1/7/2009 - Groom becomes supervisor in year of challenges
By Shaun Bishop
Redwood City Daily News
 
A new San Mateo County supervisor took the oath of office Tuesday night as her colleagues predicted a grim budget outlook will headline the county's challenges in 2009.
 
The San Mateo City Council chambers were abuzz with anticipation as Carole Groom was sworn in by Council Member John Lee to fill the seat vacated by Jerry Hill, an influential supervisor who was elected to the state Assembly in November.
 
Groom, who spent eight years on San Mateo's City Council, told a packed room that she is ready to tackle the county's $41 million structural budget deficit and find funding for an ambitious plan to expand health care coverage to thousands of adults.
 
"I was honored to serve you (in San Mateo) and I will continue to serve you in this role," said Groom, who was appointed in December to the seat by a 3-1 vote of the other four supervisors, despite calls for a special election.
 
High-ranking elected officials from up and down the Peninsula were on hand for the meeting, marking the first time in county history in which women hold a majority of the supervisor seats.
 
Supervisor Mark Church was named the new board president by a unanimous vote of his colleagues. In a state of the county address, he focused on the national financial crisis, which he said represents a chance "to be creative and rethink the way we do business."
 
He called for reform to the state budget process through a constitutional convention and encouraged residents to volunteer their time to help the homeless or mentor youth.
 
"Despite the economic downturn, I believe there is a lot we can do right now within existing resources to improve people's lives and build a better future," Church said.
 
He introduced several ideas for new programs, including facilitating regular reading events for at-risk children and establishing better toxic waste disposal.
 
Supervisor Rich Gordon was named vice president of the board. He jokingly thanked his colleagues for putting him "a heartbeat away from Mark" before wishing Church "great health in the coming year."
 
Outgoing board President Adrienne Tissier said 2008 "was a year to remember mainly for the things we'd like to forget," but noted several bright spots, including the county's new ban on Styrofoam containers, its pharmaceutical disposal program and gradual progress in planning for a new jail.
 
After the meeting, Groom said she intends to start work immediately on finding funding for the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Adult Healthcare Expansion, a group formed to explore extending coverage to an estimated 44,000 indigent adults in the county.
 
Paying for that project is a political hot potato, as local business leaders have said they are concerned they will be hit with an unfair portion of the cost.
 
Finding new funding for parks is also a priority for Groom, who will represent District 2, which covers the mid-Peninsula cities of San Mateo, Belmont and Foster City.
 
"I've got lots to learn. I've got lots to do," she said.