Saturday, May 20, 2017

"The Middle Class is getting Squeezed Everywhere, (So What?) "

Stephanie Moulton Peters is unconcerned about the effects of Plan Bay Area 2040 on the middle class because its happening everywhere. 

State gas tax increase should be repealed


Marin Voice: State gas tax increase should be repealed


By Linda Pfeifer


POSTED: 05/13/17, 3:44 PM PDT |31 COMMENTS


In April, Sacramento politicians passed Senate Bill 1, the largest gas tax increase in California history. SB 1 also increased all vehicle registration fees.

Politicians passed SB 1 because they said California has an estimated $59 billion in deferred highway maintenance and approximately $79 billion in local streets repairs, and because better gas efficiencies have reduced gas tax revenues.

But what the public was not told is that since 2010, approximately $15 billion to $20 billion dollars in gas and transportation taxes and fees (e.g., truck weight fees) have been diverted away from California road repair. This doesn’t include the cap-and-trade dollars diverted for “high-speed rail” instead of road repair.

In fact, only about 20 percent of money in the state general fund generated by transportation revenues actually goes to road repair.

The diversion of transportation taxes and fees contradicts voters’ will. California voters passed Proposition 42 in 2002, Proposition 1A in 2006 and Proposition 22 in 2010, all protecting transportation revenues for road repair and maintenance. Unfortunately, the spirit of these propositions has not been honored in Sacramento, where billions were diverted away from road and highway maintenance.

Had these funds not been diverted, California would have had more than enough to maintain our highways and roads.

Instead of fixing a broken system, Marin representatives, Assemblyman Marc Levine and Senator Mike McGuire, joined their peers to pass SB 1, a bill so controversial and regressive against the middle class and lower-income earners that SB 1 only passed by one vote.

How hard does SB 1 hit the middle class and low income earners?

Example: $3.39 per gallon rises to $3.58 under SB 1, up 19 cents a gallon (12 cents plus another 7 cents with SB 1’s hidden gas excise tax provision). It’s higher for diesel fuel.

Even worse, SB 1 isn’t a “one-time” gas tax increase in 2017. Beginning in 2020, SB 1 raises gas taxes every single year, tied to inflation, forever ... in perpetuity ... ad infinitum. SB 1 has no sunset. After 2020, that 19-cent increase can grow higher and higher with inflation indefinitely.

Are you retired on a fixed income that hasn’t kept pace with inflation? Are you under-employed? Are you a renter or new homeowner? SB 1 just spiked your cost of living.

SB 1 is regressive, too, which means your middle-class wallet will pay the same gas tax as a billionaire.

SB 1 also raises annual car registration fees. For example, if your car registration is $271 per year, SB 1 could spike it to $321 per year, a $50 increase on average. For electric cars, that $271 rises to $371. It’s worse for trucks.

SB 1 is the highest gas tax in California history, and the people didn’t even get to vote on it. SB 1 had no public vote, no ballot statement to generate public debate and scrutiny. Instead, the politicians in Sacramento passed SB 1, and added last-minute “sweetheart” deals for swing-vote politicians to the tune of millions of dollars.

Now, in addition to paying the highest state car registration fees, highest state income tax and highest state sales tax in the country, Californians will be paying the highest state gas fees under SB 1.

How long before some of SB 1’s billions are diverted, too? How long before the next big tax? Already Sacramento is mulling a “service” tax (e.g., plumbers, consultants, electricians).

What can you do about it?

Plenty. First, go to NoCaGasTax.com and support the effort to repeal SB 1. Second, follow the website — HJTA.org — a lead fighter against SB 1. Third, join local taxpayer advocacy group Co$t Marin (CostMarin.org). It’s time to repeal SB 1 and stop burdening the middle class and lower-income earners.

Let’s stop diverting billions away from road repair. Demand fiscal accountability in Sacramento.

Linda Pfeifer is a former Sausalito City Council member and a member of Co$t Marin and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Plan Bay Area 2040 — hollowing out the middle class

Marin Voice: Plan Bay Area 2040 — hollowing out the middle class




By Susan Kirsch


POSTED: 05/10/17, 10:57 AM PDT |

It’s not surprising that President Donald Trump’s proposed tax plan would hollow out the middle class. Income tax reductions will be robust for corporations and those in the highest income brackets. Others won’t fare so well.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren warns of the demise of the middle class in her book, “This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class.” She writes about growing up in the 1950s, when minimum wage supported a family of four. In 2017, minimum wage can’t support a household of two.

But hold on a minute before simply bashing Trump. Are you surprised that progressive California Democrats are implementing strategies that increase economic inequality?

In 2008, then state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat, crafted Senate Bill 375, a state mandate that required jurisdictions in the nine-county Bay Area to complete a Sustainable Community Strategy plan as part of a Regional Transportation Plan. The purpose was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks by building high-density housing near transportation. The plan was marketed as good for our region. Environmentalists and housing advocates jumped on the bandwagon.


Even then, Plan Bay Area predicted a negative impact on middle-class and low-income households. It concluded, “the plan moves in the wrong direction.” Housing is considered affordable if it costs less than 30 percent of household income, but combined housing and transportation was anticipated to eat up 69 percent of low-income residents’ income.
Displacement and social-equity issues were muffled under the trumpet of climate change and affordable housing. There’s big money in transportation and housing projects.


Now Plan Bay Area 2040’s “Regional Forecast of Jobs, Population and Housing” shows the rich and the poor growing to the highest numbers, but not the middle. The historic bell-shaped curve is inverted.

Marin’s representatives — Supervisors Damon Connolly and Dennis Rodoni, and Novato Councilwoman Pat Eklund — have their names on the document.

The plan forecasts: “The ‘hollowing out’ of the middle is projected to continue over the next 25 years. Household growth will be strongest in the highest income category, reflecting the expected strength of growth in high-wage sectors combined with non-wage income — interest, dividends, capital gains, transfers.”

Further: “Household growth will also be high in the lowest-wage category, reflecting occupational shifts, wages stagnation, as well as the retirement of seniors without pension assets.”

Plan Bay Area is a dense, nearly indecipherable collection of documents with hundreds of pages of appendices. It is not intended to communicate, but confound. It swaggers with the broad shoulders of the street bullies of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Organizers take bragging rights for offering each county one comment session. Marin’s session is at 8:30 a.m. May 20 at the Mill Valley Community Center.


Expect yellow Post-it notes, but don’t expect citizen respect or impact. It leaves me with these thoughts.

1. Our elected leaders have their pants on backwards when they support economic plans that steadily decimate the middle class.

2. Plan Bay Area’s goals to reduce greenhouse gases and build affordable housing are important. But driving billions of dollars into transportation and housing special interests, with detrimental impact on the vast majority, violates consciousness and common sense.

3. Plan Bay Area 2040 accelerates plans for regional government agencies with unelected leadership to amass greater power to set regional permitting, zoning, and taxing measures, while local control is steadily diminished.

4. The middle class is being hollowed out with increased regional taxation without representation. In addition, while essential services are cut, the middle and poor disproportionately shoulder the impact of higher parcel taxes, rate increases for water, sewer, and garbage; and unfunded pension debt. Property owners will pass increases along to renters.


MTC’s swanky, eight-story headquarters at 375 Beale St. in San Francisco are built around a hollow middle, a physical representation of SB 375. Everywhere we turn, we see the “hollowing” of the middle class. Having identified the trend, we can change it. Raise your voice to keep the middle, not dependent, but strong.

Susan Kirsch of Mill Valley is a core group member of Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers (CO$T) and was a candidate last year for the county Board of Supervisors.

Unorganized, homeowners have little political clout


Dick Spotswood: Unorganized, homeowners have little political clout




By

By Dick Spotswood, POSTED: 05/18/14, 12:01 AM PDT |



WHEN IT COMES to political influence over county affairs, insiders know that the Marin homeowner isn't a particularly powerful player. That's counterintuitive because the almost 100,000 individual homeowners easily compose the largest group of voters in Marin elections.

What homeowners don't have is a continuing voice in how the county is governed.

There are few neighborhood representatives who follow daily actions of the Board of Supervisors, county commissions or obscure supervisor-appointed ad hoc committees that have real power.

If homeowners want control over their destiny regarding zoning, development, traffic and taxes, they need to do what every other sophisticated group does — organize. Until they learn this lesson, they will continue to be amazed when elected officials ignore their desires.

To learn how political muscle is exercised look at public employee unions, cyclists, environmental advocacy groups and larger businesses including the Realtors.

They understand that the key to political clout is organization. They have members who pay dues and have professional staff or passionate volunteers who follow every governmental action.

During elections, they bestow coveted endorsements. Many make campaign contributions. Between balloting, they are in constant contact with supervisors, their aides and sympathetic county staffers.

Few homeowners perform these tasks or even understand their importance. It's not that Marin has corrupt county officials. They are actually a cut above the statewide norm. The dilemma is that, like politicians everywhere, they and an often ideologically minded county staff need to be constantly reminded whose interests come first.

Marin's public employees have leaders who understand the process. After all, the continuing prosperity of their members depends on electing their bosses, county supervisors, and then ensuring they honor pro-labor campaign commitments.

Marin cyclists present another textbook example of successfully understanding the civic process. Small in numbers, their impact is great. They stay on top of bike-related issues, mobilize their members to appear at meetings and understand lobbying is about educating decision makers.

Compare those politically influential groups to homeowners. Other than the occasional activist motivated over a hot issue, regular folks have no one who follows county initiatives, much less maintains constant relationships with county supervisors.

Homeowners do have impacts on town governments where campaign money isn't as critical. It's easier to follow specific issues in smaller communities. City council members are far more closely in touch with their constituents. If homeowners have any clout, it's at city hall.

That's why unincorporated areas like Strawberry have many frustrated residents and just across the freeway Mill Valleyans feel empowered. See full Article HERE

Thursday, May 18, 2017

LEAKED photos of Marinwood FD "dream kitchen" and new uniforms.



This kitchen has everything our local firefighters could want to prepare their meals in style.   Marinwood CSD board members citing budget reasons, may have to cut back on the chandelier but the fresh flowers are essential for morale.

Meanwhile, our local firefighters are trying on new uniforms and selecting artwork for the remodeled Marinwood CSD fire house.  


This functional kitchen design costs tens of thousands less than a custom kitchen but it isn't "good enough" for the Marinwood Fire Department. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WatchDogs



Great video dramatizing the dangers of the "internet of things". Actual game got poor reviews.

Marinwood Fire Station's $60,000 Dream Kitchen Makeover.

The Marinwood CSD approved $60,000 for a remodel of the Marinwood Fire Department kitchen.  No word if these stylish aprons will be issued to the firemen after the "Martha Stewart Dream Kitchen" is complete.

"The kitchen cabinets are 25 years old!",  "We have gone through five dishwashers in twenty five years!",  "There was mold growing in the kitchen!"    These are the reasons that the kitchen was demolished and "EMERGENCY" funding for a kitchen makeover was demanded at the May 2017 CSD meeting.    

In April, Marinwood FD fire chief, Tom Roach saw black mold in the kitchen and thought it could be dangerous. Forty eight hours later, a "mold specialist" had completely demolished the kitchen and issued a "safety" certificate  for $6700.  Suddenly, the fire department needed funding for a complete kitchen remodel.  Fortunately, the chief was prepared and had estimates for a $25,000 remodel featuring commercial grade appliances, $4500  granite countertops and custom cabinetry.   After all, the three guys on duty need to be able to microwave their meals in style.  Despite this enormous expense for a tiny 10 x 10 kitchen, the estimate ballooned to $60,000 and an architect was hired.  Not just any Home Depot remodel would do.  We now needed to comply with the state "living wage" ordinance and only contract with state approved contractors.   Fortunately again,  Chief Roach knows of a few local people that can do the job for $60,000.

Community members pointed out that simply replacing drywall does not require a permit if no utilities are moved.  It is a job that our in house maintenance staff could do in a day or two.   But Eric Dreikosen, Marinwood CSD Manager and Chief Tom Roach warned,  "we could get sued if we don't follow the law!" and insisted in a very unnecessary and expensive contracting process.  (Funny thing is they are unconcerned with about twenty violations of OSHA and Environmental laws broken with the Marinwood CSD Maintenance Shed on the banks of Miller Creek that could could the Marinwood CSD millions.)

I sent a letter suggesting that a simply replacement of drywall and installing free standing commercial kitchen cabinets would save thousands, look great and stand up to years of abuse. This practical solution was ignored.

Here are a few products available on Amazon that can be used in the fire house and the Community Center Kitchens


The Marinwood CSD IGNORED common sense thrift and is now going full "Martha Stewart Makeover" for the fire station kitchen.  Remember this when the Marinwood CSD asks for more taxes for "public safety".

If we could install a simple kitchen as I suggested, we would save as much as $50,000 to invest in things like  new playground equipment, park benches,  picnic tables,  pool maintenance,  staff incentives, pension investments, new recreational programs or to settle the lawsuit with the firefighters union.

The Marinwood CSD is spending more money than ever before.  Instead of addressing long term capital needs,  frivolous items like the "Martha Stewart Kitchen Makeover" of the Fire station are wasting our precious tax dollars.  We are on a path to insolvency with no end in sight.  The Marinwood CSD board would rather play Santa Claus instead of trimming expenses for long term financial health.





Dont stop on the train tracks.

HOPPTORNET (TEN METER TOWER


HOPPTORNET (TEN METER TOWER) by Axel Danielson & Maximilien Van Aertryck from Plattform Produktion on Vimeo.

Quora: Why is Mexico so corrupt ? (Lessons for Marin and the State of California)

Icaro Vazquez
Icaro Vazquez, Born there, lived there for 22 years, not living there again
This is a topic near and dear to me. I was born and grew up in Mexico until I came to the US to study. In my 22 years I saw a financial crisis and devaluations every 6 years, basically every time the president changed.  

I'm not going to be exhaustive but am going to speak from experience. I see many reasons for this problem:

  1. PRI: One party ruled the country for 70 years and treated it as its own personal ATM. This is the root of all problems. As an example, one of phrases I remember most from these guys is: 'A politician who is poor is a poor politician'. Basically they were saying: I am going to make myself rich at the expense of the country and you cannot do anything to stop me. Stolen elections were so common in Mexico that it was a miracle when an election was not stolen by the party in power. I am happy to say there has been progress here as the past two presidents have not come from this party.
  2. Weak Rule of Law: the rule of law is, to be extremely polite, weak. The judicial system urgently needs reform (there has been some reform in the past 12 years but more can be done). Judges used to be merely implementors of someone else's decisions. If you paid money any decision can be implemented, regardless of the merits of the case.
  3. Poor education system: I cannot stress this enough. While there is public education the quality of it was very bad when I was there. The teacher union is still basically a voting machine for the PRI and providing a quality education was not at the top of the list. There are, of course, students that succeed in such a system. In this case people succeeded despite the education they received from their school. In higher education the story is not much better, college enrollment rate was less than 30% in Mexico and the graduation rate is much less than that.
  4. No independent media: while I was there you could count with your fingers the number of media outlets (newspapers, magazines, etc) that were not mouthpieces of the state. The main TV network would never dare to criticize the  PRI in any shape or form. Its owners were of course happy with the arrangement as they had a monopoly. Imagine having just one TV network deciding what the whole country would hear. Happily, there has been a lot of progress in the recent past. Newspapers like Reforma and El Norte show they can be independent and still survive.

In the end, a problem like this cannot be solved in a few years, it takes decades to rid the system of its evils and habits. Sadly, it seems the next president will be from the PRI which will bring back all the terrible customs of the past.

I'm a pessimist in this respect, I don't see any improvements coming soon but I sincerely hope I am wrong.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cyane Dandridge Wins "No Bid" Solar Consulting contract in 2012- "The Smoking Gun"

Cyane Dandridge, sitting Marinwood CSD Director wins "no bid" contract while Chairman of SEI HERE


Cyane Dandridge, sitting Marinwood CSD Director,  presents a proposal from HER COMPANY (Strategic Energy Innovations) to adapt a "no bid" consulting contract giving her company the right to select Solar Contractor for Marinwood CSD.  She DOES NOT IDENTIFY TO THE PUBLIC that it is her company, yet all of the sitting CSD directors,  Leah Kleinman-Green, Bruce Anderson, Tarey Reed, Bill Hansell and of course Cyane know that it belongs to her.

It is a CLEAR VIOLATION of Government Code 1090 concerning Conflict of Interest (see below) and  Fair Political Practices in my opinion.  

Bill Hansell halts the vote in September 2012 for "more consideration".  Leah Kleinman Green and Tarey Read want to rush the vote:




The very next Marinwood CSD meeting in October 2012, after consulting the County Attorney, at taxpayer expense,  the Marinwood CSD votes to approve the SEED contract with Cyane abstaining (she previously "forgot to disclose" her ownership of SEI).  When I raise objections due to possible conflict of interest, the board quickly votes to approve the contract.

Once again, Tom Horne, Marinwood CSD manager consults the county attorney who informs them that INDEED there is a conflict of interest when a sitting board member is awarded a no bid consulting contract.  Cyane Dandridge resigns and then the Marinwood CSD board awards her the contract after she is no longer a representative OUTSIDE OF A PUBLIC MEETING.

In my opinion   ALL OF THE MARINWOOD CSD BOARD MEMBERS plus the Marinwood CSD manager breached an ethical duty to voters for disclosure and transparency and may have violated Fair Political Practices law.


The result of the SEED Solar fund chose a SolED Benefit Corporation,  a company that had NO SUCCESSFUL government installations despite the requirement each bidder have FIVE installations.
We are paying DOUBLE what government agencies are paying for similar solar installations.


Leah Kleinman-Green Marinwood CSD Board President in 2012 and current Marinwood CSD board member in 2016
eagerly voted to approve the SEED project with SEI in 2012  and SolEd Solar in 2016




1090. (a) Members of the Legislature, state, county, district,
judicial district, and city officers or employees shall not be
financially interested in any contract made by them in their official
capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members. Nor shall state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers
(b) An individual shall not aid or abet a Member of the
or employees be purchasers at any sale or vendors at any purchase made by them in their official capacity. Legislature or a state, county, district, judicial district, or city
performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited
officer or employee in violating subdivision (a). (c) As used in this article, "district" means any agency of the state formed pursuant to general law or special act, for the local
boundaries.




Racism for Fun and Profit for Developers

Editor's Note: The Supreme Court ruled that "disparate impact" can be used to force zoning changes.  Essentially, the "evidence" of racism exists if a neighborhood is predominantly one race.  Therefore ALL OF MARIN is RACIST and developers can now push for high density housing based on the concept of "disparate impact".  The Board of Supervisors signed an agreement in 2012 with HUD agreeing to increase the number of non whites into Marin or face stiff penalties.   We believe diversity should be encouraged but assigning quotas and establishing development rights based on the concept of "disparate impact" is exactly the wrong approach to integration and will only lead to a more fractured society.

Is Density a Question for the Courts to Decide?

A decision on zoning and racial disparity in Yuma, Arizona.




Image

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer that the Fair Housing Act prohibits “disparate impact” in housing policies, an open question has remained about when and how often disparate impact would serve as precedent. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy warned courts about the “special dangers” of finding liability for disparate impact under the law.
A federal appellate court has taken that risk. On March 25, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a zoning decision by the city of Yuma, Arizona, violated the Fair Housing Act. The decision is one of the first to find liability under the disparate-impact reading of the act—and it concerns zoning questions that apply far beyond the boundaries of Yuma.
Two real-estate developers, Avenue 6E Investments and Saguaro Desert Land, brought the case against Yuma after the city refused to rezone land for more density in 2008. The existing low-density residential zoning called for housing lots of 8,000 square feet (R-1-8 zoning). Since the nation was entering a housing crisis, the developers asked the city to lower the requirement to 6,000 square feet (R-1-6 zoning) to make it slightly more dense.
According to the case, the developers claimed that the city denied the zoning request “in response to animus by neighbors of the proposed development who wished to prevent the development of a heavily Hispanic neighborhood adjacent to their subdivisions, in which 75% of the population was White.”
Neighbors expressed their concerns in a public hearing held by the Yuma City Planning and Zoning Commission:
Several homeowners from the [neighborhing] Belleza Subdivision wrote letters or spoke at the hearing objecting that Developers “catered” to low- to moderate-income families. They complained that the people living in “the Hall neighborhoods” tended to have large households, use single-family homes as multi-family dwellings, allow unattended children to roam the streets, own numerous vehicles which they parked in the streets and in their yards, lack pride of ownership, and fail to maintain their residences. These characteristics, Developers allege, coincide with a stereotypical description of Yuma’s Hispanic neighborhoods.
It should be noted that the plaintiffs in this case are both development entities owned by one Yuma family (described in the case as “the Hall Companies”). The Hall family is known in Yuma for developing Hispanic neighborhoods, per background notes to the case.
Yuma’s zoning commission voted unanimously to approve the rezoning, as it was a fairly standard request. The Yuma City Council, however, fielded complaints from homeowners that the rezoning would create “a low-cost, high-crime neighborhood.” One letter submitted by a homeowner to the Yuma City Council reveals the rezoning opponents’ barely disguised racial animus:
We as well as many other families are very aware of the type of ‘homes’ and ‘neighborhoods’ the ‘Hall Construction’ company has built in the past. If any of the council members are unaware of what I am referring to, I urge them to please drive through the many ‘Hall’ neighborhoods in particular the ones with the comparable price and square footage that the Halls have proposed to build next to us. After doing so I ask council members to please ask themselves if they would want to live around these areas after having paid such a significant amount for their home. . . . From my firsthand experience in comparing these Hall subdivisions with our subdivisions particularly Kerley subdivision, it is evident that the Hall subdivision has a higher rate of unattended juveniles roaming the streets, as well as domestic violence, theft, burglaries, and criminal damage/vandalism to properties. It was my experience that many owners of these homes left juveniles unattended as well as many of these homes were not single family dwellings like they were designated to be and instead turned into multifamily dwellings which in turn led to more unattended juveniles and crime. … We find it very disappointing that we have worked very hard to keep our children out of areas like this, as well as worked very hard to come up with the funds in order to buy the home that we live in. Now we are faced with the possibility that once again the Hall Construction company wants to add another one of these ‘subdivisions’ in Yuma.
The developers even offered to create a zoning “buffer” around the border of the development, meaning larger, 8,000-square-foot lots abutting white properties. Incumbent homeowners were not assuaged: The buffer zone might help smooth the lot size, but it wouldn’t do anything in terms of “ownership demographics,” as one resident complained.
In essence, white residents didn’t want the white character of their neighborhood to change. The Yuma City Council sided with them, denying the rezoning request—the first zoning-change rejection in 3 years and in more than 75 requests.
The Hall family development was not necessarily intended to be “affordable,” at least not under the definition set by the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development. Despite claims from Yuma homeowners, the rezoning would not bring low-income housing to their neighborhood. Instead, it would make for slightly more affordable homes for residents who were likely to be Hispanic.
Arguably, the absence of low-income housing vouchers makes Avenue 6E Investments v. City of Yuma an even more naked demonstration of disparate impact than Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, the Supreme Court decision that affirmed the disparate-impact reading of the Fair Housing Act. (Incidentally, the City of Yumacase preceded the Inclusive Communities decision by a few months.)
The Ninth Circuit remanded the decision back to the district court. The next step for the district court is likely to shake up the composition of at least one neighborhood in Yuma. But it should serve as a broader reminder that affluent, majority-white, incumbent-homeowner neighborhoods that deny zoning changes that would make it easier for less-wealthy minorities to find housing do so at the risk of offending the Constitution.

Gateway to West Sonoma Tourism Project and Priority Conservation Area threatens communities

Editor's Note: Our neighbors in West Sonoma have their own battles with "top-down" government planners creating massive dislocation of local economies and the democratic process. West Marin beware!
thumb_2_gateway-project-banner.jpg
Op-Ed: Gateway Project

Regional Parks Eyes Casino Money To Fund Massive West County Tourism Project
By Loie Sauer

Two years ago Sonoma County Regional Parks designed the expansive “Gateway to West Sonoma County Project”, detailed in a 10-page grant application to the National Park Service submitted in August 2011. The Gateway Project, according to the grant, proposes a new Bodega Bay Visitor Center, an Occidental Adventure Day Lodge, and shuttles that connect Bodega Bay, Jenner Headlands, Monte Rio, Occidental, Willow Creek Road and Coleman Valley Road. (see attached “Gateway to West Sonoma County Project Map”)

Public awareness of the Gateway Project remains low, as there has not been a single presentation to the residents of West County on the entire scope of the proposed project. Yet Regional Parks has developed it so far that it has artists’ drawings of new buildings, shuttle route maps and presented “business opportunity” reports related to the Gateway Project to the Board of Supervisors.
Gateway to West Sonoma County Project
In the economic climate of the past two years, hope for financing a project of this magnitude through the state budget was slim. However, The West County Gateway Project stands to receive a windfall through the “Intergovernmental Mitigation Agreement between the County of Sonoma and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria”, unanimously approved by the County Board of Supervisors in October 2012. The agreement provides that once the tribe meets its financial obligations to Rohnert Park and the state, it could provide up to $25 million per year to fund County Regional Parks and the Open Space District.

The casino is slated to open next year.  The tribe and the state have projected   “net win earnings” of $350 million in the casino’s first year, rising to $418 million in its seventh year, according to The Press Democrat. 


Regional Parks staff linked the project to casino money in a report presented January 2013 to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.  In the report “Bodega Bay Opportunities: Business Improvement Proposal and Potential Long-term Strategies”, Regional Parks states that “we will study the potential use of the Federated Graton Rancheria Fund for capital improvements and operations.”

While the 10-page grant report to the National Park Service details the full scope of the Gateway Project, residents of West County have received only glimpses of parts of the project. For Occidental, the grant’s stated project goal is to transform the Occidental Community Center into an “Adventure Day Lodge” with a “ski-lodge” feel, park and ride, shuttles for hikers and bicyclists to regional open space areas, equipment rental, pet daycare (since dogs aren’t allowed in State Parks), gathering areas for visitors, food service, restrooms and showers, and hub for tours and visitor support services.

Benjamynn Gabriel in the April edition of Sonoma County Gazette reported on the February 25 community meeting in Occidental:  “It appeared to many that the County officials, Caryl Hart, Regional Parks Director, Steve Ehret, a Planning Manager for the Parks, and their hires—architects and land-use consultant types, had a pre-ordained idea of what would happen and were merely coming to Occidental to pay lip-service to the idea of community involvement for a plan which had already been decided (the ‘Yosemite-like’ lodge with fireplace concept drawings on the north wall.)”

Attendees were given blue and green dots to indicate various levels of approval from a list of amenities for the center.  “But where are the red dots?” asked one Occidental attendee who wanted to redirect the discussion to:  “Is this what we envision for our town? “  Others who came to discuss the issues of shuttles and tour buses on narrow country roads were held off.  “We will discuss shuttles at some other meeting in the future,” insisted Parks Director Hart.

The Occidental Community Council minutes from March 16 reflect similar sentiment about the February 25 Occidental meeting:  “The OCC is going to write a letter to Caryl Hart highlighting community feedback…people are upset about the process, some feeling “railroaded” by the county.  The building was cold and no sound system was utilized for the meeting.  OCC will recommend there be a facilitator at the next meeting, to enable input from all.”

In the 2011 grant to National Park Service and in the January 2013 presentation to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the West County Gateway Project vision is to expand recreational access to the 15,000 acre of open space in West Sonoma County.  Mason’s Marina in Bodega Bay is envisioned to be replaced by a large, modern visitor center (“COOL” or Center for Outdoor Opportunities and Learning), with lodging, history and ecosystem exhibits, water sports, guided tours, linking to the Marine Biology Lab and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center. (See attached photo “Bodega Bay Visitor Center concept”).  Shuttles would link the Bodega Bay COOL center to the Occidental Adventure Day Lodge, Monte Rio Watershed Educational Center, and a future visitor center at Jenner Headlands Preserve. (See attached photo “Gateway Hub Concept”).
Gateway to West Sonoma County Project: Hub Concept
Regional Parks Director Hart, in a 2012 renewal application for the National Park Service advisory services grant, indicates the West County Gateway Project is moving full steam ahead, with partnerships from LandPaths, Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District and Mendocino Redwood Company. Her letter claims to have had several public workshops, and projects a timetable that will solicit RFPs for construction documents and shuttle analysis and complete marketing plan in the Summer and Fall of 2013.

In addition to public funding, private funding sources have been sought. Melissa Kelley, Executive Director of Regional Parks Foundation, confirmed that a Gateway Project restricted fund was established two years ago within the Foundation and approximately $100,000 of private donations have accumulated in that fund.

In random inquiry of West County residents, it seems that public awareness of The West County Gateway Project is negligible; residents are quite astounded that the Gateway Project was spelled out two years ago and that it is moving toward reality with only a paucity of community input. This project is potentially a permanent transformation of West County and it is time for the community to be fully informed and involved in a process that has come far without a complete unveiling to those who live, play and work in West County.

Some may see it as a positive step that casino dollars are being directed into “green purposes”, albeit commercialized access projects for West County Open Space.  Others lament that there are casino dollars at all and see this as insult following insult.  Regardless, it is time for members of the community to be fully involved, fully informed and share their visions for this beautiful place
Stay in touch with the Occidental Community Council (Occidental-ca.org.), Occidental Community Services District, StOCC (Save the Occidental Community Center), and similar town organizations in other West County communities. Read the Gazette. Be part of the dialogue and the direction of West County.

What does the Community want?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Happy Monday!


State gas tax increase should be repealed

State gas tax increase should be repealed


By Linda Pfeifer



In April, Sacramento politicians passed Senate Bill 1, the largest gas tax increase in California history. SB 1 also increased all vehicle registration fees.

Politicians passed SB 1 because they said California has an estimated $59 billion in deferred highway maintenance and approximately $79 billion in local streets repairs, and because better gas efficiencies have reduced gas tax revenues.

But what the public was not told is that since 2010, approximately $15 billion to $20 billion dollars in gas and transportation taxes and fees (e.g., truck weight fees) have been diverted away from California road repair. This doesn’t include the cap-and-trade dollars diverted for “high-speed rail” instead of road repair.

In fact, only about 20 percent of money in the state general fund generated by transportation revenues actually goes to road repair.

The diversion of transportation taxes and fees contradicts voters’ will. California voters passed Proposition 42 in 2002, Proposition 1A in 2006 and Proposition 22 in 2010, all protecting transportation revenues for road repair and maintenance. Unfortunately, the spirit of these propositions has not been honored in Sacramento, where billions were diverted away from road and highway maintenance.

Had these funds not been diverted, California would have had more than enough to maintain our highways and roads.

Instead of fixing a broken system, Marin representatives, Assemblyman Marc Levine and Senator Mike McGuire, joined their peers to pass SB 1, a bill so controversial and regressive against the middle class and lower-income earners that SB 1 only passed by one vote.

How hard does SB 1 hit the middle class and low income earners?

Example: $3.39 per gallon rises to $3.58 under SB 1, up 19 cents a gallon (12 cents plus another 7 cents with SB 1’s hidden gas excise tax provision). It’s higher for diesel fuel.

Even worse, SB 1 isn’t a “one-time” gas tax increase in 2017. Beginning in 2020, SB 1 raises gas taxes every single year, tied to inflation, forever ... in perpetuity ... ad infinitum. SB 1 has no sunset. After 2020, that 19-cent increase can grow higher and higher with inflation indefinitely.

Are you retired on a fixed income that hasn’t kept pace with inflation? Are you under-employed? Are you a renter or new homeowner? SB 1 just spiked your cost of living.

SB 1 is regressive, too, which means your middle-class wallet will pay the same gas tax as a billionaire.


SB 1 also raises annual car registration fees. For example, if your car registration is $271 per year, SB 1 could spike it to $321 per year, a $50 increase on average. For electric cars, that $271 rises to $371. It’s worse for trucks.

SB 1 is the highest gas tax in California history, and the people didn’t even get to vote on it. SB 1 had no public vote, no ballot statement to generate public debate and scrutiny. Instead, the politicians in Sacramento passed SB 1, and added last-minute “sweetheart” deals for swing-vote politicians to the tune of millions of dollars.

Now, in addition to paying the highest state car registration fees, highest state income tax and highest state sales tax in the country, Californians will be paying the highest state gas fees under SB 1.

How long before some of SB 1’s billions are diverted, too? How long before the next big tax? Already Sacramento is mulling a “service” tax (e.g., plumbers, consultants, electricians).

What can you do about it?

Plenty. First, go to NoCaGasTax.com and support the effort to repeal SB 1. Second, follow the website — HJTA.org — a lead fighter against SB 1. Third, join local taxpayer advocacy group Co$t Marin (CostMarin.org). It’s time to repeal SB 1 and stop burdening the middle class and lower-income earners.

Let’s stop diverting billions away from road repair. Demand fiscal accountability in Sacramento.




Sunday, May 14, 2017

Androclus and the Lion



 

ANDROCLUS AND THE LION

IN Rome there was once a poor slave whose name was Androclus. His master was a cruel man, and so unkind to him that at last Androclus ran away.

He hid himself in a wild wood for many days; but there was no food to be found, and he grew so weak and sick that he thought he should die. So one day he crept into a cave and lay down, and soon he was fast asleep.

After awhile a great noise woke him up. A lion had come into the cave, and was roaring loudly. [88] Androclus was very much afraid, for he felt sure that the beast would kill him. Soon, however, he saw that the lion was not angry, but that he limped as though his foot hurt him.

Then Androclus grew so bold that he took hold of the lion's lame paw to see what was the matter. The lion stood quite still, and rubbed his head against the man's shoulder. He seemed to say,—

"I know that you will help me."

Androclus lifted the paw from the ground, and saw that it was a long, sharp thorn which hurt the lion so much. He took the end of the thorn in his fingers; then he gave a strong, quick pull, and out it came. The lion was full of joy. He jumped about like a dog, and licked the hands and feet of his new friend.

Androclus was not at all afraid after this; and when night came, he and the lion lay down and slept side by side.

For a long time, the lion brought food to Androclus every day; and the two became such good friends, that Androclus found his new life a very happy one.

One day some soldiers who were passing through the wood found Androclus in the cave. They knew who he was, and so took him back to Rome.

 It was the law at that time that every slave who ran away from his master should be made to fight a hungry lion. So a fierce lion was shut up for a while without food, and a time was set for the fight.

When the day came, thousands of people crowded to see the sport. They went to such places at that time very much as people now-a-days, go to see a circus show or a game of baseball.

The door opened, and poor Androclus was brought in. He was almost dead with fear, for the roars of the lion could already be heard. He looked up, and saw that there was no pity in the thousands of faces around him.

Then the hungry lion rushed in. With a single bound he reached the poor slave. Androclus gave a great cry, not of fear, but of gladness. It was his old friend, the lion of the cave.
The people, who had expected to see the man killed by the lion, were filled with wonder. They saw Androclus put his arms around the lion's neck; they saw the lion lie down at his feet, and lick them lovingly; they saw the great beast rub his head against the slave's face as though he wanted to be petted. They could not understand what it all meant.

After a while they asked Androclus to tell them about it. So he stood up before them, and, with his arm around the lion's neck, told how he and the beast had lived together in the cave.

[Illustration]

Androclus and the Lion

"I am a man," he said; "but no man has ever befriended me. This poor lion alone has been kind to me; and we love each other as brothers."
The people were not so bad that they could be cruel to the poor slave now. "Live and be free!" they cried. "Live and be free!"
Others cried, "Let the lion go free too! Give both of them their liberty!"
And so Androclus was set free, and the lion was given to him for his own. And they lived together in Rome for many years.

Marinwood CSD May 7, 2017 (Spend, spend, spend!)



Full meeting of the Marinwood CSD.  Discussion about new dog leash sign,  Firehouse kitchen remodel at $60,000, new revolving credit accounts for employees, Brown Act violations,   politicization of public meeting notes,  forging ahead with replacing the maintenance shed despite community objection and violation of the stream conservation ordinance, discussion of storm repairs that could top a million dollars,  consideration of reorganization of fire department due to budget limitations,  disability retirement approved for second firefighter this year,  approval of set aside of retirement health benefits in irrevocable trust account, etc,  board members object to  their email addresses being published on the Marinwood CSD website.