The years ahead are going to challenge our community in a way that hasn’t been seen in our lifetimes due to the pandemic. Now is not the time for top-down government decisions made in a vacuum. We need to make decisions that reflect our community values and we need someone who is committed to engaging with our residents and local businesses, hearing their concerns and partnering in the solutions. I am that person.
Over the past decade I’ve demonstrated my ability to connect and collaborate with our community, get things done and am honored that my community stands strongly behind my skills and values as evidenced by my Endorsement list. Please read more below about some issues facing San Rafael and what I will do as your Mayor to address them.
The pandemic’s impact on our city will be deep and lasting, currently projected to be an $11.8 million budget shortfall. I am committed to working with our community to carefully allocate the funds we do have to reflect the values we share.
Homelessness is solved by putting people into housing so I like to connect these two issues. San Rafael cannot solve the issue of homelessness by itself, but what we can do is partner with the County, local service providers and community leaders to address this complex issue. That is exactly what we have done and I’m proud of my efforts in helping to make that happen.
We are overdue in having honest dialogue about the racial inequities that exist in our society. These are difficult conversations to have and it is challenging to effectively address systemic racism which is why we need to act together in partnership. We need to be intentional when addressing systemic racism and we do that by making sure people who have been most impacted are part of the conversation. San Rafael is a wonderfully diverse city and it will be strongest when everybody is thriving.
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS
As our climate conditions change, everyone is being impacted from the threat of sea level rise, extreme heat or increased risk of fire and smoke. These events serve as an opportunity to expand the conversation to a broader group of people and get their support for climate-related policies.
My role as an elected official is to listen to our community, hear the needs and take action in partnership with you. Our neighborhoods are the foundation of our community and it is critical to keep residents engaged, informed, healthy and prepared for disasters.
COVID-19 IMPACT & ECONOMIC RECOVERY
The City has developed a Recovery Plan to handle the projected $13 million budget shortfall and I will ensure that it is updated as conditions change and its solutions are implemented. Local business is the economic engine that not only brings money into the city coffers but also employs local residents. We need to balance the health measures around Covid-19 with the necessity of getting businesses back in action.
I have been an active participant in several countywide committees that are addressing the issue of the pandemic’s impact on employers: Marin Recovers Steering Committee and the Marin County Economic Recovery Committee (comprised of County reps, Chamber of Commerce reps and Marin Economic Foundation). Additionally, I co-founded with San Anselmo Vice Mayor Brian Colbert, the MCCMC Economic Recovery Committee that has an elected official from every city and town in Marin.
The importance of these committees is having the opportunity to share information, best practices and tools to address the economic impact of Covid-19. I believe in collaboration as there isn’t any one entity who has all the answers or who will be able to ‘solve’ this challenge. It is imperative that we work together to get the appropriate tools into the hands of local businesses.
Prior to Covid-19, I publicly stated San Rafael needs an Economic Strategic Plan. Right now, important business opportunities (like a proposed Costco, for example) are discussed in a vacuum because we haven’t strategically thought about what types of businesses we want here. With the update to the General Plan 2040 nearing completion, we will have a recent plan that can provide the foundational background for economic strategies that reflect our community values.
When I joined the Council 7 years ago, San Rafael was heavily feeling the impact of people experiencing homelessness on our downtown. I was told that the surrounding jurisdictions would never partake in conversations around homelessness much less be part of the solution. Not one to take “no” for an answer in this case, I formed the MCCMC Homeless Committee, which had an elected official from every Marin town and city, worked in partnerships with these colleagues to tackle this issue together. Fast forward to today where for the past 5 years, all the cities and towns have contributed to the Community Homeless Fund which is currently funding mobile showers for the homeless.
As cities aren’t funded by Health and Human Services dollars, it is imperative that we continue to work closely with the County on their efforts. I am part of the County’s Opening Doors Task Force that specifically addresses the chronically homeless in our county. Three years ago, all these entities came together and coalesced around the Housing First (housing + supportive services) approach with a focus on the chronically homeless. These efforts have been successful as our community has housed – and kept housed nearly 200 of the folks that are hardest to serve. Looking ahead, Covid-19 has impacted the homelessness population in additional ways and I will continue to work with the County to address these new impacts. Our work is cut out for us.
Homelessness is solved by putting people into housing so I like to connect these two issues. Folks who have been precariously housed or housed but unable to pay rent due to Covid-job-loss will also need resources to support them. The County of Marin is the local government agency that has the resources and access to funding to address these issues and I’m a part of the committees and task forces that are seeking solutions. In San Rafael, housing production has not matched the number of units that have been approved by the City and that disconnect needs to be addressed. San Rafael has been “pro” housing since even before I joined the Planning Commission back in 2005 – all types of housing from market rate to affordable. But having said that, housing approvals haven’t always translated to units being built which is why the City – at the Council’s direction – is now looking at possible barriers that lead to that outcome. I will continue that work and making the changes that address the issue while balancing City needs. I have advocated for housing since I was a Planning Commissioner over a decade ago and I am committed to having the right type of housing built in San Rafael.
In March 2019, I graduated from the Leadership for Equity and Opportunity (LEO) program that was produced by Rise Together Bay Area and sponsored by MCF. This program is to enable leaders to learn how to identify and address issues of racial and social inequity; I am the only elected official in Marin County to have graduated from this program.
Prior to enrolling in this program, I was already taking steps to diversify and make more inclusive San Rafael’s boards and commissions. That initiative is called the Latino Civic Leadership Initiative (LCLI) and was co-created with the Latinx community. Historically government independently creates programs which are then implemented in a ‘top down’ manner and doesn’t take into consideration the importance of including the voices we want to represent. I spent 18 months simply talking to Latinx leaders in local organizations and neighborhoods and in collaboration, LCLI was born.
Fast forward to now and San Rafael’s Planning Commission is the most inclusive and diverse that it has ever had. This is a good starting point. As we look ahead and venture into re-imagining how local services (not just police services) can evolve, I am committed to ensuring that we are inclusive when we have those community conversations as any policy discussion must include the people who will be most affected.
Through my years focusing on racial justice, I have learned that the other part of the equation is educating myself about race and bias. In 2019, I co-created with SURJ (Show Up for Racial Justice) a workshop specifically tailored for locally elected officials and, according to SURJ, it’s the only program like it in the nation. The goal of these Values, Race and Equity workshops is to enable elected officials to gain the self-awareness and tools to effect real change around racial justice. In 2020, we’ve offered the workshops again. I am delighted to share that in total, over 50% of our locally elected officials are participating.
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS
In June 2020, I organized a virtual Sea Level Rise forum so that neighbors in vulnerable areas could learn about the tools available to our city to address the rising Bay. It is important that we recognize we will need to adapt to or mitigate the effects of a changing climate. Climate solutions are challenging and while City operations are some of the greenest in Marin County, it’s the generation of greenhouse gases by the general population that we need to target through partnering with environmental organizations to change the behavior of folks. We also need to work with the County of Marin and all the other cities and towns in Marin. I am San Rafael’s representative on several cross-jurisdictional committees and will continue to learn best practices from our city neighbors.
My first initiatives upon joining the City Council in 2013 was co-creating with our community the Resident Engagement and Transparency plan which the City has since implemented.
Recently our Neighbor-to-Neighbor initiative during the pandemic has helped neighbors connect with each other because those relationships are immediate and powerful. What happens when something goes wrong or a fire truck shows up on your street? People come out of their houses and talk about what has happened. My concern was that many people were staying inside and not aware of the welfare of their neighbors. Working with neighborhood leaders, we created the Neighbor-to-Neighbor toolkit which I personally handed off to over 75% of San Rafael’s neighborhood associations via Zoom. The kit has the tools for local leaders to step up, build community resilience and connect with their neighbors.
OUR AGING POPULATION
For the past two years, I have led San Rafael’s efforts towards our seniors and been the City liaison for our Age-Friendly initiative. This work has been dependent on the volunteer efforts of Marin Villages and Commission on Aging and it is in partnership with them that we are moving ahead
I am delighted that we have started this work and implementation has begun. It is imperative that we receive the input and insight from residents in our aging population. I recognize, of course, that what is good planning for 80-year old’s is also good for 8-year old’s!