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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.
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.
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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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.
Novato Babe Ruth has been a wonderful non-profit in Novato for decades. Over 100 of Novato’s Youth between the ages of 13 through 15 play baseball each year through this organization. Babe Ruth has to fund-raise $10,000 each year in order to pay the Novato Unified School District (NUSD) for the Field Use Fees which have averaged around $10,000 each year. Although NUSD provides Babe Ruth with a 25% discount on an already over inflated fee, Babe Ruth scrambles annually to fund-raise. Babe Ruth Volunteers maintain the Sinaloa and San Jose Fields, keep them safe for our children and keep them in excellent condition. San Marin High School Baseball enjoys the well maintained field at Sinaloa to play on. Babe Ruth also maintains the San Jose Field where Novato High School Baseball Players also enjoy a safe field to play on courtesy of Babe Ruth.
Novato Homeowners pay four taxes to NUSD (Basic tax, two school bonds [which seniors are not exempt from] and a parcel tax). Even with all of these taxes NUSD benefits from, NUSD still charges Babe Ruth to use the fields that Babe Ruth volunteers maintain and the taxpayer pays for. As a result, the Babe Ruth Baseball Players are selling Dog Treats so they can pay NUSD for this “fifth tax.”
Why NUSD? Why?
Novato Babe Ruth is not able to provide as many scholarships as they would like to for high risk children, which include children of color, because of NUSD’s wants their money. When our Novato kids are engaged in a healthy activity it keeps them focused and busy, verses an alternative activity that may not be so positive.
Please support the children of Novato (and Homeward Bound) by buying these Dog Treats. Homeward Bound and Babe Ruth will be splitting the profits. With the money the children raise, the funds will be turned over to NUSD.
Please contact me at Toni@Bradleyrealestate.com or call/text 415-640-2754 if you would like to order some dog treats.
Wagster Treats are full of healthy dog treat ingredients.We use human-grade, vegan ingredients, selected for their healthful benefits for dogs.
Last week, the Marin IJ published an article on the approval of “form-based code” zoning by the Novato Planning Commission for the entire Northwest Quadrant of the Novato. In that article, commission chairwoman Susan Wernick said the zoning plan offers a good design.
This assessment of course is absurd. The role of zoning is to decide land use, prevent overdevelopment and assure there is enough parking; not leave the issue of overdevelopment and parking to be solved by residents later.
Ms. Wernick is stating an obvious impact of form-based code. Why would she approve this new zoning code knowing of this threat?
The form-based code zoning the Planning Commission approved will allow Novato’s Northwest Quadrant to become a new San Rafael Canal area in Novato, with inadequate parking subsequently flooding parking overflow to the adjacent neighborhoods.
— Al Dugan, Novato
For three years (2012 to 2015), our group (representatives from 20 neighborhoods all across the city, backed by more than 600 supporters) worked tirelessly to educate the public, lobby the city council and work with the Department of Planning and Development to close the loopholes that a handful of developers were using to justify the construction of towering, three-story homes in the backyards and side yards of existing homes.
See how our efforts closed many of those loopholes.
See a summary of all that transpired during our campaign.
To counter our efforts, the developers hired a full-time lobbyist and formed a lobbying group with the appealing name Smart Growth Seattle. That group, led by lobbyist Roger Valdez, proved especially effective at pressuring city council members and confusing the public (see a summary of the misleading arguments).
In the end, our efforts to close the most outrageous small-lot-development building-code loopholes was so successful that the development of backyard / side yard houses in the city of Seattle has slowed dramatically — an accomplishment that made the developers’ lobbyist furious (see his angry blog post).
The mayor’s new plans
In June of 2015, Mayor Murray called for the Department of Planning and Development to be “dismantled.” Its director retired, and an all-new department was created (the Office of Planning and Community Development) to better plan neighborhood development. That seemed like a good step in the right direction.
But then in July of 2015, Mayor Murray said he was supporting a list of recommendations that would TRIPLE the housing density in single-family neighborhoods. According to the Seattle Times, the mayor’s plan to rezone all the single-family neighborhoods would mean developers could replace one single-family home (on a standard size lot) with three new, potentially much larger homes.
However, after Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote several very critical columns about the mayor’s idea, and neighborhoods all across the city complained vehemently to the mayor and city council members, the mayor backtracked on his plans to “upzone” the city, but continues to push for other ways to build more housing.
Our group has disbanded. Our work to eliminate the most egregious small-lot building-code loopholes is finished. And we leave it to Seattle Fair Growth to battle against the mayor’s new development plans.
To see photos of side yard/backyard house projects, click here.
See all the news coverage this issue has generated.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to avoid living next to one of these projects.
Looming SMART Arrival Creates Increased Traffic Congestion in San Rafael?
Reprinted from the Marin IJ
Drivers and transit center users in San Rafael are anticipating Sonoma-Marin Area Transit rail service to commence this spring. However, the subsequent extension of SMART to Larkspur puts in motion changes to roads, and the Bettini bus transit center is likely to snarl traffic in downtown San Rafael and potentially Highway 101.
Residents and bus passengers using the center might expect appropriate foresight and planning, but as reported by IJ columnist Dick Spotswood, San Rafael “officials are waiting for SMART’s first trips to determine on-the-ground traffic impacts and only then deal with the problem.”
The impact of SMART extending to Larkspur imposes significant changes to traffic in San Rafael:
- Second and Third streets, with 50,000 daily vehicle trips, will experience delays from trains crossing four times an hour during peak hours.
- The Bettini center, serving 9,000 daily bus riders, must be moved as SMART’s tracks to Larkspur bisect bus platforms. No place has yet been identified to park hundreds of buses entering and exiting the center. The “interim plan” is to park these buses on already congested streets for several years.
- Traffic congestion caused by buses and crossing guards could prevent cars from exiting Highway 101, lengthening commute times for 217,000 daily car drivers.
Why? To make way for a train that SMART projects, in its environmental report, will serve just 231 daily riders, a number not attained until 2035.
A new grassroots organization has formed — Save Our San Rafael — to advocate more rational planning performed in advance of permitting SMART to be extended to Larkspur. This would include a full analysis of the traffic impacts.
Key questions include where to put the relocated transit center, how much it will cost and what to do in an interim period likely to persist for many years.
Exactly how many Golden Gate and Marin Transit buses will fit on city streets, how passengers will safely make connections and how this will impact traffic have not been disclosed.
The San Rafael City Council will consider alternatives at future public meetings.
How much traffic will be created?
According to city staff, the city has no plan to analyze whether trains crossing Second, Third and Fourth streets and Fifth and Mission avenues four times an hour will inhibit cars exiting the freeway. So far, nothing official has been disclosed or made available to the public.
If cars are backed into the gridlock that already exists on Highway 101, hundreds of thousands of commuters on the regional freeway will experience even longer commutes and emit more pollutants — including greenhouse gases — into the atmosphere.
San Rafael’s public works department has claimed an environmental impact analysis is not required. While it may not be legally required, it is morally required.
The City Council and the public ought to be provided the information as to whether SMART’s congestion increasing extension actually increases or decreases emissions.
The city’s wait-and-see approach comes with serious consequences. Once the train crosses Third, under federal law, there is nothing the city can do about the additional traffic.
We propose a logical alternative: Follow the successful quiet zone process implemented by Mayor Gary Phillips. The City Council held three public hearings to consider quiet zones. They were such a success that the method used by Mayor Phillips is being followed by Novato and Sonoma County.
The City Council needs to first conduct a thorough traffic analysis, then repeat this proven approach.
The current wait-and-see approach sets the city on an irreversible disaster course. Save Our San Rafael seeks to put planning on the right track to truly relieve traffic and fight climate change.
Richard Hall is a transportation and planning activist in Marin and one of the founders of Save Our San Rafael.
I sent this letter to Mayor Phillips last Dec. 13th. Never got a response from him. I did forward it to the San Rafael City Council weeks later and got an optimistic response from Kate Colins. Here’s the letter:
Dear Mayor Phillips,
I am a 20 year resident in San Rafael. For the past 32 years I’ve been a licensed contractor in the State of California. I am a consultant with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and a board director for my 75 home town home association.
As a frequent commuter for my contracting business both here and in communities north and south, I have plenty of experience with our daily commute, a commute that has become more clogged and stressful as recent traffic studies have confirmed.
I am concerned with the forthcoming traffic impacts that the SMART rail service will have on the streets of San Rafael, and communities south, as the rail line is slated to extend towards Larkspur Landing. As a sitting member of the Board of Directors for SMART as well as the mayor of San Rafael, you have the unique position to have influence and impacts in both places. A recent back up of traffic from 101 south to the Heatherton Street on-ramp to Mission Street because of SMART train testing through San Rafael has caused concern, that this potentially dangerous backup may be multiplied many times once the trains begin operating at full service. The back ups and potential for delays will most likely echo onto the many rail crossings from San Rafael to Larkspur.
In light of this, doesn’t it seem wise to do a “real live” traffic study in San Rafael before fully committing to the Larkspur extension? Given that the rail service to San Rafael is a done deal, the city would serve as a great testing ground for real time traffic flow with the following innovative experiment- for a week long period, have the SMART rail-crossing-traffic-barriers programmed to function as if the trains were on a full service schedule. No trains would be needed, just the traffic crossing barriers programmed to function as if real trains were making their trips, at Mission Street, Fifth Street and Fourth Street. Traffic cams could store the results. There have been calculations by SMART that have attempted to simulate this condition, but they remain calculations and not real world scenarios. I think frequent commuters like myself and the citizens who use downtown San Rafael and the streets on the way to Larkspur, would appreciate the concern shown to them by such an experiment. If anything, the experiment would help engineers address any potential, “real” problems that may surface as a result.
Thanks for your attention.
Wow, this was hard to find.
Thank you Richard for adding a voice of reason to this issue. It has been sorely lacking.
The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) is in the process of applying a full court press on all Marin city councils to obtain their support to pressure the State of California legislature to authorize a ½% increase in Marin’s sales tax rate by passing California Senator McGuire’s proposed state transportation bill SB-1 that would modified to include allowing TAM to seek approval to raise Marin’s sales tax by ½%.
To that end, TAM has created an artificial deadline of “mid-February” to apply pressure on each City Council in Marin for an all-too-hasty carte blanche approval. TAM in turn wants to spend the new tax-created funds on whatever TAM wants. TAM’s spending priorities do not address local traffic congestion and disintegrating roads.
What is not mentioned by TAM spokespersons is Marin’s Senator Mike McGuire’s proposed SB-1 currently in the legislative in-box includes sizeable additional new transportation taxes on Marin drivers.
The deadline for formal submittal of new Senate Bills is February 17th. A city council voting to take a “position” of support (TAM’S arcane terminology) before TAM’s “mid-February” deadline clearly links it to McGuire’s February 17th deadline. If all eleven Marin cities vote to support lifting the existing local sales tax “cap” the McGuire could easily insert it without controversy into McGuire’s SB-1 before the senate bill deadline
The reality is that TAM already gets under Measure A ½ percent of Marin’s sales taxes very little of which is spent on improving local roads. The existing TAM tax does not expire until 2025. Therefore, there is no immediate TAM funding crisis.
TAM has not denied it would attempt to pass a new ½% transportation tax while the existing ½% Measure A transportation tax remains in effect. If that happens, TAM would double its budget and still be free to ignore the condition of deteriorated local roads.
Use of high-pressure sales tactics by TAM must be stopped! By TAM artificially applying pressure for carte blanche approval for a blank check, TAM exposes its lack of real respect for the importance of local City Councils and the citizens they are tasked to represent.
If TAM had regard for Marin’s local governments, who know their residents’ preferences best, TAM would offer local governments time to provide early input reflecting local preferences and priorities. These priorities would be incorporated into TAM’s proposed programs before they are funded with a new tax. This is clearly not the case today.
An expression of support by Marin’s city councils for a carve-out of a County sales tax cap exemption for TAM implies/indicates support for Marin Senator McGuire’s Senate Bill SB-1.
In addition to the TAM 1/2% sales tax increase for Marin, Senator McGuire’s Senate Bill SB-1 enacts state wide auto fee and fuel tax increases:
1) Increases all automobile licensing fees by $38, with inflation adjustments
2) Adds a new $100 annual vehicle registration fee with built-in inflation adjustments on zero-emission motor vehicles
3) Adds a 12¢ per gallon increase to our current State gasoline tax that at 58.3 cents per gallon is already the highest in the nation
4) In addition to the Item 3 tax increase, it reinstitutes a higher gasoline excise tax rate that was in effect on July 1, 2010 that further increases gasoline taxes
Out of the public’s view and before fuel reaches a pump, the fuel’s distributor pays an excise tax. The excise tax is not evident to customers at the pump – out of sight, out of mind. In other words, a hidden tax we all bear.
5) Increases the tax rate on diesel fuel by 4¢ per gallon
The five items above are a kneejerk reaction to less than anticipated state fuel tax revenues. Car owners paid more for fuel efficient and zero emission vehicles to improve air quality and fuel efficiency driven by air quality regulations. The state is now turning on those with a social conscious and punishing them with higher taxes for specifically for doing as asked.
The standard initial presentation spiel (spin) given by TAM representatives to city councils consists of some verbal sleight of hand. The linguistic gymnastics begin with a beguiling statement that TAM is not asking a City Council to “approve or endorse” a sales tax increase, but rather to take a position of “support” for legislation to raise the sales tax and current sales tax “cap” for TAM’s transportation projects. Support? Endorse? Approve? What’s the difference?
To the average person there is little difference between support, endorse or approve. Yet TAM expects councilmembers to suspend belief and take a “position” that would “support” legislation to encourage TAM to increase the sales tax for transportation projects. What kind of misleading semantic charade is this?
TAM is attempting to stampede all Marin cities to immediately (mid-February) support TAM’s intent to go to the State legislature to increase sales taxes in Marin. TAM wants to be able to argue that they received full support of all of Marin city councils.
Fortunately, San Rafael did not fall for TAM’s linguistic form of 3-card-Monty. By a 4-1 vote they put TAM’s request on the shelf until TAM could return to the Council with a decent description of how San Rafael resident’s tax money would be spent.
TAM was unprepared, unwilling, and refused to provide to the San Rafael City Council any detailed description of how the increased tax funds would be used. Astonishingly, TAM was only willing to offer a blank piece of paper to be filled in later by TAM.
Despite the devious parsing of words, TAM is conducting a high pressure “pass rush” for an approval “position” on Marin’s City Councils. The implications of what TAM is asking, and what the local city would be able to do with any increase in funds, is anyone’s guess.
San Rafael and Novato have streets that have been sorely and dangerously neglected. In some areas, their condition borders on blight, and is irritating and embarrassing to residents. Two recently elected San Rafael Councilmembers and two Councilmembers up for election this November have felt the anger of voters frustrated with Councilmembers surrendering to TAM priorities on how local transportations funds are spent. They are the f our who ;shelved TAM’s astonishing request.
TAM’s priorities are “social needs”, carbon footprint, greenhouse gas reduction, global warming, etc. 80% of TAM’s funds go to “social needs”. The remainder is “bike or walk” transit, ADA compliance, street repair, slowing traffic aka “calming”, and corner “squaring”. There is little left for repaving streets and making road improvements that provide safe, smooth flowing, and speed-efficient traffic.
Drivers are angry with the large mal-appropriation of fuel taxes for “social needs” instead of local traffic and road maintenance needs. In San Rafael drivers vented their anger through the ballot box.
Recognizing the cavernous disconnect between TAM’s concept of a good area wide transportation system and the needs of individuals traveling to and from work or raising a family, San Rafael said no. Not good enough. You, TAM, do not recognize the severity of the local car owners anger caused by your calculated, deliberate neglect of local roads.
When the small amount of annual funding becomes available to spend on local roads, TAM implements design restrictions to promote expensive and little-used bike lanes and intersection designs that leave little or no money available to repave (rather than just reseal) our crumbling roads.
Politically appointed agency or commission members are not “elected” representatives of the people. They are appointed, subject to back-office political negotiations and power – a far different process from a public election by voters. Rather than competence, venal motives dominate the political appointment process of regional representatives.
Regrettably, local officials appointed as representatives to regional agencies too frequently succumb to a political version of the “Stockholm syndrome” returning to their elected level as advocates for the agencies’ position, rather than as advocates for the preferences of the citizens who elected them. At the very least, those local officials should recuse themselves from decisions involving the agency to which they were appointed.
Local governments have their greatest leverage against regional agencies when decisions are made at the local level. Once that local leverage is surrendered, a regional agency is enabled to couple a locally controversial project with other remotely related but popular regional projects. The agency ultimately presents a pre-packaged “lesser of two evils” choice to voters.
Utilizing the “packaging” technique, the agency’s “preferred option” success rate soars despite requiring a 2/3rds majority. A clever, but deceptive, action. Subjected to an expensive relentless pro-passage publicity campaign funded by the agency and orchestrated by pricey professional advocative consultants, skeptical voters opt to do something rather than nothing and by default are corralled into voting in favor of whatever that outside agency wants. The outcome is pre-determined.
Novato’s Councilmembers Lucan, Fryday and Athas rammed through passage of TAM’s proposal in a disappointing display of abrogation of their responsibility to their community to closely examine and enable broad community discussion of tax proposals before providing Novato’s official support.
Novato’s City Council had an opportunity to remind Marin County that as its second largest city it has a comparable level of city administration and legislative sophistication as San Rafael. Fryday, Athas and Lucan once again proved they do not function at that higher level. Instead, they compulsively rubberstamped TAM provided verbiage provided by the complicit City Manager Regan Candelario.
Novato desperately needs full time Councilmembers, not part time patsies who lack the time or inclination to do a good and thorough job for Novato citizens. And, a City Manager who can do more than merely being a mouthpiece for regional agency proposals.
All three “yes” votes were by Councilmembers endorsed and supported during their election campaigns by the Novato Chamber of Commerce. Eklund and Athas are up for re-election in November.
Full time Councilmembers Pam Drew and Pat Eklund acted in the best interests of Novato citizens by refusing to be steamrollered by TAM. Neither was endorsed during their election campaigns by the Novato Chamber of Commerce. Both are full-time Councilmembers.
Marin IJ Editorial
POSTED: 01/28/17, 2:18 PM PST |
The Transportation Authority of Marin’s bid for a new sales tax is off to a rocky start, basically due to its own political approach — and maybe a changing political climate in our county.
TAM has been talking for months about its interest in possibly increasing the local sales tax, possibly by a half-cent.
Little has been done, however, to expand that important political discussion beyond TAM staff and the agency’s 15 commissioners.
On its first ride outside of a TAM meeting, where commissioners unanimously backed the proposal, the idea hit a large political pothole — the San Rafael City Council’s 4-1 vote that dumped cold water on the idea.
TAM needs state legislation and local voter approval to lift the state’s cap on total sales tax — 10 percent. State law has set a 2 percent cap on local sales taxes.
Marin taxpayers are already paying a half-cent sales tax for TAM’s work on transportation and transit improvements. That tax expires in 2025. TAM could seek a renewal without needing to lift the cap.
But it wants the option of increasing its tax and asked Marin’s state senator, Mike McGuire, to sponsor legislation to lift Marin’s cap. The lawmaker wants to make sure the cities support the move. In the first three votes of councils, the idea barely mustered a majority of support.
The county Board of Supervisors endorsed the idea, with little public outreach or discussion.
Similar legislation has been approved in Los Angeles, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Monterey counties — all tied to transportation measures.
Unfortunately, its endorsement by county supervisors was buried in a large array of varied legislative goals and issues and was approved without any effective outreach for public comment on that issue.
The political environment was different for the San Rafael City Council, with council members questioning the political wisdom of raising the cap and raising questions about TAM’s plans for the money and, in one council member’s case, challenging TAM’s recent expenditures.
Only Mayor Gary Phillips, the city’s TAM commissioner, voted in support of the idea.
Having the largest city in Marin balking at the proposal is not a vote of confidence.
The Novato City Council endorsed the proposal, but on a 3-2 vote.
In San Rafael, there’s no question the money the tax would generate would help the city with its plans to build a new transit center and a new Highway 101-Interstate 580 interchange, but council members stressed there’s a cap for a reason — to protect taxpayers from being over-taxed.
They also just witnessed voters’ rejection of Measure A on November’s ballot — a proposed quarter-cent increase that would have been dedicated to preschool, day care and health care for low-income families. Despite pre-election polls that predicted it would pass, it fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed.
As well, officials are aware of the defeat of Sonoma County’s 2015 transportation tax proposal, also a second bite at the sales-tax apple. Nearly 62 percent of the vote was cast against that measure.
The TAM proposal is also being considered by other city councils in Marin.
The Fairfax Town Council voted 4-1 to endorse the TAM proposal and next week, it will be on the agendas in Larkspur, Mill Valley and Corte Madera.
And it would behoove TAM to have county supervisors take up the proposal in a more focused format.
The state legislation would enable voters to decide whether to lift the cap. But given the reaction in San Rafael — where city revenue greatly depends on sales by local businesses — TAM needs to do a better job of informing the public of what improvements taxpayers could expect to see before lifting the cap that was established by the state to safeguard them from being over-taxed.
If TAM could clearly and honestly articulate what the additional tax money would be spent on they would have a much easier time gaining support from the community. Instead they provide evasive answers and ambiguous language. This does not elicit good will or support for their projects. Senator McGuire http://sd02.senate.ca.govshould be embarrassed for his support on this tax hike.
Councilman Fryday from Novato should be equally shamed for trying to mask the truth when saying to the public that this is not a tax hike when it is exactly that.
He must be taking classes at Trump University in Gaslighting 101.
Let’s also not forget that Fryday made it this far with the support of Tom Steyer, whose been eyeing a run for governor. Tom’s allied with Bill Gates’ new energy company/think tank- Breakthrough Energy. This group wants to promote among other things, the start up of new design nuclear power plants. I’d be wary of these guys. Can we trust the 1% and their minions?
Fryday was certainly deeply invested to make such a statement; especially to the city attorney. As a lawyer to state voting to support and endorse on behalf of the city of Novato to increase the sales tax cap to facilitate TAM to be able to obtain a half cent Marin sales tax is not voting on a tax increase? Wow.
I must apologize to the ‘NIMBY’ Novato folks when I questioned their intent and Brown Act clamor over those solar panels out by the pool as It seemed overblown. I did see their beef in the end, yet I thought the Novato Council would have straightened up their act after the suit was filed and I didn’t realize how bad they really are. Over and over.
This just reeks, and they need to be taught a lesson. How about a Grand Jury look ?
Plus it’s a concerted effort of collusion around the State to raise the cap ” for transportation”. It just reeks. Most counties aren’t even close to the existing cap, many are at the State level. This is for the very few counties/cities that have squandered or voted for increased tax rates to the max. maximum should mean something, and TAM will already get some of the impending gas tax raise.
Transparency is evidently dead in Marin governments. No agenda so far has clearly stated what TAM is trying to do, with the Supervisors’ blessings.
The TAM tax passed quickly in Novato by Lucan, Athas and Fryday with Drew and Eklund opposed. Good thing they worked at 10 times normal speed. 🙂
TAM’s motto is “There’s a sucker born every minute – and my watch is running fast”.
What a joke in Novato. TAM calls raising a sales tax cap an obstacle? You can’t make this stuff up. Here was the title of the agenda item TAM present to the Novato city council:
CONSIDERATION OF SUPPORT FOR THE TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY OF MARIN IN THEIR EFFORT TO REMOVE A STATE PROCEDURAL OBSTACLE ALLOW A COMMUNITY CONVERSATION AND MAXIMUM FLEXIBILITY FOR LOCAL JURISDICTIONS.
Novato City Council voted yes. This item was approved by a yes vote by Council Members Athas, Lucan and Fryday who voted on behalf of all the citizens of Novato to support and endorse a sales tax cap increase to facilitate a 1/2 cent sales tax for TAM. Did you know about this tax cap increase issue before last Tuesday’s city council meeting? Did they ask you if you wanted your sales tax cap raised?
Ha. Ha. Can you imagine a sign that says “No on CONSIDERATION OF SUPPORT FOR THE TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY OF MARIN IN THEIR EFFORT TO REMOVE A STATE PROCEDURAL OBSTACLE ALLOW A COMMUNITY CONVERSATION AND MAXIMUM FLEXIBILITY FOR LOCAL JURISDICTIONS.
Maximum flexibility ?
Is that for the Yoga vote ?
We are going to need a bigger sign…
TAM’s presentation to the Novato City Council was scheduled to begin at 9pm but began later in an already packed evening of issues. Instead of calling it a TAX CAP the city with help from TAM, called it a PROCEDURAL OBSTACLE. The evening was filled with verbal semantics thanks to Attorney/Councilmember Fryday repeatedly asking the city attorney to reiterate THIS IS NOT A TAX.
It was exhausting, frustrating and embarrassing to watch Novato City Council members Lucan, Athas and Fryday cater to TAM and ignore residents.
The only two council members to question the need to lift the Cap prior to having a dialogue with voters were Drew and Eklund. Drew was aware of the San Rafael City Council meeting on the same issue, the different use of language and the lack of support on Novato’s Council to actually screen TAM’s actions given their lackadaisical attitude toward updating their website, updating their annual reports and updating the public with accurate and timely transparency.
Here is information from TAM that Fryday, Athas and Lucan might want to familiarize themselves with:
Using the annual reports by the Citizens Oversight Committee you can find all the data you need to understand TAMs spending priorities.
Remember TAM has two primary sources of revenue, Measure A half cent transit sales tax and Measure B a $10 yearly registration fee. And 55% of Measure A’s annual revenue goes directly to Marin Transit Projects
Measure A is exceeding the estimates provided when the tax was first implemented in 2004/5. The original annual estimate for Measure A was $16.5 million a year.
In 2014/15 Measure A generated over $25 Million. In its lowest year 2009/10, Measure A collected $18,816,292. Every year exceeded original estimates. Here is the annual revenue generated from Measure A beginning in 2005 and through 2014:
When you read the COC annual report they tell you how much TAM has spent in your city since the inception of Measure A and Measure B.
In TAMs 2014/15 report they say that since Measure A began in 2005 they have spent cumulatively in Novato $4,075,989.
In one year Novato generated $4.6 million using a half cent sales tax increase called Measure F.
That suggests that Novato would have far more money to meet its road and transit needs if it were to manage its own half a cent sales tax measure.
If raising the sales tax cap is a good idea, why must the elected representatives hide it in obscure language and late night meetings? Follow the developments here:
In Novato, TAM admitted to changing the agenda title to “CONSIDERATION OF SUPPORT FOR THE TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY OF MARIN IN THEIR EFFORT TO REMOVE A STATE PROCEDURAL OBSTACLE TO ALLOW A COMMUNITY CONVERSATION AND MAXIMUM FLEXIBILITY FOR LOCAL JURISDICTIONS”. For the San Rafael City Council, the agenda item was titled: ” Resolution Supporting Legislation to Exempt the Existing Sales Tax Cap to Accommodate Up To 0.5% for the Transportation Authority of Marin (PW) “. When asked why the title was changed, TAM executive director, Dianne Steinhauser, answered with a confusing bureaucratic mumbo jumbo non-answer. This is a possible Brown Act violation and speaks to fears in TAM of the unpopularity of raising taxes on a county boiling over with unpaid debt. It is also a form of deception unworthy of officials who are charged with acting responsibly.
Full meeting videos of the San Rafael and Novato Councils here: http://www.costmarin.org/take-…
Has anyone asked TAM what was the background thinking that went into this request? Whose idea was it and how was it coordinated with State Senator Mike McGuire?
I have emailed Senator McGuire on this issue and I am waiting for a response.
Copy and send him this blog string so he knows this is toxic.
Send him the San Rafael and Novato blogs.
According to C.O.S.T. members it was not McGuire that initiated the request but McGuire said without support of every community, especially the two largest he wouldn’t go forward. This may be due to SB1 a state Transit Tax that McGuire coauthored and that he hopes to pass to fund transit needs throughout cities, counties and the state.
He most certainly doesn’t want label “McGuire Tax Bill”
The TAM tax is dead on arrival because SMART is a fiasco, Millions are being pissed away on bike projects, WinCups and other TOD fiascos have and are being approved, and the Supes, Novato and other Boards are tone deaf arrogant toward voters.
Tina G McMillan 50 Year Resident • 21 hours ago
I hope you are correct but given the behavior of southern marin, I believe when you say Transit, residents actually think their money will result in changes. TAM’s projects did not lessen freeway congestion but that is what they take credit for.
Southern Marin is so pissed at Sears sucking up to traffic-generating developers (Branson and Bently) and Rice’s bicycle extravaganzas that they ain’t drinking any more Kool-aid.
San Rafael and Novato both reviewed TAM’s request to support and endorse raising the sales tax cap to allow a 1/2 cent tax for TAM. The results show a thoughtful city council in San Rafael working for the people and much less then thoughtful city council members Athas, Lucan and Fryday working to support TAM before the citizens of Novato.
It all starts with the agenda description of the issue by the city staff.
For comparison, this was the title in San Rafael where the sales tax cap increase and 1/2 cent tax were tabled indefinitely
RESOLUTION SUPPORTING LEGISLATION TO EXEMPT THE EXISTING SALES TAX CAP TO ACCOMMODATE UP TO 0.5% FOR THE TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY OF MARIN
San Rafael City council voted 4-1 to table indefinitely
CONSIDERATION OF SUPPORT FOR THE TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY OF MARIN IN THEIR EFFORT TO REMOVE A STATE PROCEDURAL OBSTACLE TO ALLOW A COMMUNITY CONVERSATION AND MAXIMUM FLEXIBILITY FOR LOCAL JURISDICTIONS
Voted yes by Athas, Lucan and Fryday voted on behalf of all the citizens of Novato to support a sales tax cap increase and a 1/2 cent sales tax for TAM. Did they ask you if you wanted your taxes raised?
On Tuesday 1/24, the Novato City Council will vote on endorsing a Transportation Authority of Marin proposal to raise the sales tax throughout Marin by 0.5%.
This will take the total sales tax in some Marin jurisdictions to nearly 10%.
Please attend the Novato City Council meeting — 6:30PM, 1/24, at Novato City Hall, Council Chambers, 901 Sherman Avenue — or email your Council Members to speak out against this proposal.
email@example.com Denise Athas
firstname.lastname@example.org Josh Fryday
email@example.com Pam Drew
firstname.lastname@example.org Pat Eklund
email@example.com Eric Lucan
Tell Council Members that Novato should not rush to endorse or support a higher sales tax in Marin without taking ample time to solicit and consider constituent opinion.
TAM is pressing Novato for an immediate endorsement, but did not allow the City sufficient time to thoroughly engage constituents before endorsing on their behalf. (On 1/18/17, San Rafael tabled indefinitely TAM’s request for endorsement citing its reluctance to speak on behalf of constituents without enough opportunity to alert them and consider their opinion.)
This is also an important opportunity for concerned citizens to speak up against providing more money to a transportation authority that has not been a prudent or transparent steward of our funds. TAM has proposed to spend its existing 0.5% Measure A “congestion relief” sales tax funds on projects that actually make traffic worse, such as the to the proposed Sir Francis Drake Corridor rehabilitation project. TAM has also sought to “swap” Measure A restricted funds with other agencies (such as its own Marin Transit) in order to spend on projects that are not permitted under Measure A.
If the TAM plan goes through, the agency’s piece of the Marin sales tax pie will double.
Many Marin taxpayers are already financially stressed by the spate of recent local tax increases. Sales taxes are the most regressive, with the burden falling hardest on those who earn the least. TAM’s record does not inspire confidence that the money will be spent primarily on what matters most to voters – improved vehicular traffic flow.
Please attend the January 24 Novato Council meeting to express your opinion.
Click on the link below and scroll down to Novato City Council agenda item 13 for specifics.
In that document you will see that TAM is asking Novato to endorse its plan to ask the state to grant Marin a waiver of the current 9.75% sales tax cap in order for TAM to ask voter approval for an additional 0.5% sales tax. That would double TAM’s slice of every taxable transaction to 1.0%. Mike McGuire is sponsoring legislation in the state senate to raise the sales tax cap in Marin. We encourage you to contact his office to object.
Donald Trump and the local social club called Novato Paint the Town Red Inc. will both be celebrating this Friday. Besides the color “red”, both have another thing in common – a lack of broad-based local interest.
The Board of Directors of the organization called Novato Paint the Town Red (PTTR) is dominated by people with close ties to the Novato Chamber of Commerce which is a non-profit commercial corporation. It is not a Novato City agency. PTTR’s main function is to throw a party in January for Novato political insiders and the Novato Chamber of Commerce.
Pull back the curtains and it is obvious this is a party closely tied to and attended by members of the Novato Chamber of Commerce (NCOC), an organization with a political and “business interests” agenda that doesn’t necessarily serve the best interest of Novato citizens. It’s almost obligatory that all local politicians and elected officials attend. The NCOC’s political influence, through its political candidate endorsements and local on-going political lobbying efforts, permeates the room.
The PTTR opens its event doors to anyone with $50 to spare. The unenforced dress code is upscale, and there have been confirmed reports of coat-and-tie ensembles wandering about, wineglass in hand. Most all Novato residents easily resist the temptation to attend.
Claims by the PTTR that the event is Novato’s Birthday Party are misleading and bogus despite being inexplicitly listed on the City website as such. Their flyer even has the City of Novato logo on it. PTTR is a “Recreational, Pleasure & Social Club” according its Internal Revenue Service tax status. It is a corporate entity totally separate from the City of Novato.
Unless the City Council officially endorses the event as an official function, the City should be careful not to allow the appearance that it is. If the City chooses to endorse the event, the PTTR corporation will become subject to substantial public scrutiny and increased financial accountability. Is this why the City hasn’t openly endorsed it?
If the City of Novato donates to any event in terms of reduced rents, City employee time, purchase of tickets with City funds, acceptance by Council members or City employees of free tickets, etc., Novato residents are entitled to a public financial accounting of City treasury funds expended, and how and/or for what. In the past, no accounting of the event’s profits has made available to the public despite strong inferences that PTTR is associated directly with the City of Novato.
The NCOC last year presented a public financial statement covering their operation of the Novato Visitors Center. The same financial report format could be used by the PTTR to assure Novato residents that the PTTR’s relationship with the City, and the extent of the use of City facilities and staff, is aboveboard.
Questionable is the PTTR’s proffered “Novato Citizen of the Year”. The title is misleading. Only the City Council can designate an official Novato Citizen of the Year. However deserving a person may be, he or she is only the PTTR’s selected citizen of the year. It is incumbent upon the PTTR to make clear this is only a PTTR selection – not a City of Novato selection.
The City of Novato should publicly recognize its own official Novato Citizen of the Year selected by the City. It should consider having an annual birthday party during the Spring open to all at no charge.
The current co-mingling of City of Novato interests with those of the leading local political lobby, i.e. the Novato Chamber of Commerce and its associated organizations, is troubling indeed.