Marin IJ

Saturday Readers' Forum
Staff Report
Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched: 08/03/2007 11:03:31 PM PDT


Ballot not that complicated

Maybe the Ross Valley flood vote was a sort of litmus test. It was curious that of the 1,678 disqualified votes, 56 percent were against the fee.ÊThey were too stupid to vote correctly and they voted wrong as well. The voting process was not that complicated - the ballot clearly said it had to be signed. You should have to be able to read in order to vote.

I voted for it, even though I fear that the money will be squandered with no result. But it is worth a shot. My "fee" is $110 - big deal - less than a latte per week. It will buy about an hour with a soils engineer.

In talking to voters, it seems that my friends up in Sleepy Hollow said "no," while people like me who live on the creek and had costly damage voted for it. What the hillside people fail to see is if downtown San Anselmo floods again, the downtown could become a ghost town. The loss in property values as a result will make $110 per year seem cheap.

Art Wasserman, San Anselmo

Confusion and controversy

The Ross Valley flood election should be held again in November.

Any election in which 21 percent of the voters had their ballots thrown out should be subject to suspicion. Yes, the voters were instructed to sign their ballots, but in very small print on the opposite side of the voting card. Why were the instructions for signing not made clearer to the voter?

I believe that those 21 percent, whether their votes were for or against the measure, voted in good faith and sincerely thought their votes would be counted, otherwise they would not have gone to the trouble of mailing in their ballots.

There also is a problem with the fact that many homeowners in the district did not get the ballot in the mail at all, thus leaving them out of the opportunity to vote at all. The county has spent $300,000 to have the job done badly by a consultant, but it still should let all the voters of the Ross Valley flood control district vote on this in November.

This time, the job should be done by the Registrar of Voters. Let's do it again and do it right.

Nancy Oswald, San Anselmo

'Process is flawed'

When more than one-in-five Ross Valley property owners fails to follow the ballot instructions, then the process is flawed.

Consultant MIG Inc. should be held accountable to a major degree. Among the questions it should publically answer are: "Why was the signature requirement not explained in the immediate area of the box that a voter checks?" And, "Why did they even include a signature requirement?"

Sure, it will cost a lot of money to re-do this. However, here are some ways to offset the costs:

Require MIG Inc. to return the fees paid to it. It's the least MIG can do to help correct the damage it has caused.

The "fee" should be paid on government-owned parcels as well. This reduces the revenues needed for the project, and also saves the legal fees that would be spent fighting potential lawsuits.

Ask the businesses on San Anselmo Avenue to make a modest contribution. Their location makes them a major beneficiary of the project.

Pat Kenefick, San Anselmo

Voters rejected flood fee

Regardless of whether you were for or against this measure, it is now crystal clear what the intent of the voters was when they cast their ballots in the recent Ross Valley flood control election. The voters' intent was to reject this measure.

Our local politicians and officials need to come to grips with this very important fact. They would do well to remember the words of John Quincy Adams, on this subject. "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

Gene O'Sullivan, San Anselmo

'Baffled' by IJ editorial

What was the IJ's Editorial Board smoking?

I am baffled at the IJ for taking a position on such a "disputable issue" (Aug. 1, "Ross Valley flood vote should stand").

The credibility of the IJ is questionable, if not reprehensible. The editorial's comment, "The county should resist calls to hold a new election," is absolutely unbelievable and ridiculous.

The IJ should never take a position on a controversial political issue such as the Ross Valley flood tax. The IJ should report facts - not personal opinions. That is what your editorial was.

This worthless editorial encourages most of us not to subscribe and others to stop subscribing to this "so-called newspaper" (my personal opinion).

Nancy Luporini, San Anselmo

Fee a huge step forward

Your editorial hit the mark on the Ross Valley flood protection vote (Aug. 1, "Ross Valley flood vote should stand"). This is our community and the residents need to take responsibility for making it a safe place to live. The flood protection fee is a huge step in addressing the ongoing flood problems our valley faces.

Where is money to alleviate flooding going to come from if not from our area? Ignoring or postponing dealing with the problem certainly isn't going to fix anything, and waiting will only increase costs. I, for one, don't want to spend more money on another election.

The continuing actions of Marin United Taxpayers Association and other anti-tax/fee organizations and individuals are keeping the community from helping itself. The lawsuits and threat of lawsuits by them cost us so much money and time that they are becoming our oppressors. They will earn a little of my respect when they actually support a local tax initiative. Where's their solution?

Ask yourselves this question: If the election results had been 65 votes against the flood fee, would MUTA or Ford Greene be crying for the invalidated votes to be counted? I think not.

Maureen Durnell, San Anselmo

Entire county should pay

Thank you for the complete discussion of the Ross Valley flood ballot issue in the Sunday IJ.

I voted against the measure, but not because I am opposed to the project. I feel that it should be a countywide project and funded by the entire county. I did not like the election ballot or the basis for the levy. Because of all the controversy, I feel the issue should be placed on the general election ballot in November. The special election ballots should be disallowed and a new election held.

I do not appreciate attempts to bypass the two-thirds majority rule for tax revenue issues. Some measures that I have opposed, have passed and I grudgingly agree to go along with the majority and fuss no more. This tax may well have passed by two-thirds if it were part of a general county-wide tax for flood control but if it were so, the actual tax rate would probably have been less per parcel and more folks would benefit.

Jim Hougen, San Anselmo

Vote again and include renters

What should county officials do?

The flood ballot was deceptive and originators should be held accountable.

Should the unsigned ballots be counted? Absolutely. The ballot was unusual, out of routine and difficult to understand.

Should the election be held again? Yes. With no signatures, and renters should be included.

Roy Domenico Petri, San Anselmo

Ballot went to 'my old address'

I always open my mail. I never received "letters and mailers or ballots" referred to in the letter to the editor from Gina Feiner (Aug. 2), I erroneously believed that this issue didn't affect me. Recently, after the fact, I wondered if it did concern me. I called Supervisor Hal Brown's office to inquire and was told that yes it did. I said I hadn't received a ballot.

Now, I have discovered that the ballots came from the Department of Public Works and not the assessor's office. I was told that the ballot was sent to my old address, a home I had sold more than nine years ago. If there is a new election, I hope it is for a property tax, not a "fee," because at least a property tax is an IRS deduction.

Susan Leipsic, Greenbrae

Thank you, Ford Greene

Thanks to Ford Greene for paying to count the unsigned ballots and to the IJ for an editorial (July 25, "Ross Valley vote gets even messier") that hit the mark on the flood control issue.

The issue is the process and ballots that were used. I own property with two relatives. Only one of us was allowed to vote because it was a "fee." It seems to me that this is a tax because I still am responsible for my third of the amount.

"There ought to be a law": The Registrar of Voters should handle all elections. Why was it necessary for the Public Works Department to oversee this election? Strange.

Politicians who circumvent our rights need to be controlled. Have another election in November.

Dolores Forni, Fairfax

'New election should be held'

The "vote" of the Ross Valley flood measure was flawed. It is not a democratic process when nearly 50 percent don't vote and then 20 percent of those who do are disqualified. All voters and property owners were not permitted to participate. It was wrong to label a $40 million property tax as a user fee to avoid the required two-thirds vote. It was misleading to have a confusing signature requirement. County officials should not know how I voted.Ê Paid consultants and attorneys should not administer elections.

The results should be voided. A new election should be held. If it requires a two-thirds majority, so be it. That's the law.

All voters should be eligible, with complete information, pro and con, available and with secret ballots - you know, the way we usually conduct elections in the United States of America.

Garrett Scales, Kentfield

Count all the ballots

Since people took the time and effort to vote, I think all ballots should be counted - signed and unsigned. Another election in November would just cost more, so let's count all ballots now.

Shirley Thompson, San Anselmo

Never received a ballot

I would have voted for the flood fee if I had received a ballot in the mail. I've never before had a problem receiving mail sent to my Post Office box (except for the days the Post Office was too flooded to walk through).

Because it was shortly before the deadline that I first became aware of this impending vote, it was too late to call in a request that another ballot be mailed to me.

Hopefully, the ballots looked like first class and not junk mail, and were mailed to the official mailing addresses of property owners, since the physical properties themselves are often occupied by tenants.

Becky Romanowsky, San Anselmo
Hub Law Offices 711 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo, California 94960-1949 415-258-0360 ford@fordgreene.com