The Coastal Post - February 2000

Kinsey Is A Workhorse For West Marin

By Stephen Simac

The ideal of a democratic republic is that a majority of citizens vote for their public representatives. By that standard the country is in trouble, especially in the presidential primaries and local elections. The March 7th election is for both.

In the race for county supervisor, the 4th district is more important for West Marin than potential presidents. I met with the current supervisor, Steve Kinsey, to hear his side of the story. The Coastal Post likes to give politicians hell, and Kinsey has not gotten off any lighter than his predecessor, Gary Giacomini.

I've never seen anybody turn so red over a little needling, as Gary. Kinsey isn't quite that thin skinned, nor as arrogant and puffed up. He works a lot harder at representing 4th district, mostly West Marin with the Canal District in San Rafael.

The Coastal Post has covered the point of view of his enemies in San Geronimo valley. They remind me of Miami Anti-Castro Cubans. Basically irrational people who only see him as a development devil, no matter what.

I've been following his performance since I endorsed him four years ago. I'm still convinced he's the best person for the job. Even if you hate him, you'd want to vote for him just for torture. The amount of time and energy he puts into a part time job, you would only wish on your worst enemy.

He chairs about a dozen committees on everything from saving the salmon to saving kids and families, attends countless meetings, endless community confabs, listened to residents needs and demands, and wrings money out of bureaucrats.

Sounds like hell to me, Kinsey has been hosing down the hot spots, but there's always going to be someone pissed off because the iced tea isn't chilled.

He's helped west Marin citizens wrap a choke chain on GGNRA's smash and grab plans for horse stables in Muir Beach, Tennessee valley and the Headlands. He's saved some leaseholders from park eviction plans, but not others.

He's holding those devils heels to the coals, forcing park officials to hold "community dialogues" with west Marin, instead of stomping us with their federal boots.

Kinsey has spearheaded more affordable housing starts and proposals in four years than Giacomini did in twenty. He's even discovered and obtained an extra $1.2 million for affordable housing from an abandoned real estate transfer fee account with San Rafael. It is his leadership for affordable housing, which has fueled the NIMBY opposition.

The biggest controversy, the French Ranch project had been approved a year and half before he took office, as a gated community of mansions only. Kinsey had been the point man for community resistance for that approval. They forced the developers to change building sizes and septic requirements.

The project had met county zoning codes with 6,000 square foot mansions sprouting all over the hills, double mounded septic systems hunkered beside them.

Now it's a mix of market rate and affordable housing, with 2,000 square foot affordably priced cottages for senior citizens clustered and combined with 4,000 square-foot ranch houses. They all share a sand filter septic system with the San Geronimo school.

The community forced changes included giving the county 400 acres of public lands, with 50 acres exclusively agricultural. NIMBY folks who hate all development but their own houses were still miserable.

The valley reeks with revulsion now, most of it generated by these "Save the Valley" opponents. Kinsey described them as people who had gotten theirs, then "wanted a living history museum without diversity." Workers can drive in because they don't even want bus service.

I've seen how ugly these NIMBY garden people can be. They say they love the environment so much that affordable housing is just unthinkable, at least in their "viewshed".

To give it an environmental slant, they are worried about the health of the creek, because of the shared septic system. San Geronimo school had a failing system and was told to install expensive raised mound septic systems, huge fields the kids couldn't even play on.

The inflexible policy of expensive construction and natural habitat destruction for double mounded septic systems, which increase ground water nitrate levels, was mainly enforced by the county. New hero Ed Stewart and his bulldogs, the "community development" gang, destroyed more affordable housing than natural disaster with that policy.

The $30-40 grand cost of such systems caused economic hardship and ecological damage. In coastal areas and watersheds, nitrate levels are as important to environmental health as surfing shit.

Red tides, surfer's earaches, rashes, fish and sea mammal kills are all boosted by septic systems in most coastal areas and watersheds. The only ecological and affordable solutions are composting toilets and gray water irrigation, or community systems using plant and bacterial breakdown to reduce fecal and nitrate pollution.

These systems have already proven themselves economically and environmentally superior. Kinsey and team had successfully lobbied for a more natural system than the current sand filtered one. The county health department and valley opponents shot it down, hoping to kill the development beast.

They killed a better waste water system and nearly their school, but the beast still slithered into their viewshed, contained but not dismembered. Then they started hallucinating and banging pans, seeing the valley filled with sorcery and evil spirits.

Kinsey says he will not let more development occur because of shared systems and has already turned down several prospective developers of the ranches for sale in Tomales and Dillon Beach. He's holding out for Coastal Access and working agricultural operations.

He is trying to help ranches and farms in Marin diversify and add value to their agricultural products to remain profitable or become sustainable. He's involved with MALT and understands the needs of farmers, but he is heavily involved in improving watersheds for salmonids on the county, regional and tristate areas.

Those needs have always been opposing camps, but Kinsey is attempting a high wire balancing act between them. It seems perilous and his enemies might vote for him just to see him fall into a pit of coyotes.

He's done so much and served on so many boards and committees that I had to cut him off. He gave me a three page, closely typed list of accomplishments since he's taken office, which was daunting just to read. Mainly stuff about improving transportation including ridesharing and bicycles, disaster preparedness programs, environmental funding and action, helping families and children, community well being, waste management and recycling feuds, and fine tuning medical marijuana.

His opponent in the election has not convinced me that he will do a better job, but should be congratulated on making a race of it. I hope they can shake hands when it's over. It's not easy to run for office, even harder to serve as an elected official.

Voting is relatively easy, so everyone who can, get out and vote for whomever you believe will do the best job. Otherwise we aren't really a democracy, much less a land of freedom and liberty for six year old Cuban kids.

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