Repairing the state starts at the community level

150 150 Kristin Connelly

More than 160 community leaders from across San Mateo County, including elected and non-elected county, city and school district officials, gathered at the College of San Mateo on Friday, January 13, 2012 for the first in a series of meetings to work on “Building A Healthy and Safe Community.”  

Many of the leaders, including Supervisors Carole Groom and Don Torsley, Redwood City School Board Vice-Chair Shelly Masur, County Superintendent Anne Campbell and Councilmember Kevin Mullin from the City of South San Francisco were early champions of California Forward’s work and have been actively collaborating for years to improve government performance.  

Recognizing that local leaders need to be more effective at solving community problems with fewer resources, leaders at Friday’s CCS meeting committed to collaborating across sectors and breaking down siloes that too often prevent effective problem-solving.  

After a brief plenary session featuring uplifting remarks from local football coach Patrick Walsh from Junipero Serra high school, filling in for Sup. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, participants attended one of three breakout sessions:

(1) preparing for federal healthcare reform

(2) reducing gang violence

(3) integrating services to improve outcomes for youth

Each breakout session featured a panel of local experts providing introductory remarks to set the context for small group discussions in which facilitators challenged participants to develop a specific goal that the partnership could agree to achieve in the next three years.  County Superintendent Anne Campbell highlighted three examples of integrated services worth further discussion:

(1) Brisbane and Bayshore School Districts’ (both small districts) efforts to share a Superintendent and Business Manager which has resulted in both peaks and valleys

(2) Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s collaboration with both San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties on sustainability which has resulted in a projected savings of 10-15% on energy costs over next 20 years; and

(3) San Mateo County’s collaboration with the CCAG (City/County Association of Governments) on its “Safe Routes to School” program funded by a $1.4 million grant from MTC which is working to get kids to and from school in healthier ways than by car.  

All of these collaborations have resulted in building relationships that can be used again to improve performance across sectors.

One integrated services breakout session coalesced around the broad goal of ensuring that the educational, health and emotional needs of children are met so that they can thrive.  

Milton Reynolds, a member of the San Mateo County Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission, expressed the urgent need for shared discipline practices countywide across school sites given the grossly disproportionate incarceration rates for youth:  Latino youth are four times more likely and African-American youth are almost three times more likely than non-Hispanic white youth to be incarcerated. 

Both the groups tackling San Mateo’s preparedness for implementing federal healthcare reform and the group addressing the rise in gang violence among youth also identified goals and attempted to develop a roadmap for next steps.  

Before noting that participants will receive a report from all the working groups and have an opportunity to provide feedback to organizers of the subsequent meetings of the partnership, Sup. Don Horsley’s closing remarks about San Mateo County emphasized collaboration:

“We lack a big city Mayor, but we work together collaboratively. That is unique. We collaborate effectively.” 


Kristin Connelly

All stories by: Kristin Connelly