BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved a $30,000 grant to the conservation nonprofit Green Foothills to fund a meditation program called Healing in Nature, money for which will come from Measure K, a sales tax sold to voters as a way to fund housing and public safety.
One audience member at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting said Supervisor Ray Mueller, who proposed the grant, was giving the nonprofit money because a high-powered volunteer of the district endorsed his candidacy for supervisor last year.
“The program was inspired by Valentin Lopez, chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribe, who calls upon indigenous and non-indigenous people to heal their relationship with themselves, with each other, and with the Earth,” Green Foothills said in its description of the program. “These unique outings, led by local healers and trained docents, allow participants to deepen their connection with the local ecology, engage in environmental action, and build trust and camaraderie within our community and the conservation movement.”
Janet Davis, who lives in unincorporated west Menlo Park, criticized the expenditure, saying it “smacks of payback” for longtime Green Foothills legislative advocate Lennie Roberts’ endorsement of Mueller during his campaign for supervisor.
“The committee for Green Foothills doesn’t need a grant from the county. They are very well endowed and have very wealthy donors,” Davis said.
She also questioned how people such as farmworkers would be able to get to the program.
Mueller said during the meeting that some were “casting political stones” at him “without thinking of the damaging manner” they are talking about a “respected nonprofit.” Mueller also said the critical comments were devaluing indigenous people’s perspective.
Davis said that she did not know there was any involvement by indigenous tribes. But her point is that Measure K should not be supporting this sort of program as it is not what the voters passed.
“I resent the fact (someone) is trying to impugn our supervisor for quid pro quo on a campaign donation, that’s just ridiculous,” said Moss Beach resident Carlysle Ann Young.
Young was one of four people, some of whom are involved with the program, who backed Mueller up. Matt Burrows said programs like this are not “new age stuff, this is now age type of stuff.” He said after he had a heart attack last month, his cardiologist told him to do transcendental meditation, where one meditates, repeating the same mantra, a few times a day for 15-20 minutes.
Supervisor Noelia Corzo expressed her interest in the program, saying she’d like to find a way to bring some of her constituents to experience the program.
Each supervisor gets $1 million from the $110 million in revenue the county gets from the half-cent tax, to give to various groups and projects in their districts.
Supervisors Warren Slocum and David Canepa both questioned whether Measure K grants can be used to fund employees for the nonprofits receiving the grants. Of the $30,000, most of the money is slated to pay for “personnel costs” and to contract “docents and healers,” according to a report put together by County Executive Mike Callagy.
County Attorney John Nibbelin said nonprofits can use Measure K funds to pay for staff, but they must understand the grants are a one-time deal.
Slocum said he had a different recollection, and suggested there are some “double standards” at play.
“I have some problems with this measure, and I’m torn about it,” he said.
Ultimately, Slocum went along with the rest of the board and approved the grant.