Wednesday, August 30, 2006

News column preview

In an attempt to get information out to our community using various media, you may have noticed that I recently started a weekly column in the local newspaper, the Ross Valley Reporter. Here is a preview of the column I submitted yesterday for publication next week.

Update on FEMA: As almost everyone in Fairfax knows, the Town’s infrastructure suffered significant damage as a result of the December 31, 2005 flood and the April 11-12, 2006 storm event. To ensure that we recover all the money that is owed to us, the Town has been working its way through the long process of applying for assistance from FEMA and the Town’s flood insurance carrier. To date, the Town has paid out $893,000 toward flood recovery, which includes emergency debris removal, emergency protective measures, repairs to Peri Park, and clean-up of damaged Town buildings. However, to date, the Town has received only $151,718 in flood insurance settlements and $68,000 in FEMA reimbursements. We have a long way to go in terms of ensuring that all monies owed to the Town are paid to us and Town staff is diligently working toward that end.

Update on the next Council Meeting: Our next regular Council meeting is September 6th at 7:30 p.m. in the Women’s Club. The Council will be considering some very significant issues, including:

  • Consideration of a resolution waiving permit fees for solar installation, and adjusting other planning and building fees to better recover the actual costs of providing services. In May, the Council directed staff to draft a resolution waiving all permit fees for solar installations in Fairfax. If the Town Council waives all fees for solar installations, it will become the lowest ($0) solar permit fee in Marin County.
  • Adoption of the Annual Budget for Fiscal Year 2006-07. After three public workshops and significant public input, we are at the point of adopting the Town’s revenue and expenditure plan for July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007. General Fund expenses are projected at 5.2% above budgeted expenditures for last year, and property tax revenue is estimated to grow at a rate of 7%. This budget will get us through a challenging year as we recover from the flood, while still allowing us to make progress in many significant areas.
  • Adoption of negotiated labor agreements with all Town employee groups. We have reached agreements that provide for fair compensation and benefits to recruit and retain our most precious Town resource: our Town employees.
  • Approval of an update to the Town’s Emergency Operations Plan, which was reviewed and revised by our Citizens’ Disaster Council.
  • Consideration of the Town’s response to the Marin Civil Grand Jury’s report on “The Next Disaster: Are Marin Citizens Prepared?”

Update on Strategic Planning: In January 2006, the Town Council, as required under Measure F, began a comprehensive strategic planning effort to address the Town’s financial situation, as well as focus on how we want to shape the future of our Town. The next Strategic Planning Meeting of the Town Council will be held on Saturday, September 9th at 9:00 a.m. in the Women's Club. All are welcome to attend and participate in the process.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Solar permit fees in Fairfax

Today's Marin Independent Journal carries a front-page article on the cost of city permits for installing a solar power system. It shows that Fairfax's fees are among the highest fees in the County for solar installations. Unfortunately, the reporter writing that article did not contact me or I would have informed them that a few months back, the Town Council directed staff to bring forth a resolution waiving all permit fees for solar installations in Fairfax. The resolution was under study by staff since our Planning and Building Department needed more time to conduct a comprehensive review of all permit fees in order to ascertain if other fees were in need of adjustment. As a result, a resolution to waive solar permit fees and recommending adjustments to other fees will be on the Town Council agenda for the regular meeting of September 6th at 7:30 p.m. Please contact me if you have any questions. If the Town Council waives all fees for solar installations, it will become the lowest ($0) solar permit fee in Marin County.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Creek Clean up

The Ross Valley Watershed group, a joint effort of the County of Marin, Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo and Fairfax, is working to reduce the risk of flooding in the entire Ross Valley. Part of the group’s task is to identify the choke points along the creeks in Ross Valley and decide on alternatives that would help mitigate these areas to reduce the flooding risk, while working with a creek naturalist to preserve the habitat along the creek. In order to identify any trouble spots that need to be addressed before the 2006-07 rainy season, a group from the County and the Town walked the Fairfax Creek last Friday. Here is a picture of one of the areas we saw where a fallen tree could contribute to a creek back-up and also catch other debris and branches and further dam up the creek. For the short term, the Ross Valley Watershed group has enlisted the help of the Marin Conservation Corps to do a large vegetation cleanup throughout the entire creek this September. This will include Fairfax and will be a comprehensive clearing of the creeks of debris and trimming back vegetation such as overgrown blackberry bushes that would cause back-ups this winter.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hands-on disaster training opportunity and chance to help

The following message was passed along to me from Tessa Burns, Disaster Manager, Marin County
American Red Cross Bay
Area Chapter

“The State of Louisiana does not have sufficient shelter staff and many residents are still living in vulnerable FEMA trailers. The Red Cross is looking for volunteers to serve at least two-weeks (14-days) to provide assistance in shelters in the state of Louisiana between the dates of August 26 – October 15, 2006 in the event of a hurricane. We will provide FREE training for these shelter teams, and they can also continue with the Red Cross to be deployed on other disasters if they choose. In addition to helping Louisiana, this is also an opportunity to further build our sheltering capacity in Fairfax and Marin County in the event of a local disaster. The Red Cross will cover living expenses, training, and travel for deployed shelter teams.

If interested, people can go to our website at and click on the Louisiana Shelter Team Initiative icon to sign up for a training. We are looking for shelter workers, shelter supervisors and health associates. No prior sheltering experience is necessary, as we'll provide the training.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

CERT Training in September

Unfortunately, the August CERT training was cancelled due to low enrollment. The next session (a course taught in two parts) will be held on two consecutive Saturdays, September 16th and 23rd. Prepare yourself and your family for disasters and emergencies by attending Community Emergency Response Training (CERT)! The course will be held at the College of Marin. Sponsored in part by Ross Valley Fire, the training covers basic survival skills and life-saving information useful in emergency situations. The $30 registration fee is refundable to Fairfax residents who complete the course, thanks to a grant from County Supervisor Hal Brown. A pdf flyer is posted here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Next Meeting of the Citizens' Disaster Council

The next meeting of the Citizens' Disaster Council will be held on Tuesday, August 22nd at 6 p.m. in the Youth Center. The Council will be reviewing a draft of the updated Fairfax Emergency Operations Plan, prior to its consideration by the Town Council at the September Council meeting.

Vice Mayor writes from Colombia

On July 5, 2006, the Town Council adopted Resolution No. 2443, establishing Sister Community Relations with the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, Colombia. For the past 40 years, Colombia has endured a long and difficult civil war. The peace community of San Jose de Apartado, Colombia, has attempted to stand outside the narrow confines of the conflict by declaring itself neutral and attempting to recognize the rights and dignity of all of its neighbors.

On August 6, 2006, Fairfax Vice Mayor Larry Bragman traveled to Columbia, and yesterday, he sent me the following email: “I am writing from Apartado, Colombia. We are told that Apartado is in an area of conflict. The conflict is either defined as the guerilla against the state, or the state against the people depending on your source.

We had an interview with the ‘defensoria,’ the man who is given responsibility to enforce human rights in this region. He literally stands between the armed forces and the campesinos who are the usual victims of the conflict. When I asked him if he had any protection, he pointed to the emblem on his shirt. That is all the protection he has, the respect for his authority. A very brave man indeed. I am learning a lot about what happens when government becomes unresponsive and acts with impunity. Nothing like Fairfax, you can be assured. It is a model for what may become of our country if we do not establish accountability at the highest levels.”

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ross Valley Watershed and Flood Protection Project update

The Ross Valley Watershed group, a joint effort of the County of Marin, Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo and Fairfax, is working to reduce the risk of flooding in the entire Ross Valley. Today, I attended a meeting of the group’s Finance Committee, which I serve on.

We learned that the award of bid for the comprehensive hydrology study is going to be made soon, with a preliminary report of findings to be unveiled at a public forum meeting scheduled for Saturday, October 21st. The hydrolic modeling contract is being paid for by $130,000 in grant funding secured by the County. With that information in place, the technical experts can make recommendations on what work should be done to reduce the risk of flooding.

The Ross Valley Watershed group is also focusing on short, medium and long-term solutions. For the short term, the group has enlisted the help of the Marin Conservation Corps to do a large vegetation cleanup throughout the entire creek early this fall. This will include Fairfax and will be a comprehensive clearing of the creeks of debris that would cause back-ups this winter.

For the long term, we know that solutions to the flooding problem are going to require significant amounts of money. The Ross Valley Watershed Group is already applying for numerous grants, but matching funds will be required to be contributed by the county and municipalities. The Financial Committee, made up of the City/Town Managers and the County Public Works Director, is exploring the possibility of a Ross Valley wide benefit assessment district to fund the requirement for grant matches.

Information was shared about the process for including Fairfax and San Anselmo in Flood Zone 9. This would require a “resolution of consent” to be adopted by both towns. I have asked the County flood engineer staff and the consultant MIG to be present at our October Council meeting to give us a preview of the public meeting on October 21st and also explain the reasoning for needing us to be included in Flood Zone 9, which is a prelude to the assessment ballot election which is aimed for March 2007. At our November Council meeting, the Town Council can consider the resolution of consent.

It is important for us all to remember that flooding problems must be addressed watershed wide. For example, if one town makes changes without taking into account all the relevant data, it could adversely affect those downstream. That’s why it’s important that we work together to get to solutions to our common problem. I am happy to report that this project is moving forward with the cooperation of all the towns in the watershed.

For more information, see the Ross Valley Watershed website at

High Watermark Project

The Ross Valley Flood Mitigation League, in cooperation with the County of Marin and the Ross Valley Watershed group, is taking on the project of placing markers at high watermarks throughout the flood plain. This effort will preserve formally the levels of the December 31, 2005 flood waters so that the data can be used for historical and study purposes. Volunteers are needed to help with this effort. If you have some time to give, please contact Jenny Snodgrass at 810-9728.

Congratulations to CERT Grads!

Congratulations to the following Fairfax residents who completed Central Marin Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) recently: Penny Clark, Jim Hill, Wyliam Holder, Martha Ture, who completed the course in May; and Jonathen Polansky, Brenda Thompson, Craig Zeeler and Mary Vidal, who completed in June. I am enrolled for the weekend course of August 19-20 and am looking forward to it!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Are you a Senior?

The Ross Valley Seniors is a group that is co-sponsored by the Towns of Fairfax and San Anselmo and is a great way for seniors to get together, meet new friends and learn new things. An activity calendar through January 2007 plus a needs assessment survey is now posted on the new Ross Valley Seniors section of the Parks and Recreation Commission web page of the Town's website.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Here for you

As a reminder, as always, I have an open door policy and I am available to speak with any resident who wishes to meet with me. I live in town and I can also meet with you during evenings or weekends with advance notice. You can reach me at 458-2345 or

Albertson's Update

Friday, August 4th was the due date on the bids for the sublease on Albertson’s. There are 13 years remaining on the lease. I spoke with Terranomics, the real estate marketing firm, and they have been marketing 14 Albertson’s in the Bay Area. They are now inundated with bids and conference calls, and I was not able to receive any new information, but was directed to check back in a week. I had received an inquiry a few weeks back from Mill Valley Market which expressed an interest in the property. The Town has been expressing to the property owner, the leaseholder and the real estate firm that we are not in favor of the property sitting vacant for any period of time and we are very interested in a use of the property that best meets our residents’ needs. I will keep you posted with any new information I learn about the Albertson’s site.

Friday, August 04, 2006

CERT Training Aug. 19 and 20

Did you feel a little shook up by the earthquake on Wednesday night? It was another gentle reminder that we all need to be prepared for emergencies, which can strike an any time. We were in a Council meeting when the earthquake happened!

Central Marin Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) is again being offered through the joint efforts of the fire departments of Ross Valley, Corte Madera, Kentfield, Larkspur, Ross and College of Marin. The next class is a two-day session August 19 and 20 at the College of Marin.

Be prepared for the next emergency by taking advantage of this training!

Residents of Fairfax can be reimbursed the $30 registration fee upon completion of the course, courtesy of County Supervisor Hal Brown. Just submit your certificate of completion to me and I can make sure you receive your reimbursement.

See the flyer on the Town website.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

12/31/05 Flood Film Showing this Friday night, Aug. 4th

A showing of San Anselmo resident and filmmaker Ben Burtt's documentary of the 12/31/05 Ross Valley flood will take place on Friday, August 4th at 8 p.m. in the Fairfax Central Ballfield. Donations from the event will benefit the restoration of the Fairfax Pavilion. The film shows dramatic images of storm water, mud, destruction, and rescues that were captured by amateur photographers who were on the spot as it happened. A flyer is posted here.

Fairfax Citizens' Disaster Council

The next meeting of the Fairfax Citizens’ Disaster Council is scheduled for Tuesday, August 8, 2006 at 10:00 a.m. in the Fairfax Women’s Club. The meeting is open to the public.

The Council’s first project will be to sponsor a Fairfax “Disaster Preparedness Day” on Sunday, September 17, 2006 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Bolinas Park. This event will be held on the same day as the Townwide Barbeque being sponsored by the Fairfax Volunteers at the Central Ballfield in Fairfax from Noon to 5:00 p.m. For more information, please contact Maria Baird, Community Resources Coordinator, at 456-5652.

Press Coverage

Today, I sent the following message to the Marin Independent Journal.

"I’d like to comment to you on the recent IJ press coverage of Fairfax. Some of the articles have been rather sensational, and I feel as if I am being tried and convicted in the newspaper for just making a recommendation, which I have subsequently withdrawn (I did so publicly in your paper on Saturday and also at the Council meeting last night where there was no reporter present). In today’s IJ article, I am now placed in a popularity contest.

I welcome a meeting with anyone on your editorial board. I’d like to explain to them the challenges that Fairfax continues to face, many of which are similarly faced by other small municipalities. I can also explain what my job entails and what I feel I have accomplished in the last seven months that has helped the town move forward toward recovery from the flood disaster.

I feel like Fairfax is, and I am in particular, being singled out and called attention to, in an unfair way."

I welcome your comments and input.