Saturday, November 9, 2013

Marinwood Plaza needs Leadership by Carol Brandt in 2010

Carol Brandt, Candidate for Supervisor to replace Susan Adams
Editor's Note:  Here is a 2010 column by Carol Brandt, who recently announced that she will run  for Supervisor in District One. Her criticism provides a different context to the revisionist history promoted by the County and Susan Adams.

Since this article was published, a coffee cart, a small farmer's market and Marinwood Market have appeared, all with the assistance of county sponsorship.  The plaza could become alive again with improvements to visibility and a renovation with private commercial development which will actually contribute taxes and funding for our schools.  Unfortunately, the county still is not paying attention to our community wishes and appears to be cramming their low income housing upon us. Loss of the Marinwood Plaza commercial property will permanently elimate a viable commercial market location for the community.  In other posts, I suggest that a "Farm to Table" market could work on the site . (see "a positive view of development")

see article:  Marin Voice column by Carol Brandt in the Marin IJ

What's the first thing many people see when they drive into Marinwood? The decrepit Marinwood Plaza shopping center, complete with overgrown weeds, abandoned store fronts, broken windows, old mattresses, discarded appliances, dirty needles, graffiti and problems with vagrancy.

This is what I am greeted with when I visit my former neighborhood where I lived for ten years.

It seems that the owner has abandoned all care of his property since he and the county have decided that they can't do anything with the site until the economy turns around.

That is odd since directly to the north and south there has been rapid progress with the new Safeway shopping center at the former Nave Lane site, the revamping of Pacheco Plaza with high-end Paradise Foods, and a new Peet's
Coffee heading to Northgate Mall.
How did all this pass by Marinwood? To make matters worse, the county is now "inviting" Marinwood residents to help clean up the site in preparation for a possible farmer's market in the spring.
This is the ultimate insult to a community that has had to endure a painful planning process and the unresponsiveness of the property owner and the county to clean up the site.
I care about this even though I no longer live in Marinwood.
I was involved in the early stages of the redevelopment of the Marinwood Plaza back in 2000.
We had heard that Bell market was going to leave the Plaza and we wanted to keep a retail presence in our community.
Peet's had an interest in opening a coffee shop and Bell Market indicated it might be willing to stay if the owner would commit to a renovation of the Plaza, which would in turn attract more quality tenants.
The Plaza used to be a great place where we would shop, bring our dry cleaning, get videos for the weekend, buy good wines from Jenny and Alex's liquor store and a place where local kids would ride their bikes for an afternoon ice cream.
It was always a place where you would run into a neighbor and take a moment to chat about the happenings in the community and best of all you could walk or ride your bike to the Plaza.
Since that time there has been lack of direction, leadership and forward momentum to get a project going.
I am sure, for the community, it's quite depressing to watch major retail development happen just to the north and south, even in this bad economy.
It seems that the county's, and housing advocate's, goal of stuffing upwards of 100-plus housing units with up to 50 percent of them being "affordable," trumped the local resident's goal of having the site revamped as a community retail-focused gathering place with a retail presence and a lower number of housing units.
There is no near-term redevelopment solution in the works.
This is not the responsibility of the residents of Marinwood and, in its current state, I can't imagine that any parent would want their children to walk or bike near the site.
We elect our officials to look after our communities and their well-being and this issue has gotten out of control and needs an immediate fix until a longer term solution is in place.

Will anyone take the lead and get this fixed without giving the community the usual responses of "it is not within our jurisdiction" or "it is private property and not our problem"?
The county and the owners need to do something about it now. They owe it to the residents of Marinwood.

Carol Brandt of San Rafael was a community leader in Marinwood for 10 years. She ran for the Marin Board of  Supervisors in 2002 and will be a candidate in the 2014 election for Supervisor.
For more information see:

Ten Reasons why the Marinwood Village plan should be rejected

"Nah! Nah!  I'm not listening!"
 "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."-from the film the Duelists

1.) The Dixie schools are at capacity and the affordable housing project pays almost no taxes to pay for the 60-150 school children at $10,000 per child per year from K to 12.  We receive little state funding and cannot afford the increase. We Dixie school district taxpayers will be forced to pay for an additional $600,000 to $1,500,000 annually.

2.) Bridge housing will not contribute  a fair share of costs of the impacts to Dixie Schools. They will be required to pay only $200,000 for new building, yet schools will need 3-6 portable classrooms which will cost anywhere from $300,000 to $900,000. The new portables will steal space from parking and play areas.

3.)  Marinwood Ave will have to be narrowed at taxpayer expense of $1,000,000 plus.  The narrow road will render the Dixie school bus yard impractical and may need to be moved at additional taxpayer expense. Residents will undoubtedly need to park in the neighborhoods and surrounding streets.

4.) Marinwood Market will have difficulty surviving with crowded parking especially on weekend shopping days when residents will be home.  The market receives a generous subsidy now but is under no long term obligation to stay.  The market must be profitable to survive or the community will lose the it's ONLY grocery store.

5.) More police, fire and government services will be required.  Hamilton has seen a substantial increase in crime with similar high density housing which is 100% affordable.  Lower density housing with  a maximum 20% affordable housing tends to promote social stability. Large affordable housing projects were abandoned in the 1960s as failures because they tended to become islands of poverty with negative social results.  Why should we repeat a failed affordable housing scheme? For a comparison of crime rates in Marin see

6.) The location next to a busy freeway and two high powered microwave antennas is unhealthful and unsuitable for families with pregnant woman and young children. Major university studies on the effects of pollution and microwave transmission indicate higher rates of autism, cancer and other disease. If we truly care for people in need, we should care where we house them.  More suitable locations away from the freeway should be chosen.

7.) Marinwood / Lucas Valley will permanently lose the only viable location for a successful retail center to supply the community with fresh food.  It abuts the 101 freeway where 8 million tourists and commuters travel yearly to Sonoma and Napa counties.  West Marin tourism is largely undeveloped yet shows great promise.  Thousands of bicycle trips start in Marinwood each year. The "cheese road" has become a popular destination for weekend travelers.  Marinwood Plaza could become the family friendly"gateway to West Marin" with organic foods, cycling shop, restaurants and farmers market much like . The county could invest the tax revenue to support affordable housing.

8.)  Our taxes will surely increase across the board.  Taxpayers will subsidize the Marinwood Village affordable housing project  during its 55 year tax free existence.  Millions of dollars will needed from their middle class neighbors who are currently reeling from a declining real estate market,  increases in Federal, State and local taxes.  We cannot afford this "affordable housing scheme"

9.) The Marinwood Village scheme has not received meaningful input from the community. Political insiders or so-called "neighborhood leaders" met secretly behind closed doors to discuss the proposal for the fake "public process" .  The wider community is largely unaware of the projects existence or the effects on the community. Fewer still are aware that Marinwood Village is only the first of five projects plus the rezoning of the community into an urban style "Transit Village".

10) A successful affordable housing project can win public support if and only when meaningful public dialogue, wise land use, environmental, financial and social concerns are met. If the supervisors approve this project without community support, it can expect a strong political backlash and full rejection of the housing scheme in its entirety.

"If you are not angry
then you are not paying attention"
 Marinwood Village is the first of five housing projects that will grow our community 25%.  One in five  Marinwood/Lucas Valley residents will be living in government supported projects if the projects are built as planned.  Additional rezoning for high density housing for private development will transform Marinwood/Lusas Valley into a Transit Oriented Village into "Daly City North".

Is this the future you want?

Save Marinwood/Lucas Valley!

LA Sheriff targets photographer

The full police encounter

Friday, November 8, 2013

Music for Friday Night

Friday Night Thoughts

Why Eminent Domain Can't Save Broke Cities Like Richmond, California

Why Eminent Domain Can't Save Broke Cities Like Richmond, California

Why Eminent Domain Can't Save Broke Cities Like Richmond, California

As we've mentioned, the city of Richmond, California, recently took the drastic step of voting to use eminent domain to try to rescue underwater homeowners. Under the plan (the city has not yet actually executed it), Richmond would effectively seize mortgages from investors who currently hold them, paying about 80 percent of a home's current market value. A for-profit company working with the city would then restructure the mortgages and sell them back to the current homeowners at a rate they could afford.

The idea has prompted all kinds of criticism (as well as populist praise) far beyond Richmond. Banks cry that they'll have to stop giving credit to cities that show they're willing to seize mortgages. The Federal Housing Finance Agency has wagged its finger. And law professors debate whether all of this is even legal. For outsiders less interested in the housing implications or the legal theory, the story has simply been a compelling one about a hard-luck town forced to rescue its own residents when no one else would help.

But in this raucous national debate, focus on precedent may have obscured a more basic question: If this were legal, if Richmond did succeed in doing this with hundreds of homes, would it help solve the city's deep troubles?

Pamela Lee, a research associate with the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, argues that a constellation of problems that left Richmond so far behind during the economic recovery also mean that this eminent domain proposal wouldn't touch the roots of the city's distress. Richmond's problem isn't simply – or even primarily – that so many homeowners are underwater.
Richmond's problem is that it has high unemployment, stagnant incomes, high poverty, high housing vacancy rates and a large share of homeowners with a crushing mortgage burden.
"I understand the desperation, and [eminent domain] is a very powerful tool that they have – that cities have – especially considering that federal strategies have been a little bit less effective than hoped for," Lee says (with admitted understatement). "The fact is that they have a lot of problems that existed before and that are part of the reason that they were so badly affected by the crisis."
Richmond is the only city in the U.S. that has gotten this close to using eminent domain. But it is not the only city that's considered it. To understand the commonalities among all of the municipalities that have weighed this option of last resort, Lee corralled data on 15 communities that have publicly expressed some kind of interest in using eminent domain, eight of them in California, plus Newark, Chicago, and several smaller municipalities.

Look at them all side-by-side, and it's clear that they suffer from some systemic and shared woes that go far beyond housing. Aside from Suffolk County, New York, every one of them had an unemployment rate above the national average (shown at far right), based on American Community Survey data from 2007-2011:

Data from the 2007-2011 ACS
In nine counties, the median household income was below the national rate:

Data from the 2007-2011 ACS
Many of these places also have notably lower income levels than the communities immediately around them. The median income in New Jersey is 50 percent higher than it is in Irvington, and 42 percent higher than in Newark. In Richmond, it's 30 percent lower than in Contra Costa County. And in most of these places, the median income (adjusted for inflation) has also decreased since 2000, as housing vacancy rates have remained high.

This last chart built with Lee's data shows the local share of mortgaged homeowners paying at least 35 percent of their income on housing costs, a sign that they may be struggling to keep up:

Data from the 2007-2011 ACS
These cities, in other words, were in bad shape before the housing crisis happened, they suffered particularly acutely from it as a result, and they've been the slowest to recover amid what Lee calls "a toxic combination" of high unemployment, high vacancy rates, and high proportions of cost-burdened homeowners. In effect, the very places that have been forced to consider last-ditch solutions like eminent domain have problems that are too complex to be easily solved by it.
Top image of a foreclosed home in Chicago: John Gress/Reuters.
Emily Badger is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area. All posts »

Freaked Out About New Flood Insurance Rules

Potential Home Buyers Are Legitimately Freaked Out About New Flood Insurance Rules

  • [Editor's Note: The new stream conservation ordinance and the new flood maps will affect homes within the creek watersheds and coastlines in Marin, costing homeowners much more in flood insurance and restricting their property rights.  We especially advise homeowners to monitor these developments.  The Marin Board of Supervisors is close to approving a new ordinance.  More can be found on the planning department page on the Marin County website.]

Potential Home Buyers Are Legitimately Freaked Out About New Flood Insurance Rules

As recent headlines have made plain, potential home buyers across the country are freaking out over new higher flood insurance premiums triggered by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, passed last year and starting to take effect this month. In Florida, "the once-minor line item of flood insurance...has become one of the only things buyers seem to care about," the Tampa Bay Times reports

While homes that don't need flood insurance have become a hot commodity, homes that do need it are seeing their values plummet. "Louisiana property assessments on homes in flood zones have already dropped by as much as 30 percent because of the new flood rules," reports Bloomberg News.
On Friday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in on the issue, declaring that "for thousands of New Yorkers, the difference in the cost of insurance as a result of federal policy changes is the difference between being able to stay in their neighborhoods and having to move.”
So here's what's going on: The National Flood Insurance Program, which insures more than 5 million at-risk homes against flooding, is in debt to the tune of around $20 billion, due mostly to huge payouts over the last decade following natural disasters. Last year, Congress took a crack at reforming the program by passing the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. The point of the act isn't just to keep the NFIP solvent, but also to reduce incentives for living and building in areas at high risk of flooding.

Two components of this act are now actively driving up what some property owners pay annually for flood insurance. One driver of premiums is the requirement that FEMA update its flood maps, a time-consuming process that has already led to some homes being considered at high risk for flooding that previously were not.

Let's take New York City as an example. A report from the RAND Center for Catastrophic Risk Management and Compensation on Biggert-Waters' impact anticipates that tens of thousands of New York City homeowners are likely to experience pretty major flood insurance rate increases:
Particularly hard hit are structures that are outside the high-risk areas of the 2007 map but will be inside the high-risk areas of the updated [FEMA] map. Approximately 28,800 1- to 4-family structures fall into this category. A $429 annual premium on a structure previously outside the high-risk zones could well rise to $5,000 to $10,000 for the same amount of coverage if it is inside the high-risk area. 
As you can see from the chart below, the number of 1-to-4 family dwellings in New York considered high-risk by FEMA will increase from 25,000 to 53,000 in the new map:

RAND anticipates that the resulting premium increases could be downright devastating for some homeowners. What can be done? While raising buildings is a common way to reduce flood premiums, that's much less feasible in New York, where "39 percent of buildings (approximately 26,300) in the high-risk zones of the new floodplain...are on narrow lots or are attached or semi-attached buildings." RAND recommends NYC work with FEMA to develop risk mitigation strategies that work in an urban environment, and consider subsidizing homeowners based on financial need.

The other driver of premium costs is the gradual end to subsidies for properties that were grandfathered into the National Flood Insurance Program. Under Biggert-Waters, that changes. For owners of subsidized vacation homes, second homes, and business properties, as well as primary residences that have received two flood claim payouts within any 10 year period (called "repetitive loss properties"), flood insurance premiums will increase 20 percent a year over five years, until they are at the "actuarial" level.

On the flip side, if someone has a grandfathered rate for their primary residence and hasn't been flooded twice in any ten-year period, they get to keep that rate. The problem with this aspect of the law is that if I have a grandfathered rate for my home, and I sell it, the rate immediately jumps to the higher level for the new owner, instead of gradually increasing over five years. This aspect of the law is what's putting downward pressure on real estate prices and scaring away buyers in hurricane states and floodplains. Here's an editorial from one woman in Pennsylvania who says she wants to buy a new home but can't afford the "new" annual flood insurance premium of $4,927.

While homeowners and legislators are right to be worried about the impact of premium increases on the poor and middle class, it's difficult to argue that we shouldn't be thinking more longterm about the impacts of building and living in areas prone to flooding. The Smarter Safer Coalition—which includes the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, and the Sierra Club, as well as free market groups, members of the insurance industry, and affordable housing advocates—argues in its statement of principles that the NFIP "has not adequately accounted for the increased frequency and severity of major storms and hurricanes, due in part to land development, changing climates and rising sea-levels." The coalition also believes that the federal government should do more to elucidate the risks of building in flood-prone areas, and discourage the development of "environmentally sensitive areas" that are most often part of floodplains.

In essence, Biggert-Waters is bringing us face to face with the financial consequences of building where nature, at this point in global history, doesn't want us.

Top image: Troy Revis paddles to his flooded home on County Road 137 in Wellborn, Florida after Tropical Storm Debby in June 2012. REUTERS/Phil Sears.

If you live in Santa Venetia, maybe you should be building one of these.

NSA Whistle-Blower Tells All

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Boat in Spring on Jo-Ya Lake

A Boat in Spring on Jo-Ya Lake

Thoughtful elation has no end:
I steer onward towards whatever comes.
My boat and I, before the evening breeze,
Passing flowers, entering the lake,
Turns at nightfall towards the western valley,
Where I watch the south star above the mountain.

A mist rises, hovering soft,
And the low moon slants through the trees.
This moment I choose to distance myself
From every worldly matter and only be:
An old man with a fishing pole.

                                    ---Chi Wu-ch’ien

                                                c. 692- c.749

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Attitude is a Terrible Thing to Waste.

Never Doubt That a Small Group of Thoughtful, Committed Citizens can Change the World, Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has-Margret Mead

Advice to New Leader's

'Don't be a douche': 15 rules to effectively lead a platoon

No one thinks they are a bad leader, but it doesn't take much to get there

'Don't be a douche': 15 rules to effectively lead a platoon
(US Army Image)

We've received more than a handful of emails from people asking us to post our thoughts on leadership – mostly from seasoned NCOs who want us to use our powers for good instead of evil (at least every once in a while).
This is a tough one for us to write, because in some ways it starts with the position that we are qualified to teach leadership.  I mean you can go to the store and literally buy hundreds of books on the topic of leadership from real war heroes that should be dead a hundred times over, general officers or sergeants major who have a lifetime of service to the nation, or even business leaders, coaches, or politicians who have made a real difference in the world.  Hell, a lot of the guys that read this site have been to combat four times or more by now!  Candidly, we felt that posting an article on leadership would be more than a little presumptuous.
Nevertheless, the emails have continued coming in – as a result, I posed this dilemma to one the NCOs in the Ranger Up Militia.  "Why should we tread on ground that so many great leaders have already covered," I asked.  "Simple," he replied, "You won’t write it with the intent of making yourself look like a big deal, which means someone might actually listen."
His logic was hard to argue with, so we drew straws and for this one you're stuck with me.  I've decided to write it from a platoon leader's perspective, because no one needs more help than a 2LT, but hopefully most of my comments transcend all levels of leadership.  So here goes:
1.) Don't be a douche.
I am dead serious.  Nothing pissed me off more than watching some wannabe tough guy treat his people like sh*t and then hear someone say "that's his leadership style".  NO-GO.  I fully admit there are a lot of ways of running a unit, but the foundation of leadership is integrity and love for your people.  You can be hard and have high standards, but you cannot treat people like their existence is to serve you, amuse you, and accelerate your career.  That is not a leadership style, it's an ego trip.  Get over yourself or you will find yourself getting a wood line attitude adjustment .
My first boss was a hard ass.  We had the best trained unit in the Brigade because he was always pushing for additional training.  On the surface of it, one would argue he was doing everything right.  When one of my NCOs found out his mother was dying, the commander actually tried to convince him that he shouldn't go see her, because his guys needed him more.  This was pre-9/11.   He was willing to trade one of his men's last moments with his mother in order to minimize the risk that his unit might get a slightly lower grade on the training exercise. Instantly, everyone realized that all his training wasn't to take care of us at all – this guy was really just a spotlight Ranger. His actions led to my first counseling by the Battalion Commander, but that is a different story.  In short, don't be a douche.
2.) Your guys are more important than your career. 
This ties in nicely with my last point, but it is worthy of its own bullet.  You’re all going to be civilians someday, no matter how much you love the military or how long you serve.  Years from now, the fact that you made Colonel or Sergeant Major won't erase the fact that you threw some unsuspecting subordinate under the bus to avoid punishment, and it certainly won't remove a stupid decision you made based on pressure from above that got someone killed or injured.  Every leader I've ever respected has been willing to stand in the Gates of Fire when it mattered.  If you're not willing to do this for your people, be honest with yourself and quit.  Join corporate America – you'll just annoy people, not get them killed, and you'll make more money.  Everyone wins.
3.) Be good at your job. 
Every day you should be working your ass off to be technically and tactically skilled (note I didn't say proficient – you need to be better than that).  You should be asking questions, reading, practicing, and training.  You can be a super-nice dude or dudette who loves your troops, but if you don't know how to train them, lead them, and they aren't ready for combat, you are a colossal failure.  If you look deep inside, you'll know the truth of where you are in this regard.  Either fix it or quit.
4.) It's not your platoon. 
Imagine you'd been doing a job for 12-15 years and grew so good at it that you were chosen ahead of others to lead 40 men into combat…with one caveat.  You're not actually in charge – some kid young enough to be your son is in charge…and you have to train him… but he rates you.  You couldn't make this shit up, right?  When you're walking into that platoon, appreciate the fact that you're not the badass here.  You, like your men and your platoon sergeant, have a job to do, and it is your job to do that as best you can.  Acknowledge their experience and allow them to help you grow.
Towards the end of my time with my first platoon, my platoon sergeant and I were a team to be envied.  We had figured out who was going to do what and we had each other's backs.  He had been very "anti-PL" over the last few years (I was his fourth platoon leader), but decided to give me a chance when I shook his hand for the first time and said, "SFC Stewart – it looks like I'll be spending a year or so in your platoon.  Thanks for having me."  I'll give full credit to my dad, a former NCO, for that one but it was my firm intent to let him know I needed to learn and that I respected his position and sacrifice, and our men benefited as a result.
5.) It is your platoon. 
We were at CMTC getting ready for our field problem.  I was at an OPORD and my platoon sergeant had everyone in the bay cleaning equipment.  Two of my new soldiers got into a fistfight over something stupid (one of them fancied himself a rapper and the other one felt his rap sucked – damn eighteen year olds).  My platoon sergeant punished them by having the entire platoon outside in the mud wearing all of their recently cleaned equipment.  He was smoking the ever-loving shit out of them when I rolled up on the scene.  Spotting me, he made the motion to stay back (this was NCO business).  So I hung low and watched from a distance so my guys couldn't see me.  Just then Sergeant Major Chickenhawk rolled up – the same Sergeant Major that I hated and had recently outlawed this kind of "hazing" because it was politically expedient to do so.  He grabbed my platoon sergeant by the shoulder and started digging into to him in front of my guys.  I ran over and told the CSM that this was my platoon and that he could have the conversation with me.  He told me that this was NCO business and I responded that my platoon sergeant was acting under my command with my permission to discipline the men.  He walked me over to the battalion commander.  They had me don my gear and do mud PT to "show me" how it felt.  Well – you can't smoke a rock.
Yes, your platoon sergeant has more experience.  Yes, he can run circles around you in a lot of areas.  Yes, he should probably be in charge over you – but he isn't.  You are, and anything that happens or fails to happen in your platoon is your responsibility.  Furthermore, in this scenario, I had a great platoon sergeant and I agreed with him.  But not all platoon sergeants are good and not all good platoon sergeants are always right – you need to trust your own judgment and execute accordingly, even if it means pissing your PSG off.
6.) Don't lie, ever, for any reason. 
This isn't grade school.  Your actions matter.  If you fuck up, admit it as soon as possible, even if you think it'll hurt your career.  The team cannot work on a solution until they know the truth, and this is one of the few jobs in the world where lies can get people killed.  Furthermore, the military, for all its faults, is one of the few places on earth where honest mistakes are actually forgiven.  Conversely, it is one of the few places where lies are extravagantly and brutally punished, and rightly so.
7.) You make mistakes – admit them. 
Don't be that guy.  Your men don't expect perfection.  They expect you to strive every day for perfection.  You'll be wrong a lot.  Fess up, get over it, get their feedback and drive on.  They will respect you infinitely more and they will trust you for it, as opposed to committing themselves over and over again to proving, quite creatively and to everyone's amusement, that you are often wrong.
8.) Leader is not equal to BFF. 
I loved my guys.  I still love my guys, even though I'm very far removed from being in command.  Many good-intentioned leaders make the mistake of believing that being a great leader means never having your guys be upset with you and hanging out with them all the time.  There's nothing wrong with taking your platoon out for a night on the town.  There's nothing wrong with socializing with guys when you bump into them at a bar.  There is something wrong with passing out on your PV2s couch at 3AM.  Once you become "one of the guys", you're no longer their leader, and they need you to be in charge a lot more than they need another buddy.
9.) You're not the smartest guy in the platoon. 
A lot of guys make the mistake of thinking that because they have achieved a certain rank, or have a certain degree; they are in some way superior to the others in their unit.  In my first platoon alone, I had 7/20 privates or specialists with college degrees – one with a master's degree.  One of them was literally a genius, having maxed out the MENSA (weak-ass organization, by the way) test.  You're not in charge because you're the smartest or most talented or anything else – you're in charge because you signed up to be the LT.  Don't act superior, because you aren't – just do your job.
10.) You can never quit.
You don't have to be the fastest runner, or do the most pushups, or be the best at combatives, or be the best shot, but you can never quit.  The second your guys see you give up, you've lost them.  Period.
11.) You are not the focal point of your subordinates' lives.
They don't spend their nights thinking about you, your speeches, or your goals.  They have wives, kids, girlfriends, bills, friends, and problems.  Acknowledge that – your men are not here to serve you.  They're here to serve your country.  You're here to serve them.
12.) But your subordinates watch everything you do. 
Just because they don't live their lives around you, doesn't mean you're not important to them.  If you lie, they assume it is okay.  If you quit, they assume it is okay.  Your actions, not your mission statements, speeches, codes, creeds, etc. will set their standard of behavior.
13.) Get your boss's back. 
Everyone wants to be in charge…until they are there.  We all think we could do a better job than our boss – sometimes it's very true and sometimes it isn't – but as long as he or she is working hard to take care of your men and complete the mission, you owe it to them to ensure they succeed.  You'll be there someday, and you'll find that despite your best efforts, you are very fallible.
14.) Have a sense of humor. 
You will be tested.  When I came on board my first platoon, my guys tried to get me with every snipe hunt in the book – PRC-E8, keys to the indoor mortar range, box of grid squares – you name it.  Skillfully, I held out for three weeks, until that day in the motor pool.  In formation, the motor chief announced that today was the day that everyone had to turn in vehicle exhaust samples.  Promptly, the motor sergeants disseminated to each platoon a vehicle exhaust sample kit, which included labels, sharpies, and garbage bags.  My guys grabbed the bags, turned on their vehicles and began throwing the garbage bags around the exhaust pipe, filling it, then promptly tying the bag off and labeling it.  This just didn't seem right – all the more so when they asked if I wanted to help get samples.  I balked.  They guilt tripped me.  Finally, even though I was at least 25 percent sure I was being had, I filled a bag with exhaust and started walking to drop it off at the motor chief's office.  Sure enough, they snapped about 2000 pictures of this jackass 2LT running around with a bag of exhaust.
They got their laughs and busted my balls about it.  We were about to head to an 18-hour computer simulation exercise.  Immediately afterwards they had a room inspection with all their gear laid out.  They, of course, had done this the night before, knowing they'd be going right from the exercise to the inspection.
As all the guys moved to the simulator, all the officers got called back to the bays for the OPORD.  When I came back, I asked them, "Don't you guys have an inspection tomorrow?"
"Roger, sir," they responded.
“Man, it’d suck if someone dumped everyone’s gear into one huge pile and then covered it in baby powder, wouldn’t it?” I asked.
Their faces dropped.  They fucking hated me.  I had gone way too far and clearly was getting back at them for the exhaust sample thing.  For the rest of the exercise it was hard to get anyone to talk to me – even my platoon sergeant was edgy.
The exercise ended and we all came back to the bays – they knew they only had an hour to salvage the inspection.  When they busted into their bay, they found that none of their stuff had been touched and was in perfect inspection mode.
"Sir, you are a fucking dick!" my platoon sergeant shouted.
"Why's that sergeant?" I asked.
"You said you dumped all our shit out on the floor and covered it in baby powder!"

"No, sergeant – I said it would suck if someone were to do that," I smiled.

I could take it, but I could give it back too.  There would be no more fucking with this LT.

15.) Do the right thing. 
This is the last and perhaps most important aspect of leadership.  I am a big believer that in almost every single case, people know the right course of action.  The bigger question is whether they have the courage to make the right decision, even when making that decision could be personally harmful.

Decide now to always be a force of good.  Don't justify away indiscretions.  Don't sell out.  Your life will be easier, your men will respect you more, and you’ll sleep at night.  More importantly, you won't start down that slippery slope towards being one of those leaders that will do anything to get ahead. We all want to think we're the next coming of Patton or Eisenhower.

No one thinks they are a bad leader, but it doesn't take much to get there and it happens incrementally – one little lie or moral concession at a time.

This article originally appeared on RangerUp

About the author

Nick Palmisciano spent the best six years of his life as an infantry officer in the United States Army and believes that unless he is elected President, which he says there is no chance of in our lifetime, he will never hold a more important job than Platoon Leader.Nick is a serial entrepreneur who currently works as the CEO of Ranger Up Military Apparel, Unapologetically American Apparel, and American Sin Bin Rugby Apparel. In 2011 he also began Wombat Vengeance Consulting to help small to mid-sized businesses with marketing efforts. He happily serves on the boards of several military non-profits and runs one of the largest military blog sites, The Rhino Den.Prior to becoming a professional instigator, Nick had the pleasure of working for a Fortune 100 firm in Business Development, Strategy, Government Sales, and Corporate Brand Licensing. Nick has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point, an MBA from Duke University, and received the Bobcat, Wolf, Bear and Webelos badges while in Cub Scouts. The Wolf badge is his favorite.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What if you ran your family budget like the government?

Here is a funny explanation of the Federal Debt.
Another explanation.

Is it fair to ask them to pay for our choices?

Vote Today at the Marinwood Community Center until 8 PM

Polls open today until 8 PM

Marinwood Community Center
775 Miller Creek Rd.
Marinwood, CA 94903

Our choices:

CSD : Bill Shea, Deana Dearborn, Justin Kai
Dixie School Board: Lisa Culbertson Simmons, Bruce Abbott and Brad Honsberger

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's 2013 and Marinwood CSD is still broke

Bruce Anderson
CSD Director
2013 President

Leah Green, CSD director, 2012 President

Tarey Reed,CSD director

Bill Hansell, CSD Director
Cyane Dandridge
CSD Director resigned
in October 2012 replaced by Michael Dudasko in January 2013

[Editor's Note:  It is 2013 and now Bruce Anderson has moved up to CSD President after taking over from Leah Green. Together they have presided over a $1.2 million dollar deficit- the largest amount in CSD History.  After concluding a three year contract with the Fire Union in 2012 that locks in generous pay and benefits with few concessions, it is now up to the board to make adjustments to the budget with the rest of the CSD. Many creative solutions have been offered but no actual decisions have been made.  The remaining staff volunteered cuts which went into effect in June 2012 but further cuts remain to balance the budget.  We hope that the CSD looks into improving operational efficiencies/ profit centers before releasing any of our highly trained  and valued staff. ]

In the 52 years operating a fiscally sound organization,  the CSD has only failed to meet it's budget three times. Once, after lowering the retirement age for firefighters from 55 to 50 years old  (One of the lowest age retirements in Marin County), they forgot to calculate the cost to the pension system and were suddenly $250,000 in arrears for the pension payments.   The other two years were 2011 and 2012 where "suddenly" more money was spent than received from tax receipts.  In 2011-2012, we lost an important $350,000 in contract revenue from San Rafael Fire Department  JPA where our Marinwood Fire Department would operate as a first responder to North San Rafael.  That revenue loss was to be "cured" by an increase of parcel tax voted in 2011. Additional aggressive cost cutting measures were to be proposed.  After a year long review, the special "Sustainability Committee" recommends the reorganization and outsourcing of certain staff functions.  The Parks and Recreation staff volunteerly took pay cuts and furlough days to help make up for the losses BEFORE the sustainability committee reached its findings.  At present, the CSD is allowing itself an additional period of review and analysis before any specific action is recommended.

The combined loss to net assets of both fiscal years is $1,274,066. For a small 21 person agency with a total budget of $4.2 million dollars, the loss is a staggering 25% of net assets. CSD directors have floated the idea of a bond but to infuse cash into the district that is having cash management problems, it may only hide the problems for longer. Clearly it is the decisions and management by the CSD board which have resulted in two years of back to back failures. 

Rigorous financial and managerial help will come in 2013 from an accountant tasked with quarterly reviews to alert staff when budgets get off course during the year.  Last year the another auditor delivered the CSD board a stern review, especially criticizing the cash accounting methods instead of the modified accrual method required by state statues.  Modified accrual accounting methods provide the CSD a better understanding of costs and cash flows.

All of the current CSD board have been appointed.  The last "election" was announced on a Monday morning in July 2011 in legal advertisement in 6 point type.  Subsequently, no one challenged the board and all sitting board members won by default.

Michael Dudasko, Parks and Recreation Committee Chair and Sustainability Member was has been appointed in the seat  vacated by Cyane Dandridge.   We wish Michael the best.

Six other candidates with strong qualifications also applied and we look forward to seeing them in next November's race.  (Remember to submit your paperwork by August 1st).

We asked the board to consider the challanges poised by growing our community by 20% in affordable housing without significant additional tax revenue will have on the CSD.  Board President, Leah Green quickly quelled discussion claiming that "we aren't talking about that" and offered no response.

Clearly the CSD Board has serious challenges ahead.

If you are concerned about the growth of affordable housing and a solvent CSD.  If the impact to Dixie schools with the additional enrollment of children without significant tax revenue bothers you, join us for our Monday meeting to discuss.  All are welcome.  Email us at

P.S. The 2011 and 2012 audits are available at the CSD office  We'd post them here but blogger doesn't allow PDF attachments. 

Another reason not to vote for incumbent Marinwood CSD directors-Double Standards....

None of the CSD Directors were willing to help promote the Marinwood CSD Candidate's night on September 17, 2013.  It could have been provided at no cost through email and posting on signboards used for community events. The request was ignored. The candidates were forced to pay for the rental of their own "community" center.

 Later, when incumbent Bruce Anderson slipped behind in the race, he insisted on a debate one week prior to the election. The Marinwood CSD found that they could provide the room for FREE and help promote it. Unfortunately, only Bruce Anderson was available on the nights available and the debate did not occur. It is yet another example of the double standard by the Marinwood CSD Board of Directors.

It is time for change.

Vote for Bill Shea, Deana Dearborn and Justin Kai.

Double Standards for CSD Directors?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tulsa may ban Sex Offenders from Halloween

Ultimate Privacy and Security to protect you from the Zombie Apocalypse

At First, I Thought This Was A Top Secret Facility. Then They Opened The Doors And… WHOA.

October 26, 2013 Entertainment

The zombie apocalypse may never happen, but hey, maybe it’s a good idea to own a house like this just in case. The fortress is virtually indestructible. Thieves, rioters and even an army couldn’t get in once you lock up.
It’s perfect. Especially if you hate socializing.
And say goodbye to being bothered by nosy neighbors.

[ Editor's Note: Rumors have it that politicians and planners advocating Plan Bay Area may need houses like this once the impacts of the full scale of Plan Bay Area, the Priority Development Areas and Housing Elements get discovered :)]