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San Mateo Citizens Academy Week 5


Sep 20th was "Support Services", including Dept of Public Works, the
Information Services Division, Employee & Public Services (which
includes the 911 Dispatch Center which was the highlight of the

Dept of Public Works: Cities have their own versions - this is for the
county. Dept doe things like roads, sewers, motor pool, etc. 4
Divisions (my notes are unclear here). DPW Engineering (property
lines, property maps). Resource Protection (Env. Waste, Flood Control,
Recycling, etc): AB 939 - set in place waste reduction goals - county
didn't make it (no others did either). DPW administrates 40 special

San Mateo Citizens Academy Week 4


This week was Environmental Services Agency part 2. We were at the Millbrae library, which, let me tell you, is *nice*. Definitely worth a visit.

We heard from Planning & Building Division: they are responsible for the San Mateo County "General Plan" - a policy document for land use. Policies and goals in several areas - (incomplete list) landu se, transportation, safety, housing, cultural concerns. There are also other specific policy documents in these areas and others. Then, there is the zoning ordinance which implements the General Plan. The zoning ordinance creates zoning districts wach with development standards (e.g. setbacks) and allowed uses. Design standards are also specified (mostly for coastside and bayside) to manage how buildings look and blend in with surroundings. "Planning entitlements" are permits & variances which are the result of the review process for each of these districts. This process is through staff and/or commissions/committees. Inspections (uniform building codes) and code enforcement (zoning violations) also under this division. Code enforcement is done on a complaint based system.

Jacob Applebaum


Jacob Applebaum ('ioerror' on #joiito) has been in Algiers, Louisiana helping to set up community communications infrastructure for the aftermath of Katrina. He's been documenting his work and experiences on his Blog, but today's entry, a life story interview, blows me away. Even as Jacob goes through recovery from personal tragedy in his life, he inspires others to make this world a better place.

San Mateo Citizens Academy Week 3

Miscellaneous | Politics

This topic was at the Housing Dept and covered Child Support Services and the new Housing Dept. There was so much information on this night that I was unable to keep notes because there were a lot of handouts. Hopefully I'll be able to link to them.

Some highlights:

* The Child Support services dept acts like a collection agency for parents who are owed child support. They are more effective at collection (current & arrears) than the California average and the National average. Pretty darn impressive. They server 14,500 clients a year, helping the clients get child support from a parent (usually a father) who owes that child support to the other parent. On average, family gets $3000 a year. Most of the clients are or have been on public assistance. There were a lot more numbers given, but I one important fact is that the money collected by this department often goes to pay back the welfare being received by the client, saving the state money. The CSS dept is mandated in every county in the country. They are going to be migrating to a centralized collection system where employers, etc can pay all the withheld paycheck money to a central system.

San Mateo Citizens Academy Week 2

Miscellaneous | Politics

Week two was held in the Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education. A great place to take the kids.

This session focus on the "Environmental Services Agency" (part 1). This agency should really be called "The Miscellaneous Civic Services Department". Notes follow:

* Marsha Raines, Director of Environmental Services - city-type services in one agency. Consists of weights & measures, animal control, UC Co-op extension, county fire (contracted to Cal Dept of Fire), Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), county library system (11 smaller cities + unincorporated -- works with peninsula library system), parks rec & trails.

Katrina Peoplefinder

Miscellaneous | Personal

I spent my weekend lending technical expertise, performing volunteer greeting in cyberspace, and just general organizing for the Katrina Peoplefinder Project. From the wiki page:

Several dozen sites have been established to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina find their loved ones, and to allow people to report missing people. This creates a difficulty for people trying to locate missing persons - they need to search dozens of separate databases and message forums.

So we've decided to create a centralized database, where you can search the data from all of these at one time.

First San Mateo County Citizen's Academy Class

Miscellaneous | Personal | Politics

This year, I applied and was accepted to the 2005 Citizens's Academy, a set of 15 "classes" where folks in SMC can learn about county government by meeting and hearing from folks running various parts of county government.

I'm going to try to blog the notes I take each night to my blog, and this is the first entry for 08/23/05.

The first session was an introductory session, describing the county history and its political and organizational structure. We heard from the County Manager, the County Counsel, Supervisor Jerry Hill, as well as received short greetings from a number of other county department heads.

My visit to Sacramento

Personal | Politics

Today, I went on a visit to the California state capitol with a group from San Mateo County Democracy for America. The staff in both Assemblyman Ira Ruskin (my assemblyperson) and Assemblyman Gene Mullin helped us in arranging a visit to the assembly chambers to watch this morning's session, a tour of the capitol, and (not-so-brief) visits with the two assemblymen.

Apparently the word "tax" (not "new tax" or "higher tax" - just "tax") sends some Republicans into a hyperbolic fit of irrational indignation. Absurd. Its this sort of knee-jerk politics that screws up the budget process in California so badly.




Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend Barcamp, a great technology grassroots get-together. Kudos to all the folks who brought it together - the best 6 hours I've spent geeking out in a long time...

A birthday to bring family to powers of two


I turned 32 today. My daughter is 4. My son is 2. All of our ages are powers of two. This will only be the case for about 4 weeks (my son is turning 3 soon).

This will never happen again.

I hereby appreciate it publicly.