Marin IJ

Article Last Updated: 9/27/2005 07:01 AM

6 seek 3 seats in San Anselmo

Joe Wolfcale
Marin Independent Journal

Economic viability is one of the main concerns for San Anselmo and a significantly revamped Town Council will be responsible for tackling financial issues.
With Mayor Peter Breen, 68, seeking re-election and the retirement of Paul Chignell and Jeff Kroot, six candidates are vying for three slots. Most candidates agree the main issue facing San Anselmo is the financial mess in which the town finds itself.

Town officials have determined the way out is a special municipal services tax that also will be on the ballot Nov. 8.

The candidates are attorney Ford Greene, 52; San Francisco X-ray technician Lujza Mehling, 49; Community Development Agency administrative services manager Ian Roth, 39; retired teacher Ted Freeman, 70; and Tom Fallon, a 39-year-old former Indy car mechanic.

Mehling is the only candidate who voiced displeasure about the plan to quadruple the municipal services tax.

"I am strongly opposed to Measure B because it is dishonest and unnecessary and based on unsustainable costs in a budget that allots 85 percent of its finances to salaries and benefits," Mehling said.

Mehling is the wife of Herman Mehling, a town critic and former council candidate who sued the town about a neighborhood development. Herman Mehling was the object earlier this year of derogatory e-mails from Councilman Chignell, a San Francisco police official who called Mehling a "disgusting human being and a punk" who deserved a "lobotomy."

If Measure B is approved, property owners will be charged $250 per living unit and commercial properties will be charged 16.7 cents per square foot. The town has an existing municipal service tax of $78 per unit that has remained unchanged since its enactment in 1984. The new tax would be on top of the existing tax.

The town's budget is $12.1 million this year and is projected at $12.5 million for the next fiscal year.

Town officials have frozen eight staff positions, reduced the hours of operation at Town Hall, eliminated raises and training costs and delayed major capital projects and purchases.

Breen said the financial shape of the town is of paramount importance.

"While we have allocated from the reserve to see us through this year, if Measure B does not pass, we will have to commence serious reductions and/or reconfigurations in services," Breen said. "The bottom line is that we must first ensure the health and safety of all our residents. After that comes those issues that all make up the quality of living that our residents expect."

Freeman, who was a social studies teacher at Terra Linda High School for more than 30 years, said the upcoming ballot measure is critical so services can be restored.

"If it doesn't pass, the situation will be even worse as reserves will run out," said Freeman, a Planning Commission member and co-chair of the Library Advisory Board.

Freeman served two years on the Marin County Grand Jury.

Attorney Greene has been embroiled in a controversial battle with the town over his "freedom" sign, which hangs from his building at 711 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

His decision to run for council was based on the way the town dealt with his sign. He applied for and received a sign variance that was granted by the Planning Commission June 20. However, two men appealed the variance and the Town Council voted 4-0 to uphold the appeal. Greene is in negotiations with town officials who hope a compromise can be worked out.

"When, by means of the reaction to the freedom sign, I learned such forces exist here in the Ross Valley and San Anselmo, I felt a personal responsibility as an American to oppose and resist such fascism in the most effective way I can. Thus, I decided to run."

Greene sued the town in 2003, saying his rights to free speech were violated when police pulled down a political banner that supported a friend's council candidacy in Fairfax.

The town then passed a new sign ordinance that said residents couldn't have more than one sign bigger than six square feet or use several small signs to make a larger one. A judge eventually ruled that the town could limit the size of the signs, but not the number.

Fallon said traffic congestion and safety and responsible growth are the critical areas for the council.

"The streets and roads are currently carrying at least twice the capacity of traffic that they were originally designed for," Fallon said. "Sir Francis Drake is dangerous for both motorists and pedestrians. I would work to find solutions to the dangers of high traffic counts and speeds, as well as the overuse of some of our arterial neighborhood streets by frustrated commuters."

Roth also believes traffic and safety and maintaining the town's character are important.

"I think maintaining the quality of life in town and traffic go hand in hand," Roth said. "We really need to think about how we can enhance our community to make families feel comfortable to move here, but still keep a handle on the current housing stock."

The next most important issue is how the city maintains it's small-town charm while allowing for necessary growth and redevelopment.

"At stake is the quality of life we've come to expect," Roth said.

Contact Joe Wolfcale via e-mail at


Hub Law Offices 711 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, San Anselmo, California 94960-1949 415-258-0360