Coastal Post Online


September, 2003

Tour Busses And West Marin
By Jeanette Pontacq

Sometimes things work out. To watch what is going on with the federal and state governments, one would doubt that statement, but last month, just a day before the Coastal Post hit the streets with an article asking Supervisor Steve Kinsey to take West Marin out of the county's proposed Marin County Tourism Business Improvement District (known as the "BID"), he did just that.

Why? Because we all made quite a fuss. Residents were really up in arms to think there was even a possibility of something like tour buses plying a San Francisco-Wine County-Point Reyes route. Joyce Goldfield had fired the first salvo across the county's bow with her heartfelt letter in the Point Reyes Light. Karen Grey followed the following week with another rejection of the "BID," as did Bobbi Stumpf. I then prepared not only the Coastal Post article, but a guest editorial for the Independent Journal and a radio program with guests Sherry Sweet of the Marin Visitors Bureau, Karen Grey of Point Reyes Station and Dennis Rodoni of Olema. But none of these traditional attempts to get the public's attention ended up being needed.

Instead, it was the internet that did the trick. Almost as an afterthought, I had prepared a short email explanation and plea for people to contact Steve Kinsey to demand West Marin be taken out of this wrong-headed attempt to increase tourism here... and sent it to several mailing lists within West Marin. Suddenly, it was everywhere. It took very little time for Mr. Kinsey to realize how unpopular the "BID" was in his district, and how unpopular he was going to be unless he took West Marin out of the process.

In an email to me, outlining his decision, he said, " I don't mind a little fuss now and then; it keeps the passion that makes our community so special continue to flow. On the other hand, there is no need to create unnecessary anxiety, which is why I thought I should make my position more public in advance of any Board date."

Actually, it was that very "fuss" and "anxiety" that convinced Mr. Kinsey to do the right thing right now. West Marin is unincorporated, unlike most of the rest of Marin. Mill Valley, Sausalito, Novato and other towns have city councils and many residents don't even know who their supervisor is. Unincorporated West Marin has no such democratic mechanism and almost all residents certainly know who our supervisor is.

The offshoot of the BID issue is that West Marin is beginning to ask how decisions are made by the county and which voices are heard and which are not. What makes one voice louder than another on any issue?

It is time to think outside the box as to how ALL of West Marin can have their voices heard on issues. There are only 10,000 of us... most council members in larger areas have constituencies in the hundreds of thousands. We also need to think about how we ALL find out what the issues even are. The BID, after all, was kept from the public until Joyce Goldfield blew the whistle. Too often, the issues that will most effect our lives out here are only known by a few.... and rarely surface for full community discussions.

KWMR (90.5 Point Reyes/89.3 Bolinas) aired a program on August 13th that addressed these questions with guests Steve Kinsey, Catherine Caufield of EAC and Don Deane of the Coastal Post/Smileys in Bolinas. During that program, the county was urged to reach out to West Marin residents, to create a means by which residents can regularly be advised of "what is going on" at the county level they may be concerned about. The idea of creating village by village email lists for ease of communication was also brought up. What are your ideas on how we can 1) communicate among ourselves and 2) communicate more easily with the county?

Unless West Marin residents figure out a way to solve these communication and information problems, we can expect to go from crisis to crisis over and over, usually with "others" making decisions concerning our quality of life. West Marin is full of smart people... surely we can figure this out and create a model for other communities in the process. Got ideas? [email protected]




Coastal Post Home Page