Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of six profiles of Millbrae candidates.
Marc Farber is not a politician, and he’s proud of that.
He knows his direct views and unconventional ideas may alienate certain voters, or attract those seeking change in city politics.
For instance, Farber thinks the city should join others in the Peninsula in installing parking meters downtown. Meters would not deter people from shopping downtown, and they would raise about $1.5 million for the city, according to Farber.
For ideas to translate into actions however, they would need the community’s approval, he said.
“If you like the way Millbrae is, Marge and Robert are the people for you. Don’t vote for me,” he said.
As a Millbrae police officer for 15 years, he’s the only candidate that has been a city employee and understand first-hand the city’s problems, he said.
“They’ve always said to us employees, ‘there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, just stick it out,’ but at the end of the day, it’s the same tune year after year...cuts,” he said. “The light at the end is only a crack in the tunnel.”
He thinks city council has not resolved many of the recurring issues in the last eight years, such as road surface quality and adequate police staffing.
“All you have to do is take any agenda, change the date on it, and you could leave half the topics on there...roads, the police department...same old stuff.”
While at the Police Department, he approached the city several times regarding various scenarios to save money.
For example, he was shocked when he found out that Millbrae was being charged $65 for a police car’s oil change.
He said he contacted several mechanics and dealerships and eventually, with other cost-cutting measures, saved the police department about $100,000 annually in maintenance costs.
However, he said when he approached council members on his idea, they initially brushed him off.
“There are people that I’ve talked to that have told me, ‘I used to go to council meetings and voice my opinion, but I don’t anymore because they never respond to you,’” he said.
He would like to change that.
He wants to initiate several town-hall style meetings throughout the city to encourage the public to informally voice their concerns.
At these gatherings, people could openly discuss potential ways to raise city revenues or reduce costs.
“We wouldn’t shove it down your throat. We’re saying, here’s an idea, I know it’s a sour idea in this economy,” he said. “But maybe you’re willing to pay that to fund the Police Department forever.”
If people are opposed to parking meters, he also proposes an assessment fee to fund the police.
He is against outsourcing, and the city should spend money on more officers rather than sergeants, he said.
With additional cops, the city may be able to save some of the approximately $400,000 it currently spends annually on overtime when officers are on vacation or leave.
In 2010, Farber retired from the Police Department as a commander after beginning his career in Millbrae in 1994. In 1997, he was voted officer of the year.
“Around 2003 is when the department starting having [financial and managerial] problems,” he said.
And before retiring, Farber had a professional problem of his own.
In 2009, Millbrae Police Sergeant Danny Singson filed a lawsuit against Farber, his superior, and the City of Millbrae for racial discrimination.
Singson, who is Asian, claims Farber, who is white, singled him out for “criticism, verbal harassment and discipline,” according to court records.
Neither Singson nor his attorneys returned phone calls seeking comment.
Farber said the lawsuit is unfounded.
“Danny was having performance issues, and after talking with him, I mentioned it in his review,” Farber said.
At one time, Singson and Farber were friends outside of work, and they even went to Las Vegas together.
But as Singson’s work performance started to slip, their relationship turned sour, Farber said. He reprimanded him several times for eating with several officers in one restaurant – which perpetuated a negative public perception of police inactivity as the department faced draconian cuts.
On one occasion, after warning him repeatedly, Farber allegedly told Singson at Peter’s Cafe that “you don’t listen to a f***ing word I say,” according to court records.
A woman reported the incident to police because she thought it was disrespectful and baffling that Farber, in civilian clothes as he was off-duty, was yelling at an officer in uniform.
However, Farber said he did not use that language and was not shouting. The woman who called the police died before attorneys could take her deposition. Farber thinks that Singson was behind the mysterious call, as the woman used the term “a man in plain clothes” – which he says is an esoteric industry term.
In December of 2010, the judge eventually dismissed Farber from the charges, but the case is still ongoing against the city.
“The fact that a judge cleared me of the case speaks for itself,” he said.
Farber wants voters to place three new people on the city council: Lorrie Kalos-Gunn, Wayne Lee and himself. He is frustrated with the council’s empty rhetoric and its lack of resolve.
As a city employee, he vigorously delved into budgets and documents and emerged with savings, and he promises to do the same as a council member.