She's Looking Out for Us
Susan works with residents every day on many important issues in District 1. In her own words, here is how Susan answers our most important challenges…
The Best Experience to Meet These Challenges:
Frequently Asked Questions:
- If re-elected, how would you improve our local quality of life?
- Name a District 1 (or countywide) issue that should be of concern to residents—but is not getting the attention it deserves.
- What is your position on development and preserving the character of Marin?
- What are you doing about high-density housing?
- What is your position on affordable housing?
- What is the County doing about homelessness? What is the City of San Rafael’s role?
- Where and how will sea level rise most critically impact Marin County? What actions is the County taking to prepare for this and mitigate the impacts?
- What are you doing to curb climate change and to clean up our air?
- Would you support banning fracking in the Marin County Coastal zone?
- What can the County do to stimulate local-power generation to boost MEA green power?
- What are you doing to help protect our local agriculture?
- What are you doing for local transit?
- What are you doing to ensure Marin County retirement/pension system is sound and will remain sound for the foreseeable future?
- The Community Services Fund—sometimes referred to as a “slush fund”—is a favorite target of Board critics. Is it time to dispense with this fund—or does it serve a valuable enough purpose that makes it worthwhile?
- What is the role of a Marin County Supervisor?
- What are you doing for local transit?
- Why should I vote to re-elect you as my Supervisor?
I’m running for re-election because I have the best experience to help my community meet these challenges we face: continuing to protect open spaces, implementing the new health care law locally, curbing climate change impacts like sea level rise, flooding and drought, and solving our growing traffic problems.
I’m proud to report that we recently secured the 650 North San Pedro Road property and stopped potential development there. It will henceforth be called “Heron Hill” – 14.8 acres of preserved wild land habitat extending toward China Camp, protecting a continuous wildlife corridor from the ridge to the wetlands. This has been a 10-plus year sustained effort working with the community to permanently protect this property from development of up to 10 large homes. Now the only residents on the hill will be the great blue herons and other birds and animals.
I’ve also worked with the community to facilitate a county match with community service funds for the purchase of Gold Hill in the Dominican Neighborhood, preventing the building of 6 mega-mansions on our beautiful hillside in San Rafael.
I began my first Supervisor’s campaign fighting against development of St Vincent’s / Silveira that the City of San Rafael had been favoring. I’ve been doing this work for a long time, and I have the best experience to continue protecting our open spaces and natural surroundings.
As the only health care professional serving on Marin’s Board of Supervisors, this area is especially important to me. The county is now helping the community work with the Affordable Care Act, which has had its fits and starts. We’ve hired 20 new eligibility workers to help people navigate the system. My experience in health care has been instrumental to the implementation of this complicated program.
About 40% of our county budget is devoted to Health and Human Services. I took a leading role in launching the Health and Wellness Campus in San Rafael (funded with Tobacco Settlement money) and I worked to create the collaborative partnership between the Marin Community Clinics and the County. Now people in our county don’t have to go bankrupt because of a medical condition, more than 98% of our children have access to insurance and health care, and those suffering with mental illness are able to access supportive services to stabilize their condition. I helped to facilitate the transfer of services to the Marin Community Clinics where MCC could receive higher reimbursement rates as a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), while also saving the county money.
I’ve engaged with Marin General Hospital on the redevelopment and seismic upgrading of their hospital campus. I supported Measure F and have been in meetings with their CEO and our county administrator as we grapple with types and levels of services required by our community.
I was also a founding mother of the Marin Medical Reserve Corps (MMRC) which is group of nearly 400 trained health care professionals ready to respond in the event of a local disaster like an earthquake.
It is important that county supervisors engage in the state and national dialogue on health care and health care reform. I have served in leadership positions at both the California State Association of Counties health committee and at the National Association of Counties (NACo) where I currently serve as chair of the Health Care Reform committee. I have always been a key point person on health policy because of my credentials, background and experiences as an RN, NP and educator.
I have a Ph.D. in nursing. My experience helped during the national discussions on Health Care Reform when I revitalized the national counties’ platform, allowing our NACo president to have a seat at the Obama Administration’s table during the crafting of the ACA. As a long-time advocate for a single payer system, there is more to do and I look forward to the challenge.
I cast the deciding vote on the Board of Supervisors to create Marin Clean Energy. I voted for and helped pass our county’s plastic bag ban. I’ve been a leader with our regional climate action plan. As a member of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), I have led the way for stronger standards on pollutants to clean up our air.
I’m also working with the Marin Carbon Project (MCP) to sequester carbon in our local agricultural lands, which would help our local farmers and ranchers, and help the environment. The MCP is ending a 5 year pilot research program on three Marin County ranches studying the use of various compost techniques on native grass range lands to sequester carbon, improve water retention and provide high quality grass forage for cattle. The results have been startling and have captured the interest of the BAAQMD which is working to establish regulations for cap and trade funds to be directed to programs like the Marin Carbon Project. These funds would benefit our family ranches and our planet. The Marin Carbon Project website provides a great deal of information on this (www.marincarbonproject.org). As with health care, there’s a lot more work to do here to see these projects through to completion.
I’ve led the charge at the county for more funding to fix our roads, bicycle and walk ways, securing millions of dollars in the process. Under my leadership, the county has improved and added new public transit services, which now exceed our ridership goals. Our growing populations of senior and disabled residents who are no longer able to drive have public transit and ADA transit options. I’m also one of the few elected officials in the county who uses public transit regularly, as Dick Spotswood pointed out in a recent column.
I was also instrumental in addressing freeway jumping at the Marinwood exit, implementing Safe Routes to Schools programs in my district, creating commuter options that would reduce single occupant vehicles on our roads and switching the motor pool vehicles to clean fuel vehicles. I served on the city/county subcommittee that implemented the HOV lane from Terra Linda to the Central San Rafael exit. I fought for state of the art sound wall protections and noise reducing asphalt for the community that had to listen to noise from the freeway every day. There is also a Class 1 pathway through that corridor. The county is installing charging stations, guaranteeing rides home in emergencies to bus and vanpool commuters and improving bike and pedestrian pathways.
Frequently Asked Questions:
In addition to the issues I listed above, these issues are always close to my heart…
Improving Local Education – While the Board of Supervisors does not have direct control over the 19 school districts in Marin, I have listened to my constituents and taken an active role in helping our local schools.
I joined with Supervisor Arnold in adding “Education” as the 4th “E” in our county priorities. (The previous 3 E’s were Environment, Equity and Economics.) Adding Education means that our board will be looking for more opportunities to enhance our collaborative partnerships with our schools. Some of my past work has included supporting (through provision of funding) computer access, creating school gardens, supporting after school programs, volunteering at school projects, enhancing library services for children and youth, creating public transit routes that allow children to make it to class on time if they are taking a public bus, and helping to fundraise for the school foundations. Our board members can proactively support local school tax initiatives, and I have.
Last summer, after passing the resolution for the Education “E”, our board provided a pre-fair related event for the Schools Rule Foundation, which raised approximately $400,000. In my work with Dixie, the question arose about the tax impacts of adding more children to the Dixie School system. I am working with the Marin Community Foundation, the County Administrator and the Dixie School Superintendent to identify the mechanism to keep Dixie whole with its funding should a non-profit development be approved at the Marinwood Plaza.
As an educator and as a mom who raised her children in the public school system in Marin (it’s why I moved here 30 years ago), I am committed to continuing our good work together for the benefit of all of our children. As the governor’s Prop 30 legislation continues to be implemented, school districts like Dixie will be transitioned out of basic aid and the schools will be paid by the state per number of children who attend class, rather than being paid based on county tax revenues, regardless of the number of children in the school. It is expected that this transition will take about 3 years.
Vibrant Economy – I have been an active member of the San Rafael Chamber, serving on the Green Committee. The county identified its top 10 targeted industries and has been partnering with businesses to improve our economic vitality. I have been particularly active in three of the targeted sectors: Agriculture, Green Tech and Health. I also helped to broker the deal between the San Rafael Rock Quarry and their neighbors, which has resulted in three years of relative peace in the community, while maintaining an important locally owned business.
Supporting Local Agriculture – In addition to my work on the Marin Carbon Project (see above), I have been actively engaged with the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM) on a subcommittee with Supervisor Kinsey to bring a permanent Farmer’s Market to the “Christmas Tree Lot” which would include a permanent market and education building, a market pavilion, and would incorporate infrastructure changes for a bike and pedestrian promenade to link the SMART station to the Civic Center. People will have the option to buy locally grown products year-round and the farmers and ranchers will have a permanent home from which to sell their products directly to consumers.
Green Tech – I provided the deciding vote which launched the Marin Clean Energy program three years ago. The authority has created opportunities for businesses to “Green up” and has generated new green jobs with installations, energy audits and energy efficiency services. The San Rafael Airport launched their One Megawatt solar roof program and there was much to learn about what needed to be done to make it easier and financially more feasible for other businesses to install solar. A new version of the PACE program for commercial projects is also gearing up.
One of my supporters, Jack West, manufactures solar components (Zep Solar) in San Rafael and just sold his business to Solar City. He has a large work force, is connected internationally and will continue to run his business now as a subsidiary of Solar City.
I am also a member of the International Business Task Force at the National Association of Counties. The purpose of the task force is to create opportunities for counties to tap into the foreign markets. I have been bringing information to the San Rafael Chamber from these meetings in Washington.
Finally, I am actively engaged with helping to save and restructure the Venture Greenhouse incubator/accelerator. Our SR Chamber Green Committee only heard about the withdrawal of support from Dominican about two weeks before they lost their lease at 30 Castro. To address this, I brought together a group of interested committee members and the Venture Greenhouse to discuss whether or not we should try to save the program, and there was overwhelming support. Out of that first meeting, a task force of 20 people has been organized to restructure the program and create a sound business plan. I recently met with the county administrator, Matthew Hymel, and have a commitment from him to request that the Board of Supervisors allocate a $25,000/year program over two years to partner with Venture Greenhouse through Rob Eyler and the Marin Economic Forum. The budget line item will need approval from the full board. I am also helping to secure space at the Marin Commons for Venture Greenhouse if the group believes it is an appropriate launch space.
All While Making Sure We Have A Balanced County Budget – Yes, even with major investments in health care, roads and the environment, and through a major recession, our county budget is balanced. I’ve worked hard to find as many outside funding sources as possible so that Marin taxpayers get the best services at the best prices. The county’s strong fiscal health and top-notch credit ratings are a result of all this hard work.
2. Name a District 1 (or countywide) issue that should be of concern to residents—but is not getting the attention it deserves.
One area that is deserving of more attention is the state and nationally recognized work being done in Marin with therapeutic and restorative justice programs. As an example, the Support and Release After Treatment (STAR) program has served almost 200 individuals. This program diverts non-violent mentally ill offenders into treatment instead of jail. Recidivism has been reduced by more than 80% and psych emergency visits cut in half. Our county jail is one of the few in the state to have empty jail beds.
With juvenile justice, when I was first on the board as many as 30 kids in the hall was not uncommon. Today, with wrap-around services and family support, 5 kids in the hall is now a busy day. By addressing the issues further upstream, we prevent the more expensive downstream interventions.
Other accomplishments deserving of attention include:
- Adding protected open spaces, like Heron Hill and Gold Hill.
- Expanding local transit options - buses, pedestrian and bicycle paths - to reduce traffic and emissions
- Creating the Baylands Corridor to preserve our bay side like we preserve our ocean-facing Coastal Corridor
- Supporting local school districts with more funding
- Investing in new children's parks and play equipment
- Helping 98.5% of Marin's children gain health care access
- Earning a Triple A bond rating for the county, while paying down our pension obligations
- Reducing the countywide homeless count from 1,900 to 933 over the last 5 years
- Assisting the City of San Rafael by paying for many of their homeless services with county funds
- Helping our homeless veterans get back on their feet
- Developing watershed programs for Miller and Las Gallinas creeks
- Advancing local community planning for Santa Venetia, Lucas Valley and Marinwood
- Opening a new state-of-the-art public safety building
- Leading a civil, public process for all land use decisions
- Innovating with our local farmers and ranchers to capture more carbon in a sustainable way through the Marin Carbon Project
...these are just a few.
When I was first elected in 2002, I won based on the principles that we should protect our open spaces and agricultural lands from development and look toward our infill opportunities for our housing needs. I was able to protect the St. Vincent’s and Silveira properties from San Rafael’s plan to add 2,100 units of housing and a couple hundred thousand square feet of commercial development to those properties. Eleven years later, there is still no development there and I am constantly looking for opportunities to protect other greenfield locations, such as the recent successful purchase and protection of Heron Hill.
Marin has been a leader for decades trying to answer these questions: “How do we manage the growth we know is coming in the Bay Area, without sprawling like Los Angeles, while protecting our open spaces and agricultural lands, and protecting our industrial areas and ports by re-using/re-purposing infill locations?” and “What can be done to support those communities that are working toward more efficiencies in how we grow and develop along transit corridors in the Bay Area?”
I believe these are very important conversations to have regionally, especially because our boundaries are porous. That said, the problem I had with ABAG was their terrible process that did not engage local governments earlier in their activities. The top-down process did not answer important questions from local communities well at all. I remained a vocal critic of the process to ABAG during the time I served on the board.
While serving on ABAG, I was able to argue for a much lower number of housing units for our RHNA allocation for this current cycle (from 773 down to 185 in the unincorporated county). Issues around the amount of protected parklands and agricultural lands, as well as water issues, helped to make the case. These new values represent more than a 75% reduction in RHNA required housing numbers for the unincorporated county.
I note again that sites that have not been built in the last cycle can be reused in the current cycle. The argument that 71% of all of the affordable housing in Marin is being placed in Marinwood is simply misinformation about the housing element, irresponsibly used to generate fear and anger in the community.
Something that is often missed is that cities and towns must also comply, and in this next housing element cycle San Rafael is on the hook for 1,007 planned unit sites.
The county is hosting public meetings in each of the five supervisorial districts to hear from the community and receive their ideas for where these 185 units should be sited. The new housing element will need to be certified less than a year from now in order to move to an 8-year cycle of submittals.
I also note that I prevented the San Quentin area from being placed in a PDA during a Board of Supervisors meeting where the item appeared on the consent calendar. Any discussions about what happens at San Quentin will require a very thorough community-based discussion and planning process, similar to the years I spent meeting with my community about the Marinwood Plaza.
I crafted language in collaboration with non-profit housing organizations that would re-designate Marin County and its cities and towns as suburban with a 20 unit per acre default density rather than urban with a 30 unit per acre density. Our Assemblymember, Marc Levine, agreed to carry the bill (AB 1537). I worked with our California State Association of Counties legislative analysts, our lobbyist in Sacramento, ABAG, the League of Cities and other groups and legislators to gain letters of support for this bill. It is making its way through the committees in Sacramento. If this bill passes, Marin and its cities and towns will be classified with a suburban density for the next housing element cycle and any up-zoning would be the decision of the local governments and their residents.
Affordable housing is not just a problem for low-income or homeless people; the middle class also has a difficult time finding affordable housing. The business community is having challenges with attracting new businesses because of the lack of affordable housing. In many ways, complaints about traffic congestion on Highway 101 are a consequence of importing the majority of our workforce into our community because they cannot afford to live here. There’s also the fundamental desire to have places nearby for our kids to move into when they grow up, and options for our seniors when they are no longer able to live on their own.
Polls show that a significant number of people in Marin believe that the lack of affordable housing in Marin is a major issue. I have always held that infill locations are better suited for redevelopment than plowing over greenfield sites.
We all oppose ugly, high-density housing that doesn’t fit within our community character. That’s why I’ve been working with Assemblymember Marc Levine on AB 1537 to reduce the default density requirements for Marin County from 30 units per acre to 20, which is more befitting our suburban and agricultural environment.
Any development proposal, whether affordable or not, would need to go through a very long, extensive and, often times, expensive public review process. If the community wishes to protect land from development, such as the Santa Venetia residents recently did with Heron Hill, then there are options such as privately funding and dedicating the land, or building support for an initiative with the voters similar to what the residents of Lucas Valley did to protect their hills and ridgetops decades ago.
By contrast, the City of San Rafael has created many multi-family multistoried complexes over the years, most recently the 4-story, 88-unit complex by the Civic Center. The county, on the other hand, has not yet built any of these types of units in the unincorporated parts of District 1.
Housing is always a big issue in Marin County and I’ve been working very hard to help inform my district about the public process and how to engage in it. I think we’ve made a lot of progress on this issue over the past number of years, and especially the past few months as local residents have tuned into the issue. I know we are a great community and the majority of us have our hearts in the right place. With that in mind, I believe we can solve any of our problems by working together.
We are coming out of the worst recession experienced in my lifetime. Many people fell off the cliff during the downturn. Homelessness is an issue for cities, towns and counties across the country. Typically, the larger cities within counties that are near major transit corridors, like San Rafael, are areas where larger numbers of homeless end up. This happens whether or not you have homeless service providers there. I believe we all need to work together to help address this issue of homelessness…every city and town and county.
Homelessness has become more of a concern in my district in recent years. Before this ever happened though, almost nine years ago, I launched a countywide Homeless Policy Coordinating Committee which has evolved over the years. The first 10-year plan to end homelessness was certified in 2005 which allowed the county to receive $2.6 million in Federal McKinney-Vento funds. These funds have supported programs such as Shelter Plus Care (which houses severely mentally ill individuals who were homeless), Homeward Bound in Novato (which houses homeless individuals who are clean and sober and willing to learn new job skills, and also houses homeless families), Center Point, Buckelew, and others. When Homeward Bound was unable to continue funding Mill Street, the county stepped up and now invests about $1 million dollars per year to help keep people off the streets and provide them with opportunities to work their way out of homelessness. The county has invested in other programs such as Helen Vine, and a number of housing programs such as Odyssey and Housing First, which take people off the streets and provides them with wrap-around services.
I launched the first winter shelter program through the use of the armory at the Civic Center during the wet and cold winter months. When the armory became unavailable, the faith based organizations through the Marin Organizing Committee stepped up to the plate to take on the rotating winter shelter program called REST. They have been trying to access a more permanent solution with the goal of phasing out the temporary rotating shelter program. Given the challenges our community is facing to create affordable housing for families making $65,000/yr or less, finding suitable sites for expanding a homeless shelter program is even more challenging.
After the first Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness was passed, I facilitated Marin Project Homeless Connects in each of the Supervisorial Districts to begin to understand who was homeless, what were their needs, how they accessed services, etc. The data was enlightening. I found that most of the homeless people in our cities, towns and unincorporated areas had been longtime residents of the county. Homeless individuals, for the most part, identified themselves as residents of the cities and towns in which they were homeless and did not typically migrate to other parts of the county for services, but expressed a desire for better services in their own communities.
We also initiated the annual one-day homeless counts. Five years ago there were about 1900 homeless individuals counted. Last year, the number was 933. The county has been proactive in creating shelter opportunities and working to move people into more sustainable living situations. The county completely funds the 55 shelter beds at Mill Street and provides major funding to non-profit partners that are also housing people. I was able to access 35 VASH vouchers (Section 8 vouchers specifically for homeless vets) that have been a great success over the past 2 years. The County and the Marin Community Foundation also provide funding for the Housing First program which took 18 of the most chronically homeless, mentally ill people off the streets and into housing with wrap-around services.
With Marin having among the highest rental costs in the state, if not the country, long-term, permanent housing remains a key issue. When we have 200 homeless children living in Marin, when we have men and women who have served our country living homeless in the streets, when elderly women are evicted from their long time apartments so that a landlord can raise the rents, when moms are living in cars with their kids, I would argue that we still have a long way to go…and housing is key.
I also hear the concerns of the city leadership and the business community and residents in the downtown San Rafael area. I am committed to continuing to work with city leaders to find solutions. But eliminating programs and trying to push homeless people into another jurisdiction will not work. Mayor Al Boro, in his wisdom, initiated some of these programs decades ago to deal with the downtown homeless issues. The county spends $14 million/yr on homeless programs and homeless prevention programs, the majority of it going to San Rafael and Novato programs.
The county also provides millions more in funding toward the health services, social services and behavioral health programs that support keeping people off the streets. Most of those dollars are supporting the challenges San Rafael and Novato are facing as the two biggest cities in our county with the highest number of homeless. The county was a major funder this past year for the city of San Rafael’s new streets program.
Eighty percent of the plan has so far been implemented and in 2013 an updated 10-year plan was generated after much public input and participation. The Homeless Policy Coordinating Committee is now more formalized and includes participation from cities, the county, service providers, community groups, health and human services and homeless individuals. The meetings are quarterly and open to the public.
The City of San Rafael cannot walk away from its responsibilities to address the challenges with their homeless population. Removing services from San Rafael and attempting to push services completely out of the boundaries of San Rafael will not solve San Rafael’s challenges. The retirement of mental health Officer/Dr. Joel Fay from the San Rafael Police Department left a hole in San Rafael’s system that was not filled until recently. The answer to homelessness is housing and shelter. We will all need to come together as a community to resolve this.
The county offered to help relocate San Rafael’s homeless services to a more industrialized area in the city which is close to transit and the Health and Wellness campus, but city leadership has been unwilling to consider any of these options to date. Instead, suggestions have been made by some San Rafael city leaders that certain unincorporated neighborhoods should be made to host homeless programs such as Ritter and St. Vincent’s Dining Hall, in locations that are far from transit and other services. This is not only politically unlikely to happen, it would fail to solve the challenges we face.
Unless there is willingness by San Rafael city leaders to consider meaningful options and use our creative thinking skills, we will continue to face these same challenges.
Some closing thoughts… The fact that the one-day counts of homeless individuals have been reduced by more than 50% gets lost in these discussions. The fact that the various housing programs that have been put in place and funded by the county have been effective in reducing homelessness is also lost in the conversation. Of course, there is more to do. Of course, the businesses, families and visitors in downtown San Rafael wish to have a pleasant experience and not be faced with aggressive homeless individuals. I have the experience and the relationships to continue the work in this area and to bring resources to the challenge.
7. Where and how will sea level rise most critically impact Marin County? What actions is the County taking to prepare for this and mitigate the impacts?
Marin County and its cities are slowly realizing that the Bay and ocean waters that surround us on three sides are rising and at some point in the next 30 to 40 years this will quickly accelerate. Baylands and flood plain in Sausalito, Mill Valley, Corte Madera, San Rafael and Novato are most at risk in the City-Centered Corridor, but tidal action and attendant flood surge from heightened storms will raise water elevation in creeks that flow inland, including along Corte Madera Creek, which is tidal almost into Ross. Bolinas, Stinson Beach, Inverness, surrounding communities and ranches and parklands in the west may suffer the most.
Several initiatives are underway to assess probable impacts and define strategies. These include the “Marin Climate and Energy Partnership (MCEP)” – a collaboration of Marin’s 11 cities, TAM and MMWD – mandated to reducing GHG consistent with AB32 as a subcommittee set up by the MCCMC recently. We also have “Collaborating on Sea Level: Marin Adaptation Response Team,” a county project recently funded by the California Ocean Protection Council to evaluate risks along the coastal shoreline. New FEMA mapping of at risk areas will eventually affect the value of development in areas subject to flooding and deter construction where insurance is unaffordable. We are also looking into broader strategies that protect our natural ecosystems, wildlife and recreational areas.
A number of regional efforts and scientific agencies are mobilizing to help communities prepare for sea level rise. For example, BCDC studies on bay shore resilience opportunities. And the new Climate Readiness Institute at Berkeley, staffed by leading climate scientists, is charged with developing adaptation strategies and mitigation tools for climate impacts. As the chair of Marin County’s Disaster Council, I have initiated discussions with Jodi Traversaro from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services who is working on disaster planning and programs in the coastal region. She will be assisting me and our director of OES with tracking down and accessing funding through the State and Federal disaster programs and to hopefully provide resources to better prepare our low-lying areas to be more resilient in a disaster. Marin needs to take full advantage of resources such as these.
In my district, Santa Venetia would be the most impacted by sea level rise because it sits below sea level on Bay Mud and it has an aging levee system with an aging pump system In a recent thunderstorm, lightning struck and took out two transformers at one of the important pump stations, requiring around the clock staffing with portable pumps to ensure the community was safe from flooding. I really feel for these homeowners because Santa Venetia is a community of middle-income and some low-income families who have had a tough time getting through the recent recession and the rising costs of flood insurance has become oppressive for many.
The county and the Army Corps of Engineers just completed a million dollar study that included geotechnical work, hydrology studies, sedimentation evaluations and assessments of the infrastructure. The county department of public works is completing a watershed study, and the county parks department is completing a marsh restoration study which will evaluate the use of horizontal levees as an approach to buffering against sea level rise. All of this information will allow the board and the community to identify the best approaches to use with engineered and natural systems to protect the community from inundation.
The county also recently hired a new employee who will be assisting in the development of the county FEMA rating system with the hope of lowering flood insurance through system upgrades in low-lying communities. As with the landfill, if we were building a new community today, we would not be putting homes in the path of future flooding risks. However, now that homes are there, we have to deal with this issue quickly. Some homeowners have elevated their homes out of the danger zone.
The Santa Venetia community will be considering all options and will likely need to assess themselves for the needed upgrades to the levees and pump stations. I am currently trying to find matching funds to help them.
I am currently working as the Marin representative to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District with UC Davis on a very successful pilot project in West Marin (The Marin Carbon Project) which is using agricultural lands to sequester carbon. I am working toward accessing Cap and Trade funds for our farmers and ranchers who sequester carbon. I believe there is still a lot of work to do to wrap our arms around Climate Change and GHG, as well as particulate matter.
I also helped lead the charge with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to pass a resolution supporting our work to reduce GHGs by 80% of the 1990 levels by 2050. This earned me recognition from the 350 Marin group. I am actively involved with the work being done to create the work plan that will achieve these ambitious goals.
Yes, and I would go further saying that I support a full, statewide ban on fracking. The Board of Supervisors has already taken an “oppose” position in a resolution.
I cast the deciding vote that launched the Marin Clean Energy program three years ago. The goal for the creation of our own CCA was that Marin would demonstrate how to move off of the fossil fuel grid within 10 years toward a clean, green energy future. The authority has created opportunities for businesses to “Green up” and has generated new green jobs with installations, energy audits and energy efficiency services. The San Rafael Airport launched their 1 megawatt solar roof project and there was much to learn about what needed to be done to make it easier and financially more feasible for other businesses to install solar. A new version of the PACE program for commercial projects is also gearing up. My hope is that the MEA will scale up the investment into our own green energy generation opportunities with the revenues that are coming into the authority.
The county continues to implement a number of green energy programs even outside of MEA. Solar installations on the county maintenance building, the Marin Center, the LEED Gold certified Health and Wellness campus, and now the new Public Safety Building are all contributing to the offset of county facilities’ energy use. The county has provided grant rebates for home solar installations. The county is installing EV charging stations and has increased the number of hybrid, hybrid electric and fully electric vehicles in the motor pool.
We also need to be vigilant against the constant barrage of attacks by PG&E, which continues to try to undermine the CCA movement rather than finding a business case for coming on board. This is evidenced by the multiple lawsuits, court actions and PUC hearings initiated by PG&E.
Shortly after Marin launched its CCA, PG&E launched Prop 16, which I called the Monopoly Protection Act, and which would have required a 2/3 vote of the people before a local agency could launch a CCA. It failed. However, the latest attempt in Sacramento is a bill (AB 2145) which would require an “opt in” approach rather than an “opt out” approach. This would make any CCA unviable from the outset. The argument is that people should have a choice and not be forced into a CCA. The truth is that people DO have a choice and are given multiple opportunities and notices prior to implementation of a CCA to opt out. Then, once the program is implemented, customers can toggle between either agency and finally have a choice in provider and a little competition to improve the clean energy content at an acceptable cost.
Finally, energy production is only part of the equation. Energy efficiency is also an important consideration. The county has invested in support programs that are available to the public to help conduct energy audits and create recommendations that would help individual homeowners and businesses decide the best and most economical investments in their personal energy use needs.
Marin County has a long, multigenerational history of small family farmers. Our farmers and ranchers were the original stewards of the land…some better than others in working with nature. They continue to struggle in competition with large Agro-businesses, economic downturns such as the recent recession, the closure of the meat processing plant in Petaluma and, currently, the drought. If our small family farms fail, our agricultural lands are at risk of being sold to the highest bidder, possibly paving the way for subdivisions with the creation of 60 acre “ranchettes”.
The movement to organic farming and ranching, and the return of the younger generations to the ranch lands (e.g. Bob Giacomini’s dairy), has created a situation where farmers are trying to bring their families back on the ranches again. Some have stated that one farmhouse is not enough for some of the families. My view is that we need to look for a balance that supports our small family farmers, but at the same time doesn’t allow rampant development that does not serve the purpose of keeping an agricultural operation viable.
In the coastal areas, besides going through the permitting process at the county, the ranchers and farmers on the coast must also go through the State permitting process. The Coastal Commission is understaffed and underfunded and the permitting process can be very expensive and take years before approval is granted. The bottom line is that we all still have work to do in this area.
I’m proud to be endorsed by the Marin Farm Bureau to continue my work in this area.
Since the passage of Measure A, 55% of the funding from that measure has been put into building a successful public transit program. The Marin County Transit District is now an independent contracting agency. There are new clean-burning shuttle busses that are carrying 10-14 riders per hr, with three of these shuttle routes in my own district. They have surpassed our ridership goals.
There is increased frequency of service and the Canal buses are at capacity and need no subsidy. Seventy-five percent of the contract is with Golden Gate Transit, and there is always work continuing to coordinate connections with regional routes, as well as between local transit transfer points. There are new bus pads and access to stops. There is new signage to make it easier to understand how to get from point A to point B and “Aps” available to track bus arrival and departure times at various stops in the county. Paratransit and Dial-a-Ride programs are especially popular with the senior and disabled community. The Muir Woods Shuttle and the West Marin Stage have also been succeeding beyond the required base ridership amounts.
Our transit staff has been incredibly successful in accessing state and federal grants. And I was part of a 3 person negotiating team that was able to redirect close to $2 million dollars from Golden Gate Transit to our other school, shuttle and Stage services, resulting in increased service times. Please go to the Marin County Transit District website for more information (http://www.marintransit.org/). I am very proud of what we have accomplished in a relatively short time, especially since I’m a user of the public bus system!
13. What are you doing to ensure Marin County retirement/pension system is sound and will remain sound for the foreseeable future?
Yes. Marin County contributed $50 million to its pension obligations last year. With 80% or greater considered healthy, the county is currently 78% funded, compared to San Rafael with an estimated level of funding at 61%-62%. The county also changed the tiers, with employees contributing more, retiring older (61 ½ years), 3 year averaging of base pay, 2% of salary per year of work, no spousal retirement medical and a cap of medical contributions to about $2,000/yr.
As a result, the county received the highest possible AAA Fitch and Moody ratings… one of only two counties in the state to achieve this.
Each year we continue to pay down these liabilities for the future, even though current returns are coming in higher than the 7.5% expected rate, we cannot assume they’ll last forever. The new tier will eventually show significant reductions in future years as 25% of our workforce will retire within the next 5 years and the newer employees will have the newer tier of pensions. We are planning for the future and following through on those plans.
I am also currently working with the California State Association of Counties as we continue to work on reform proposals with the State Legislature. For example, the county is considering the pros and cons of a defined contribution option, but would need to do a fiscal evaluation, have state legislation authorizing this option and work with our labor unions, which have worked well with us during the recession. We are also exploring the possibility for a hybrid pension option that would allow younger employees who do not plan to stay for a whole career in the public sector to have a portable pension.
Underlying all of this, though, I remain committed to protecting fair compensation and public pensions for our public employees in light of the push from a very vocal (but small) group of people who would like to drastically change pensions without the benefit of negotiations with our unions.
I would also note that the City of San Rafael has a much lower level of funding and a recent downgrading in their credit rating.
Personally, I have declined to sign up for the county’s pension fund for myself.
14. The Community Services Fund—sometimes referred to as a “slush fund”—is a favorite target of Board critics. Is it time to dispense with this fund—or does it serve a valuable enough purpose that makes it worthwhile?
Community service grants were intended to help support community projects with faster turnaround than what occurs in the annual budget cycle. Over the years, the amount of funding allocated into the community service program has been reduced. There is a misconception that individual Supervisors have allocated these funds without the opportunity for public noticing or input. This is simply not true. In the past, if a request came to a board member, the request was forwarded to the county administrator for review and the requests were noticed and then presented to the board and the public during an open public meeting before a vote was taken.
Funded projects in District 1 include:
- Grants to Miller Creek School and to the Boys and Girls club for computers to enhance student learning
- A significant amount of funds were directed toward the Santa Venetia Flood studies
- The Los Ranchitos community conducted an annual volunteer community vegetation management program and received funds for the disposal bin
- Funds for the purchase of disaster readiness equipment were allocated to various communities throughout the county
- Matching funds for enhancing children’s parks, public transportation shuttle launches, psychological counseling services for people who were uninsured, and providing sleeping mats at the first winter shelter program at the armory
- Planned Parenthood Health Clinic in San Rafael
Those are just a few of the projects that have been supported. Many times, the small amount of the grant helped the various agencies access a larger amount of funding from other private grant sources.
After the Civil Grand Jury reported and recommended further adjustments, the grant applications now go directly to the county administrator for review that the request fits within the BOS priority list. He then determines the appropriate amount of funds which he presents to the Board of Supervisors (now only three times each year). The list is publicly noticed and placed on the agenda. Members of the public can come to the board and speak to the issue. More times than not, when there is public comment, it is for support of the allocations. The total annual allocation toward the community service grants is $300,000.
At a time when there are more requests for the board to be more engaged in funding areas of importance to the community, such as the school programs mentioned above, and in light of it being a rare occurrence that someone will testify against an allocation during public comment, I believe there are more residents who view this program as beneficial rather than detrimental.
The Civil Grand Jury found no evidence of funds being used inappropriately. And many of the recommendations that were made to the board have been implemented. I will continue to be open to discussing any further refinements that should be considered for the program.
There is a wide range of complex issues that take time in order to make good policy… everything from Health and Human Services (about 40% of the budget), to law enforcement and county jail programs, to transit and roads, to planning and land use. Ensuring that the public has access to all of the information and making it easy to access is important and also takes time and effort. It’s a 24/7 responsibility. (I never thought I would need to learn about mining operations when I was receiving my doctorate in nursing at UCSF.)
After spending time in office, it is certain that an elected person will never make everyone happy with every decision every time. But just because a decision was made with which a resident disagrees, does not mean the opposing position wasn’t heard or considered. However, when you’re reviewing the body of work, it should reflect the general direction in which the public wishes to go. I believe I have demonstrated this over the years with what I have accomplished on behalf of my community.
I’ve delivered for my district. As your elected Supervisor and as a nurse, I’ve worked with you to protect open spaces, enact strong environmental policies, fund local traffic solutions, improve our schools, support local businesses, improve health care access, manage tax dollars responsibly, pay down pension obligations, support our veterans and meet our housing and homelessness challenges.
Together, we protected St. Vincent’s from massive development, brokered a deal between the San Rafael Rock Quarry and their neighbors, built our Health & Wellness campus in San Rafael (98% of Marin’s children now have health care access) and pioneered our clean energy future when I cast the deciding vote for Marin Clean Energy.
My track record shows I can tackle the toughest challenges and produce real results. That’s why the Sierra Club, California Nurses Association, Pacific Sun Newspaper, Marin Women’s Political Action Committee, San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, Marin County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, Marin County Fire Department Firefighters Association, Marin Association of Public Employees, Marin County Young Democrats, Marin County Farm Bureau, SEIU Local 1021, Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific Action Fund, American Nurses Association, California, former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, State Senators Noreen Evans and Mark Leno, former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin and scores of other community leaders from various backgrounds and areas of my district have endorsed my re-election.