Slocum brings a certain innovative spirit to any endeavor. One innovation he directed was the wedding cam at his office so family members near and far could witness what is often a once-in-a-lifetime event. It’s a small thing, but an example of out-of-the-box thinking. Another example Slocum illustrates is using Zipcar technology to save money with the county motor pool and looking into other ways of using computer programs at the county level to save the cost of buying individual programs. In his time in his previous positions, we enjoyed seeing the cutting edge thinking and Silicon Valley spirit behind his new ideas while also adhering to the philosophy of ensuring that whatever is introduced still has an overall benefit to the entire community.

Simply put, Slocum is the best candidate and voters have an opportunity to take advantage of his innovative spirit and ability to speak his mind without a learning curve.

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