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For starters, the politician must be perceived as a potential threat to someone or some group’s plans or agenda. It can be an entrenched special interest organization or a potentially vulnerable politician. In Novato, the Novato Chamber of Commerce is the archetypical example of an entrenched special interest organization.
As a whole, the Chamber is made up of many fine members. The problem lies within its leadership. The depth of the Novato Chamber of Commerce’s involvement with City policy development and action-items presented to the City Council is overwhelming.
If the Chamber Board of Directors and CEO decide it is in the Chamber’s members best interest to have a City of Novato policy changed or Chamber-friendly action-item presented to the City Council, the approval process is typically unremarkable. That is unless, gimlet-eyed community observers elevate the pending action-item to public attention in the local digital and/or print media thereby creating an uncontrollable open and transparent forum of discussion.
Before an action-item initiated by a City Staff member or by an outside or local special interest group, such as a Chamber of Commerce, reaches the Council for an up or down vote, it is submitted to City Staff for review and preparation. Public comment or input may or may not be included during this phase.
After vetting by the City Staff and completion of the Report, the action-item is placed on the Council’s meeting agenda. Simultaneously, the Report associated with the agenda item is distributed to Councilmembers and posted on the City’s website Novato.org. Reports are frequently 100 pages or more in length including attachments, making a cursory review a tempting time-saving shortcut. Reports submitted by City Staff to the Council for their vote are “framed” and submitted to the Council with the expectation of approval.
Oddly, Reports associated with the Council’s meeting agenda are posted simultaneously with the agenda on the City web site on the Thursday afternoon or evening before the following Tuesday meeting. This procedure allows only two work days for Councilmembers to receive clarification from senior City Staff (provided Staff is even available) on any questions they may have before their Tuesday meeting. Occasionally, additional agenda items are added as late as Friday. For complicated important items, this is clearly insufficient time for quality consideration by Councilmembers.
The interested public is markedly limited in its ability to meaningfully participate in agenda items at Council meetings. However, special interest’s pressure groups typically arrive at the Council meeting with pre-arranged formal PowerPoint presentations, staged persuasive commentary by sympathetic “experts”, and added time to advocate their special interest.
Presentations by opponents or those who have questions are extraordinarily rare and unnecessarily difficult to arrange in the limited time provided. The opponents’ only option is a 3-minute public comment period for each speaker in opposition. Presently, there is no simple method for an informally organized opposing group to have equal time and access to visual equipment aids as does an advocate group supporting a Report.
Astute factual comment by opposing residents is easily overwhelmed by the pre-known and pre-arranged presence of large numbers of special interest action-item advocates. The advocacy momentum easily becomes dominant and one-sided. The atmosphere can remind one of a pep rally.
This system easily works for the group promoting the action item if certainty exists in the minds of senior City Staff that a majority of the Council will approve the action-item. If there is doubt, the action-item is not placed on the agenda by senior City Staff.
The formal protocol for Councilmember requests for additional information regarding Reports is in the form of questions submitted to the City Manager for response before the next Council meeting. City Staff responses to Councilmembers’ inquiries, if even given, are circulated simultaneously to all Councilmembers.
Not all inquiries by Councilmembers receive complete responses, or sometimes even any response at all, before the agenda item comes before the Council for action. Why is that? Is this acceptable due process for making a responsible decision?
The reasonable default assumption is that all Councilmembers’ inquiries are treated equally. Despite denials by senior Staff, this in practice has not been the case. Excuses are presented to justify a poor response to a Councilmember who is perceived as being adversarial towards a Report on the agenda. Not enough available Staff time is “the old reliable” amongst these rationalizations. The ability of Councilmembers to do their job of representing Novato residents by making sure special interests don’t overshadow the needs and wants of all Novato residents, is diminished by non-elected stonewalling Senior Staff.
Delayed or incomplete response by City Staff to Councilmembers’ inquiries regarding a Report may critically affect the quality of discussion during the Council meeting. If Councilmember clarification and/or fact-based questions remain unanswered, the quality of Council discussion suffers as does the quality of governance. Where is the accountability to Novato residents?
The brushed-off Councilmember is left with few good options. Raising the issue during a Council session opens the Councilmember to thinly veiled public accusation by the City Manager or senior Staff of placing too many demands on limited Staff time. Or, the inquiry is labeled as too broad, with Staff making the claim that other Councilmember’s submitted questions would go unanswered.
Or the senior Staff’s response may be framed with the insinuation the Councilmember is “difficult to work with”. The bottom line is that unelected Senior City Staff have too much control over who receives what information and this problem remains hidden from the voting public.
The solution may be a public posting on the City web site with the Councilmembers’ questions submitted regarding each Report, the time they were submitted, and the time that City Staff responded to those inquiries. This might help by providing more transparency and accountability.
The current agenda-itemizing protocol unnecessarily limits time available for Report review by Councilmembers and the public. This protocol needs to be updated for the benefit of Novato residents. Reports should be posted at least one week before discussion.
The current protocol for requesting clarification from City Staff compresses the Councilmembers’ Report assessment process to a point where assumptions are too easily used in lieu of factual written clarifications. But, a full- time Councilmember can raise important in-depth questions with confidence during an agenda item’s discussion. A Councilmember with a full-time day job is more limited and left with significantly less time available for review and preparation for quality decision making. Is Novato’s quality of governance less than it could and should be?
The clever Councilmember caught in a time crunch predicament might be tempted to intentionally limit debate and pass the motion as quickly as possible citing the “Council’s confidence” in the quality of the Staff’s Report, thereby abdicating their responsibility as a serious Councilmember.
Another common diversionary tactic used by the unprepared Councilmember is to redirect the discussion to inconsequential legal aspects of the issue by requesting legal opinions from the City’s attorney. One follow-up legal clarification question later and the allotted time for discussion by the individual Councilmember is up and he/she is safely out of the spotlight.
Covering up a lack of preparation and potential public ineptitude by any Chamber-sympathetic Councilmember is a paramount reason the Novato Chamber of Commerce’s leadership will go to great lengths to eliminate the public presence of Councilmembers Eklund and Drew. Drew and Eklund are looking out for all Novato residents and frequently ask the tough questions during open debate, possibly exposing the lack of effective preparation by “busy with their day job” Chamber-supportive Councilmembers.
Avoiding the above scenario is one reason why the Chamber is not satisfied with a predictable solid voting majority. Chamber-endorsed members must look competent while on camera and appear to be in command of the situation. Awkward, hesitant, and ill-informed responses during public discussion triggers the perception of doubt or uncertainty and fans the interest of unknown new candidates who aren’t tied to the Chamber.
It is clever for the Chamber’s operatives to “properly frame” the action-item during the Staff’s preparation phase of its Report for the Council. It keeps the Chamber’s political influence capability below the surface and subsequently off the public’s radar. With offices just across the street, informal consultation easily appears incidental.
Before the Report is submitted along with its agenda item, an affirmative Council vote is already locked in place. Subsequently, the Council approval process resembles more of a coronation than a democratic process serving the needs and interests of Novato residents.
Today, it is full steam ahead by the Novato Chamber of Commerce leadership and Supervisor Judy Arnold to limit and/or eliminate Pat Eklund and Pam Drew’s questions and requests for “clarifications” during Council meeting discussions that can inadvertently expose and embarrass the unprepared Councilmembers who serve as advocates of Chamber-backed agenda items. The Chamber must protect its position because it profits from civic events such as the Novato Arts, Wine and Music Festival. And, it expects the City to pay for projects that singularly benefit only downtown merchants.
The Chamber’s political operatives, along with Supervisor Judy Arnold’s pay-to-play henchmen, threw the “kitchen sink” at Eklund in this recent election. It boomeranged back at them. The attempt was sorely lacking in ethics, transparency and truthfulness. Now, the Chamber’s leadership will have to explain that kitchen sink. The explanation will not reflect well on the Chamber.
What is good for the Novato Chamber of Commerce is not necessarily good for the City of Novato – something all residents should be aware of, particularly since the Chamber maintains that shibboleth is actually true. It is not.
When the polls closed on November 7th in 2017, devious and carefully orchestrated plans to bring down the senior and widely respected Novato City Councilmember Pat Eklund failed miserably. The unabashed “political cleansing” attempt fell on its dirty face, forcing Novato’s electorate to witness the dirtiest, most negative campaign in memory.
Deeply disappointing were the attacks on Pat Eklund as a person, rather than her position on issues. Equally disappointing was Eklund’s fellow Councilmember Denise Athas, who was also up for
reelection, failing to condemn the snarky personal comments directed at Eklund. Both are long standing adversaries, but Athas’ silent approval, evidenced by her refusal to denounce numerous
false accusations against Eklund, speaks volumes about Athas’ political mores.
It was stomach turning to watch it unfold and disappointing to Novato voters that the political scheming featured half-truths, unvarnished personal attacks and outright lies all of which were deliberately promulgated as “the truth”. By the time the dust had settled, it was clear that the behind-the-door political machinations involved several past Presidents of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit organization, as well as Novato’s current County Supervisor Judy Arnold. Shame on them.
Unbeknownst to many, the Novato Chamber of Commerce is deeply involved in the City of Novato’s politics. The Chamber frequently interacts with members of City Staff resulting in long standing personal relationships established by working together on civic projects the City has allowed the Chamber to produce as jointly presented City of Novato events.
A prime example is retired long-time City employee Jennifer Goldfinger who predicates her public pronouncements before the City Council in support of Chamber initiatives, referencing her career as a City employee. For years she was the City’s liaison with the Chamber dominated “Paint the Town Red” group who put on “Novato’s Birthday Party” with the blessing of the City Council. That an appropriate arms-length relationship between the City Staff Members and the outside Chamber organization was properly maintained becomes questionable. She is now officially listed on the Chamber’s web site as “supreme volunteer” on “the Chamber Team” along with CEO Coy Smith and his Staff.
Six months prior to the November 7th elections, a pattern emerged of pointed negative commentary aimed at Councilmember Pat Eklund who was up for reelection. The apparent strategy chosen to accomplish the defeat of Eklund was to misleadingly paint her as the “queen of no”.
Lost upon the group of plotters was the reality that the existing Council had a reliable working majority bloc of votes consistently employed to silence the inquisitive Eklund. Athas, Lucan and
Fryday were the actual kings and queen of “no” as in no tolerance for diversity of opinion. There was palpable irritation frequently expressed publicly by the “NO” voting bloc when exposed to Eklund’s laser focus on the actual facts upon which decisions were to be made. The often unprepared “bloc of NO” members appear physically uncomfortable under Eklund’s inquiring and steady focus.
Among the individuals taking negative verbal pot shots at Eklund was Susan Wernick, current Chair of the Novato Planning Commission and a long standing Eklund political adversary.
Wernick publicly refers to her own spurious political pedigree, based solely upon her parents’ apparent political success Mill Valley decades ago.
Susan Wernick’s husband, and State Farm Agent, is Rick Wernick who is the President Elect of the Novato Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. It would surprise few if Mrs. Wernick decided to run for a seat on the City Council despite current denials. With the support of the Chamber’s political machine she would be well financed by Chamber members if she took a shot at displacing current Councilmember Pam Drew.
The Chamber is still smarting from the defeat of long-time ally Jeanne MacLeamy and the success of the hard-working Pam Drew who along with Eklund constitute the loyal opposition to the Chamber’s unquestioning rubber-stamping majority of Lucan, Fryday and Athas.
Eklund has long been an independent force in Novato politics and also someone who defends Novato voters when special interests threaten to derail their wishes. The controlling influence behind the scenes for many years on Novato City decisions is a political operations group within the Novato Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber resents its political initiatives’ motives being occasionally questioned at public Council meetings as not being in the best interest of Novato in general.
Remember, the Chamber of Commerce exists foremost for the benefit of its business members, not necessarily for Novato residents. The Chamber dislikes being unmasked as a special interest group and continually works hard to perpetuate the illusion that what’s good for the Chamber is automatically good for all Novato residents. This is just not so.
County Supervisor Judy Arnold, who represents Novato on the Marin County Board of Supervisors, makes every effort to remind the Marin Board of Supervisors that Novato remains her serfdom. Athas, Lucan and Fryday are her political acolytes. Athas and Lucan are long-standing members of her political posse.
Arnold’s pay-to-play County level special interest donors openly provide financial support to Arnold-designated local area political campaigns beholden to her. Exemplary controllable donors are Team Ghilotti of Petaluma and Maggiora and Ghilotti of San Rafael. Both firms expect a financial payback for their thousands of dollars of donations to Arnold-designated campaigns wherever they may be. After all, they are profit-making businesses, not charities.
Add in San Rafael’s Marin Builders Association and the Dutra Group, and the result is overwhelming financial backing for Arnold-anointed local City Council candidates. This outside money and political payback weakens the democratic process at the local level by intimidating less well financed potential candidates.
Perhaps changing to district elections at the local level will slow the deterioration of local political influence. The campaign costs would be greatly reduced, potentially enabling candidates of moderate means a realistic chance of success. Campaigns would be more focused on neighborhood issues. Independent candidates would have a greater possibility of success, something that would benefit all of us. Let the person with the best solutions win, not necessarily the person who has the most money (particularly those funded by outsiders) or is well connected politically.
The Novato Chamber of Commerce’s political group and Arnold apparently schemed (not necessarily together) to defeat Councilmember Eklund. The Chamber fears Eklund’s insightful and responsible questioning of its motives. And Arnold, who barely survived in her last reelection campaign, would definitely like to rid herself of Eklund’s potential opposition and scrutiny in the future. Eklund might be the one candidate who could beat Arnold. A better-financed Toni Shroyer might also as well.
Arnold apparently has “health issues” as evidenced by occasional publicly slurring of speech and poor articulation. It has reached the “Emperor has no clothes” level. Whatever the situation is it will require papering over.
An effective Eklund political presence at the local and County level is a definite threat to a weakened Arnold who was forced to “pull out all the stops” to avoid defeat by Toni Shroyer. Eklund’s political career had to be “terminated”.
If “termination” required political dirty tricks and gutter-level political tactics, it was on. The collateral damage to the concept of a private citizen successfully running a “clean” campaign for a seat on the City Council was immaterial.
The big guns were in place. The campaign to smash Pat Eklund was unleashed, but it stunningly stalled and collapsed under its own malevolent weight. The “serfs” in Arnold’s Novato hegemony picked up their pitchforks and turned against her slithering backroom political machinations. The political coup attempt began to stagger and descended into desperation. Ultimately, and fortunately for Novato, it failed.
I wanted to provide an update on the Novato Flood Control District (aka Flood Zone 1 or FZ1) Projects that were discussed heavily during the campaign and which were used to promote Measure E tax and alternatively to defend the anti-tax stance – the “NO on Measure E” arguments.
On Thursday November 16th, the first public meeting post-election was held, and I am supremely happy to report all good news.
- All damage to levees reported from last February’s storm has been repaired. – This was one of the points made by proponents of the tax that made up the $1.7 million dollars’ worth of storm damage.
- All pumps have been repaired and are fully functional and ready for the winter. – This was another of the point made by proponents of the ta that made up the $1/7 million dollars’ worth of storm damage.
- Insurance claims were submitted, and payments have already been received for the pump repairs.
- FEMA (Federal Emergency Management) applications have been made to pay for the pump and levee repairs. These FEMA grants are also intended to be used for pump station work. (separate from actual pump)
- The $1.45 million dollars in Grant money that the FZ1 Staff wanted to move from the failed Weir project to the Simmons Slough project back in March was approved. Staff confirmed that the flood zone 1 budget is now increased by that same amount, since the Simmons Slough work had originally been slated to come out of FZ1 budget funds. In other words, that $1.45 is “found money”.
- Staff reiterated that erodible levees performed well last year…”Worked as intended”.
A short discussion of the components and design of the erodible weirs followed after one board member asked for confirmation/clarification of the statement “worked as intended”. The topsoil portion of the weir is designed to “blow out” should pressure from water containment behind it, become too great, thus preventing the entire levee from failing.
Storm waters from 2017 never got high enough to cause such a blow out, and neither did the water levels concern Staff enough for them to help the process along by using backhoes to breach the top of the levees to alleviate water pressure into the Novato Creek section of the system.
- Staff has submitted additional grant applications to FERP (Flood Emergency Response Projects – CA State Department of Water Resources) and FEMA for additional miscellaneous project
funding. Please read the full Staff report linked below for details.
- The highlight of the meeting was that Staff has submitted a grant application to the SFBRA (Measure AA funding authority) for $690,000 for the next phase of studies for the Novato Baylands Restoration Project to get it to 100% studied. What they call “Shovel Ready”. They are competing with other Sonoma County projects. However, it was the only Marin based project submitted.
The Senior Engineer reiterated that the project is a sought-after project. He used the following terms describing it: “Pioneering Project”, “Poster Child” and “Very Attractive” and they would know whether the funds would be approved in January.
The Senior Engineer said they anticipated ultimately going back for construction cost funds once the studies were complete. He also reiterated several times, that NO MATCHING FUNDS were required to win the grant!. I was struck by the number of times he repeated “no matching funds required” given how often we encountered it as an argument in favor of the Measure E tax.
- As far as Highway 37 is concerned – Staff is also working with TAM (Transportation Authority of Marin) to prepare a grant application to Caltrans for improvements to infrastructure to reduce flooding.
The grant actually comes from Caltrans, and if awarded, will allow the Novato Flood Control District to participate in studies and inform Caltrans on the “what’s and how’s” of the final improvements. The grant requires an additional money commitment of $48,000. TAM is committed to providing $24,000. The Board approved the other $24,000. All work would ultimately be the responsibility of and be completed by Caltrans.
Here is the full Staff report: http://www.marinwatersheds.org/documents/FCZ1_AB-Mtg_Staff-Report_111617_.pdf
But, it is important to note that attending FZ1 meetings in person provides additional context and color around live, verbal discussions and shows that the community is indeed involved and watching. I urge everyone to attend at least ONE meeting during the year so that you can put faces to names and ask questions.
This meeting validates the No on E vote in every way. Good job Novato!!
Over the past four weeks, I have received multiple mailers and have seen numerous Facebook posts made up of personal attacks against incumbent Pat Eklund. She is running for her 7th term on the Novato City Council. I have also read Marin IJ Letters to the Editor using “private conversations” as a means of attempting to sway voters against reviewing the issues and the candidates.
This is an election with two incumbents whose records speak for them. The other is newcomer Kevin Morrison whose online posts, tweets and blogs speak loudly about his lack of experience. In his mailers, he chose to distort an incumbent’s record in order to gain votes.
Looking at my ballot, I realized that city council isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about having representation for different points of view. Spending at the city, county, and regional level has become a key issue. We need leaders that can distinguish spending that is based in “need” from spending that is based in “want.”
There are members of the Novato City Council that refuse to make unpopular financial decisions because they fear reprisal come election time.
For example, the decision to add a 3rd SMART station at the city’s expense went against recommendations by the interim city manager Cathy Capriola; Brian Cochran, the city’s respected finance director; and the city staff report. They concluded that the city could not afford it. Despite this, three members of the council voted to borrow and spend millions.
Typically, an election campaign gives voters a choice based on issues like this. But a group, surprisingly made up of men who don’t live in Novato, are making it personal and mirroring Morrison’s negative campaign tactics.
Novato’s leaders have been slow to condemn this activity. In fact, members of Novato’s Chamber of Commerce and the Novato Economic Development Commission have chosen to support the repugnant tactics. Even former Novato City Manager Michael Frank, a resident of Bolinas, has decided to interfere in Novato’ election.
During Frank’s six and a half year tenure as Novato City Manager, Frank’s management style created conflict that put residents in a combative relationship with the city, beginning with the Affordable Housing Element.
Frank’s comments on the Morrison campaign mailer about the incumbent hit a new low by using sexist language to describe her. It reeks of the good old boy network when you count the number of men attempting to destroy a candidate’s entire history of service to her community. If it is effective, this tactic may become the new norm in Novato’s elections.
There should be room on a five-member council for strong women. Campaigning that does not address issues, that lacks context and that attempts to personally demean a candidate should not be tolerated.
The real issues in Novato’s election include balanced development on a local and regional level; the impact of state and local taxes on residents; and the preservation of quality of life in relation to the environment and community.
I am voting for Pat Eklund because she is an experienced, capable leader that seeks to make sure that all voices are represented in council decision-making. Her depth of experience serving on the council is unparalleled.
Pat supports balanced development. But, her votes cannot be bought by developers that would prefer a rubber stamp through existing zoning and environmental impact studies.
A mix of diverse viewpoints is essential to good government. We need more leaders committed to putting the issues of Novato first and for voters to send a message that negative campaigning will not be tolerated.
The ever-popular Pat Eklund is popular for a very good reason. She consistently places Novato’s residents’ interests first. She is determined to bring good things to Novato in character with our town, while preserving all the things we like about Novato’s small-town character and quality of life. She is the only Councilmember possessing the depth of experience enabling her to stand up against regional and county level initiatives that would potentially negatively affect Novato’s small-town character and our quality of life. And, being “retired” she does this fulltime for all of us.
She has worked hard to assure that the conversion of the Hamilton military base to civilian use has met the goals of Novato residents and not solely the profit motives of the developers. She successfully worked within the development process resulting in the hugely successful Hamilton community we know today. Included in the Hamilton conversion process were hundreds of deed-restricted affordable housing units. She has consistently supported sustainable and neighborhood-compatible affordable housing development, but in accordance with Novato’s General Plan. http://novato.org/home/showdocument?id=5906
Pat also drove the establishment of Novato’s Urban Growth Boundary. She played a key role in the $11 million renovation and beautification of Grant Avenue. She supports the renovation of the Novato Theater. Pat was a prime mover on the Council decision to return City Offices to downtown thus re-establishing it as the center of the City. She is a very productive contributor to and protector of the Novato community.
Eklund is for quality development that preserves the character of our Novato neighborhoods. She has pushed back against regional initiatives that drive development without local community control.
Pat is well known as one Councilmember who realizes that a balanced budget is essential to keeping Novato affordable for its existing residents at all income levels. She has resisted the tax-and-spend attitude of the existing majority bloc vote on the current Council that has been unable show fiscal restraint, and in the process making Novato a less affordable place to live.
She has consistently supported sensible development along the North Redwood Blvd Corridor emphasizing it should be walkable and bike friendly, encouraging residents to shop and enjoy new restaurants and entertainment venues.
There is no greener member of the City Council than Eklund. She has the benefit of decades experience designing and directing projects that protect and preserve critical habitat while working for the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Her practical environmental perspective is essential to accomplishing what can be done rather than wasting time pursuing what can’t be done.
As the most experienced Councilmember, Eklund elevates the level of Council debate by challenging Councilmembers’ assumptions that all necessary and relevant facts have been disclosed in proposals by a purpose-driven City Staff whose primary interest may lie with appeasing outside county and regional politicians’ ambitions rather than looking out for the interests of all Novato residents first.
Eklund is the only Councilmember who unflinchingly questions in public the potential ulterior motives behind seemingly innocuous projects proposed by outside Agencies. Her extensive experience and historical knowledge makes her a force to be reckoned with when she serves on regional commissions. Many times, she will fearlessly say what others are afraid to say. To Novato’s benefit, she is tough enough to handle those situations.
Pat Eklund’s independence of and freedom from the outside-of-Novato special interests pressure is legendary. She has by far the largest number of individual donors to her campaign who give what they can afford, in stark contrast to the much fewer, but very large donations of special interests given to other candidates currently in this race. Pat is beholden to no one but the citizens of Novato.
Pat Eklund is one of only two full time Councilmembers, the other being Councilmember Pam Drew. The quality and thoroughness of her work on the Council reflects this. Every City Council needs at least one member possessing the intestinal fortitude to stand up to would-be political intimidation. She is the “battler” for the “silent majority” of residents who expect their representatives to look out for their interests first, so they can focus on raising their children and walking safely on the City’s sidewalks.
Pat Eklund is the only Council candidate deserving of a vote. The other candidates (who by the way are busy working at their other fulltime jobs leaving much less time to work for you) are jointly bogged down in an extremely negative campaign funded by special interests residing outside the City of Novato. Only Eklund has shown poise and class by basing her campaign on her accomplishments and capabilities while looking forward to future changes that would make Novato better for all of us. This is yet one more reason to vote only for Pat Eklund.
The city council race is a sad day in Novato politics. First, Kevin Morrison a new candidate, has been nothing but a negative campaigner against Pat Eklund. He has also exaggerated his work experience as can be clearly seen comparing his on the record campaign statements in forums and his LinkedIn page with his actual work history. Every other day I receive another untruth and misleading negative campaign mailer from Kevin Morrison.
Also this election includes a Political Action Committee (PAC) for Denise Athas created by the Novato Chamber of Commerece that has raised $14,603 in special interests money an an obvious attempt to swing an election for a city council seat for Denise Athas. One contributor alone gave $10,000 to this Chamber PAC for Denise Athas. The contributor, PISF, Inc. can not be found on the California Secretary of State business search.
Business Search – Results The California Business Search is updated daily and reflects work processed through Monday, October 30, 2017.
Results of search for Corporation Name keyword “PISF, Inc.” returned 0 entity records (out of 0 records found).
I plan to only vote for Pat Eklund, who has a distinguished past history on the city council and was responsible for creating the first Urban Growth Boundary up for renewal in this election, the Hamilton conversion to housing from a military base as well as many other great things.
The political use of digital media in the Novato City Council has sunk to an all-time low. Lies, half-truths, and outright deceptions are presented on Facebook political pages as a twisted new norm. It is problematic for Facebook on the local and national level (Russia). By allowing anonymous clearly political “advertisement” pages, Facebook’s credibility index continues to decline.
The more astute observers saw this coming – it was just a matter of time. Now Facebook has a major problem on its hands. Anonymous so-called “advertising” pages relieve authors of any factual accountability. Hidden authors can post accusations as if they are unchallenged “facts” by quickly removing any countervailing postings. Deception breeds easily on Facebook. Fake news rules.
Other so-called informational Facebook pages obstruct posts of opposing opinion thus sanitizing their “information” while protecting their agenda from open public questioning. Most of the general public is completely unaware of these behind-the-scenes Facebook page “cleansing” activities and machinations.
Political dirty trick techniques are unfortunately being employed in the current Novato City Council race. It is very disappointing that these repugnant tactics are being used by political insiders and strategist whose current public image is (at the moment) squeaky clean. They have thrown their ethics under the bus because they can. The new ethically-devoid criterion is “if you can get away with it, do it”.
One example is a recent public disclosure by the 2015 Board President of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, Tim Howard. Howard is the General Manager of the local Marriott Courtyard Hotel, a member of the Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee and a member of the Novato Economic Development Commission. Mr. Howard resides in Petaluma – not Novato.
In a Marin IJ column published on October 5th, reporter Stephanie Weldy questioned Howard regarding his participation in an anonymous Facebook “advertisement” page “Take the NO out of Novato” that first appeared on August 30th and since then has served simply as a platform to relentlessly attack incumbent re-election candidate Pat Eklund. Its sole negative purpose has been to campaign against the popular (for a reason) and very experienced Eklund.
Howard acknowledged to the Marin Independent Journal that he was one of several people involved in establishing the page and declined to say who else was involved. He employed a San Francisco attorney to legally defend his questionable behavior. Howard is a political operative with strong ties to the Novato Chamber of Commerce and does not hide that fact.
The other incumbent Councilmember, who is also the present Mayor of Novato and up for re-election, Denise Athas, has declined to publicly condemn Howard’s and his co-conspirators unethical tactics. This is disappointing as most residents would consider such underhanded schemes appalling. Apparently, the Mayor of Novato thinks it is acceptable behavior.
Adding to the sordid political tactics is a lone newcomer to the race who himself has created several Facebook pages focused only on attacking Eklund, but never Athas. He has never been a President of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, but is a member. Unfortunately for him, his campaign is quickly unraveling as voters get to know him better.
The Chamber’s political strategy cabal has backed away from him since a photograph he posted online of himself posing nude has surfaced. He is a glib and slippery communicator proffering a continual smile while offering simplistic and naïve commentary as to how he would change the world (and Novato belatedly with it). He is about five decades too late. The world has moved on. End of relevance.
Putting the pieces together presents the political scenario that the Novato Chamber of Commerce political strategy team greatly fears Eklund’s cross-examination of proposed City actions that appear suspiciously close to Chamber-first self-serving proposals rather than serving the residents of Novato first, which is Eklund’s strong point. For several years now, the Chamber has enjoyed a controlling block of votes on the Council that slavishly supports its political objectives and policy initiatives.
But, fortunately for all Novato citizens, Councilmembers Eklund and Drew draw public attention to and question those Chamber-backed initiatives that are biased towards its members’ interests, e.g. the expensive downtown train station with no trains stopping there. Eklund and Drew are determined to have an opportunity for fact-based public discussion despite the rubber-stamping Chamber majority voting bloc currently in place on the City Council.
Eklund and Drew press on with limited inside support from a Novato City Staff that claims additional personnel would be required to answer the two Councilmembers’ requests for timely clarification and missing relevant information regarding upcoming Council meeting agenda items. If this is hard to believe, just ask Drew and Eklund. The Staff’s lack of full, timely responses to these Councilmembers’ requests limits the Councilmembers’ ability to function efficiently and effectively for Novato residents.
Frequently, a Staff response is incomplete and/or past due, i.e. unresponsive. Effectively, Councilmembers Drew and Eklund are forced to contend with an adversarial City Staff attitude as well as the Chamber of Commerce’s pre-determined voting bloc – Athas, Lucan, Fryday. Novato residents lose when critical pertinent information is restricted in this way.
It is time for Novato’s voters to rise above the current sewer of political dirty tricks and vote only for Eklund and send a message to Athas that anonymous political hit pieces should be condemned. Eklund is the only candidate with clean hands and who looks after the interests of all Novato residents.
Novato Marriott Courtyard Hotel General Manager Admits Establishing Social Media Political Hit Piece on Facebook
In a recent column by Marin IJ Reporter Stephanie Weldy, the Novato Marriott Courtyard Hotel General Manager, Tim Howard, admitted he was personally involved in establishing a social media hit piece on Facebook whose sole purpose is to incessantly attack senior Novato City Councilmember and current candidate for re-election Pat Eklund.
Howard is not a resident of Novato. And, this has now become a problem for Marriott as well in that one of its General Managers has become a controversial and very public outsider participant in a local political campaign. Marriott deliberately and publicly maintains a non-political local presence serving the whole community, but its General Manager, keep in mind, does not reside in Novato yet has deliberately initiated an extraordinarily negative social media hit piece via a very one-sided vicious Facebook page driving division within the community. Marriott is quickly developing an image problem here locally.
Public corporations zealously guard their reputations in communities, especially when they rely on all segments of that community for indirect financial support, local promotion, and maintenance of nearby roads and police services benefitting that business. When a non-resident Marriott employee publicly makes a very partisan attempt to become an influential and prominent player within a Marriott hotel’s local political arena, alarm bells go off in its corporate public relations office.
As a private citizen, that employee has every right to participate in political campaigns. However, when that employee publicly leverages her/his position within the Marriott corporation as a pulpit for public comment or as a platform for public comment, the Marriott corporation is ineluctably and publicly linked to that individual’s actions and commentary – something considered extraordinarily risky for the reputation of a service business such as a hotel.
More problematic for Marriott is Mr. Howard’s suspicious public refusal to reveal the identities of the other participants involved in the establishment of the nefarious media hit piece. A logical conclusion is the other co-conspirators have something to hide, or feel they would suffer public condemnation if their identities were known thus revealing their media hit piece as a political “dirty trick”, i.e. an “underhanded unethical political activity or action designed to discredit an opponent.”
The Novato Chamber of Commerce is inescapably tied to this sordid political mess as Mr. Howard is a recent past President of the Chamber as is Denise Athas, another past President of the Chamber who is running for re-election. The voting records and patterns of Chamber-endorsed members of the Novato City Council confirm the Chamber’s continual self-serving involvement and dominating influence on City policy and Council decisions as well as the Council’s conformance to the Chamber’s economic agendas.
Marriott would do well to figure out how to extract itself from direct association with a contentious local political smear campaign. Mr. Howard may be a good person, but because of a serious error in judgement on his part his Marriott employer is linked with his destructive deceitful political activity. This does not make Marriott look good.
Smear tactics are an ugly side of overly aggressive snarky political campaigns. The hit piece media page established in part by Mr Howard and his unidentified accomplices is unceasingly being used to dishonestly hurt the reputation of a dedicated, experienced, and very capable public official.
Novato and Marriott should not tolerate such unclean political behavior, particularly by an employee who continually refers to his position at Marriott when making comments for public consumption.
CO$T (Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers) is a new taxpayer advocate group in Marin County. It grew out of County residents increasing frustration with the never-ending incremental increases in parcel taxes and fees. Its position is it is not against all tax increases, but most proposed increases are a reflection of poor quality planning and governance.
The ever-increasing level of taxation in Marin has financially stressed Marin’s middle-class residents to a point where relocating is increasingly a sensible option. CO$T’s aim is to put the brakes on local and regional agencies that continue to perceive residents as an ATM machine to fund “would be nice to have” projects instead of infrastructure upgrades that maintain the quality of life such as local and County roads.
As part of CO$T’s efforts to educate and make taxpayers aware of what is coming in proposed regional and local taxes, CO$T presents periodicTaxpayer Forums where experts describe and explain what may happen and the consequences of direct and indirect proposed tax increases.
As part of this on-gong effort CO$T is conducting its next Taxpayer Forum on Thursday October 19th at the Corte Madera Community Center. There is no charge but a donation would be appreciated.
The featured speaker is Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who is eminently qualified to provide residents with grassroots perspective on current governmental agency and legislative strategies to extract increased taxes from the Marin community.
Of particular interest to homeowners is the current State Legislature’s assault on Proposition 13 that limits annual property tax increases. The current government strategy is to fund operating and maintenance expenses through carefully stage-managed increases in property taxes, use taxes and inflated administrative fees. The repeal of Prop 13 is the “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow for ambitious “tax and spend” politicians.
Parking for the event is easy and free.
Election Positions; Sensible Tax Principles; October 19 CO$T Taxpayer Forum
We’ve been very busy at CO$T. It’s election season in some Marin districts. And we’re also gearing up for our big fall CO$T Taxpayer Forum public meeting on October 19. Please see reminder and full deltails below.
On the election front, CO$T has taken the following positions (click on links for details):
- NO on Measure E (Flood Zone 1 Novato parcel tax)
- YES on Measure B (Larkspur Essential services tax)
- No on Measure A (Lagunitas School District parcel tax — together with district residents, we co-authored the Rebuttal to the Argument For Measure A)
We’ve also laid down some markers, “CO$T’s Sensible Tax Principles“, to guide taxpayers and our public officials as they consider new taxes and fees. We’re optimistic this will have a positive effect.
You can make a difference by being educated, informed, and VISIBLE. Your participation sends a message. We hope you will join us on October 19, at CO$T’s Taxpayer Forum with Jon Coupal. Read on, and sign up!
CO$T Forum on TAXES – October 19
Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers’ (CO$T) Public Event
Guest Speaker: Jon Coupal
President, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
California’s Preeminent Taxpayer Rights Advocate
Tax Tsunami Sparking A New CA Taxpayer Revolt?
WHAT: Thursday October 19, CO$T presents a special opportunity to hear Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
WHY: As the 40th anniversary of Howard Jarvis’ Proposition 13 approaches, another taxpayer revolt is brewing. A tsunami of recently-enacted tax-hiking CA bills and a game-changing court decision are about to drive your taxes and fees even higher. Jon Coupal is in the thick of all this, spearheading taxpayer rights efforts and legal challenges. Find out what happens next… and what you can do.
WHERE: Corte Madera Community Center, 498 Tamalpais Drive, Corte Madera
WHEN: Thursday, October 19, 2017
* 6:30 pm – Doors Open *
* 7:00 pm Meeting Starts *
* 8:30 pm Adjourn*
* Same day registrants: Please sign in by 6:40PM *
DONATION: Suggested donation: $15. Give what you can afford. No one turned away.
PRE-REGISTER HERE: Skip the registration line at this popular event!
Early registrants entered in raffle prize drawing.