Marin IJ

Flood control is key issue in race for San Anselmo Town Council seats

Rob Rogers
Marin Independent Journal
Article Launched: 09/22/2007 10:55:08 PM PDT\

The battle for two seats on San Anselmo's Town Council pits the most vocal critic of the Ross Valley flood control fee election against one of its most ardent supporters.

The four-way struggle includes a 28-year veteran of the police force and a political newcomer with grave concerns about the town's finances.

Flood control in the Ross Valley - and the controversial mail-in ballot county officials used to establish a fee to pay for it - could become one of the central issues in the campaign.

Lawyer Ford Greene, who filed suit because 21 percent of voters were disqualified when they failed to sign their ballots, said the issue is about the rights of the electorate.

"This was a violation of the California Constitution, which says that we vote with a secret ballot," Greene said. "To change the rules of the game without notice, even for a legitimate goal, is a mistake. Nobody would buy a consumer good with a 21 percent failure rate. That's how fatally flawed this ballot was."

But Councilwoman Barbara Thornton, who served as mayor during the Dec. 31, 2005 flood, believes the election was fair, and that the money it will generate is needed to protect the town from floods.

"This will help us coordinate with the county, look at what needs to be done and find the funding that's available," Thornton said. "It gives us bigger bang for our buck. The fee, an average of $125 per household per year, will raise $40 million. We can leverage that from the state and federal government into $100 million of buying power."

Challenger Casey Logwood believes the town should have done more to prevent the 2005 flood to begin with. "From 1982 to 2005, this town was playing Russian roulette, and we lost," he said.

At the same time, Logwood opposes the flood fee election. "I support flood control, but passing this fee through a loophole was wrong," he said. "The county talks about going after matching funds, but how do we know they'll be there for us?"

A third challenger, retired police captain Ted Wight, said the dispute over the flood fee election should be secondary to the need to protect the town from flooding.

"We all have to do our fair share to diminish future damage," Wight said. "What we should be looking at now is how the money we're collecting will be spent and approving projects that will benefit San Anselmo."

While flood control issues have dominated headlines in recent months, Thornton believes other issues are just as important.

"What's most important is understanding all of the issues that need to be addressed, rather than seeking to be elected on a single issue," Thornton said.

Those important issues include affordable housing, transportation and "maintaining San Anselmo's charm and character," the councilwoman said.

"We have many large houses being built on small lots," Thornton said. "It's starting to change the character of the town. That's one of the reasons we're currently looking at revising building codes."

On that issue, Thornton and her opponents are in agreement.

"I'd also like to see us maintain our small houses," Logwood said. "As they disappear, so does the town's character."

Logwood believes the town could benefit from better fiscal management.

"It's hard to understand their budget, because it's not as transparent as it should be," Logwood said. "When I first came to the town, Town Hall was open all day. Now it's open between 8:30 and 1. How do you say the budget is balanced and the town is in a good fiscal position when it's only open half the time? I want to go through the budget line by line, and I want them to be accountable to the community."

The four candidates are divided with regards to the makeup of the council.

Greene noted the five-member council includes four members who were initially appointed to their seats.

"In San Anselmo, all the members become appointees first, so they can run as incumbents," Greene said. "There's the perception of a divide between those who govern and the governed, and that divide diminishes the vibrancy of San Anselmo."

Logwood echoed Greene's complaint, saying, "I want to fill the void in leadership by thinking outside the box."

Wight believes he'll fit right in with the current council.

"The Town Council is cooperative, considerate and professional in their relations toward each other, and I'd like to see that continue," Wight said. "Members may take opposing sides, but they do it in a respectful manner."

Thornton said she'd like to encourage greater participation in Town Council meetings by having them televised. But she rejects the idea that appointing some residents to office excludes others from government.

"Most of the people who have been appointed were already active in the town," Thornton said. "That was the case with me. I've served for five years, having been appointed for 10 months and then elected in 2003."


Name: Aylesworth Crawford "Ford" Greene III

Age: 53

Occupation: Lawyer

Background: Earned law degree from the New College of California. After leaving the Unification Church, established reputation as a "cult-buster," de-programming more than 100 members of the Unification Church and winning an $8.7 million judgment against the Church of Scientology. Won suit against town when officials removed large political sign from his Sir Francis Drake Boulevard office, and sued county over mail-in flood fee ballot. Lost a bid for council in 2005 by 300 votes.

Key issue: Disenfranchisement of San Anselmo voters

Quote: "I consider being angry about voters' rights being violated to be a virtue, not a disability."

Casey Logwood

Age: 45

Occupation: Employed by Clarion Mortgage

Background: A 35-year resident of San Anselmo. Attended Sir Francis Drake High School and San Francisco City College. Applied for seat on City Council in 2006 when Councilman Ian Roth resigned.

Key issue: Fiscal transparency in the town budget.

Quote: "In order to keep the quaintness of this town, we need to balance the budget."

Barbara Thornton, incumbent

Age: 54

Occupation: Head of Marin Telecommunications Authority

Background: Earned a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California at Davis. Retired after 30 years working for SBC/AT&T. Appointed to the Town Council in 2002; elected to her first term in 2003.

Key issue: Preserving the town's character

Quote: "I will work to protect San Anselmo from over-development."

Ted Wight

Age: 58

Occupation: Retired

Background: Earned bachelor's degree in business management from St. Mary's College. After serving in Vietnam, worked for 16 years as a police officer in San Anselmo. Worked as Chief of Police for the College of Marin and the University of San Francisco before returning to San Anselmo as a police captain.

Key issue: Maintaining San Anselmo's small-town atmosphere

Quote: "I believe that the town is financially stable, and if we continue to spend in a responsible manner, we can maintain that stability."

Read more Campaign 2007 stories at the IJ's Election page.

Contact Rob Rogers via e-mail at

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