City Council Candidate: Marc Farber

Six council members are vying for three open seats.

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. 

Dianna Taylor October 14, 2011 at 05:00 PM
Sounds like you would get things done!! Hire a few more traffic cops and you would increase the revenue.There are tickets to be handed out out there ! I take my life in my hands also when I cross the streets I am a walker and when you see cars not stopping at stop signs and barreling right past you I just shudder . I also bellieve we need parking meters a great revenue for Millbrae .What would you do retail wise to keep me from shopping elsewhere???.We have lost a few NICE stores in the past
Marc Farber October 14, 2011 at 09:23 PM
Hi Dianna, Thank you for your comments. Millbrae needs new leadership and I feel I would get many issues resolved and move the city forward. Traffic Officers actually generate revenue for the city by issuing citations. This revenue could be used to pay the salary of a traffic officer, so not only do they educate motorists, they make our roadways safer for pedestrians and motorists. Millbrae has to do a better job of attracting a wider range of retail, food and recreational businesses so people that live here do not have to go elsewhere to find what they are looking for. During my town-hall meetings, I would want to hear from residents as to what types of retail we should be attracting so our residents don't have to go elsewhere to shop. For example, when a larger piece of land, like the Daland Nissan and Burger King property become available, we need to look at medium retail & develop that land into a multi-use, two-story retail complex. We need to attract businesses like Pet Food Express, Apple, Sports Authority, PF Chang's etc. We also need to partner with our larger retail businesses like Kohl's, Trader Joe's, Safeway and Lucky's and create a program called 5% or 10% Fridays. Millbrae residents would provide identification that shows they live in Millbrae and they would save an additional 5% or 10% off their purchases for shopping in Millbrae, which in turn would keep people shopping in Millbrae and increase our tax revenue.
Sue Donim October 14, 2011 at 11:43 PM
"Meters would not deter people from shopping downtown, and they would raise about $1.5 million for the city, according to Farber." This is the exact type of nonsense we get from most politicians who seem to subscribe to the fallacy that revenues increase in a linear fashion anytime they raise taxes and fees . Do you really believe that the addition of an expense to prospective shopping trips will in no way act as a deterrent? Just ask all of the ever-growing Internet shoppers how they feel about little addon expenses. With all due respect, Mr. Farber, you seem like a clone of every other politican. Why not give people a reason to shop in Millbrae rather than the converse? If I go out for a meal and a little shopping, the couple of hours of parking fees is very significant to me and might very well send me elsewhere. So while your $1.5 million sounds very enticing on the stump, it is by no means steeped in reality. Commercial traffic would definitely be adversely affected. I would even venture that the actuals would provide Millbrae with a net loss, especially when one considers the resultant drop in sales tax and the additional enforcement expense. As a city employee, Mr Farber cannot or does not want to see the elephant in the room. With as large of a commercial base as we have in Millbrae, and to still be in financial trouble, isn't it about time we started cutting personnel expenses instead of continually picking people's pockets?
Marc Farber October 15, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Ms. Donim, I'm sorry you feel this way. I am not a city employee. I'm far from a clone of every politician. If you have followed my ideas, you would know that parking meters are just one of many solutions that would generate revenue. This idea would be discussed with the community to determine if it is a viable avenue to explore. It wouldn't just be imposed. There is no picking people's pockets. Most cities (not all) have paid parking & I don't think people would waste gas @ $4.00 a gallon to drive to another city to save $1.00 on parking. I disagree that it would have an adverse affect and Millbrae would suffer a net loss. There would not be an additional enforcement expense because even officers could issue a parking citation when a stall shows expired, so in actuality you have more enforcement available with the current staffing levels. As you know, the city has already cut over 30 positions and isn't in a position to keep cutting if we are going to expect basic city services. I appreciate your comments and could give you more background about some of the issues facing the city if you wish to contact me. Thank you
Paul Malo October 15, 2011 at 07:11 AM
When elected, are you willing to complete the term of office for free? Forfeiting salary, benefits, gifts, and contributions during the term of office? Any response is appreciated. THANK YOU for your time and consideration.
Dianna Taylor October 15, 2011 at 03:39 PM
First of all Sue give me facts and financial statements that parking meters do not produce a revenue. So why do most cities still have them ?? Also Paul did you ask other candidates if they would forfeit their salary? or is Marc a target ? We need a change agent .Such a big deal about parking meters ! When gas is so expensive walk when you can ! I guess everyone has their priorities. Freebies for all !!! Farmers market here needs improving What is the plan if any or is anyone trying ?Just wondering
Marc Farber October 15, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Good morning Paul, I'm absolutely willing to forfeit salary, benefits, gifts & contributions for the entire term if elected. My purpose for running is to try and make change for the Millbrae community and our city employees. My motive is not for my own benefit or for money. These days it's hard to get elected without a lot of money and unfortunately that's politics & promises. To date, I have not received or accepted any contributions or gifts for my campaign & have only purchased signs and flyers. I am hoping to appeal to those who seek a new direction for Millbrae and want a council member that will be approachable, listen, communicate with the community and make commonsense decisions. I hope people will find this philosophy to be a breath of fresh air and communicate with me such as we are doing now. I'm sure you watch the news and see what's going on in the world today. Corporate greed, mismanaged government funds etc. It's all very frustrating to those good, hard working people like us. It's time to stop traditional politics and get some work done. Thank you for your question.
Bruce October 17, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Would you be willing to support or reconsider selling the 5 vacant lots that Millbrae owns to help the fiscal problems?....Or, at least support putting it to a general vote?
Kate Holland October 18, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I would be willing to support your platform Marc. Its nice to see 'fresh' ideas even better when they come to fruition. I wonder how involved are you currently in our community? What organizations do you affiliate yourself with? Are you involved in our schools? You talk about revenue from traffic citations; Would you be willing to get most of the traffic officers working El Camino and Millbrae Avenue instead of the residential streets? It seems they spend more time in our neighborhoods issuing citations instead of slowing down the majority of speeders on the on our thoroughfares, not to mention the ones who fail to acknowledge our pedestrians.
Marc Farber October 18, 2011 at 08:59 PM
Hi Bruce. If elected, I plan on looking at the vacant lots to determine how Millbrae would benefit from the sale or development of some or all of the land. It's time that city officials think 'outside the box' and make smart and timely decisions regarding the future of Millbrae. We can't keep doing business the same way and somehow expect a different outcome. If it makes sense and is a piece of the larger puzzle towards a long term solution to our fiscal problem, then I would support moving in that direction. I would solicit feedback & community involvement when viable options were identified, but I don't think it should be put out for a general vote. Thank you.
Marc Farber October 19, 2011 at 07:23 AM
Hi Kate, Since retiring from the police department I haven't been that visible in the community, but I'm still very much involved with the issues facing the city and our community. I am running for council because the thought process or lack there of with our city council needs to change. As a council member I would have quarterly town hall meetings with the residents and meet with the various service clubs, the Chamber of Commerce and our school officials to create a better relationship and open the channels of communication. I think this would greatly improve the operational efficiency of our city government and the services the city provides. You ask about 'most of the traffic officers' referring to the police department. There are no officers currently assigned to traffic; They are all working the patrol function. Designated traffic officers have a primary responsibility of issuing citations which generates revenue and provides education and safety to motorists and pedestrians using our city streets. Traffic officers should work the school zones when school starts and ends and other major thoroughfares during the morning and evening commutes. The rest of their time should be spent downtown, on El Camino and on Millbrae Avenue. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened because the city council hasn't made public safety or the police department a priority in nearly a decade. Thank you for your questions.
nicolemauro October 23, 2011 at 06:28 AM
What are your thoughts on our public schools in light of the state's devastating cuts to our district ($2 million over the last three years), with even more projected until 2013? In what ways have you supported and/or will support the MEF (Millbrae Education Foundation) and its efforts to raise money to help re-hire and hire the necessary people our kids need to succeed in the classroom?
Patty November 02, 2011 at 06:40 AM
Any comment regarding your involvement in the high speed chase lead by you in 2003 that resulted in the death of a 20 year old young man? Here's a link to refresh your memory. http://smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?type=lnews&title=Police%20chase%20leaves%20one%20dead&id=21009&eddate=03/17/2003 Was it your best judgement at the time to go in excess of 100mph for a distance of up to 20 miles outside of the City of Millbrae? I question your ability to make good judgments for this city. You cost it a $3.5 MILLION settlement. The people of this city need to do some good research on you before voting. The above article didn't sound too promising so I did a nice little thing called a google search of your name.. tsk tsk.... Shame on you!!
Patty November 02, 2011 at 06:44 AM
Patty November 02, 2011 at 06:44 AM
Christine November 08, 2011 at 04:48 AM
My concern is who actually aloud him to even be a candidate. I think that Millbrae should know that Farber cost Millbrae one 3million dollars because of his disregard for anything or anyone but his own behind.
Christine November 08, 2011 at 04:52 AM
By the way, the boy that died, his family is still grieving everyday, I know. I am a close friend.
Christine November 08, 2011 at 04:55 AM
Thank you Patty, and the family thanks you too.


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