Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Sorry for the absence of postings for the last two weeks. My family and I took a vacation. We are back now and I'll be trying my best to keep you up to date on town happenings as we come to the close of 2006. As always, thanks for reading this blog and for your feedback.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fairfax in Flood Zone 9

Tonight the Council voted to consent to join Flood Zone 9. The conditions of approval adopted by the Council included ensuring that the bylaws would be amended to give us a vote on the Flood Zone 9 Advisory Board, providing that the Town has the final approval authority for flood control projects in Fairfax, and ensuring that we would not be responsible for costs of current construction projects initiated prior to Fairfax joining the Board. These conditions were added tonight by Council Members who wanted to ensure that our interests are best represented financially and with an equal voting voice, and that any project in Town be comprised of environmentally-sound and creek and habitat friendly solutions.

New Year's Eve Family Event planned

Fairfax Artist in Residence Shoshana Parry will host a New Year's Eve Masquerade Arts Ball at the Pavilion on December 31, 2006 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Everyone is invited to come in costume as your favorite artist or work of art. There will be fun for the entire family, dancing, games, caberet and food! Win original art - prizes for best and most zany costume for adults and kids. Proceeds will benefit the Fairfax Artist in Residence Program. Save the date - more details to come.

Book signing - proceeds to benefit Town of Fairfax

Fairfax resident and author Linda McCarthy will be signing her new book on internet security, "Own your Space: Keeping yourself and your stuff safe online" at an event this Friday, November 17th from 5-8 p.m. at the Tiki Lounge at 19 Broadway, Fairfax. The book provides an introduction to internet security from a teen point of view and also provides information for parents who want to know how to keep their home networks safe.

Profits from the book signing will be donated to the Town of Fairfax. Thank you, Linda!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Update on Public Works Projects

Public Works Director Debra Sue Johnson has provided the following update on our projects:

  • Forrest Avenue Retaining Wall and Bank Stabilization: This project has been completed.
  • Manor Circle Safe Routes to School and SFDB Sidewalk (Marin Rd to Olema): Bauman/McGuire & Hester will begin construction this week on the Manor Circle SR2S project. Construction of the sidewalk from Marin Road east to Olema Road will require changes to the striping on SFDB to allow for a safe construction zone. It will not impact vehicle traffic. This will impact the on-street parking for the few (seven+/-) homes on the north side of SFDB near the San Miguel intersection. It will also require eastbound bike traffic to be detoured at Marin Road to Olema. Signage and striping should be clear to the users.
  • Scenic Road Retaining Wall: Maggiora & Ghilotti will begin construction on this retaining wall on Monday. This will require that Scenic Rd be closed to through traffic near 185 Scenic and traffic to be detoured on Tamalpais during working hours. There may be some confusion during the first few days; however, the drilling rig needs access.
  • Measure K: Beginning the week of the 20th, Scenic and Tamalpais Roads will have pavement section repairs (digouts) completed by McLellan Co. This is the first phase of the next Measure K projects. Due to the severe deterioration of Scenic and Tamalpais we are making these repairs to provide safe travel by bicycles and vehicles over the next few winter months until we bid the overlay project in February. This will also require road closures and detours on Scenic and Tamaplais Roads. Traffic control and signage will be in place before construction. Notices will be mailed to the neighborhood. She is working with our new engineering firm, Ken Hall of CSW/Stuber-Stroeh, on a complete assessment of the remaining Measure K projects for prioritization and scheduling over the next three fiscal years. She will be scheduling a Measure K oversight committee meeting later this month.
  • Glen Drive Culvert: The temporary bank stabilization design is 95% and will be ready for an informal bid soon. This project is being constructed to protect private property (Village West) from further damage and erosion over the winter months while we continue with the permanent design work and regulatory permitting to replace the damaged culvert outfall at SFDB. (FEMA project)
  • Mono Alley (1-21 Bolinas Avenue): The design of the re-routing of the drainage network that currently runs under these downtown businesses is 95% complete. We will be constructing a new drainage line down Mono Alley from Bolinas to Pacheco. We are expecting to be able to issue an informal bid next week.
  • Sandbags: Maria Baird, Community Resources Coordinator, has successfully organized a group of Sir Francis Drake High students to volunteer to fill sandbags for the Town. They will be here on Wednesday morning! Thanks Maria!
  • The new stop sign was installed at Iron Springs Road this past Thursday.

Public Workshop - Bike and Ped Plan Updates

Tonight, November 13th at 7:00 p.m., the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) will be hosting a workshop to discuss the update to bicycle and pedestrian master plans throughout the County. The meeting tonight is specifically for Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Larkspur, Greenbrae and San Rafael. The meeting will be held at the San Rafael Community Center at 618 B Street.

Click on the attached flyer to enlarge.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Flood Zone 9 meeting on Wednesday

A special Council meeting has been called for Wed., Nov. 15th at 7:30 p.m. for the purpose of considering joining Flood Zone 9. Your participation in the meeting is welcomed. You may view the staff report here

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Reflections on what I do for a living

Today, I participated in a speaking panel for the Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC). Along with two other city/county managers, I was asked to provide encouragement and insight to those who are starting their career or seeking to advance to the next level of their career in municipal government. I chose to speak of the values that drove me to this line of work. I have condensed my remarks here for you, in the hopes of giving you some insight as to my motivation for being here in Fairfax and serving you in this role.

I grew up in a small urban blue collar pocket of L.A.; my father came to this country as a political refugee of the Hungarian revolution in the 50s. That’s important to note as it helped frame the value I place on democracy and our democratic processes and institutions. My father worked as a skilled laborer, and I was the first in my family to earn a college degree. He frequently shared stories with me about the governing systems in Eastern Europe that were inequitable and undemocratic, and I was at a young age determined to be a part of making our own country a better place to live and a place of even greater equity.

I am asked questions pretty frequently relating to my choices I’ve made in my career, somewhat because I think it is still somewhat of an anomaly for a younger woman with young children to become a city manager.

What brought me to the city government profession?

I like working for the form of government that is closest to the people. I get a great deal of enjoyment out of being able to affect the day to day lives of people. Furthermore, one of the reasons I chose the public sector because it seemed to me that minorities and women could advance more rapidly based on merit not on the good old boys network, or what social status you were born into (because I knew I did not have that going for me). For the most part, this has held true. I have found the public sector merit system, while not without flaws, to be fair and equitable overall.

Why did I choose to become a city manager?

My motivation was to live my values in the city management field, the values that keep me working in the public sector. As I progressed in my career, the values that I hold dear were becoming more and more clear to me, and two in particular:

1. The value of service –As the manager, for me that is the opportunity to put into practice each day my strong belief in customer service by doing what I can to make government more responsive to its residents.

2. The value of representative self-government; democracy – As the manager, I am able to serve elected representatives by giving them the best information and the tools they need to do the best job that they can. In this way, I think I play an important role in helping a community govern itself.

When I looked at all of the jobs available in local government, I knew right away that the position of city manager was where I could live those values and advance those values most strongly, and have the maximum impact on a community. And in the end, enhance my own sense of personal satisfaction and happiness.

I strongly believe that if you are in this business for the right reasons, it’s not about you. As you move up it in the city management profession, it becomes less and less about you and more about helping others and helping a community. It’s about making your community successful, helping your council be successful individually and as a group, and helping your staff be successful. And if you’ve got all of those going for you, then you will be a success.

I encourage you to reflect on what values draw you to the work that you do, and think about what type of position will help you best live those values in your everyday work. For me, being a city manager is where the rubber meets the road and where I have the privilege of putting my values to work everyday and impacting the community and impacting the organization in a positive way. The experience with Fairfax so far has been immensely fulfilling for me.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

San Jose de Apartado, Colombia, Sister City Peace Community

On Saturday night, the Town co-sponsored a reception for Renato Areiza, who is on the Council of San Jose de Apartado, Colombia, and visited Fairfax as part of our sister city outreach. About 65 people were in attendance. Vice Mayor Larry Bragman explained his recent trip there and we viewed a film that showed in vivid detail the resolve of this peace community which refuses to take a side in the civil war between the military forces and the guerrillas. Taking part in this program reminded me of how blessed we are in Marin to live in a peaceful community where people's rights are respected and protected even though we may disagree. The issues we debate seem small in comparison to people who are resolved to live in peace even though they are risking their lives. We are privileged here to be able to debate issues that are at a higher level than the basics of ordinary living that we take for granted. The event made me pause and be thankful for all we have.

Monday, November 06, 2006

CERT training

Here are a few photos from the Central Marin CERT program which concluded its last class of about 20 people on Saturday. The class was made up of residents of Fairfax (3), San Anselmo, Larkspur, Ross and Corte Madera. Among the things we learned was how to use a fire extinguisher and how to conduct light search and rescue after an earthquake. Here in the photo you see some class attendees learning how to lift a portion of a collapsed building off of a victim. The 2007 CERT class schedule has been posted at

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thanks to our Volunteers

One of the wonderful things that makes Fairfax an exceptional community is its spirit of volunteerism. I knew that the Fairfax Volunteers were an important part of our town when I came on board, but as I have had the fortunate opportunity to experience the remarkable things this group has done for our community this past year, my sense of respect and awe for these community builders has really grown. From last week's creek clean-up to the awesome town-wide picnic they sponsored in September, to yesterday's haunted house and back to the enormous help they were to the town during and after the flood, the Fairfax Volunteers augment our community in ways our town government is unable. While the municipality of our 30 employees busily balance the many hats we wear to keep the basic mechanics of this town running, the Fairfax Volunteers are able to muster the help of hundreds of community members who are truly the icing on our cake, each in some way answering a call to help fill a need. I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks for the tremendous organizing talents of the Fairfax Volunteers group and to the network of town residents who willingly pitch in on worthwhile projects all year long. There is no greater compliment nor stronger expression of love for one’s community than to so eagerly and generously give of one’s time and talents for the betterment of the whole. The robust spirit of volunteerism in Fairfax is what enables our small community to accomplish many great things. I salute each and every person who has helped our town in some way this year. Thank you.

The rainy season is here. What has the Town done to prepare for the possibility of another flood?

Since January, the Town of Fairfax has actively taken many steps to address the risk of flooding. Some of the actions taken are short-term and some are aimed toward long-term systemic solutions. Here is a list:
  • Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program: The Town of Fairfax, along with San Anselmo, Ross, Larkspur and the County, have joined together under the leadership of Supervisor Hal Brown on the first-ever watershed-wide approach to flood mitigation and creek restoration solutions to protect all of the Ross Valley from the threat of flooding. Fairfax Council Members Lew Tremaine and David Weinsoff serve on the elected officials committee which is advising the Watershed effort, our Public Works Director Debra Sue Johnson serves on the Technical Working Group, and I serve on the Financial Working Group. Each committee complements the work of the entire effort by focusing on key areas to make the watershed-wide approach as successful as possible.
  • The Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program staff, along with town staff, walked the major creeks in Fairfax and identified the sources of potential debris jams and key constrictions. This information is critical to understanding the long-term work that needs to be done such as raising bridges and culvert replacement.
  • The Ross Valley Flood Protection and Watershed Program was granted $100,000 from the California Coastal Conservancy which is enabling the creation of a computerized hydraulic model of the Ross Valley Watershed. The model will serve as a predictive tool that will help determine which flood protection projects should be completed first to achieve the most reductions in flooding.
  • A creek-wide clearing and clean-up took place in September, accomplished through the joint efforts of the Marin Conservation Corps, the towns, and the County. Items which could cause major blockages this winter such as debris, overgrown vegetation, and branches were removed from the creeks. This was followed-up in Fairfax by the annual Creek Clean-up coordinated by the Fairfax Volunteers in October, where more trash and debris was removed.
  • Thanks to a grant from Supervisor Hal Brown, the Town has entered into a contract for the installation of a siren emergency warning system, which would serve as an audible alarm system to warn residents of impending disasters such as flood or fire. The installation of the first of three sirens is scheduled to take place in January 2007.
  • The Town’s supply of sandbags, available to residents, is being replenished and a new sandbag-filling apparatus is being installed. The location of the sand, sandbags, and machine will be located in the same place as last year, the parking lot below the Pavilion. In addition, as they did in the spring, Drake High students will be helping to fill sandbags as a community service project in November, so that we will have a supply of pre-filled sandbags readily available for our residents.
  • The Town is participating in the home elevation program through FEMA, and residents who live in the flood plain and have flood insurance are eligible to apply for a FEMA grant to assist with raising their homes. Eligible residents were notified of the program, and if awarded, the grant would cover up to 75% of the cost for those property owners who are participating in the grant.
  • A brochure, “Protecting Yourself and Your Property Against Flooding,” has been created with flood safety tips. The brochure is available at Town Hall, the Police Department, and is posted on the home page of the Town’s website at
  • The Telephonic Emergency Notification System (TENS) through the County of Marin has been improved and the system is available for the Town to use to broadcast an emergency telephone message to a wide area of residences and businesses in the event of flooding.
  • A volunteer Creek Monitoring Working Group was formed, with Fairfax residents serving in the role of creek monitors and providing information to the Town when creek waters rise to threatening levels.
  • The Town’s Citizens’ Disaster Council was reactivated, and is focusing on how residents can be better prepared for disasters such as flood and fire.
  • The Town is actively engaged in promoting Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) through a newly revitalized Central Marin CERT program. The Town, through a grant from Supervisor Hal Brown, is providing a $30 refund to any resident who completes a CERT course.
  • The Town created a disaster preparedness web page linked off of the home page of the Town’s website at
  • The Town has scheduled a special meeting for November 15th at 7:30 p.m. in the Women’s Club for the purpose of considering whether to join Flood Control District Zone 9. Flood Zone 9 is an existing governmental entity which could serve as a financing mechanism for flood control and environmental restoration efforts. Your participation is encouraged at this special meeting.

Since January, many hours of Town staff time have been devoted to both recovering from the New Year’s Eve flood disaster, and in preparing for this winter’s storm season. For more information, see, or contact me at 458-2345.