Category Archives: Opinion

Green Bridge replacement proposal by Caltrans

 

Recommendations from a transportation consultant regarding the Caltrans plans for replacing the Green Bridge. Comment period ends April 20.

 

After Thursday night’s gathering with Caltrans, I spoke at length with my daughter about the event. She is an independent transportation consultant in the Bay Area, and has worked on numerous projects dealing with Caltrans and/or their operations. She understands how they think and operate, and their intentions—things all of us should know about the forthcoming bridge replacement.

 

This bridge IS going to be replaced. That is the primary thing to understand. As it stands now, it is seismically unsafe. If the bridge was damaged, as in an earthquake, our communities would be cut off from each other; perhaps even for an extended period of time.

 

We now have an opportunity to influence Caltrans’ choice of bridge design. The comment period ends on April 20th , giving us time work on getting a new bridge that we like.

 

This article is not meant to be an all-inclusive discussion of the bridge replacement, but simply to supply information. Use it effectively to write your comments to Caltrans—hopefully they will allow our community to end up with a bridge that we can all be proud of.

 

A year ago Caltrans got soundly criticized for their lack of progress in creating a viable, vibrant transportation system throughout California.  Since then, Caltrans has been working to re-organize so that staff can focus on building a sustainable, multi-modal transportation system. They recently developed a new mission: vision and goals for the agency.  It is important for us to understand the Caltrans project, then relay our concerns and comments, using the language that they are comfortable with. These are now mandates from HQ, which can be found at www.dot.ca.gov/hq/paffairs/about/mission.htm

 

To help our community get organized, I spoke with my daughter, and she brought-up some important points. Thursday night we received a handout called “the Lagunitas Creek Bridge Project Scoping Meeting.”  My daughter pointed out the “Project Purpose and Need” (PPN) section states an important fact—Caltrans is already in stage two of the bridge building process. This PPN drives the decision of which bridge design is settled on. In this case, the decision is the building of a “seismically safe crossing on SR-1 over Lagunitas Creek” and nothing more.  They do not have to make it pretty or efficient, etc. Just seismically safe.

 

The first goal with our comments is to persuade Caltrans to edit the PPN if possible. They should continue the words of the above quoted excerpt, adding on another sentence, such as, “to provide a safe way for tourists and local residents to access the communities on either side of the bridge while reducing pollution and enhancing the local economies.”  A second sentence could be added, addressing the concerns of tourists using the Point Reyes National Seashore, or a sentence about the locals ability to access our schools and medical facilities. Or one about protecting the environment. Keep your comments short and concise. As we comment on each design, or the design we prefer, we can then refer back to the wording in Mission Statement to emphasize these points. Hopefully this will sway them toward our preferred bridge design.

 

The Caltrans web page for the Lagunitas Creek Bridge project can be found at the link below.  On the right side of the page are 3 links to further documents including the 14 posters we saw at Thursday night’s Caltrans meeting. It is important to be familiarize yourself with the contents of the second and third links.   http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/lagunitascreekbridge/

 

 

The bridge design options offered to us seem to be taken from Engineering 101 where the teacher says the assignment is to design a bridge. You basically have 4 options, and they have given us one of each: steel truss, overhead lateral bracing, precast concrete, and suspension bridge.  Also, road widths, shoulder widths and sidewalk widths are determined by Caltrans having successfully used these widths, designs, etc. in the past to build a safe bridge.  And in the past their attitude has been, “Why change it if it worked before?”  My daughter said it might take a lot to change this part of the process—the dimensions of the bridge features.  If someone cares about the final size of the bridge, one approach would be research and report on other bridges throughout California built by Caltrans that deviated from the norm and did not increase risk to passengers and pedestrians.

 

It may help to point out to Caltrans some things they may not understand about our bridge and our communities and needs, simply because we are in a rural, agricultural area that is unfamiliar to them. Letting them know, for instance, that Option 2 with overhead lateral bracing and a height limitation will be unfeasible because of tall hay trucks and livestock trucks. It may impinge on the movement of large construction vehicles needed if we have another large mud slide or wild fire. This is something they may not have thought of, and will more strongly influence their decision against this choice of design.

 

Also each of the 4 designs has three options regarding the sidewalks:  cantilevered, adjacent to the street bed, and adjacent to the street bed with a guardrail.  Using wording from their mission statement and our edited PPN we can explain why we prefer one form of sidewalk to another, so that no matter which bridge design they choose, at least we had a say in which sidewalk design we end up with.

 

I found an interesting point about design #3, the pre-cast concrete girder: in parts of Caltrans District 7 likeMonterey County, maintenance workers now alter the color of the concrete and paint on their bridges to blend with the surroundings, making it appear like it had been there for quite a while. Here is a comment we can make to influence the final design, should they end up choosing it.

 

Another place we can influence the design process is with the list of agencies and stakeholders Caltrans plans to work with. There is no mention of the Inverness Association, Pt. Reyes Village Association or the West Marin Chamber of Commerce, or of local residents, tourists and others I have not mentioned.  Again, Caltrans is not familiar with our community, so these omissions need to be pointed out in our comments, encouraging them to confer with the list above for input in the environmental and design phases.

How about Caltrans traffic counts? Are they aware that Labor Day weekend sees perhaps the largest increase in summer traffic for the sand castle building contest? Or that Western Weekend in June increases traffic diversions because of the parade?  Not to mention that the area is now a major destination for motorcyclists and bicycle riders every weekend. These groups need to be considered in any design choice.

 

Another area to influence Caltrans is the temporary bridge. It is probably not possible to build a two lane temporary bridge—one could then not get in and out of the Vet Clinic. In regards to this, we could ask for an option: if we find the existing timing is impeding traffic and increasing pollution, then change the timing of the traffic lights on the bridge. (refer to the rewritten PPN idea and to the Caltrans Mission Statement). We could do it seasonally with a different timing in the winter than the summer.

 

Also, we can comment on how Caltrans will leave the site upon completion of the bridge replacement.  For instance, environmentalists may wish to have the creek banks replanted with specific plants that will support and promote the salmon or frogs. Those who live directly south of the bridge may want hedges built on their property lines to help block the noise from the new wider roadbed. These are things to add to your comments.

 

Our overall goal is to make comments that will make the bridge and our community better. In writing your comments, focus on what is most important to you. Then add additional comments if you wish. You want to be very convincing about your choice so that Caltrans will want to choose it for the design.

 

Language in all of these cases is very important.  Avoiding negative words and phrases such as ‘lack of traffic’ and ‘congestion’ and instead using ‘mobility’ and ‘access’ can influence Caltrans in your direction.  Our word choices should be around cultivating what we want, rather than focusing on what we want to avoid.

 

Caltrans is only obligated to notify residences and business within a very small area surrounding both sides of the bridge about the coming construction. Some locals, and of course all our tourists, will be completely unaware of this upcoming project. It behooves us to do what we can to let the uninformed population know about this project. We encourage the coming together as a community to brainstorm ways to alleviate some of the traffic congestion and disturbances this construction project will cause. We need to minimize these disruptions as much as possible. Fortunately, this do not have to be decided by April 20th.  Actual construction on the bridge is not anticipated until 2019.  However it will last 2-3 years, with the first stage being the construction of the temporary bridge, so at least that stage will not disrupt us too much.

 

We can only influence and not make the final choice for Caltrans. We will each have to find a way, personally, to be okay with every one of the four designs. Something may arise in the environmental impact report phase or permitting phase that would require that only one of the four is feasible to build. We will have to accept that. It is important to open our minds to the fact that any option could be chosen. For that process I find it helpful to focus my thoughts around this bridge replacement not as replacing a steel structure, but as maintaining a valuable community connection.

 

Comments can be sent by email by April 20th toLagunitas_bridge@dot.ca.gov

 

Letters can be sent by April 20th to:    California Department of Transportation

District 4 Office of Environmental Analysis

Attn:  Oliver Iberien

P O Box 23660

Oakland, CA 94623

 

—————

Cathleen Dorinson

Pt Reyes Station

663-8426

 

Arch Rock collapse at Point Reyes National Seashore

 

San Francisco preschool teacher, 58-year-old Nancy Blum, died Saturday. A section of seashore bluff at Arch Rock collapsed beneath her and her companion. Her companion survived the fall without life-threatening injuries. Bystanders told emergency personnel the ground gave way all at once with a terrifying and thunderous crash Saturday, hurling the San Francisco woman and her companion toward the beach 75 feet below amid tons of broken sandstone that had been part of the Point Reyes National Seashore’s Arch Rock.

Rescue personnel, including Sonoma County’s Henry 1 helicopter and crew, credited bystanders with helping to free the injured man’s trapped foot and lower leg from the rubble. In the meantime, the incoming tide was rising around him and the fog was closing in.

Earlier that day many hikers paused at Arch Rock to examine the reported fissures.

Rangers discovered the fissure on the cliff’s edge last Wednesday and posted signs warning hikers that “hazardous conditions exist on Arch Rock. Fissures along the top of Arch Rock may have weakened the cliff.”

The sign at the Bear Valley trailhead warned bluffs along the California coast are inherently unstable. They are prone to crumbling and sliding. It is very dangerous to climb or walk along the edge of cliffs. Be aware of falling rocks if walking near the base of a rock face. The warning did not specifically tell hikers to stay off of Arch Rock. The sign on the trail at Bear Valley parking lot included a photo of the fissure. Another photo, also by the Park service, posted on the PRNS website, showed a much wider fissure.

The day before the collapse, the Point Reyes National Seashore had posted a photo on Facebook of the fissure in the rock structure — with a warning to use caution.

“Visitors using Bear Valley Trail to Arch Rock — watch out! At the very end of the trail, the cliff is breaking away — seen here in a photo taken Wednesday,” the government organization said.

The Bear Valley trail is very popular on the weekends, with the parking lot nearly full by late morning. Scores of hikers headed up the Bear Valley trail, many with Arch Rock as their destination.

John Dell’Osso from the Point Reyes National Seashore told CNN and other news outlets that it had posted warnings after being notified last Thursday that a crack had formed in the arch.

“We posted all kinds of notices up and down that particular trail (Bear Valley), which is how probably 99% of the people who would hike that far would (go), and all around our visitors’ center in Trail Heads, just to warn people of the hazard that was out there,” Dell’Osso said.

“We didn’t know what could happen and what unfortunately did happen is on Saturday afternoon a large portion of that overlook actually collapsed down onto the beach and partly onto the ocean,” he said. “The tragedy is that there were two people that were standing out there who fell with all of that rubble.”

After emergency personnel reached Blum and her hiking companion, she was flown to Bear Valley Ranger Station, where she was pronounced dead.

Citizen Staff

 

 

 

Editor’s comments:

The Park Service was aware of the dangerous nature of the bluff, with the recent fissure widening. Such a condition needed stronger measures than passive signs at such a popular and well used trail.

There are many photographs being posted on social media showing groups of hikers standing on Arch Rock that Saturday, and even jumping over the crack.

I do not know if this type of cliff fissure is common at Pt Reyes, or if they occur often and do not presage a major collapse. But a few questions come to mind: why was the warning not more specific? Why were there no rangers at the site during the day, when it would have been apparent that hikers were not heeding the warning? There seem to be enough staff on duty most weekends to snag dog owners with dogs off-leash on Limantour Beach, or even on a rainy New Years Eve in the Giacomini Wetlands, which happened to me. The Bear Valley trail is very popular on the weekends, with the parking lot nearly full by late morning and scores of hikers heading up Bear Valley road, many with Arch Rock as their destination. The hikers I spoke with on Sunday morning were studying the sign, photographing it, and when told that the cliff had collapsed the previous day, discussed how they could hike close to observe the slide. It appears that the sign drew people to the site to see the fissure for themselves. It seems that it would have been prudent to close off the trail immediately and post some rangers in the area after it became apparent that it was widening rapidly. Trails have been closed for much more benign reasons in the past. Linda Petersen

Double vision

 

Not because we’ve had too many glasses of wine, no. We are often frightened to speak with others about the serious issues that confront our world, because many people we meet live in odd fantasies, alternate histories, and we feel it is counterproductive to challenge their illusions. And it would be rude. Instead, we avoid the topics upon which we disagree. But this leaves us with double narratives, particularly concerning American Presidents. Both narratives cannot be true, but we live as though history was a matter of taste. You like chocolate labs; I like tabby cats, an irreconcilable difference.

Two Kennedys, the classic case

I met a fellow outside the Dance Palace once, though I’d met him one hundred times before, who told me President Kennedy was a great man who would have ended the Vietnam War had he the chance. I mentioned that JFK had authorized the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, that he authorized bombing of South Vietnam to, among other things, destroy crops there (“we starved some folks”), that he intended to end the war, yes, “after victory” meaning killing enough people to bend the opposition to our will, as described in detail in the Pentagon Papers. This is what we did, and is never mentioned by his worshipers. But this man I spoke with had the most perfect counter-argument I have yet heard by the Kennedy devotees, and I have endured a lifetime of listening to men and women chatter psalms of the peace on earth we would have known had only JFK lived. He told me, “Well, I knew Kennedy. And he told me he didn’t do those things.” Yes, this fellow, on the street in Point Reyes, assured me that, when he was an 18 year old soldier, he had a private conversation with President Kennedy and was given the inside scoop. He may as well have claimed to have spoken to JFK’s ghost, but that I guess would be unserious.

The Mitford defense

Let’s suppose he did have the conversation he described with JFK, that he is telling the truth. I call this the Mitford Defense. Diana Mitford married the fascist Oswald Mosley in Heidelberg in 1936 and had as guest of honor at her wedding, Der Furher. When confronted at a party toward the end of her life about whether she had gotten it all wrong; whether, you know, Hitler might have not been such a great guy after all, she replied, “Well, you never knew Hitler, did you?” Case closed.

: One Gore and what could have been

Remember Bush v Gore? It comes up sometimes when I am having coffee with the bench bunch in Tomales. I hear that if only Gore had won the election (who said he didn’t) there would be no Iraq war, and long story short, everything presently wrong in the world might be right. That is a counter-factual. We don’t know what Al Gore would have done because it didn’t happen. But what we do know is that the Supreme Court made an brazen decision to hand the presidency to Bush, that there was a very strong argument to hold a full recount in Florida, and that in sum the election may have been stolen. But no one wants to pursue these issues. They just say, Al, “could’a been somebody.” If there is a miscarriage of justice, a crime, a constitutional crisis, it requires action; it makes us responsible to act. But why pursue the crime, when you can just imagine a world in which it didn’t happen, one in which the good guy won? Like the fictional JFK, we have a fictional Gore presidency, considered in every imaginary detail.

Two Obamas
One crucial problem of having a Democrat in the White House is the silence that falls upon his transgressions from the left media. I started reading Glenn Greenwald in 2010 when he was battling all of these journalists and public figures on the “left” who when Bush was president wrote all of these true and just and angry things about our Constitution being violated, about wars of aggression, of torture, of surveillance, the Patriot Act – and then – when Obama was elected, and these practices were continued, and the perpetrators uncharged, the same journalists formerly standing on the highest principals became the most craven apologists. They crawled on their bellies for Obama. For them, if Obama did anything wrong it was because it was beyond his control; if he did no good, it was because his enemies wouldn’t let him.

In a way, to have a broad popular discussion about the criminality of these elected officials and bureaucrats, the shredding of the constitution, etc., we will have to have a Republican president, not that I go so far as to advocate that. It would restore the spine and sanity of the Democratic rank and file. It is the only way many of my neighbors will allow themselves to see the world as it is, rather than the distortion they have lived with as they praised and defended Obama for the same behaviors that convinced them that Bush should be impeached, tried at the Hague, etc. It is a nasty and unrecognized irony.

The two Titos

It reminds me of a common Serbian conspiracy theory, I call “the two Titos.” The first Marshall Tito was the good man who, with his partisans, defended the Balkans from the Nazis. The second Tito was an impostor. You see Tito went to the USSR and was killed. The Soviets returned him with a fake, second Tito, who did all the bad attributed to him in the post war period. And typical of that culture, Number 2 was a Jew! This is the game Democrats play with Obama. On the campaign trail was Obama Number 1. It was the President, Obama Number 2, who betrayed us.

Two Clintons

You may have heard we are going to have another election for President in 2016. Lots of people in West Marin will initially go gaga for Hillary Clinton. Then as in 2008, if the Democratic Party nominates a different person, they will tell you they always loved that candidate, too, and go gaga again. And of course none of it matters because if nominated she will win California without you, and doesn’t need your money because she will get it from Wall Street.

I have never understood the love and admiration Clintons inspired, but I think it relates to our perception of whether there is a crisis or not. And by crisis I mean our out-look on day-to-day survival. The middle class, the poor, the climate, the wars, these are all abstractions. Survival has been reduced to watching the performance of stock market indices, to watching our portfolios. Are they appreciating in value or not? Are we getting the dividend payments or not? If the stock market is rising, as it was in the Clinton 90’s, then things are good. On that basis alone I think, many people have positive memories of Bill Clinton.
By almost any other measure, he was a disaster of a President, but only insomuch as his presidency effected those abstract categories I mentioned – the poor welfare recipient, the union worker, the displaced immigrant, the victims of his bombing of Sudan, Iraq, the Balkans, aka, who? Not anyone we have to dinner, certainly. The stock market went up; therefore, Bill Clinton is a good president.

Hilary represents that undying commitment to measure success by stock market performance. Whether or not it relates to a healthy economy, just that it makes us feel good about our investments, meaning, our ability to live in that particular style we call survival.

We ought to say, honestly, we don’t care about politics or religion, in the sense of ideas whose purpose is to change society for the better. We care about money. We are groovy rich people trying to enjoy life in West Marin, and please leave us alone. But the persistent ghost of virtue haunts us; we can’t give up the pretense; we want to feel good about ourselves. And to avoid the intolerable condition of knowing, which might compel us to do something about it, we surround ourselves with people of the exact same opinions as us. And then, since there is nothing to disagree about, we can get on uninterrupted with eating all of that delicious cheese, talking about the music we like and our recent trips, our various self-expressions, writing or painting, etc., like so many doilies draped over lumpy couch cushions, and go for a hike in our National Park. Problem solved.
To play this game of the fictive double with Hillary, the good Hillary for now, the bad Hillary later, as though she was an unknown quantity, is absurd, but let me give the last word to Glenn Greenwald, justly the hero of left-wing American journalism:
“Hillary is banal, corrupted, drained of vibrancy and passion. I mean, she’s been around forever, the Clinton circle. She’s a [expletive] hawk and like a neocon, practically. She’s surrounded by all these sleazy money types who are just corrupting everything everywhere. But she’s going to be the first female president, and women in America are going to be completely invested in her candidacy. Opposition to her is going to be depicted as misogynistic, like opposition to Obama has been depicted as racist. It’s going to be this completely symbolic messaging that’s going to overshadow the fact that she’ll do nothing but continue everything in pursuit of her own power. They’ll probably have a gay person after Hillary who’s just going to do the same thing.”

Concerning those contrary opinions, my colleague, Paul Elmore, who has pointed out the hollowing out of West Marin, tells me this makes it easier for us. He says, “Those who do not measure their politics in money, are forced to leave. And we do not have to put up with them.”

Sign up for Deep Green one hundred percent renewable energy

:

by Kris Brown, Kathy Callaway, Mary Morgan

 

When a group of Mainstreet Moms joined 400,000 others at the People’s Climate March in New York City in September, folks wanted to hear more about our local power authority, Marin Clean Energy.

 

“Really? Not for profit? With the mission of addressing climate change? Boosting demand for green electrical power? Aiming for local power generation? Local jobs?”

 

“Yep, really!” we answered.

 

SUBHEAD: You probably have Light Green from MCE

 

You are likely already getting your electricity from Marin Clean Energy (MCE) while still getting your bills, transmission and repairs from PG&E. MCE’s basic Light Green Service offers a 50% renewable source of power for your electricity–twice as much as PG&E’s mix, and cheaper.

 

SUBHEAD: Why you should move on to Deep Green

 

The question is, are you signed up for Deep Green?

We think signing up for MCE’s Deep Green 100 percent renewable program is the simplest and most impactful thing we can all do about the climate crisis right now.

 

Deep Green sign-ups mean MCE will be able to buy more 100 percent renewable wind power for customers’ electricity usage. It costs one penny per kilowatt-hour more than the basic Light Green service, or less than $5 a month for the typical residential customer. For some businesses, Deep Green is cheaper than PG&E.

 

Here are the top 3 reasons we’re enthusiastic about Deep Green:

 

1. We reduce our fossil fuel use and become part of the climate crisis solution.

 

2. We help expand the demand for renewable energy.

 

3. We support local solar projects–half the Deep Green fees go toward financing start-up costs for local solar projects.

 

Mainstreet Moms and many community members were in on the ground floor, championing the possibilities for a cleaner electricity provider. We helped fight the major utility companies’ multi-million dollar attempts in California to nix the ability of communities to form local power authorities such as MCE.

 

Activists at the NYC Climate March reminded us of what a substantial victory folks in Marin County achieved. MCE is going strong with Richmond and Napa joining in, more cities applying, and other counties such as Sonoma County forming their own power authority.

 

But we at Mainstreet Moms want to push MCE toward its goals faster. That’s why we’re reminding people about MCE’s Deep Green program.

 

SUBHEAD: Sign up is not automatic: you must act

 

Sign up is not automatic, so whether you are a full or part-time resident or a business, we urge you to make sure you are signed up for Marin Clean Energy’s Deep Green program. Just call

1-888-632-3674, or go to mcecleanenergy.org

 

Mainstreet Moms is a volunteer citizen action non-profit, based in West Marin. We meet most Mondays 3-5 pm at the Point Reyes Firehouse.

 

 

 

 

Factsheet: 135 Balboa

 

This information was supplied by Tim Westergren and Smita Singh. owners of 135 Balboa Ave. Locally they are represented by Chris Stanton of Inverness Construction Management. Their design staff includes Olson Kundig architects (Seattle) ; Lutsko Associates (Landscape architects) James MacNair (arborist); Adobe Associates (engineer); WRA (biologist); Historical architecture (Marjorie Dobkin)

 

Summary:

A single family home and a caretaker’s unit with an artist’s studio is being proposed for a 16.9 acre lot. The total proposed building area for the entire project is 8,297 sf, with a main house of 5,494 sf, creating a building ratio to lot size of just 0.011. In fact, this parcel will continue to have significantly more open space that all but a few residential properties in Inverness and Point Reyes.

The home is being designed to the highest environmental and healthy home standards (LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge). By separating the house into three structures, the architects are minimizing mass and maximizing energy efficiency, while being able to accommodate the owners’ large extended family for lengthy visits-which is the primary purpose of the project.

 

Both the house and caretaker’s unit were sited to minimize removal of native and healthy trees, while preserving the privacy for neighbors and the owners that the community values.

Further, the owners have employed licensed arborists to assess the health of more than 250 trees on the property, all 250 of these trees have been tagged for identification purposes. The tags mean the trees have been studied, not that they are marked for removal. After the home is built, this will remain one of the most densely forested parcels in the area with an estimated 1,000 trees on the lot.

 

Supporting details:

Structure Sizes:

Main House: 5,495 sf: 6 bedrooms/9 bathrooms/2 half baths

The main house is solely designed for the owners and their visiting extended families- thus the size and numbers. Until the owners retire, it will serve as a weekend/vacation home. Marin Environmental Health services defines any room that is NOT a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, living room, or mechanical room as a “bedroom”, for the purposes of determining the size of the septic system(s) for the property. Therefore, they list the main house and caretaker’s unti (sic) as having more “bedrooms” by including specific rooms, such as a study, as “bedrooms”.

Intensive consideration was given to the overall impact of the footprint, massing, and energy efficiency in the design of the three-structure design. Single car garage of 335 sf.

 

Caretaker’s Unit: 750 sf: 2 bedrooms/1 bathroom; with an adjacent artist studio that is 1,316 sf:, 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom (no kitchen).The property caretakers are young artists with a 3-year-old son. The intention is to make the caretaker’s unit, at the north end of the property, an attractive place to live year round, raise a family and look after the property-hence its design and siting. This area will be permanently designated as Affordable Housing in a deed restriction.

 

Meditation Hut: 294 sf

 

Pool 480 sf (water will be brought in to fill the pool)

There is no planned perimeter fencing around the 16.9 acres.

 

Water uses:

The existing well has sufficient water draw to serve the property. Water use will not impact nearby wells, as the “range of influence” in these geologic conditions is less than 100 feet. The closest neighboring wells are 228’ and 350’ from the 135 Balboa well. Two hydrological reports will confirm the limited range of influence. The well at Balboa was under constant use by year-round residents of a religious sisterhood and then the St. Eugene’s Hermitage (12 full-time resident monks) from 1980 to 2008 with no detrimental impact on neighboring wells.

The owners are planning to implement state-of-the-art green water storage methods for domestic use, irrigation, and fire safety for the property (and neighborhood).

 

Trees:

More than 250 trees have been studied and tagged for identification purposes on the property. They are not marked for removal. Most of the trees on the property have Protected (at least 10 inches in diameter) or Heritage (at least 30 inches in diameter) designations. The proposed structures are sited as sensitively as possible to minimize tree removal while preserving our privacy as well as our neighbors, and improving the overall health of the woodlands.

46 trees-14 of which are Heritage-are scheduled for removal on almost 17 acres of woodland with an estimated 1000 trees. According to a detailed arborist report, of the 46 trees scheduled for removal, only 3 are considered to be in good health. 28 native Oaks, Maples and Buckeyes are scheduled for planting. Working with the County, the owners’ intention is to gradually increase the number of trees. The project biologist has determined there will be no significant damage to wildlife. This private property has significantly more trees per acre than just about any other in the Inverness/Point Reyes area. Thus, the proposal meets the governing guidelines.

 

Environmental Sensitivity:

The proposed development exceeds all the environmental standards of the Coastal Zone. The proposed sustainable design and construction practices are equivalent to LEED Platinum standards and establish new Healthy Home standards for the removal of toxic materials from the building process, and enhanced workplace and safety practices.

 

Existing Structures:

There are currently six non-conforming and dilapidated buildings on the property (e.g., all but one have no foundations), including a large, steel shipping container. None of these structures are in any way useable and will have to be removed.

 

Future use:

There is no intention of ever renting the property or using it for a business retreat, B&B, or other form of hotel. The owners plan to keep this property in the family, for family use, in perpetuity.

Hermitage:

The Russian Orthodox group that had inhabited the property decided to relocate to new land in Oregon. After they already relocated, the church accepted a purchase offer by the current owners. The owners agreed to the church moving the consecrated chapel structure to Oregon in 2008.

 

 

 

Opening roads for the Latino community will enrich West Marin

 

 

“I believe this workshop was a good thing not only for the people that went, but also to all of the Latino community. It is showing us that people are interested in hearing our voice, and that we actually have one. It makes all of us feel included in this amazing community.”

– Adriana Lopez, Bilingual Administrative Assistant, West Marin Senior Services

 

Over two weeknight evenings last month, at West Marin School in Point Reyes Station, four-dozen members of the local Latino community gathered for an Abriendo Caminos, or opening roads, facilitated workshop. The assembly featured presentations; intellectual, emotional and communication exercises; and small group and large discussions as well as food, conversation and ritual. Its purpose was to train community members in leadership – however each individual might define “leadership” for herself or himself – and to encourage increased Latino participation in solving problems confronting both the Latino and Anglo communities.

This brief but, for participants and facilitators, profoundly moving gathering had been a long time coming, founded on years of work by and support of such local non-profit organizations as West Marin Community Services, Marin County Health and Human Services, West Marin Family Services, Coastal Health Alliance, West Marin Senior Services, Marin County Free Library, West Marin Literacy Program and others.

The goals of Abriendo Caminos were twofold:

1) To have collective understanding about what it means to be a leader, including defining who is a leader, and exploring the barriers and opportunities confronted in and by the community.

And,

2) To create a space for collective learning and healing so that attendees might share their personal stories in an honest way that fosters more meaningful relationships.

 

 

“Abriendo Caminos (Latino Empowerment training) is work this community has been hungering for – and we all win. The West Marin Fund will continue to support this heartwarming effort, and its leadership. We invite others who value such engaged diversity to join us. Really, we’re making something happen in West Marin that other communities only dream of.”

– Catherine Porter, Executive Director, West Marin Fund

 

Abriendo Caminos developed out of a cultural and societal sense of disempowerment that did not begin here in West Marin, California or the United States, but originates in the countries of origin of our Latino and Hispanic friends and neighbors. These issues continued and flourished, and were exploited and accentuated here. Such problems as hierarchy, classism, and being seen and treated as less than equal based on one’s skin color, education, region and country of origin are among such issues. These obstacles were, and are, then played out to the benefit of others – the neighbors, friends, colleagues and community members who do not live under such restrictions or marginalization.

Abriendo Caminos, however, was intended and designed to focus not so much on community as a place of hurt but as of opportunity, and to address the often-expressed question by some in the Anglo community, Why aren’t Latinos involved in the larger community?

  Stories emerge

 

Through one-on-one case management at such agencies as the West Marin office of Marin County Health and Human Services, Shoreline School Readiness and others mentioned above, a weft of stories began to reveal themselves.

For example, a Latino community member overheard an Anglo neighbor saying, “These Latinos don’t know how to eat well, they just binge on chips and sugar.” In fact, nothing could be more offensive to a Latino. This remark served as a lightening bolt to the heart of how little some in the non-Latino communities understood Latinos, including the degradation of family structure and of community through the traumas of asylum-seeking and of immigration, and how these factors affect and shift Latino behavior.

 

 

“We are working on being a united, diverse community, so as the workshop title suggests, opening roads in community inclusion and leadership is essential to take advantage of the strength of our many individual and cultural perspectives – uniting to grow and lift our community.”

­– Maurice “Skip” Schwartz, Executive Director, West Marin Senior Services

 

Out of such simple but painful occurrences arose an idea for the La Mesa de las Abuelas event. In English it means Our Grandmother’s Table. The event outwardly focused on food but actually served as an exploration of the deeper cultural and familial roots that both bind and distinguish the rich diversity of not only our Latino communities but the entirety of West Marin’s immigrant population, i.e. all of us.

Figuratively switching the tables without coming from a place of hurt or combativeness but instead looking into the personal and collective Latino history, participants in La Mesa de las Abuelas rediscovered healthy family recipes as well as warm recollections of grandparents, in celebration and pride.

Organized as a small potluck, La Mesa de las Abuelas brought together family recipes and food from home, and not simply from Latino community members. Green beans with tomato, onion and chilies; pork in tomato broth; Tepache, a mildly fermented pineapple beverage; Calabasas (sautéed squash) pot black and pinto beans, and more comidas deliciosas were appreciated, honored and discussed alongside roasted chicken, roasted apples, Irish soda bread, roasted beets, beef stew and goulash, in an atmosphere of curiosity, respect and pleasure.

Through this shared experience an allegorical light bulb illuminated the perspective of non-Latino participants, some of whose own grandmothers had in fact prepared meals out of cans and boxes. The realization arose that all of us have something to contribute at the table.

 

 

“Collaborative members helped plan, set up, and provide food, but did not attend Abriendo Caminos, so hearing about the training at our debrief was pretty great. We’re incredibly blessed to live and work in a community that wants to be “one” – where we want to know each other and understand each other better and where we want to share in making decisions that impact our lives. I see Abriendo Caminos as an important step toward achieving that goal.”

– Bonny White, Branch Manager, West Marin Libraries, Marin County Free Library

 

 

Through the success of La Mesa de las Abuelas two more events were organized, with the addition of storytelling alongside sharing home-cooked dishes and family memories, serving as a cultural exchange. Attendees reminisced about the smell of their abuela’s kitchen and the warmth of the comal (griddle) as she made tortillas, for example.

The third gathering took a different turn, responding to funding requests made to the West Marin Fund by West Marin non-profit organizations. The executive directors and boards of some of these organizations had asked the Fund to provide financing for increased Latino involvement on their boards, a shift indicating a broader interest by the Anglo leadership in including at the decision-making table people who are not yet present in the room, so to speak. That the push to invite Latinos came from the existing non-Latino leadership is significant, a real game-changer.

Using the La Mesa platform to demystify and build community, relationships between individuals and elements of the larger community began increasing and expanding. A general sense developed of prioritizing leaders in community-based organizations who could mingle with existing leadership, and to cultivate and train up-and-coming Latinos leaders based on the shared recommendations of their peers. It was out of this process that an ad hoc West Marin collaborative became a force of exploring who ought to be present at the head table.

 

 The West Marin Collaborative

 

The West Marin Collaborative, whose constituent participants include a broad cross section of local individuals, non-profit organizations and governmental agencies, including many already mentioned above as well as public school principals, had been meeting for several years to examine, discuss and address Latino community issues and poverty in West Marin. The Collaborative meets regularly and is open to anyone, and to additional agencies and organizations, who wish to engage in this ongoing partnership.

One of the long-range goals of the West Marin Collaborative has been the opening up of the process to include non-Latinos in leadership training, and to coach leaders who could participate in local governing and non-profit boards, place-specific to this rural community.

 

 

 

“As a Community Health Center, Coastal Health Alliance is governed by a consumer Board of Directors that is expected to represent our patient mix, to best meet the needs of the community. CHA whole-heartedly supports the Latino Empowerment/Abriendo Caminos process and looks forward to greater Latino involvement in determining the future of health care services in West Marin.”

Steven Siegel, Executive Director, Coastal Health Alliance

 

 

Again, in response to the question, Why aren’t Latinos involved?, a Latino experience of feeling powerless and of not being welcomed, was common in spite of the best intentions of the Anglo community. Two existing community leaders, Socorro Romo of West Marin Community Services and Maria Niggle of West Marin Family Services (and formerly with Shoreline School Readiness) began researching, inquiring and listening to the comments, yearnings and suggestions of both Latinos and Anglos. It was through that simple process of inquiry and feedback that the idea for Abriendo Caminos arose.

“Learning from each other, valuing what we have and appreciating each other, this is why we feel that building community is important; it is what we want to see happening,” said Socorro Romo. “None of us desires to be separated, but first we must learn to value ourselves. This process is not about taking away power from any of us; it is about how can we enrich the community. How can we hold the communal space so that all of us can feel confident? That is why Abriendo Caminos came about.”

Last month’s two-day gathering was both an empowerment retreat as well as an opportunity for individual and group introspection. “Given the obligations and limitations set by family and livelihood, transportation, time and so forth, not everyone has the leisure time to engage in such meaningful activity, and when we do have it, why not use it?” said Maria Niggle. “The goal of this guided retreat and training was to offer the message that even with limitations we can speak up about what we want to see in our community, and about how can we feel equal and participate in the community equally.”

Maria adds, “Of course none of us, individuals, families or communities, are islands, disconnected and adrift from the rest. Much gratitude and thanks are owed not only for the actual September 23 and 24 gathering but the incubation as well came from the West Marin Collaborative; even choosing the workshop name itself was a collaboration.”

Around the same time, members of the Latino community stepped forward with the proposal to arrange a Mexican Independence Day celebration, as a means for the two communities – Latino and Anglo – to become better acquainted. Held at the West Marin Commons in Point Reyes Station, the September 14 event featured a range of live music and dance performances, homemade food and beverages. At one point, nearly 200 people of all ages and cultures gathered in the brilliant weather. The event was a huge success and shifted the perceptions of many who attended. Cultural dignity, values and celebration are important to the whole community, regardless of their origins!

The supporting role of community-based organizations such as West Marin Fund, Coastal Health Alliance and The Marin Literacy Program, each of which provided generous financial grants, was key, as were the financial contributions of numerous individuals. One anonymous donor even provided $3,000 towards Abriendo Caminos. Additionally, home-cooked suppers and lovely volunteer-created table settings by members of Mainstreet Moms; physical space provided by Shoreline Unified School District’s West Marin School and set up by the staff of Gallery Route One; and childcare coordinated by Madeline Hope, Nancy Bertelsen and Papermill Creek Children’s Corner also served to create a supportive, safe environment.

“We were happy to host Abriendo Caminos at our school and to provide another in a series of leadership opportunities for our Latino parents. From a personal and professional perspective, I look forward to continuing our effort to meet the challenge of providing the best educational opportunities for our Latino and all students by working together as a learning community.”

– Matthew Nagle, Principal, West Marin/Inverness School

 

 

‘Feels like the right time’

 

Socorro Romo, in thanking these community allies, remarked, “In providing the space for this group to think through its issues and opportunities, the success is an outcome of a shared community effort and willingness to make the effort to listen, to go deep, rather than just to get something done.”

“Stepping back from problem solving, we looked instead to explore the qualities of leadership through an internal discussion, rather than simply anointing a leader,” said participant Rebecca Porrata, retired Public Health Nurse. “Thanks to the dedication of participating individuals and our collaborative allies, we built on the foundation of past community efforts by schools, churches, Health and Human Services and so many others, all of whom had been preparing the soil for decades.”

“This feels like it is the right time to begin working towards a unified community, one community that honors and celebrates all of our heritages,” continued Rebecca Porrata. “I feel proud of the fact that we are working together to train new leaders for meaningful board participation, bringing others into the decision-making process and moving these organizations forward.”

Indeed, the spirit of the times is to do something now. Latinos are staying in West Marin longer, they are settling in. Yet our rural immigrants are isolated, unlike the more urban areas of east Marin with its supermarkets, public transportation, and the ability to find work on the street corner. Here in West Marin, many times Latino folks are out on a ranch trying to get somewhere, literally and figuratively.

“The purpose of our exercises was to form a trusting body of people, through individual and group exercises that helped us reflect on leadership, on what we are currently doing in our community, and on the values that we can contribute to our community,” said Socorro Romo. “What can I do for my community? What gifts do I bring to the table, and what opportunities are there to share my gifts? Through lots of exercises, participants explored the intersections of ‘me’ and ‘community.’ Who am I, and how do I give back to the community?”

 

 

“The Marin Literacy/West Marin Literacy Program recognizes that a crucial part of our Latino community feeling confident to step into roles of leadership and community involvement is more complex than simply offering literacy services. When this project was first proposed, our board was immediately enthusiastic to be a funding sponsor and has budgeted future funds to continue to support this powerful work.”

– Robin Carpenter, Executive Director, The Marin Literacy Program

  “I can reposition my perspective’

 

Finally, rituals were held at end of both evenings, incorporating a table for altar offerings presented by the participants, who had been invited to bring an item to which they felt an attachment. On the first evening these offerings were placed on the altar, alongside lit candles. On the second evening participants were invited to organize, and if so moved, to reorganize the offerings, as well as to reflect on what message did they have to share with the group.

“To build a community,” said Maria Niggle, “we need to bring our values, our heart, and to do it with love. It’s okay to make changes, to change ideas, even to make changes to someone else’s altar offering. In the end the product was so beautiful. One participant remarked, ‘I felt power, and no fear in moving my item. I can also reposition my perspective!’”

 

 

The West Marin Collaborative has been supporting community empowerment and enrichment activities since its inception as the “Latino Family Services” group that began many years ago. Through advocacy and empowerment of Latino voices, concerns and solutions can be elevated on a local, state and even federal level.

– Kathleen Roach, Public Health Nurse, Marin County Health and Human Services, Point Reyes Station

 

Evaluations were completed by nearly all of the participants on both days, the results of which are being assessed and will help determine the next steps. One statistic stands out as indicative of the success of Abriendo Caminos and can be appreciated by anyone who has participated in an intensive workshop such as this: more people showed up the second evening than on the first.

Others evaluation summaries include that more than half of respondents felt they are now able to identify oppression in their own life, including identifying institutional oppression; half of respondents can identify leadership skills within themselves; and three-quarters were able to articulate a situation in which they felt oppressed, versus less than a handful of participants at the beginning of the workshop.

 

“Our Latino community has been behind the scenes for many years; we hope that that is about to change. The leadership workshop “Abriendo Caminos” illustrates that our Latino community is ready to embark on a new journey. Our duty as community members and agencies is to encourage and support this new direction, by becoming culturally proficient agencies that respectfully encourage the participation of all cultures represented in our wonderful community.”

– Lourdes Romo, West Marin Senior Services Board

 

 

As an outcome, some Proximos Pasos – next steps – have already been identified, with more to follow. First, to continue these overview empowerment retreats; and second, monthly Talleres de Bienestar Comunitarios (Community Wellness Workshops), therapeutic workshops under the auspices of Health and Human Services on different themes identified by the community. One such topic is bullying, both in school and in the community, among adults and adult bullying reflected in the behavior of our children, and addressing how to put a stop to bullying. Each month’s Tallares de Bienestar workshop will examine a different such theme through a therapeutic lens.

A third Proximos Pasos is intensive leadership training for Latino community members who are ready to serve as organization board members, through identifying individuals who just need a little extra help, support, strategies and techniques. A number of such individuals have already been identified.

As Socorro Romo puts it, “The confidence I saw in the faces of the Abriendo Caminos participants is evidence of the efficacy of such community and individual efforts. This gives us all the energy and inspiration to keep moving forward in finding creative and meaningful ways to contribute.”
If you would like to support, get involved or stay informed of these efforts, contact Socorro Romo of West of Marin Community Services, at sromo@westmarincommunityservices.org and (415) 663-8631, or Maria Niggle of Marin Health and Human Services, West Marin Service Center, at nigglehollis@gmail.com and (415) 473-3807.

 

 

Continuing the discussion

 

By Charles Schultz
Peter Barnes wrote last week in a letter to the Citizen that, whatever the validity of my other observations, he is not a neoliberal or a Thatcherite…
Tony Benn records in his diary in 1999 the introduction of a bill in parliament by Tony Blair’s government to privatize the British postal system. Benn writes that the Conservative Party opposite the supposedly left of center Labour Party were beside themselves, roaring in wave after wave of laughter as the bill was being read out. The Conservatives couldn’t believe that the privatization of this valued and formerly inviolable public service, the destruction of a public institution that they had failed to achieve in ten years in power under Margaret Thatcher, was going to be accomplished by their opponents. The Labour Party? Thatcherite? Neoliberal?
In their long exodus from power, the Labour Party adopted the economic policies of the right, neoliberal economic policies. Peter Mandelson, Blair’s Karl Rove if you like, even declared after a “weekend-long policy brainstorming session” with Blair and Bill Clinton that “we’re all Thatcherites now.”
The man whose work is the basis of Cap and Trade was called Ronald Coase. In 1990, the year before he received the Nobel Prize in economics for the very theory we are discussing, Coase told the man who was to become the leading exponent of the localist opposition to empire and climate change, Paul Fenn, that Milton Friedman had hijacked his idea, that Cap and Trade couldn’t work because the contracts would be unenforceable – polluters would find ways to cheat. Whatever their disagreements, Coase and Friedman are considered two of the thought leaders of neoliberalism and Thatcherism.
That bit about unenforceability is important. Neoliberals have an answer to Coase’s opinion that Cap and Trade would just be a realm for gaming – fraud – by polluters. They call for a strong government, and say so, to extend markets across the world and enforce the rules of these markets. Neoliberals are not for weaker government – that is just propaganda for the Bakersfield chapter of the Tea Party.
Cap and Trade was a Republican policy, but in the logic of “triangulation”, the hallmark of Bill Clinton’s “political genius”, some Democrats decided to make it their policy. Then the Republicans dropped it and moved further toward the right. And the Democrats treat their opponent’s idea as progressive.
If you are proposing the privatization of the atmosphere, to create a new market to fix the old market and call for a strong national government to enforce this new economy, what school of thought (tracking back to which politician) do you belong to?
One definition or aspect of ideology – the limits of the thinkable – runs, “They don’t know it, but they are doing it.”
So much of the poverty of our discourse is the assumption that the field of action for these issues is the national or international, that local democracy must be set aside or is irrelevant. But my message here is that there are no imperial solutions to the problems of empire. Even if the federal government did pursue the reregulation of industry, carbon taxes, or cap and dividend, and the largess of these policies do trickle down to the masses as intended, they will cause new terrifying problems.
How will we organize opposition to new crises, or our current wars, if we are all on the federal government’s payroll? The founders of this project, the Enlightenment, believed you could not both have an empire and a democracy. Jefferson said that independence from the government was a necessary condition for a citizen, as opposed to a subject. What will happen, indeed what has happened, to the idea of a citizen, when the empire has the masses on financial life support?
Cap in Hand?
These mass movements are as bankrupt as the ideas they beg the powerful to implement. They say 400,000 marched in New York. In 1995, 870,000 gathered in Washington for the Million Man March – the lives of the overwhelming majority of African Americans have been in continued steady decline since in spite of it. Marching will not melt the hearts of CEOs or Presidents. Remember all of the idea men and activists that went to DC in ‘08 – and had their meetings with senators and the President’s men – believing that they could get Obama’s ear and convince him to address this or that crisis? And they tell us we should now have a new movement, to influence a new president or even the leaders of other countries. Do they really expect a better outcome from Hillary Clinton, supposing it isn’t Jeb Bush?
Anyone who believes the federal government will hear their prayers, over the inducements of industry and the white noise of imperial power will again be predictably disappointed. Go to the level of politics where citizens still have the ability to impose their will: the municipality is the sleeping giant of American democracy and the best hope for action on the climate and economy.
I invite Mr. Barnes to publicly discuss our differing positions and how to take action on these crises.

Endorsements In November 4, 2014, General Election

By Wade Holland

What’s most interesting about this year’s Nov. 4 general election is not the candidates – from top to bottom, the races are all pretty ho-hum. What stands out is how little agreement there is about the State propositions, particularly within either side of the right-left political divide. Conservative and liberal organizations are both divided within themselves on whether or not to support most of the State propositions. For example, out of 15 surveyed organizations on the liberal side, three favor Jerry Brown’s Prop. 1 water bond, three oppose it, and the other nine couldn’t make up their mind. So let’s jump right to the propositions and measures to see what we can figure out, then we’ll double back to the offices that appear on West Marin ballots.
Overview of propositions and measures
Prop. 1 YES: Water bonds
Prop. 2 YES: Rainy day fund
Prop. 45 YES: Health insurance
Prop. 46 NO: Medical
Prop. 47 YES: Sentencing
Prop. 48 NO: Gambling
Meas. A YES: Radio system
Meas. B YES: Bolinas school bond
Meas. R YES: Hospital lease
The state propositions
Prop. 1, the water bonds proposal, is a toughie. It authorizes sale of $7.12 billion in bonds for a smorgasbord of vaguely related (and mostly vaguely defined) water projects. The bonds will require a total repayment, interest included, of some $14.4 billion. However, when that colossal sum is annualized over the estimated 40-year life of the bonds, it comes to what seems a fairly manageable $360 million a year. And, according to the independent Legislative Analyst, the indebtedness would be partially offset to the tune of “a couple of hundred million dollars annually over the next few decades” in savings to local governments.

Our fractious legislature placed Prop. 1 on the ballot with no opposition at all in the Senate and only two dissenters in the Assembly. The ballot argument in favor is signed by a cover-all-the-bases triumvirate of Governor Jerry Brown, the president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, and the state director of the Nature Conservancy. The opposition argument doesn’t have so distinguished a pedigree, and its case is narrowly focused on the purported use of a large share of the money ($2.7 billion) to build new dams. I too don’t want to see big new dams, but the proponents point out that the actual language is for “water storage” projects, groundwater storage in particular, not just dams.

Weighing against Prop. 1 in my mind is that it could result in too much invested in dams, the bonds are for one heck of a lot of money, and there’s a potential for boondoggles. But I’m impressed that it got through the legislature nearly unanimously with that rarity, bipartisan support. And I think a lot of worthwhile projects could get built in a short period of time. I’m tilting slightly in favor of Prop. 1 (which, it should be pointed out, is NOT for funding any proposed Delta canal system).

Prop. 2 The rainy day fund in Prop. 2 seems a generally good idea, and the voter pamphlet argument against it makes almost no sense and comes from a single source I never heard of before. I’ve read a number of very similar letters to the editor alarmed at how Prop. 2 will destroy education and the school system, but none of them explains, even vaguely, how this will occur. I wonder if the letter writers are copying from a script and don’t themselves understand what underlies their arguments. My take is that Prop. 2 is OK.

Prop. 45, giving the respected Insurance Commissioner’s office some authority over health insurance rates, is a no-brainer that deserves to be supported.

Prop. 46 purports to be about drug and alcohol testing of doctors, but it’s really about lifting restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits. I might actually support that real intent, but the asinine drug testing provision is a too-cynical ploy inserted to divert attention from the proposition’s real purpose. Down the tubes with Prop. 46.

Prop. 47 aims to loosen the boundary between felonies and misdemeanors, an important step in reforming our runaway prison-industrial complex. A Yes vote makes good sense.

Prop. 48 The issues in the Indian gaming Prop. 48 are convoluted, but all you need to know is that Indian gambling never has anything to do with Indians, and everything to do with mega profits for Nevada (and beyond) gambling interests. This ballot referendum may be disguised as a fight between two California Indian tribes, but the real combatants are Brigade Capital Management and Station Casinos of Las Vegas. Do those sound like tribal names? Rein in exploitation of indigenous peoples, deep-six the Madera casino, vote No on 48.

County and local measures
Measure A’s County-wide property tax ($29 per year for a single-family parcel) is by far the fairest and most equitable way to fund the necessary next-generation MERA emergency radio system. Indeed, even its opponents endorse the system upgrade as being necessary and inevitable, they just don’t want to have to pay for it – because, oddly, they are opposed to public employee pensions. Huh? Especially in rural West Marin, a functioning, reliable commo system is a lifeline none of us wants to be without. We certainly don’t want to sacrifice it on the altar of an irrelevant squabble over public pension policy. Getting a two-thirds approval is going to be a tough slog, so I hope the West Marin communities, which will be net beneficiaries of both the new system and (importantly!) this particular method of financing it, will step up to the mic with an eye-catching super-majority for Measure A.
Measure R continues in effect the existing operating arrangement for Marin General Hospital. The surprisingly well-financed opposition consists mainly of good folks who, back in the day, waged a long, uphill battle to pry our county’s public hospital out from under a disastrous 1985 lease to the rapacious Sutter Health. And it’s a battle that the good guys (us!) won. But in that fight there really was an “us” and a “them.” Today, there’s only an “us”; there is no longer a separate outside interest skimming the hospital’s revenues. It’s time to let go of the Sutter battle. The current system is working well, so I support a Yes vote.
Measure B Locally, Bolinas and Stinson voters are being asked in Measure B to approve up to $9 million in school bonds to be used exclusively for repairs and improvements to outdated facilities. The amount is minimal, the indenture is carefully crafted, and the kids deserve to be supported. Yes on B.

Congress, state, and local offices
At the top of the ballot are a lot of familiar names, some of them playing musical chairs as they vie for a new office after being termed out of a previous office. I’m sticking mostly with my June primary endorsements for the various State offices: incumbent EDMUND G. “JERRY” BROWN for Governor, Marin’s GAVIN NEWSOM for Lieutenant Governor, ALEX PADILLA for Secretary of State (a lukewarm endorsement, but his opponent’s candidate statement sounds like it could have been written in Karl Rove’s bedroom), BETTY YEE for Controller, JOHN CHIANG for Treasurer, KAMALA HARRIS for Attorney General, DAVE JONES for Insurance Commissioner, and FIONA MA for State Board of Equalization.
For the nonpartisan post of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I favor the incumbent TOM TORLAKSON. He is facing a strong challenge from Marshall Tuck, who tells us he wants to “Get the politicians out of our schools.” Unfortunately, he seems to want to replace them with business interests, judging from his track record as a major mover in privatization of the public schools. This guy is being groomed for something, and I don’t think it’s something we’re going to like the looks of – especially since full-page ads for Tuck started appearing in newspapers up and down the state. In the fine print it’s revealed that major funding for the ads is coming from Eli Broad, who is to Los Angeles what the Koch brothers are to New York. I’d just as soon tuck Tuck out of sight as quickly as possible.

For Congress (U.S. Representative), the clear choice is JARED HUFFMAN, who already in just one term in Washington has proved to be a mover-and-shaker. I believe we’ll also be happy to have MIKE McGUIRE, a Sonoma County Supervisor, serving us in Sacramento as our State Senator. I’m not enthusiastic about MARC LEVINE, our incumbent Assembly member, but he’s sure a heck of a lot better than his opponent (who promises in his candidate’s statement that he would use the office to interfere in local land-use decisions).

At the County level, the Marin Healthcare District would be best served by electing LARRY A. BEDARD, JENNIFER RIENKS, and MICHAEL W. WHIPPLE, for pretty much the same reasons that I endorsed a Yes vote on Measure R above (all three of the other candidates are still stewing in the anti-Sutter time warp).

For readers in Marin Municipal Water District’s Division 3, one of West Marin’s best friends, LIZA CROSSE, has earned and very much deserves election to a full term on the MMWD board. Because of my background as General Manager of the Inverness Water System, I feel I’m in a good position to judge how folks perform as directors of a water district. My observation is that Liza has been a standout as a director, a person who does her homework, studies the issues thoroughly, listens to the community, and comes to thoughtful, informed decisions. Any board would be fortunate to have a Liza Crosse on it.
Finally, three incumbents and a challenger are vying for three seats on the Bolinas-Stinson school board. I leave it to the good people of Bolinas and Stinson Beach to sort this race out for themselves.

The Refuge for Realists

 

Cap and Trade or Dividend is an old idea, an old Republican policy, and I am told an updated version of this Trojan horse, presented as a great gift by Peter Barnes, is creaking on its wheels as it rolls into West Marin from the darkest corners of 20th century economic philosophy for us townsfolk to gawk at. Cap and Trade solves thorny problems for the timorous thinker. First, you don’t have to blame corporations. It isn’t their essential activity that is destructive to nature, and must be stopped. It is that markets have not been created to account for their behavior and “price-in” their destructiveness. Once they pay the right price for carbon, they will correct their behavior.
And who is going to enforce this new market? Well, the same politicians who are presently beholden to the corporations who pollute. Cap and Trade asks the corporations and the government to go into a room together and solve the problem. Of course, because the intellectuals refuse to take a stand directly against the corporations themselves, attempting only to modify corporate behavior over time, the politicians don’t even have the basis of resisting them. As Paul Fenn put it, “It is like putting the tobacco companies in charge of the strategy to stop people from smoking.”
Where these Cap and Trade schemes have been tried, various tricks are used, often built into the markets themselves, to allow polluters to evade the cap – to not reduce carbon emissions. These markets have failed repeatedly in practice. But how is it supposed to work in theory? Well polluting corporations, like power plant owners, have the amount that they pollute grandfathered into the scheme. Then starting from year one the cap gets lower, polluters must emit less carbon, until say 2050 when carbon emissions will be at a level that, based on the enormity of the problem, they need to be today. It is a proposal on a timeline so long that only people who believe in cryogenics won’t find themselves utterly dismayed.
That last bit, sadly, isn’t entirely a joke. Hedge fund founder and Googleian Ray Kurzweil eats 150 pills a day in a bid to live until technology will make him immortal. The grand old man of the convenient fantasy California-style Stewart Brand has his own Long Now foundation, which asks us to look forward to the year 10,000 and start planning on that basis. No wonder he is so untroubled by the half-life of nuclear waste. Not to be outdone, Peter Schwartz, business partner of Brand, both longtime consultants to Shell Oil amongst others, once told an audience in San Francisco that he wasn’t concerned about climate change because through the advances of bio-technology his son would live forever, giving him ample time to deal with the problem. Does it bother anybody that our intellectuals sound like a group thirteen year-old boys in a tree house trying to write a Star Trek script?
Cap and Trade does not even rise to the level of tragedy because either foolishly or shamelessly it serves the powerful interests that are destroying the world.  It is no compensation to be paid $5,000 a year by polluters in exchange for the loss of our future as a species. Even with this addendum of a dividend scheme, where will this money be spent in the climate change conditions that Cap and Trade cannot halt?

These ideas, like Cap and Trade, flowed from people like Friedrich von Hayek and Ronald Coase (who ultimately disavowed it) through Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, though the locals who tout them seem not to know it. They are predicated on a worldview that believes there is no such thing as a society, that only when we make a market out of the whole earth, including the air we breathe, can our problems be solved. In an effort to be “realistic”, Barnes and the serious men have become, perhaps unwittingly, dominated by the ascendant ideology of our time: Neo-liberalism. Though they probably think they are just helping the Democratic Party – thought to be a force for good – the Party leadership beginning with Bill Clinton has moved in earnest to adopt the economic policies of the right as well. I am reminded of the line from a terrible early 80’s fantasy film, “It used to be just another snake cult, but now, it’s everywhere!”

Remember that these thinkers talk to some extent about the forces that govern our world, but not about the structures that holds all of these interests in place. Those underlying structures they think of as a natural and immutable ecology of power in which we need to find the right balance between participants – a balance, for instance, between the interests of the coal industry and the people whose water and air are poisoned. This false ecological view of the world causes blind spots in their vision, narrowed further by fears they confuse for wisdom. Many of them, of course, are simultaneously rich, distracted and unevenly educated, and the combination of these cardinal West Marin qualities often compels these men and women to speak, with great confidence, opinions that are useless, trivial or demented (sadly for those dependent upon their patronage, the service population in its various forms are often compelled to listen to them).
What are these fears that pervert the minds of our intellectuals? The first and most obvious is the fear of the empire itself. Take the craven leaders of our institutions of higher learning; although universities usually allow each department a token radical, they too are increasingly entranced by “free market” ideas and are endlessly constructing new buildings that require wealthy, often corporate, donors and federal funding. To jeopardize either patron would be fatal to the growing university bubble, and their chancellors dare not alienate them. Energy corporations, like BP and PG&E, are notorious (or should be) for constraining the debate on politics and policy within universities in favor of technological research–which when it comes close to showing promise–is often defunded.
And older fears possess our thinkers when writing about changing the world for the better, based in memories of the political upheavals of the 1930’s. Remember FDR was a compromise; he was going to protect businessmen from those they more deeply feared like Huey Long. But the ultimate and to some inevitable danger of political unrest is represented by figures like Stalin and Hitler who remain bidden or unbidden in our political memory. If, like those two, a leader says he has the formula for a new and better society, to achieve our dreams of freedom and prosperity, what then will he do to those who oppose it, or whom the leader has designated as the enemies of the dream?
The consequence of these persistent half-remembered memories is an unwillingness to speak out in opposition to either corporations or the government. These are the “realists”, and their sober and stable managerial approach to crisis explains the poverty of the solutions they present to climate change or the “Great Recession.” Writers like Peter Barnes refuse to directly confront the sources of climate change or declining living standards in America for fear, I believe, of arousing political ideas. Ideas that say you can change the world by disallowing through law the abuse of the planet or its people, and that simultaneously our governments can provide investment in infrastructure to replace the burning of fuel, etc. Such direct actions are considered, “unserious” or “unrealistic”, because if we identify corporations as the culprits of global and domestic decline, the realists fear we will march toward Communism. If we identify the government as the cause of failure, we will unwittingly bring to power fascists and a greater tyranny. And let’s pull away the curtain for a moment, lurking in the shadows is the god that the portfolio men really fear, the capricious Index, like the NYSE, to whom they must make endless sacrifices in an effort raise share prices ever higher, because without those particular dividend payments, survival in West Marin is truly unimaginable.

West Marin is nestled in the center of American empire, not at some rural margin. That is why what we think, and still more to know who we truly are, is very important. Some of us believe we are really out in the country and receive the terrible events on TV or the Internet as fragments from a distant world. Our lives feel stagnant as climate change, war, government spying and declining prosperity demand serious collective answers to the question of how we and our children will survive.

Unfortunately for us, our local intellectuals are proposing answers to the big crises of our time, which in their pursuit of the “real” are ironically more utopian than any Bolshevik dream. The realist says, “Ask the polluters not to pollute, ask them instead to pay the poor.”

 

A day in court: personal reflections and DBOC legal proceedings

By Marc Matheson
On Tuesday, September 9, I attended my first court hearing on the Drakes Bay Oyster Company issue. What follows is a hybrid essay of fact and personal perspective.
I have, until recently avoided the conflict of this ongoing community conversation. My concern, rather, has been the effect that the often times bitter and angry debate has had on our neighborhood and our friendships. This article provides both a first-hand report from this week’s ruling as well as my subjective opinion.
It was an interesting excursion into downtown Oakland on a busy weekday. I passed through the security checkpoint of the Federal Building, named for former African American mayor Ronald Dellums.
Upstairs, outside Courtroom 1, gathered several dozen Anglo men in suits, many of them lawyers; a handful of ladies, many also in suits and among them several women of color; a few familiar faces from Point Reyes National Seashore, in civilian clothes; and a passel of sundry West Mariners, whose faces I know and whose hands I shook in greeting regardless of their affiliation on this debate.
Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers, the judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California who ruled on Tuesday and had ruled on this case in early 2013, was born Maria Yvonne Gonzalez in 1965 in Houston, Texas. She was appointed to her current post by President Obama, and had earlier been a judge of Alameda County Superior Court, appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
She is the first Latina to serve on that court.
The case before Her Honor was a request for a preliminary injunction filed by a group of businesses, individuals and advocates to set aside the Interior Department’s decision to let the special use permit expire on its own terms for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company that operated in Drakes Estero wilderness.
The suit had been filed in mid-July by Tomales Bay Oyster Company; Saltwater Oyster Depot, in Inverness; Osteria Stellina and Café Reyes, in Point Reyes Station; Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco; the Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture; and individuals Margaret Grade, Loretta Murphy, Jeffrey Creque and Patricia Unterman.
Judge Gonzalez-Rogers began the hearing with some clear and unambiguous language: “What you are asking is extraordinary and rarely given. I am concerned, as this looks like a repeat of the February 2013 case over which I presided and which ultimately proceeded to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
(For anyone unaware of this ongoing fight, Drakes Bay Oyster Company had sued the Interior Department in December 2012, after former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to let the 40-year lease expire on its own terms. The effect has been that the temporary emergency injunction put in place by the 9th Circuit in February 2013 was lifted and the Department of the Interior set in motion a timeline for the company to remove its oyster operation from Drakes Estero).
On June 30th of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for review filed by the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, affirming the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s denial of the Company’s preliminary injunction lawsuit.)
“All of these issues were vetted years ago,” Judge Gonzalez-Rogers continued. Your lawsuit, “strains credulity. There is no indication that it has any reality. I have wondered whether Rule 11 sanctions aren’t appropriate given the complete lack of merit of your claims,” said the judge.
(Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern civil lawsuits in United States federal court provides for fines or punishment against attorneys and clients who file lawsuits based on frivolous arguments and that lack of factual investigation.)
For those legal beagles who relish precise language, Judge Gonzalez-Rogers unpacked her decision by emphasizing that a preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary” remedy, repeating that word several times, and which could only be granted if the plaintiffs satisfied each and every one of four required tests:  (1) that they had a strong likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their claims (i.e., that they could convince the court that federal government had violated some law); (2) that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if the injunction were not granted; (3) that balancing the harms to plaintiffs from denying an injunction against the harms to the National Park Service’s interests of granting the injunction favored granting the injunction; and (4) that an injunction would be in the public interest.
On the issue of whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring claims seeking relief for DBOC, which was not a participant in July’s lawsuit, Her Honor invited attorney Stuart Gross to explain why they had standing…but she frequently interrupted him, saying that he was wrong, he wasn’t convincing her, and so forth.  He made arguments about the Coastal Zone Management Act and then the National Aquaculture Act, but no headway with the judge.
Judge Gonzalez-Rogers made clear that in denying the motion for an injunction, she found that the plaintiffs had not met a single one of the four tests for an injunction, noting with regard to the balance of harms and the public interest that she’d already ruled on those in denying DBOC the injunction it sought in early 2013.
“Your proposition is nonsensical. It makes no sense. A permit has lapsed. It has lapsed. The only relief is to issue a permit,” the judge said.
“Your motion is denied. Not only do I have doubts about the sustainability of this cause of action, but the law is clear that a reduction in the supply of a product can’t constitute irreparable harm because a monetary remedy is possible; as this court has indicated in other rulings, there is no fundamental difference here with the issues raised [in February 2013;] this motion is incredibly untimely. It is not as if parties who brought this action didn’t know it was happening; these issues have been debated in public and in the courts for years. I don’t know if you’re corresponding with Drakes Bay Oyster Co. or what is your strategy for bringing this kind of action so late in game, and I understand your claim that it only became an issue after the Supreme Court ruled, but I find that to be unpersuasive. The motion for a preliminary injunction is denied.”
The judge then said that she assumed the federal government would be bringing a motion to dismiss (i.e., to toss the case out for failure to state any viable legal claims and because the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring these claims).  The government attorney replied that that was their intention.
Two amicus “friend of the court” briefs were filed in this case, but the court accepted only one; the other was rejected by the court. The amicus brief submitted by the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin and other environmental organizations was filed by attorneys at Earth Justice and was accepted by the court. The brief argued that the “Plaintiffs now, at the eleventh hour, rehash the same arguments this Court and the Ninth Circuit found unavailing in Drakes Bay, while utterly ignoring the environmental harms that are resulting from continued operation of the oyster farm and the public interests in favor of securing wilderness protection for Drakes Estero. Further, the speculative economic harms they assert are not harms cognizable for the purposes of granting an injunction.”
EAC’s amicus brief included two new court declarations explaining the harm to Drakes Estero from continued operations as evidenced by the underwater video footage taken by Richard James (available online at the You Tube channel, Coastodian.)
The amicus brief filed by Judy Teichman on behalf of Phyllis Faber, Robin Carpenter, Laura Watt and others was rejected by the court and not considered credible. The attorneys for the federal government opposed the amicus brief because it made “the same arguments as Plaintiffs and used similar authorities to support their identical interests,” did not “provide unique information or perspective to the Court,” and because the amicus applicants [Faber, Carpenter] “are “friends of the plaintiffs” and not “friends of the court,”” resulting in “a highly partisan attempt to influence the Court to find in favor or Plaintiffs by repeating the same arguments advanced in Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.”
The judge apparently agreed with the federal attorneys reasoning since she rejected the Teichman brief.
And here’s where my personal perspective and concern for community goodwill come in. While nothing in this long legal battle and community controversy might have been predicted, one hopes that this latest chapter will close the book, finally, on the divisiveness and heated, personal acrimony that has strained West Marin residents – and others – and poisoned the common well of amity and collegiality.
The special permit issued to Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to operate within Point Reyes National Seashore expired almost two years ago. The federal court and Supreme Court have upheld that expiration. It’s truly time to let go of this fight, heal the community wounds, and heal our marine wilderness at Drakes Estero.

 

Homes, or housing- a West Marin story

Congratulations to the graduating 8th graders of West Marin School. The best of luck as you go forward in high school. The changes come big and fast from here on out.

Sadly, there are only eight students graduating this year. This exodus of the young should be obvious to everyone and it’s not difficult to imagine the trend continuing until shortly there will be so few students in the Pt. Reyes area that the school itself cannot continue. One can chart a graph and see where it ends easily enough. If you add up the years of all the graduating class it barely approaches the median age of an Inverness resident.

In a decade or so when their formal schooling is over will any return to where they grew up? Let’s look at what they have to face:

The foul greedy monster himself, or at least his most apparent manifestation, greets the returning youth. Where to live? $850,000 will get you a small house but last I checked Wells Fargo isn’t issuing any 400-year mortgages. Master’s Degree in hand and a good job or not, just scratch the possibility of buying anything off your list. Probably forever. Go to Mississippi or South Dakota if you want the American dream. This surprises nobody certainly but it’s important in establishing where our youth stands, on what side of that fat green line he will find himself.

Let’s just suppose, so we can continue, that the problem of where to live is somehow surmounted and relatively affordable housing is secured. Housing—now there’s a word which puts one in his place immediately. Housing is for criminals, soldiers, and, in our case here, the poor. The old men and women of Inverness do not have housing, they have homes. Say to them “That’s a beautiful housing unit you’ve got there” and you’ll get some mighty queer, angry looks. It’s a telling, class-defining difference. Housing is for tenants, not landlords. People in housing refer to where they stay, not where they live. People in homes have a lifetime of memories; people in housing have a 30-day notice to vacate.

So a tenuous residency in the Pt. Reyes area is established which only eats up about three-quarters of his salary and gives him 150 square feet of a converted woodshed on someone’s three-acre estate. Try not to think about sharecropping or feudalism. As long as your face is white you’re okay. And certainly, if you’re living here your face is white. Very good. Time to enjoy. Hopefully, he likes the outdoors. The beaches and the trails are free, available to all (and never mind the irony that the only entity here whose purpose isn’t to turn a profit is everyone’s favorite target of contempt). As for cultural diversions—well, let’s just hope he likes ecstatic dance and bluegrass music. Maybe a one-woman show every now and then.

Or how about a nice dinner out? Well, for about what a new Model T cost in 1915 (and I use this as an example only because it will be familiar to so many people living here) you and your honey have the choice of about three different establishments determined to fleece every rich tourist rolling down State Route 1 with the promise of some foodie paradise.

And if our young couple enjoying dinner should marry and have a child or two? Let’s just hope that they never run out of diapers and have to make an emergency trip to buy some locally. Whatever savings they may have scraped together will be wiped out with a single package of Pampers. We’ve gone wildly out of balance here; the economy is warped by a tourist surcharge on everything from gas to bad, inauthentic Mexican food.

So who is to blame? Should we blame the rich who have gobbled up the houses only to let them sit vacant, gold in the vault, to be cashed in at some future age? We could, but they’re not here to blame and wouldn’t listen anyway. Bang your head against that wall a while, comrade. Besides, who was it that sold the house to them in the first place? The old. Or, more likely, the sons and daughters of the old who were left the house.

Must it be? Probably. The Grandi Building no doubt will be transformed into an expensive hotel with yet another overpriced, unwelcoming restaurant or two on the ground floor, not a community center. The few funky shops will close to be replaced by boutiques. The sound of children playing in Inverness will grow even more faint, then not heard at all. Houses will be sold at whatever price the market will bear, not a dollar less. It’s Capitalism son, nothing but, don’t look so appalled. Pt. Reyes will become an expensive museum, something to gawk at during lunch before roaring out of town again with a trunk full of souvenirs.

There is no amount of talk, no amount of writing, no amount of pseudo-grassroots signage or lockstep dogma going to make a difference when it comes down to money. We can Occupy Pt. Reyes and Ban Fracking all we want but we’ll need to gas up the Prius first before heading back to occupy our lovely million dollar Craftsman. Then again, who knows what seemingly innocuous event might change this ugly ancient course we’re set upon. Maybe one of our graduates, despite it all, comes back here determined to make it a home, not just a place to stay. Maybe you won’t even notice. We’ll grow our beards out and head to the mountains—symbolically of course, don’t worry.

Name withheld by author’s request.

Anonymous Submissions, Citizen policy:

Recently we have received some excellent submissions that, regrettably, were anonymous. Our policy is that sometimes they are permitted and appropriate, but handled case-by-case.  One case was a person who gave a false name and address, which we didn’t consider for publication once we discovered that the name and address did not exist.  We agreed to publish this week’s guest column without the name of the person after consulting with the author who lives in Inverness who has some concerns that the letter could put his family’s housing situation and livelihood at risk.

Published July 3, 2014

 

 

Drakes Bay Wins: Court Overturns California Coastal Commission Orders Against Oyster Farm

Commission abused its discretion and violated environmental law

INVERNESS, CALIF. — Drakes Bay Oyster was vindicated today in its fight against unjust enforcement orders imposed last year by the California Coastal Commission. The Marin County Superior Court overturned those orders in every significant respect, finding that the Commission’s unfair process was an abuse of discretion and a violation of environmental law.

The enforcement orders were based on false allegations for which there was no evidence. Before a hearing last February, expert evidence disproving the allegations was provided by the Lunnys, but the Commission voted to exclude all the evidence the Lunnys presented in their own defense.

“This is a good day for California,” said Phyllis Faber, a Marin County environmental activist and biologist who was a founding member of the Commission. “The Coastal Commission had seriously abused its power. It was necessary to hold them accountable.”

Now that the Commission’s unfair enforcement orders have been overturned, the oyster farm and the Commission can get back to working on a permit for the farm.

Drakes Bay’s lawsuit against the Coastal Commission is separate from its suit against the National Park Service, which is currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court could decide as soon as Monday whether to take Drakes Bay’s case.