Marin IJ

Deadline is Monday to vote on flood levy

Richard Halstead
Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched:06/23/2007 11:08:47 PM PDT

Monday is the deadline for Ross Valley property owners to vote on whether to approve a new storm water runoff fee for flood control.

Ross Valley's more than 15,000 property owners would be charged based on the estimated amount of runoff their property produces. The average Ross Valley homeowner would pay $125 a year for the next 20 years.

Residents in Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Ross and San Anselmo would be required to pay the charge. Renters would not be affected. Since officials say the charge is a fee, and not a tax, a simple majority vote is required for approval of the measure, instead of the two-thirds majority as set for taxes by Proposition 13.

The new fee would raise about $40 million over the next 20 years and make the district eligible for millions more in state and federal grants, supporters say.

About 1,200 homes and 200 businesses were damaged by the flooding that occurred across much of Marin in the early morning of Dec. 31, 2005. The Corte Madera Creek Basin has flooded 14 times over the past 50 years.

All ballots must be received by the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors by 5 p.m. Monday. Anyone who hasn't mailed their ballot in yet should deliver it to the Clerk of the Board in Room 329 of the Marin Civic Center.

Anyone who didn't receive a ballot can get one by coming to Room 304 of the Civic Center between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday.

Last-minute voters should allow 15 to 20 minutes to have their voting eligibility verified, said Jack Curley, who is overseeing county participation in the flood control effort.

Property owners may call Curley at 499-3051 and give him the parcel number or their property or address, name and phone number so he can complete the verification process in advance.

A total of 15,010 ballots were mailed on May 4.

So far, the clerk has received about 6,000 envelopes containing ballots.

"That's a very good return rate," said Joyce Vollmer, a spokeswoman for MIG Inc., the Berkeley-based consulting firm hired by the flood control district to manage the flood control campaign.

Some envelopes may contain more than one ballot, since property owners get one vote per parcel.

Lucy McKenzie of Kentfield said she did not receive a stamped return envelope in which to return her ballot - as she was supposed to - and wonders how many other eligible voters had the same problem.

"A lot of those people just won't send their ballots in," McKenzie said.

She also complained that the ballot could have easily been mistaken for junk mail.

Curley said he received no more than 100 calls from people who either didn't receive a ballot or an envelope in which to mail it in. These people were sent new ballots and envelopes, Curley said.

Louise Mathews of San Anselmo said the state law that allows special districts to oversee such elections was intended to make the election more affordable but has allowed supporters of the fee to manipulate the process to their advantage. Mathews is a staunch opponent of the fee - which some voters believe amounts to a new tax.

This special election is being overseen by MIG and other consultants hired by the flood control district, not the county's Registrar of Voters Office, which conducts most elections.

That is because voter eligibility is based solely on property ownership, said Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold.

"We don't have the list of voters in our computer," Ginnold said. "It's done under a whole different statute."

MIG mailed the ballots, and a public finance consultant based in Roseville, Kristine Lowell, is overseeing the collection and counting of the ballots.

Nevertheless, ballots will be authenticated and processed in the Registrar of Voters' office at the Civic Center. County election officials will monitor the work.

Curley said he expects to count all the ballots on Friday. "It should only take a few hours," Curley said.

Contact Richard Halstead via e-mail at 

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