Seriously contested local elections are few and far between in next week's state primary election, but two judge campaigns, a challenge to the county's incumbent sheriff and an open-space bond measure deserve our readers' attention and vote.
Low turnout elections allow a highly motivated minority of the electorate to control election outcomes, so we hope Palo Alto voters will cast ballots and make their voices heard.
As of Wednesday, only 3,500 of the 27,000 ballots issued to Palo Alto voters had been returned to the Registrar, so we have a long ways to go to reach a respectable turnout level.
Earlier this month, the Weekly published editorial recommendations on the competitive races and measures. Our choices are summarized below with reference and links to the original editorials.
Measure AA: Vote yes on open space bonds (May 2)
Voters in the 17 Santa Clara and San Mateo county cities that make up the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District have the chance to ensure these lands are maintained properly and made more accessible for public enjoyment over the next few decades.
Measure AA requires a two-thirds vote for passage and authorizes the sale of up to $300 million in general obligation bonds over 30 years. It will increase local property taxes by up to $3.18 per $100,000 in assessed valuation, or about $30 a year for a homeowner with a property assessed at $1 million.
We are strong believers in the work of the open space district and the value it brings to our increasingly urbanized environment. It is hard to imagine a more important public investment than to maintain and improve the valuable open space that provides us with beautiful views, recreational opportunities and protection against development.
Re-elect Sheriff Laurie Smith (May 16)
The campaign being waged by retired sheriff's captain Kevin Jensen against Sheriff Laurie Smith demonstrates why a better system would be for county boards of supervisors to hire a sheriff rather than having them elected.
Through mailings, robo phone calls and anonymous blog postings, Jensen and his supporters are slinging lots of accusations against Smith with little substance to back them up.
They have cherry-picked and distorted some inartfully handled incidents during Smith's 12 years in office, but their overriding argument is that deputies don't like her or her management style and believe she lacks "vision" for the department.
Smith enjoys the support and respect of all five county supervisors, including Joe Simitian, and a long list of elected officials. Perhaps most significant is the fact she has been endorsed by almost every councilmember in the three cities that contract with the sheriff for police services, in other words, her customers.
Sylva, Harris for Superior Court judgeships (May 9)
In the two-candidate "Office 21" judicial race, we believe Julianne Sylva is the superior choice, in spite of the more diverse experience of her opponent, Dennis Lempert.
Sylva, a deputy district attorney for the last 23 years, is a prosecutor who has shown consistent concern and compassion for both crime victims and the accused, especially with regards to juvenile and family-law matters and those involving indigent defendants.
Three candidates are running for the "Office 24" slot on the bench. Our choice is Matt Harris, a 23-year veteran prosecutor in the D.A.'s office. He is running against incumbent Judge Diane Ritchie and challenger Annrae Angel, a criminal-defense attorney. It is the first time in 16 years that a sitting judge has faced a challenge in Santa Clara County.
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