Marin voters sent shock waves throughout Marin in 2014 — Damon Connolly's win in the 1st Supervisorial District, Jill Hoffman's city council win in Sausalito, Larry Bragman's Marin Municipal Water District election in the San Geronimo and Ross valleys and Toni Shroyer's almost victory in the 5th Supervisorial District.
What should have been cakewalk elections for well-known, respected Marin elected officials went sideways in three of four elections.
Was this just a matter of voters fighting "city hall" or is there more to the story?
We live in what many refer to as paradise: wonderful , safe cit i es and towns with excellent educational opportunities, semi-rural, small communities with real home-town character.
It's human nature, if you love something, to preserve it. A common thread throughout Marin, whether you live in a small apartment or large home, is "wanting to preserve" what we have here.
The so-called state mandates regarding housing and the Association of Bay Area Governments' high-density housing requirements have had an impact. Thirty or even 20 units per acre ma y be more than what can be accommodated in some of our communities.
The statement of elected officials that "we don't build high-density housing, we just have to plan for it and it may not even be built" does not ring true. Voters know that high-density requires additional water supplies, more classrooms, more and larger sewer pipes and treatment facilities and the ever-increasing traffic congestion.
Who is going to pay for all the improvements?
This is one reason we see ballot-box zoning with initiatives and referendums.'Of California's 58 counties, Marin has the highest property tax rates, which take a toll on personal finances whether you are a homeowner or renter whose landlord passes on the tax increases. Unfunded pension and post-employment medical benefit liabilities take huge bites out of property tax revenue.
This fiscal year, our governmental agencies, cities, counties and special districts will be required , for the first time , to show those liabilities in real dollars, not just percentages . It will be sticker shock.
When local government retirees are retiring at an earlier age with six-figure retirements and many folks in Marin are on fixed incomes with Social Security, these posted liabilities will be quite an eye opener . Some governmental agencies even approve annual bonuses for their high-paid managers, bonuses greater than some Social Security recipients' annual income.
We have been taught over the years there are three branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial — in place for checks and balances to protect the public's interests . Here in Marin we have seen the creation and runaway rise of a fourth branch of government — consultants .
Elected officials spend much of their time selecting million-dollar consultants and our managers end up managing consultants.
Annually, tens of millions of our tax dollars go to consultants for everything from planning and zoning to design and project management to public relations .
Just look at the millions consultants have been paid over the past seven years for "planning" flood control projects in the Ross Valley. Will we ever see real flood control improvements?
Our county, cities, water and sewer districts spend millions of dollars a year on consultants and voters are wondering why our own employees can't do this work.
We have a great workforce at all levels of government and they can do the job.
Voters believe it is time to rein in the consultants, the high-paid "experts" they have no control over whatsoever.
So, have we, the elected officials the public put into office to represent them, learned anything from the elections of 2014? Is change coming, or will 2015 be more of the same?
Frank Egger is a former seven-time mayor of Fairfax, an elected director for the Ross Valley Sanitary District.