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Marin Breaking News, Sports, Business, Entertainment
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    With the first U.S. census to use online submissions approaching in April, the Canal Alliance is concerned by the stalled progress of its initiative to bolster broadband access in San Rafael’s Canal area. Read more about this topic


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    In 2019, community and business leaders gathered to consider a worthwhile initiative, lifting San Rafael’s Canal area over the digital divide by improving broadband access.

    The Canal Broadband Network Project was launched with enthusiastic promise and commitment, only to linger due to bureaucratic turnover and inaction.

    Omar Carrera, executive director of the Canal Alliance, recently voiced his frustration that little has been done to advance the initiative.

    He’s right.

    There have been no follow-up meetings since last summer.

    The goal is to create an affordable network to provide the Canal’s immigrant and low-income population ample access to the internet.

    Last year’s meetings emphasized the importance of closing this digital divide to the work, education and daily lives of this large neighborhood’s population.

    The goal was to take advantage of the broadband lines originally brought into the area by George Lucas’ movie-making and entertainment operations that were once a large employer in the area.

    It appears to be do-able.

    “I’m not saying it’s the full responsibility of the city or county to solve the digital divide, but if there is an interest by the city, the county, the business community and nonprofits to help connect with this community from a public safety perspective, public health perspective and civic engagement perspective, we must do more,” Carrera said.

    Meanwhile, the new U.S. Census headcount is pushing online filing and efforts to get an accurate count of people living in the Canal — roughly 10,000 residents and larger than six of Marin’s 11 cities — may be hindered by the lack of broadband access.

    Getting an accurate count benefits the city, the county and the community in terms of having the numbers and assessments helpful to better qualify for state and federal programs and grants. Every resident missed costs the county $20,000 in funding each decade, the census organizers claim.

    The neighborhood is also already considered as “hard to count” by the state. Its two census tracts rank well below the state average in a statewide assessment of tracts.

    Improving that situation was one of the goals of last year’s meetings, but turnover at City Hall and the county, which leaves organizational efforts in limbo, meant little progress had been made toward that important objective.

    This is not a new community objective, but last year’s final meeting appeared to be a meaningful milestone in making it happen.

    As Carrera said, it is a “missed opportunity.”

    Certainly, there was a lot of work that needed to be done, including determining whether the network would be wired or wireless, who would pay for the work and assessing its opportunities to qualify for state and federal grants aimed at closing the digital divide.

    City Hall says it is still committed to the effort, but admits progress was slowed by staff turnover and positions left unfilled.

    The good intentions of business leaders who spearheaded the efforts are to be commended. They now need government and the communications providers themselves, to step up and do what is right. Shouldn’t viable, expedient solutions be available in the technology capital of the world?

    Carrera is right to remind the city and county as to what’s at stake and what could be lost by inadvertently allowing a priority to slip into a state of limbo at a time when deliberate and constructive action is required.


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    Impressed by theme of Marin County Fair

    Citizens of Marin are proud of the originality invested in the yearly Marin County Fair. What makes the fair so special is its theme format. Once a theme is agreed upon it is skillfully crafted.

    The formula has proven so popular that fairgoers would be disappointed if this element was abandoned.

    The fair planners have announced “The Soaring 2020s” for the theme of the upcoming Marin County Fair. Based on past events, expect a lot of creative goal-setting in all categories.

    See you at the fair.

    — Don-Elda Boutwell, Mill Valley

    San Geronimo golf: Vote yes on Measure D

    I am writing in regard to Wendi Kallins’ letter to the editor published Jan. 17. She is wrong.

    I ask her to please name the special interest groups that are forcing the yes on Measure D initiative. The reason all Marin voters should vote yes on Measure D is to send a strong message to the Marin County Board of Supervisors and special interest groups that we are watching and demanding results from the projects that are funded by our tax dollars.

    The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (a special interest group) has been here for over 20 years. It has collected over $16 million through grants and lawsuits, and what have been the results?, Check with the Marin Municipal Water District on the fish counts and you will see the count hasn’t improved. The work proposed on the former San Geronimo Golf Course will not change the number of fish spawning. In fact, it could be more harmful.

    There is no accountability on projects that SPAWN has done. The no vote on Measure D will insure SPAWN has a cash cow of millions of dollars of our tax dollars lining their pockets, by working on projects on the former San Geronimo Golf Course for years to come.

    Vote yes on Measure D supporting your rights to demand accountability.

    — Rick Seramin, San Geronimo

    San Geronimo golf: Vote no on Measure D

    The small group of San Geronimo golfers who have tried everything to get the rest of us to pay for their elite pastime have gotten their due, now that the money-losing golf course lies fallow and neglected. Their present tactic is to trick us into passing Measure D.

    But why should all Marin residents pay for their recreation? Why should the vast majority of Marinites who don’t golf be excluded from enjoying this beautiful area too? Why should we continue to allow hundreds of tons of fertilizer and pesticide to pollute our environment?

    And why should we once again allow the constant waste of millions of gallons of our precious water for this under-utilized club. It’s time for us to let the county and the Trust for Public Land restore the former San Geronimo Golf Course as a nature preserve, park and recreation area — for all of us to use and enjoy. Vote no on Measure D.

    — Mike Alexin, San Rafael

    Considering both sides of Measure D question

    Equivalently passionate and reasoned letters are arguing yes and no on Measure D regarding the former San Geronimo Golf Course.

    Yes on D because “vox populi, vox dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of God). No on D because honor, commemoration, legacy and stewardship.

    What’s a fully informed, totally engaged, rationally passionate voter to do? Is there an app for this? Or a medication?

    — Jay Conner, Novato

    Violence and war aren’t permanent solutions

    The use of violence, assassinations and war have a terrible record over the centuries in solving the problems that separate nations,religions and cultures into warring camps.

    The use of physical force in resolving human conflicts seems, for the moment, to offer immediate results in ending the escalation of hatred and war. Yet, after over 5,000 years of fighting, the human race is now closer to its ultimate self-destruction than ever before. And even some of the world’s most prominent pacifists, like Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, eventually join the rest of the human race in advocating for the use of violence when pushed hard enough by the more aggressive and war-like leaders of nations.

    If there is any hope for humanity to finally emerge from our dark and unconscious past of murder, rapes and fanaticism we must become aware that our struggle for survival is mad and pointless. We need to transcend our animal heritage of violent struggle and find our salvation in mutual acceptance.

    Other than this radical breakthrough in our human consciousness, our future on this planet looks very grim.

    — Rama Kumar, Fairfax


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    It is axiomatic that when small children are at the playground together, they do not waste a moment’s thought on the heritage or socio-economic status of their peers. This is a beautiful aspect of our basic inclination as humans; we are not born with bias. We are, however, raised in a world colored by deficiencies of the generations that preceded us. Unfortunately our society has shown a repeated inclination for unnecessary separation to be perpetuated.

    In 1954, the Supreme Court provided the catalyst that was intended to dismantle the systems of division in education across the country; all public schools in the U.S. were to be integrated. For 10 years this law resulted in little change, but in 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. This more pointedly tasked the federal government with the responsibility to ensure equity of opportunity through desegregation in all spheres of public life.

    In August 2019, the Civil Rights Act was called upon again to create change in Marin County with a court order declaring the desegregation of Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy. I was gratified to read this news as Bayside is a school I have come to know well and a community I cherish. But reading this was also disheartening. As a county, we failed for over 50 years to ensure that the Civil Rights Act was effectively enforced to provide equal educational opportunity to all the children who call our county home.

    I had not known of Bayside until I was in middle school. In late 2017 I was invited by my mentor – Principal David Finnane – to spend the day as a visiting student there; taking classes, eating lunch and playing games at break. Following my first visit, I went on to spend time at Bayside once a month. I had what is likely most similar to a school-away-from-school. But, Bayside is in a very different position from the majority of public schools in Marin. The community is affected by persistent economic disadvantage and related segregation that have both gone back generations. The students who attend Bayside often end up in a perpetual cycle; their own children back at Bayside and still in economic distress. The court order is a first step to fix the issue of persistent segregation but it is not a full resolution.

    During my time visiting Bayside I started a non-profit program; 2 Strings. Over the past two years, 2 Strings has partnered the first-grade students of Bayside and Brandeis Marin. The students write pen-pal letters and participate in field trips during which they have the opportunity to share lunch, play games, learn about cultural holidays and complete arts and crafts. The program is an active effort to bridge the socio-economic gap that exists in Marin and the larger Bay Area. 2 Strings seeks to connect children from different communities so that they can learn the fundamental truth that they – we – are all just kids on the playground.

    2 Strings is also not a solution, but it is a step towards meaningful change in our county, and one that can leverage the effect of the court order, especially at Bayside. Our investment in change now might allow us to break the barriers that divide us and provide us an opportunity to correct an undelivered promise. The beauty of this program is in its simplicity. It has been fueled by the commitment of two schools through dedicated teachers, administrators and parent volunteers and relies solely on the generosity of the community to support these students. We cannot fix what the generations that preceded us have failed to fix – but we can take on the responsibility to live up to our stated values – all children in Marin deserve educational equity and an opportunity to get to know each other and play together. Kids who are a part of a diverse geographic, socioeconomic and cultural community at a young age will have the tools to project similar values onto their future; this connection to others only enriches their life experience.

    Talia Green, of San Anselmo, is a sophomore at Marin Academy and the founder of the non-profit program 2 Strings.


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    I am writing to encourage Marin residents to vote No on Measure D.

    Niz Brown and the San Geronimo Advocates want you to think you’re saving the San Geronimo Valley community plan and golf by voting yes in the upcoming March 3 election. Nothing could be further from the truth. A yes vote does just the opposite: it eliminates local control by the people who live in the community and wrote their plan. The following brief history should help.

    1960s: The Board of Supervisors, by a 3-2 majority, favored extensive development throughout Marin. In 1961, it adopted the San Geronimo Valley master plan. It envisioned 20,000 people, 5,000 homes, a civic center, shopping center and numerous multi-family dwellings. A proposed major freeway would have destroyed Roy’s Redwoods and eventually plundered Nicasio. Our lovely valley would have been gone, with little input from actual residents.

    During that time, a growing environmental movement in San Francisco and Berkeley inspired Marin County staff to develop and recommend the adoption of the countywide plan. It would create three corridors: (1) a narrow eastern corridor where development would occur; (2) a rural corridor protecting Nicasio and the San Geronimo Valley and (3) a coastal corridor protecting ranches and parks.

    1972: Two important things happened. Gary Giacomini ran for supervisor supporting the proposed countywide plan and I took out the garbage. Let me explain. While emptying the garbage, I saw two Marin Municipal Water District employees replacing old water pipes with larger ones. I asked why and the answer changed my life: to meet the needs of homes that would cover the Valley bottom, uplands and ridges.

    Horrified, I called MMWD Director Dietrich Stroeh and county Community Development Director Werner Von Gundel. I quickly posted a meeting notice at each valley post office urging residents to come and listen to Stroeh and Werner describe the 1961 master plan and the proposed countywide plan. Giacomini attended. As a result of that meeting, I founded the ad hoc San Geronimo Valley Planning Group and, with others, joined Giacomini’s campaign. He won. His first order of business was to adopt the countywide plan and, then, abolish the ’61 master plan.

    In addition, the countywide plan required creating a “designated area” with a community plan for each unincorporated village. A designated area is like a town’s city limits. Residents within each designated area met with county staff and produced their own, unique CP. Nicasio, Point Reyes, Bolinas, Marshall and other villages developed a CP adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

    1977: After five years of unstinting work by the San Geronimo Valley Planning Group with other residents, the Board of Supervisors adopted the SGV community plan. Finally, residents had a voice.

    1995-97: We updated our CP and included information about salmon. I chaired the Planning Groups CP Update Committee. Never did the original, nor the amended plan, require keeping a golf course. I know, because I, and others, were intimately involved in helping write the original CP as well as the CP update. I never missed a CP meeting. Existing zoning permitted undesirable development and resorts. We protected ourselves by saying existing golf was preferred and deliberately used the word “should.” Any planner, as well as Marin Judge Paul Haakenson, knows this term is advisory only and a good way to keep more desirable options open for the future.

    2019: Undaunted by Judge Haakenson’s decision to eliminate their bogus lawsuit claim that our community plan “mandated” a golf course, realtor Brown and the SGAdvocates petitioned and got Measure D on the March ballot. A yes vote allows Marin voters to eliminate local control and tell San Geronimo Valley residents what their CP should say. That’s not right. Our valley residents don’t tell towns what to do within their town limits and we don’t want people who don’t live in the valley telling us what our community plan should say in our designated area (aka town limits).

    Marin voters should ignore the fanciful rhetoric and disinformation from Brown and the SGAdvocates. Vote no on Measure D.

    Jean Berensmeier has lived in Lagunitas for more than 55 years. She spent 20 years on the Parks & Open Space Commission, helped save Roy’s Redwoods and create the Gary Giacomini Open Space Preserve.


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    School tax proponents: Scaring people with lies

    Tam Union High School District’s proponents are scaring up votes with lies, in order to push through the second huge parcel tax increase in just over a year.

    Proponents placed in your voter pamphlet the following demonstrably false statement:

    “If Measure B does not pass, the District will need to immediately implement cuts for next school year to prevent insolvency in the immediate future. Teachers and academic programs will be cut.”

    There is no risk of immediate insolvency at our high schools (Redwood, Drake, and Tamalpais).

    The district’s own latest three-year budget forecast shows a rosy financial outlook through 2022 without passing Measure B. Management projects ample reserves ($14.5-16.0 million) over that period and no significant change in profit/loss.

    The above layoff threat for next school year is just another gun held to voters’ heads. The current parcel tax expires June 30, 2022. There’s no need to fire anyone anytime soon.

    If voters reject Measure B, proponents could bring forward a more fair, affordable and truthfully argued renewal tax measure for voter approval in November 2020 or March 2022. With prudent fiscal management, Tam Union doesn’t need another $190 increase to $645 growing 3% annually for 10 years.

    Voters have a right to truthful ballot arguments and taxes that are fair, affordable, and fully justified.

    Reject Measure B.

    — Mimi Willard, Kentfield

    Teachable moment as impeachment trial beings

    The nation is preparing for only the third impeachment trial of a U.S. president in its history.

    No event short of a Congressional declaration of war can have more significance. The gravity of this situation is reinforced by the political divisions which have made it difficult for both parties to even reach agreement on the rules by which the trial should be conducted.

    It is also unprecedented by the fact that a presidential campaign is taking place at the same time.

    Regardless of one’s ideological bent and whether or not one believes this president’s wrongdoings justify his removal from office — the ultimate sanction prescribed by the Constitution if “high crimes and misdemeanors” have been committed — every citizen should have a keen interest in these proceedings.

    This could be a rare teaching moment for our youth who will be deeply affected by and will have special responsibilities in the aftermath of these historic events when called upon to make decisions of immense significance for years to come.

    It is my recommendation that social studies and history teachers set aside time for the duration of this trial so that students can view the debates about to unfold in the U.S. Senate with the assumption that sufficient media coverage will be permitted.

    As a young legislative aide on a U.S. Senator’s staff in Washington during the “Watergate” impeachment of Pres. Richard Nixon two generations ago I still have vivid recollections of the drama.

    Followed years later by the impeachment of Pres. Bill Clinton, each tested the workings of our democracy and the durability of our system of government. We are there once again.

    — Richard Rubin, Mill Valley

    SMART train tax: Vote no on Measure I

    Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit officials are dreaming if they think extending the train to Windsor and/or Cloverdale will make it more financially viable; especially if they think voting to extend the sales tax another 39 years will make it so.

    How many commuters have the time to ride SMART from Santa Rosa to Larkspur, let alone from Cloverdale, and then take the ferry to San Francisco? Have they ever taken an actual legitimate survey? Does SMART have any idea how many people would do that on a regular basis? Would it be enough to make SMART support itself financially?

    They need to take a look at BART, another train that is taxpayer subsidized and in debt. Unlike SMART, Bay Area Rapid Transit services hugely populated areas and drops its passengers off where they can either walk or easily find additional transportation to their destination. Yet BART is rife with problems, financial and otherwise.

    The big selling point, that SMART would reduce traffic on 101 is false; traffic hasn’t reduced one iota. Ditto on its “green appeal.” And then there’s the matter of 60,000 cars per day interrupted for the average ridership of 2,800 passengers in downtown San Rafael.

    There will be many other tax measures to weigh in March. We can only afford so much; it most likely will come down to which measures benefit us, individually, the most.

    We should all vote no on Measure I.

    — Judi Schellenberg, San Rafael


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    We are lucky that in our national parks, when you want to get out into nature, the sounds of nature are what you usually hear.

    Planes flying by are usually infrequent and high enough to reduce their noise. There are no loud ATVs tearing up our parklands. Lumber trucks shifting gears are a rarity.

    Certainly, there are cars, but reasonable measures have been taken to minimize that intrusion.

    There also are people who can be loud. But our parks usually have plenty of elbow room so, if you want to get away from a noisy football game on Drakes Beach, for example, you have plenty of room to move your blanket to where you’ll just hear waves crashing and seagulls calling, instead of someone celebrating a touchdown.

    At Muir Woods National Monument, there are even signs urging visitors to respect “quiet” areas and, in recent years, measures have been taken to reduce car traffic and its resulting noise.

    At some parts of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, noise is expected. Such as at Crissy Field.

    Some areas are more appropriate, mostly due to their location, to active recreation.

    On Marin’s side of the 76,000-acre GGNRA there are a lot of places to find peace and quiet.

    A new long-term study of noise levels in our federal parks showed that the national parks around here are pretty quiet. Point Reyes National Seashore was the most quiet, scoring 3.04 decibels above the natural noise level. Close to that was Muir Woods at 4.07 decibels and then GGNRA scoring 6.24 decibels.

    By comparison, Chamizal National Memorial, a 55-acre urban park in El Paso, Texas, on the United States-Mexico border, ranked as the park where the noise of nature is most likely drowned out by human activity. Its score was 29.11 decibels.

    Staff at Muir Woods have made protecting the quiet, even with its popularity, an important priority.

    Besides traffic-reduction measures and efforts to prevent overcrowding, Muir Woods’ staff has also made trying to keep down human noise a priority. They not only stress quiet’s importance to wildlife in the park, but also to visitors’ experiences, such as hearing Redwood Creek run or hearing the breeze combing the branches of the park’s spectacular and historic redwoods.

    Quiet enjoyment of the park and its natural wonders is one of its attractions.

    The study, a collaborative effort of the National Park Service and Colorado State University, involving taking readings in 66 parks, was designed to assess noise levels in the parks and, using technology far beyond one’s subjective hearing preferences, to pinpoint areas of noise pollution.

    The findings are leading to efforts to enhance and preserve quiet such as requiring busing in sensitives areas in an attempt to reduce traffic noise. Not surprising, the study found that the noise of traffic and planes are the most common culprits in crowding out the sounds of nature.

    The park service has established protocols aimed at preventing or minimizing “that adversely affects park soundscapes.”

    Of course, there are places where noise is to be expected and others where quiet should be protected.

    Making park visitors aware of that priority should be a top priority and, possibly, the most effective way to make sure the sounds of nature are not drowned out by human visitors.


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    College of Marin trustees will hear a presentation from the Friends of Kentfield Kids and Creeks group at their board meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, at the Academic Center, Room 255, Kentfield campus, 835 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. on the topic of COM’s new maintenance and operations building. Reporter @KeriWorks posts live. Join the conversation on Twitter with #KentfieldSchools. Follow on your mobile device


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    The single largest local campaign donation in North Bay history was just made to defeat Measure I on the March 3 Marin and Sonoma ballots.

    That’s the measure to continue, not increase, the one-quarter cent sales tax funding Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s Santa Rosa Airport to Larkspur commuter train. A two-thirds supermajority is required for passage.

    The $559,000 contribution comes from Molly Flater, daughter of Bill Gallaher and chief operating officer of Gallaher Homes. Bill Gallaher self-described his firm, Oakmont Senior Living, as “one of the largest developers in all of Sonoma County.”

    It’s been claimed by North Bay Congressman Jared Huffman that Flater’s donation to Measure I’s opposition is “dark money.” That’s not accurate. There’s no doubt where the funds originated. The source was disclosed by the “no” campaign’s treasurer, Mike Arnold.

    The big question is why would a real estate development family give over half a million dollars to defeat a measure that isn’t even a tax increase? There’s little to show the Gallaher family previously opposed SMART or the sales tax passed in 2008 by nearly 70% of North Bay voters, making its operation possible.

    The claim is the half-a-million dollar infusion to the otherwise struggling “no” campaign was motivated by Gallaher’s belief that the two-county transit district hadn’t delivered on its promise to complete the train and parallel bikeway all the way from Larkspur to the tiny north Sonoma community of Cloverdale and that it lacks oversight and transparency.

    While the cash isn’t “dark,” it is a classic example of ramifications from the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision. That 5-4 ruling’s majority opinion authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy permitted unlimited corporate or union campaign donations. In dissent, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens argued the decision represented “a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government.”

    Flater and her family are deeply involved in local Sonoma politics. Gallaher, her father, is engaged in litigation against Santa Rosa and Windsor, both SMART proponents. The headline in Santa Rosa’s daily paper reads, “Developer Bill Gallaher sues Santa Rosa over natural gas ban as city doubles down on climate goal.” A similar CEQA suit was filed by the developer against Windsor over its law mandating all-electric construction.

    There’s no love lost between Gallaher and the Press Democrat, Sonoma County’s largest newspaper and an editorial supporter of SMART.

    The PD headline tells the story, “Defamation lawsuit by Bill Gallaher and Scott Flater against The Press Democrat dismissed by appellate court.” Scott Flater is Gallaher’s son-in-law.

    The details were in the PD: “Gallaher and Flater sued the newspaper in late 2016 claiming their reputations were harmed in four stories published before that November’s election detailing $195,000 in independent expenditures by Flater to support three council candidates.” The articles described historic spending for six open council seats, including a last-minute influx of cash for mailers and other materials. In a unanimous decision, three justices with the First Appellate District court in San Francisco ruled that Gallaher and Scott Flater failed to prove the stories were false. The justices rejected arguments that campaign expenditures were a private matter between the donor and the politician, stating that it is “beyond dispute” that elections and campaign spending are of widespread public interest and calling the plaintiffs’ attempt to argue otherwise “frivolous.”

    How it all plays out won’t be clear until Measure I votes are tabulated in March. What is undeniable is the tidal wave of big money in politics that’s devastated national affairs has just splashed against Sonoma and Marin shores.


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    San Geronimo golf: No on Measure D

    Returning from a family holiday in the Midwest, I was reminded again how very special Marin County is. While wonderful urban culture abounds, we are also blessed by the beauty and magic of our mountain, forests, ocean, bay, and wildlife neighbors.

    In the upcoming election, we have a huge opportunity to further enhance our natural treasures for the benefit of all by voting no on Measure D.

    Until 2017, San Geronimo was the site of a family-owned golf course, but times change. Economics and trends altered the viability of the business (eight Bay Area courses have shut down since 2015). While a small, special interest group is doing everything they can to keep it a golf course, this exquisite site has the potential to be a magical place for the entire community, including families, students of all ages and the less agile among us.

    Situated near two schools, San Geronimo sits at the confluence of four existing preserves and contains the natural flood plain of San Geronimo Creek. This land can be restored for natural habitat to protect our endangered Coho salmon at the same time it becomes a recreational and educational center for the community at large.

    Contrary to the proponents of Measure D who claim this is about local control, the actual initiative essentially puts this property in a limbo of “golf course or bust” (or inevitable development). What a waste this would be — which is why “no on D” is supported by every environmental group in the county, the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, the Marin County Fire Department Firefighters Association, numerous local officials from throughout the county, and virtually everyone who has taken the time to delve into the facts at SanGeronimoForAll.com.

    — Susan Hopp, Mill Valley

    SMART train tax: Vote yes on Measure I

    I am disheartened by the opposition to a proposed continuation of a quarter-cent sales tax to better fund the Sonoma-Mari Area Rail Transit train (Measure I on the upcoming ballot).

    SMART now links Sonoma, Marin, and San Francisco (via ferry) with low-polluting public transportation that is fun to ride and beautiful, as well.

    People complain that not enough people now use the SMART train. But when BART first began in 1971, it attracted only 3% of the ridership it has now.

    We live in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, yet our carbon footprint is huge, given our suburban sprawl and our propensity for traveling one to a car. As a result, we are choking on traffic and the planet is burning. A little sales tax increase is a small price to pay for being part of the solution rather than the problem.

    Whenever I go to Santa Rosa or Petaluma, I enjoy taking the SMART train. It’s as clean and quiet as the best European trains, and the views from the window of our pastoral beauty are breathtaking. Give it a try and see for yourself.

    — Brian Donohue, Mill Valley

    SMART needs to address concerns

    When the tax measure to fund SMART first appeared on the ballot years ago, I voted against it. I favored additional commuter bus lines as a more economical solution to congestion. But after the train started running, I was impressed by its smooth, comfortable service. I now use it regularly. I don’t believe it’s in the community’s interest to withdraw support after so much care and expense has gone into its design and construction. Even so, I agree with those who see problems in how SMART is managed.

    I feel particularly discouraged by the way the Larkspur station opened to great fanfare, with SMART officials touting a new timetable supposedly coordinated with the Golden Gate Ferry timetable, when it turns out most evening boats from San Francisco arrive 40 minutes prior to the next departing train. Given that it takes only 10 minutes to walk to the platform (perhaps 20, for someone with mobility difficulties) , how can SMART justify making commuters wait twice as long as necessary? Why would anyone choose SMART as an option when it means waiting 20 needless minutes on an open platform?

    The failure to follow through on promised bike and pedestrian paths is also troubling. And is an extension to Cloverdale really the highest priority? It doesn’t seem like the population density north of Santa Rosa is high enough to warrant the additional investment until the use along the existing route has been fully embraced by commuters. It would also be helpful if traffic lights in San Rafael better timed to coordinate with the train, which would reduce gridlock.

    If they want taxpayer support in March, SMART officials should make immediate and decisive moves to demonstrate commitment to solving the system’s problems.

    — Will Meecham, Novato

    Measure I negativity is no help to society

    I am a strong supporter of public transportation. My first 21 years were lived in London, with parents who could not afford a car, so public transportation was a way of life. Later, 22 years of living and/or working in San Francisco added to my belief in public transportation.

    It is a given that public transportation in the North Bay can never be on par with the systems in London or San Francisco, but that does not mean it isn’t of use. The reasons that the BART train was not built in the North Bay are now shrouded in the mists of time, but I suspect that fears that it would lead to rapid change and urban development must have played a part.

    Naysayers against Measure I, having long fought against SMART, now wish to ensure that SMART isn’t maintained or expanded, because they don’t see its value or benefit from it. Interestingly, many of the names I see associated with “no on I” are the same people who appear to be against all projects proposed in the North Bay. But change will happen. I know this because I haven’t seen too many horses and buggies around town lately. Yes, it costs money to do things and that money comes from us taxpayers. But I believe that taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society. We should question how our money is spent, but we also need to take into account that doing nothing helps no one. My dream is that instead of screaming about Measure I, opponents would channel their considerable energy and money into finding positive ways to improve our society.

    — Jennifer Goldfinger, Novato

    Share your backyard, vote yes on Measure I

    Years ago the railroads tracks were torn apart by big money from tire and automobile companies, people were forced to drive. That was all about money. When BART commuter rail considered expanding to the North Bay, Big Money did not want just anybody to invade Marin and other North Bay counties.

    And, again, Big Real Estate monies are trying to shut down rail travel which would give workers an easier way to commute throughout Marin and Sonoma. It is afraid the land and property values will decline from the overly prohibitive inflated prices, and it won’t be able to charge millions for little cottages which are really valued way, way lower. It’s all about greed and money, not about a sensible smooth ride into our futures. We need rail. We need affordable housing. We need some reality in the decision making process. We do not want to be derailed again by special interests, real estate or otherwise.

    Please vote yes on the quarter-cent sales tax to promote the healthy economic future of our counties and to decongest Highway 101. SMART is just two years in the making and it was from scratch. Had those greedy big business people not torn up our rail, we would be miles ahead of where we are now. Don’t let these very self-serving greedy NIMBY-istic folks ruin this wonderful fledgling service again.

    The fact that a family owning a big company in Santa Rosa is putting $559,000 into squelching SMART has to be a warning to us and tell us something. It doesn’t want to allow anyone in its backyard. It seems to forget that is is our backyard too.

    — Joyce Dillon, Tiburon


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