What If San Carlos Merged With Another City?

September 14, 2010

I bet that got your attention…  But as far-fetched as the idea might sound, it has been in the back of my mind ever since the wheels were set in motion to outsource our police, fire, and park services.    After all, what would happen if the cost savings we hope to achieve, and so desperately need, aren't sufficient over the long haul?    Where else could our city leaders look to cut costs if they were faced with a prolonged stagnant or declining economy?

The answer is a bit of an eye opener.

Purge, or Merge?

I enjoy reading Bruce Balshone's Peninsula Examiner blog.  He has a pretty sharp perspective on political topics that involve our communities — his take is usually very interesting, and he certainly seems to do his homework on the topics he covers.  In his latest post titled “Peninsula Cities Need to Merge“, he outlines the fiscal challenges that San Carlos and other Peninsula communities face, and the difficult decisions that some have already had to make just to stay afloat.

When the San Carlos City Council first tabled the controversial idea of outsourcing, their mantra was that “San Carlos would not be the only one to go down this path – just the first.”  As it turns out, they were right.   As Balshone succinctly outlines in his post, communities up and down the Peninsula are now seriously discussing merging or outsourcing critical public safety organizations as they struggle to close gaping budgets, or in some cases, simply stay solvent.

But Balshone takes this concept one step further:  Should some Peninsula cities merge entirely?

What Will San Carlos Be In 10 Years?

The inner workings of San Carlos public safety will look very different at this time next year when the Belmont-San Carlos Fire JPA officially dissolves.  In fact, I think in about 10 years the entire area will be served by a unified, county-wide fire department (think: “San Mateo County Fire“)  Heck, we're not too far from that now.  Another possible path is that Cal-Fire will be managing a much more significant percentage of Peninsula cities. But I digress…

Looking at a much bigger picture,  Balshone postulates that some cities may be better off if they merge entirely with another community – not just police or fire.   Some cities may not have a choice.   But what about San Carlos?  What would happen if the boundary between us and Belmont or Redwood City were to disappear?   Would we be better off?   Would the economies of scale outweigh the loss of identity?   What would the end result look like?

Feel free to answer those far-fetched and hypothetical questions in the comment section below.  But in the mean-time, it sounds like it's time for another poll:

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

What are your thoughts?

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  1. Anonymous on September 14, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    I too have not read this blog in awhile, and this is reminder of why. All the post seems to want to do is to continue the anger that this blog has begun to represent. Would merging save us money? I doubt it. Redwood City is three times our size and it is having severe budget problems. How would making ourselves bigger save us money? Also Chuck, you are a realtor and should know better. Redwood Shores is not a city, it is part of Redwood City. If the boundaries between belmont, san carlos, and redwood shores were to disappear we would be merging with Redwood City.

    Keep stoking the flames! It is garnering you a lot of respect in the community.

  2. Chuck Gillooley on September 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm


    Sadly, you have missed the entire point of this post. Nobody is fanning any flames — there are no flames to be fanned. The city is on a clear and defined path with respect to the future of public safety — that’s done. I simply posed a hypothetical question – if the City of San Carlos somehow ran into severe financial difficulty in the future and had to merge, what would that look like? Would it be better or worse, and why? It’s ‘hypothetical’..as in “what if?”. Simply a point of discussion, that’s all. Is it relevant? Sure — other cities are facing the same struggles, as you pointed out. Is it likely, or desirable? Of course not, and it’s not something that I would ever endorse, but I’m interested in hearing what everyone else thinks about the topic, hence the impetus of this post.

    Your allegation that this is “stoking the flames”, or that the intent of this site is to promote “anger” is ridiculous. If there is any anger on this site, it comes from those who choose to flame the opinion of others… anonymously, of course.

  3. Pat B on September 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Just before Brad Lewis left the council, he brought up the possibility of merging with Belmont. That would be the logical merger. Unfortunately, there’s no way Belmont would consider merging with us after the way our present council has acted toward them.

    The police departments in the two cities could have merged, and the fire department could have remained joined if it were not for the city manager, the mayor, and his buddies. Belmont has a much more cost-effective parks and rec department. They have a thriving department with about the same amount of money we spend on our newly stripped-down department.

    Belmont applies for, and gets, grants that we don’t.. Our staff says they don’t have time to apply for these grants, which is probably true. I wonder how that fits into the mayor’s “business plan.”

    It makes sense to regionalize fire service, and the Belmont San Carlos could have been the basis for a south county department. Now that San Carlos has made it look like an unworkable alternative, it will take longer to get there. It is not unworkable, unless half the votes come from the new San Carlos city council.

    A year from now there will be two openings on the SC city council. Anyone who is not satisfied with the way things are going in San Carlos should get involved in electing people who can get along with other cities and who will follow the San Carlos ethics policy.

  4. Anon on September 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Pat B,
    I don’t know much about the Belmont Parks and Rec so maybe you could help me out. Where is their Youth Center located? Do they have a big event like Hometown Days?

  5. Anon on September 18, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Right PatB – the $2M grant San Carlos got to improve sidewalks in YOUR neighborhood doesn’t count. How many other memory lapses have you had lately??

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