San Mateo to focus on finances in 2010 

Improving public safety and city finances are at the top of the list of goals for 2010 for San Mateo’s newly appointed mayor.

John Lee was voted by his fellow council members in December to serve as the head of the city’s governing body for a one-year term.

The longtime San Mateo resident and retired businessman has previously served as mayor two other times in the past.

City leaders are currently facing an $8 million budget deficit as a result of decreasing tax revenue and increased operating costs.

Lee said financial challenges are an issue both across the state and nationwide, and San Mateo is not unique in that respect.

“Finance is critical,” Lee said. “We don’t have enough money. I don’t trust the state to not take our money and the feds don’t have enough money.”

San Mateo is currently seeking to get back $2.8 million the state took away in property taxes to balance California’s budget.

Lee said he would like to see the Coalition of California Cities develop a way to prevent the state from dipping into city funds.

“They take it every way they can,” he said. “Every loophole. We need to work on ways to prevent them from doing it.”

As mayor, Lee said he hopes to also focus on public safety by continuing on the track it is on with responses to calls and funding.

“We don’t have enough money to compete on a public safety level,” he said. “But I’m committed to not cutting police and fire.”

Lee said he would look at making cuts from other departments before reducing funds budgeted for those public safety departments.

Lee succeeds Brandt Grotte, who served as mayor during 2009.

Grotte said he wouldn’t consider giving advice for the job ahead, since Lee’s been in the top seat before, but underscored that the city’s financial outlook is tough.

“The economic situation continues to be an issue,” Grotte said.

The San Mateo City Council also has a number of key development projects that will be up for approval, including the 83.5-acre Bay Meadows redevelopment site and the Station Park Green development scheduled for the current Kmart site at Delaware Street and Concar Drive.

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