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Why Would a Diligent Councilmember Become a Political Target?

Posted by on 2:31 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Opinion | 0 comments

Why Would a Diligent Councilmember Become a Political Target?

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.

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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.

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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.

Personal Attacks and Disinformation Plague City Council Race

Posted by on 3:57 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Opinion | 0 comments

Personal Attacks and Disinformation Plague City Council Race

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 Denouement of the Reign of Citizen Frank

Posted by on 8:30 am in Featured, Opinion | 4 comments

The Denouement of the Reign of Citizen Frank

Reprint of Article August 6, 2015

Novato City Manager Michael Frank’s August 5th resignation has been received locally with surprise and welcome relief. For the casually interested, it was a surprise. But for those who have closely followed the machinations of his administration, it was overdue.

5 year forecast

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Manager Frank’s odyssey to remake Novato’s city administration into what he felt represented a first class operation staffed with capable but expensive lieutenants in so called “core” positions came to grief when reality met the road. Novato’s financial bubble burst when a ½% temporary Measure F tax was not converted into a face-saving permanent tax that Frank’s personnel hiring actions required. For once, his uncompromising thumbs up or down ultimatum to the Council failed.

City Manager Frank was caught out having hired additional staff, the approval of which was previously rubber stamped by a City Council Majority known as the KLAM Bakers (Kellner, Lucan, Athas, MacLeamy). They are just as guilty as Manager Frank for placing Novato into the financial hole it now finds itself. The re-election of any of the KLAM Bakers is a vote of approval for the financial train wreck engendered by City Manager Frank and themselves.

Council member Lucan deserves credit for providing the critical vote against making the temporary Measure F tax permanent. He also deserves credit for helping to create the financial fiasco by voting with the KLAM during the previous five years.

The community should thank Pat Eklund, Pam Drew, and Al Dugan for not letting Manager Frank continue one of the most Machiavellian administrations in recent memory. It was all about me, Michael, what I want and “know should be done”. It was sneaky, crafty, deliberately misinformative, misleading, and in some political wonk’s eyes at times downright dishonest. White lies are still lies despite being political.

Council Member Eklund came under intense pressure from fellow Council Members MacLeamy, Kellner, and Athas to toe the line and to stop publically asking potentially embarrassing questions regarding Frank’s assertions and actions. Eklund did not fold. As the most experienced Council Member, Eklund actually knows how past important issues have been resolved at the local and county level. When the City Manager and the KLAM Bakers attempted to reinterpret history, Eklund could be counted on to say “not true”, this is what actually happened.

Caught in the act by the facts, the KLAM and their man decided to shoot the messenger Eklund by limiting her public comments during Council discussions on issues. To hamper Eklund’s efforts further, City Manager Frank delayed responses to Council Member Eklund’s written inquiries regarding apparent contradictions in actual facts and Manager Frank’s interpretation of these facts was indelibly aligned with the end he was trying to achieve, i.e. affordable housing quotas, PDA’s, unneeded major Regional Transit Hub creation at Grant and Redwood, etc. It becamsly foxe nasty, but the steadfast Eklund stayed the course.

Meanwhile, Al Dugan continued to use Freedom of Information Act inquiries to the regional, county and local agencies in order to break through the bureaucratic code of silence that was providing cover for these regulatory agencies not wanting public involvement. The agencies pushed back against Dugan’s requests, fearful of what might be revealed. Dugan increased the pressure for compliance by publically calling out the reluctant bureaucrats. They retreated into an uncooperative defensive mode.

City Manager Frank’s behind the scenes quasi-ethical agreements, communications, and negotiations between these furtive regulatory agencies began to see the light of day, and that light was becoming increasingly unfavorable.

The subtle intrusive hand of Supervisor Steve Kinsey into Novato’s politics became increasingly evident. Novato’s supine Supervisor Arnold allowed Supervisor Kinsey to effectively become the Supervisor for two districts. Arnold’s main contribution to Novato has been her absence. Supervisor Kinsey’s hypocritical ultra-progressive political machinations indirectly took control of Novato’s planning and community development with the compliance of the politically and administratively ambitious City Manager Frank. Kinsey became kingmaker and Frank a willing knave.

One can only smile when Arnold took the occasion of Frank’s resignation announcement to publically attack her old nemesis Eklund in the recent IJ article noting Frank’s impending departure. By using the platform of a resignation announcement to publically and personally attack an individual City Council Member Arnold revealed more about her own self than anything else. The fact that the incumbent Arnold barely scrapped by with a 215 vote majority in her last election victory over political rookie Toni Shroyer speaks for itself.Letter

Not forgotten is City Manager Frank’s appearance in a last-minute video hit piece supporting Arnold’s campaign. Frank’s personally disparaging remarks towards Shroyer’s pseudo City campaign pamphlet had Santa Rosa politicos rolling in the aisles laughing because they had used a similar very public piece of campaign literature while Frank was working there. Frank’s claiming total surprise upon seeing the Shroyer campaign literature was too much for Santa Rosa politicos to keep a straight face.

Arnold ran a filthy campaign, mostly funded by outside special interests such as social housing developers and sycophant consultants. Frank willingly contributed to the dirt.

Typically, a city council makes policy and the City Manager carries out those policies. The laid back style of the KLAM Bakers incredibly handed City policy making over to Frank for five years, who alone ran Novato’s government from an operational and policy perspective.

Along with Al Dugan, Pam Drew continually fired away at City Manager Frank’s obvious complete control and management of the City Council KLAM Bakers. Unprincipled politicians and camerabureaucrats have a great fear of being videotaped and becoming publically accountable. Drew would arrange for taping of rogue committee meetings or she would actually tape them herself. She would edit them and post them on YouTube for public view. This was a frightful thing for insiders used to pre-arranged conclusions, charade charrettes, pre-programmed public stakeholder performances, etc.

The video-taping results were very effective. Political conspirators and the merely lazy found themselves in the crossfire of Eklund, Drew and Dugan. What was being revealed was ugly and the public began to pay attention, especially to a projected $4 million structural City operating deficit by 2020.

In 2010, a small projected operational deficit was to be eliminated by voters agreeing to a temporary sales tax known as Measure F. With Manager Frank’s increased rubber stamped administrative spending, the budget deficit grew larger. Many residents felt they had been fooled and they didn’t like it.

It was classic “bait and switch” manipulation of the public’s good will and many people became angry. They expected concrete results from Measure F but instead received City Manager Frank’s interpretation of Measure F as “backfill” for increasing administrative costs. Particularly galling to voters was City Manager Frank publically declaring that the financial mess created was because Novato residents didn’t tax themselves enough.

Hopefully, the coming November City Council elections will enable voters to effect needed change in the Novato City Council to right this ship. The historical no-chance-to-win candidates should withdraw for once and let the candidates with a realistic chance of success slug it out. For the greater good of Novato, the perennial candidates who have every right to run but whose end effect is to dissipate votes over a large field of candidates should give this election a miss. It’s just too important. For Novato’s future recovery they should contribute this bit. Having too many candidates just benefits incumbents who are frequently supported and funded by both inside and outside special interests and their “pay to play” expectations. Under these circumstances, the incumbents survive once again and nothing changes except the size of the deficit in the City budget.

The bottom line is that Michael Frank’s first foray as a city manager, to a large extent in many ways, ended in failure. The City was in financial trouble when he arrived. It is in financial trouble when he leaves. It will not look good on his resume’. He is leaving under a cloud, whether he admits it or not and however stages his exit. A pre-emptive resignation may have avoided having to answer the question “Why did you get us into this mess? You are supposed to be a financial expert?” But, the mess he left will follow him. Good managers do not leave a city in a financial hole. This will stick to his professional reputation.

Frank did some very good things and some very bad things. Working with the public is not his strong suit. Publically, he has been condescending towards those who disagree with him. At other times he appeared to take policy criticism as being personal. As long as he was safely protected by an unquestioning, dependable super majority on the Council he operated autonomously. Once that super majority was threatened and possibly lost, he bolted for the door.Parachute

Novato city employee Frank willingly became involved in the last local District’s County Supervisor race while serving as a City Manager. By publically giving his personal opinion on a Shroyer political mailer shortly before the election date he injected himself as a political player. On May 29th just days before the polls opened Frank’s remarks became part of a last minute hit piece video posted by “Novato Life” disparaging candidate Toni Shroyer. At that point private pre-election polls showed Shroyer was slightly ahead in her race with incumbent and unpopular Judy Arnold.

Frank’s involvement in the disparaging video hit piece may have convinced enough undecided potential Shroyer voters to stick with Arnold, providing the narrow margin of victory. No wonder Arnold worships Manager Frank (as she does fellow traveler Supervisor Steve Kinsey). Frank may have won the race for her.

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Code of Ethics refers to “…committed to equity, transparency, integrity, stewardship of public resources, political neutrality, logo_icmaand respect for the rights and responsibility of elected officials…” Tenet 7 – Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators.  Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body.”

Technically, Manager Frank did not participate in “…the election of the members of the employing legislative body.” However, for a first-time City Manager to inject himself at the last minute into a close political race involving his supervisorial district, the winner of which will very definitely have a direct effect on his “employing legislative body”, i.e. the Novato City Council, is very questionable ethically, despite having every right to do so as a citizen.

This totally political ploy was a defining moment for Michael Frank in many ways. Any prior perception of him being a politically neutral City Manager was destroyed. He identified himself as just another political apparatchik.

Hopefully, Novato will quickly recover from Michael Frank’s administration. He is a very polarizing individual who creates an environment not conducive to achieving consensus. His future working as a City Manager is doubtful as a consensus building capability in that position is definitely preferred for long term success.
Novato can and will do better when City Manager Frank has departed. It’s up to the new City Council after the November election to get it right.


Why ONLY Pat Eklund Deserves Your Vote

Posted by on 4:47 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Opinion | 0 comments

Why ONLY Pat Eklund Deserves Your Vote

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.


Click here to make a donation to Pat Eklund’s Campaign


Why I’m going to vote only for Pat Eklund

Posted by on 2:57 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Opinion | 0 comments

Why I’m going 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.

Click here to make a donation to Pat Eklund’s Campaign

Nasty Politics, Dirty Tricks, and Facebook in the Novato City Council Race

Posted by on 4:50 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Opinion | 1 comment

Nasty Politics, Dirty Tricks, and Facebook in the Novato City Council Race

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.


Click here to make a donation to Pat Eklund’s Campaign


Novato Marriott Courtyard Hotel General Manager Admits Establishing Social Media Political Hit Piece on Facebook

Posted by on 2:50 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Opinion | 1 comment

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.



Taxpayer Revolt Moves Forward

Posted by on 3:35 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Opinion | 0 comments

Taxpayer Revolt Moves Forward

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):

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.



Measure E Support Erodes with Novato’s Voters

Posted by on 4:42 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Opinion | 0 comments

Measure E Support Erodes with Novato’s Voters

Support for Measure E has significantly decreased with voters who are becoming aware that it is essentially a duplicate of Measure AA passed last year. Novato is being asked to pay twice for the same project according to the ballot language – see below.

Click image to enlarge add Ctrl +++


This public comparison has forced Measure E proponents into “what we really mean” mode thereby damaging their credibility even further. Such “explanations” and interpretations historically have been used to justify diversion of funds taxpayers thought were going to one purpose but intended to be spent on another. It’s the time tested “bait and switch” political game.

There is no flood control crisis in Novato. The Novato Flood Control District’s own reports confirm this is a manufactured “crisis”. The District is proposing to tear down levees that successfully met the challenge of last January’s record rainfall. There is no inability-to-control-flooding issue. However, the District is using flood control imagery to drive unnecessary taxation of Novato residents to fund regional level projects.

The applicable criteria for action should be necessary improvement. That criteria is especially critical when it involves “other peoples’ money” such as taxpayers being hit yet again with another increase in parcel taxes on already economically stretched homeowners and renters. Yes, renters will pay the parcel tax when landlords raise monthly rents to reflect the increased tax burden.

Additionally, the “low income exemption” for seniors is not what it appears to be. It is very likely, if not probable, that a voter will be classified as low income but will still be required to pay the tax.

The ballot language does not define “low income”, which the County Staff has reserved the right to define and recommend to the County Board of Supervisors after the election. In Marin there are three Federal categories of “low income”. Common sense dictates that if the purpose of Measure E is to maximize the raising of tax funds, the necessary consequence is to restrict exemptions to the very minimum. This means only the lowest category of “low income” residents will be eligible for the exemption.

Incredibly, Measure E’s proponents would have Novato voters believe that If Novatoans don’t tax themselves the city will suffer significant flooding. Not true according to the District’s own staff reports.

Yes, Measure AA funds are already defined and scheduled to be used to address future flooding issues as listed below.

Click image to enlarge add Ctrl +++

The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority has made it very clear with its Examples of Projects List that it will be involved in the design and funding of flood control as well as habitat restorations projects in the North Bay, including Marin. If Novato enacts Measure E funding, the Authority will likely take funds currently designated for Novato and transfer them to another area. We’ve seen this before.

The Novato Flood Control District is desperately attempting to “spin” Measure E as being for projects not part of the SF Bay Restoration Authority’s agenda. However, the Authority’s portfolio of responsibility and sphere of influence includes projects “…along its shoreline, and associated flood management and public access infrastructure” and any adjacent projects that potentially impact shoreline projects. This includes the Novato Flood Control District.

Measure AA already has funding allocated for projects to improve Hwy 37 and restoration of natural habitat for Novato wetlands. Double taxation is not fair to Novato property owners or to renters.

There are valid reasons why support for Measure continues to erode. Very disturbing are the unnecessary destruction of existing levees for flood control, the duplication of projects that the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority has in place, and recent proponents’ self-serving interpretations and explanations of what the ballot language “actually means” alone justify voting NO.

Only 20% of any Measure E funds would go to reducing ”…community and roadway flooding in the City of Novato” according to the County’s own fact sheet in support of Measure E. This fact alone creates reasonable and serious doubt as to whether Novato would get what it paid for in new Measure E taxes.

Novato must vote NO on Measure E. Novato has already done what is reasonable by supporting the passage of Measure AA in 2016 for flood control and habitat restoration projects. Enough is enough.



For additional information go to the No on Measure E website: www.nonovatoflood.org

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The NOT SO SMART Train Project

Posted by on 4:24 pm in Featured, Opinion, Uncategorized | 1 comment

The NOT SO SMART Train Project

Everyone likes the idea of traveling by train. From the Lionel toy trains of the distant past to the dreamy concept of high speed rail travel up and down the State of California, trains conjure up a reassuring vision of peacefully riding the rails. When it comes to trains, that’s as good as it gets.

The stark reality is trains are heavily subsidized transportation for the few who ride them. It is very expensive. It is paid for by a steadily shrinking hard working middle class and increasingly by those below the middle class through income taxes, sales taxes, special taxes, bond payments, fees, and more. This is how subsidized public transportation is paid for in Marin County.

The not so SMART train project rides the crest of the wave of concern over projected consequences of a current trend in global warming, enabling SMART to rise from the ashes of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad and microscopically affect greenhouse gas reduction goals by theoretically removing large numbers of commuters from their autos to instead ride the SMART passenger rail transit system. Actuality, it’s a bottomless money pit.

There are many valid reasons why SMART will probably be a $1 billion abyss of wasted tax dollars. There is a lot of “hoping” by taxpayers it will not come to that. Historically though, passenger trains become just that – an added tax burden with its knock-on effect of a lower quality of life and less disposable income for families. It ends up being a monumental tax payer subsidized transportation system for the few commuters that choose to use it.

Whatever the outcome, SMART and its station locations will be tactically used to drive unwanted high-density housing development under the guise of “saving the planet”. The reality is SMART’s existence will be used to ensure a continuing flow of political donations from developers, consultants, construction and governmental employee unions. The current concern about global warming is conveniently used to ensure the special interests’ ecosystem continues to operate in good form.

The special interests’ ecosystem encompasses all government agency planners, their legions of expensive codependent consultants and advocative tax-exempt foundations. The coin of the realm for the beneficiaries of this grand scheme is “other people’s money”, i.e. the taxpayer whose declining quality of life is starkly illustrated by the sorry condition of roads traveled to get to work and back home again.

There are two Marin County volunteer civic organizations who have made a grassroots effort to engage the programmatic advocacy by self-interested appointed governmental agencies who have arrogantly assumed they know what is best for your Marin quality of life and lifestyle. Two organizations, the Marin Coalition and Citizen Marin, tell the other side of the story. In single-political-party Marin these two groups stand up and publicly challenge the carefully framed public “informational presentations” of selected and filtered “facts” by the special interests that are deemed necessary to reach a pre-determined conclusion. City Community Development Agencies and Planning Departments justify their worth funding and promoting this charade.

In Novato, the special interests are so strong and politically entrenched they easily bulldozed a passive majority of the Novato City Council into building a downtown train station, paying $5 million for it and then giving it to SMART all without any obligation by SMART to ever even use the station. The Novato Chamber of Commerce and Metropolitan Transit Commission have that much control/leverage on the present Novato City Council.

Recently, Michael Arnold, an economist living in Novato, presented at a Marin Coalition meeting a clear, concise, and easily understandable review of how SMART has deliberately refused to be truthful to taxpayers in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

The hyperlink below will bring you up to date on SMART’s latest financial shenanigans. Mr. Arnold has verified SMART’s deceitful financial behavior carried out over the last 10 years. His facts stand, as evidenced by SMART’s refusal to supply any rebuttal to Mr. Arnold’s facts at the Marin Coalition meeting despite numerous requests. Shame on SMART.


This fast-moving 30-minute presentation uses simple/interesting graphs and charts to verify Mr. Arnold’s points and premises. The quality of Mr. Arnold’s presentation reflects his work as a lecturer at UC Berkeley and Dominican University of California in San Rafael.

Providing depth and breadth to the deceptive rational promulgated for the formation of SMART is Richard Hall’s presentation at a Citizen Marin meeting in November 2014 at the San Rafael City Council Chambers. SMART’s formation is viewed from the perspectives of several concerned resident groups in Marin County.

If you are limited in time, just fast forward to the 38m 30s point to Richard Hall’s presentation.


Mr. Hall is eloquent and clear in his illustration of what facts SMART and the Marin Board of Supervisors held back from their constituents during the SMART formative discussions. Had Richard Hall been allowed equivalent access to the Marin print media establishment in the same way as the Marin Board of Supervisors, SMART would probably not exist today and $1 billion potentially not be unwisely spent.

The Marin Coalition can be reached through their website at marincoalition.org. Through the Coalition’s monthly luncheons featuring presentations on both sides of a potentially contentious issue, residents can become aware and informed of its implications well before political action is taken. It is a friendly and enjoyable experience to hear both sides of the story without all the drama.