Marin IJ

Article Last Updated: 11/06/2005 09:06 AM

Absentee ballots should boost turnout

Richard Halstead
Marin Independent Journal

The fate of several proposed tax increases and the leadership of five Marin County municipal councils will be at stake when Marin voters go to the polls on Tuesday.

Nearly half of the 146,430 Marin residents registered to vote will cast absentee ballots. A total of 70,973 absentee ballots were requested for the election and approximately 32,000 of them have been filled out and returned already, said Madelyn DeJusto, the county's assistant registrar of voters.

DeJusto expects a 40 percent to 45 percent turnout. An election of this kind, lacking contests involving high political offices, used to attract only about 30 percent or 35 percent of the registered voters, DeJusto said.

"With the permanent absentees being so much higher, we find the percentage has gone up 5 percent to 10 percent," DeJusto said.

San Rafael and San Anselmo voters are being asked to approve tax hikes to protect basic services such as police, fire, parks and libraries. Town managers say their budgets have been shredded by years of state takeaways. Proposed bond or tax measures affecting voters in Bolinas, Muir Beach and the Reed Union School District also are on the ballot.

Anemic municipal treasuries are contributing to the debate over whether leadership changes are needed on several councils. No where is that debate more fierce than in Fairfax, where a group of residents have mounted a campaign to oust Councilman Frank Egger. Egger, who is seeking an unprecedented 11th consecutive term, is the longest-serving council member in California.

Egger's critics say he has contributed to a level of animosity on the council that has made it hard to get things done. Egger's supporters counter that the retired bakery truck driver and environmental activist has helped preserve the town from the kind of unbridled development seen in other California towns and cities.

In Novato, where the city is facing a projected $2.5 million to $3 million budget shortfall, council candidate Jim Leland has invested $48,865 in his campaign. Thanks to his willingness to spend his own money, Leland, a Realtor and sometimes developer, leads the other four candidates in total campaign contributions with $67,171.

Incumbent Pat Eklund, who has raised $62,214, isn't far behind. Candidate Annan Paterson has raised $37,908, and the other two candidates have each raised less than $1,000.

Council seats are also up for grabs in San Anselmo, Tiburon and Mill Valley.

The candidates running for a seat on the San Anselmo City Council include Ford Greene, a civil rights lawyer who sued the town in 2003 after police pulled down a political banner he had posted, and Lujza Mehling, whose husband, Herman Mehling, was sent insulting e-mails by retiring councilman Paul Chignell. Chignell, a San Francisco police captain, called Herman Mehling a "disgusting human being and a punk" who deserved a "lobotomy."

There are also a number of seats on school and special district boards in play. In all, 98 candidates are seeking posts on 23 Marin agencies.

Among those candidates is self-described spiritualist Peter Romanowsky, who has run seven times for political office over the last seven years, failing each time. Romanowsky is hoping to gain a seat on the College of Marin board by upsetting one of three incumbents.

Romanowsky says the college's problems, which include declining enrollment and accreditation issues, can be solved by changing "the atheistic philosophy of our schools."


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