Nuyens to Challenge Kinsey for 4th District Supervisor
By Don Deane
Louis Nuyens has announced his candidacy for Marin County 4th district Supervisor, challenging incumbent Steve Kinsey. The vote is slated for March 2, 2004.
Coastal Post (CP): Let's get right to it: Why are you running for Supervisor?
Louis Nuyens (LN): I am running because I think I can make a unique contribution as Supervisor, particularly at this moment. I believe that my history demonstrates that I have a strong background in the skills needed, and that I have an appropriately wide range of interests. In addition, I have a sense of duty to the communities around me, and strong desire to be of service.
CP: Can you give an example of interests you mention?
LN: Education, healthcare, public transit, social justice, and environmental preservation are a few. These are all areas in which I have been active that I would say are essential to the job.
CP: In terms of specifics, is there some particular overriding cause?
LN: Actually, I am interested in a wide variety of issues, always have been. The diversity of issues, and the fact that ideally one must be able to go back and forth easily between detail and truly long-range, big-picture vision, are very appealing to me.
But, in terms of specifics, there are a few things that jump right out at me and that I think will be hot buttons for most Marin voters:
First: Transportation. Right now our Board of Supervisors is quietly working to make a Marin-Sonoma rail a done deal. The plan appears attractive on the surface but falls apart everywhere on close inspection. In Marin it would provide only a fraction of the service already provided by bus. But the cost would far exceed even a greatly improved bus service - it would be a financial millstone around the necks of Marin taxpayers and the County - it's fiscally irresponsible. Finally, taking into account all legs of a typical S.F. commute, it might end up causing more environmental harm than single-occupant vehicle trips for the same commuters. And there are several other downsides. I think the real winners would be north county developers, who would use the false promise of a fast commute to S.F. to promote growth faster than northern locations can develop reasonably independent economies, which will mean even more cars on Marin 101. The right solution is to support and expand local and commute bus service, while updating highway 101 in San Rafael.
Next is planning. I'd like to instill a new way of looking at planning at the County. We have limited resources for growth. In my view we should be conscious of trying to make every step count. Short-sighted planning leads to short-term solutions and long-term problems: sprawl, gridlock, economic vulnerability. We need lasting, positive, fiscally sound solutions. And each step of the way, we should ask whether there is sufficient net benefit to Marin's existing residents. For example, we need to take a step back and figure out how much of what kind of housing is needed and where, and what kinds of jobs are needed and where, and put them where they make sense in the long runÉ not just create jobs and affordable housing for their own sake or to meet quotas.
Part of that short-sighted thinking affects West Marin in a way that will affect the rest of Marin. Supervisor [Steve] Kinsey [the incumbent] has steadily and deliberately worked to open West Marin to far greater development. He has steadily revised County code, and allowed enforcement of key regulations to wither; perhaps, according to allegations by former County staff, participated directly in bringing that about. Preservation of the rural character and natural habitat of West Marin are essentially under attack. There are several specific fronts affected. Some appropriate regulatory adjustment, renewed enforcement, and resident assistance programs are needed in place of loosening regulations and ignoring oversight mandates.
There are a lot of other topics: fiscal responsibility - while teachers are being laid off, libraries floundering, community health and social services in jeopardy, the County has made a number of poor spending decisions such as million dollar training courses, $30,000 decorative roadside planters, hiring a press officer for the Board of Supervisors; honest government - we need to shine as much daylight as possible into the workings of County agencies - there have been many recent cases where access to public documents have been denied to local citizens, and I feel that there is a recent trend in which many public processes have been manipulated-local government should be completely transparent - it is the last place we should tolerate secrecy, poor public process, or nepotism.
I could go on, but let me just say that it is my intention to publish perhaps the most comprehensive, most specific platform in the history of Marin politics. I'll have it out hopefully within the month, and I'll be challenging the other candidate(s) to be as specific. A friend calls it my, "Steal this Platform" campaign. [Laughs.]
CP: What is the address of that website?
LN: Thank you. It will be www.Lou4Supe.com I may have something up by the time this interview is published.
CP: When you ran for the same seat four years ago, you were sometimes labeled a political neophyte. How do you respond to that?
LN: That's an interesting question. It was certainly the first time that I had run for office, although I had volunteered on the campaigns of progressive candidates and causes prior to that. Given that we won nearly 40% against an incumbent who was still popular in spite of the various scandals with which he was associated, with a candidate who was essentially unknown, and in a district designed by [former Supervisor] Gary Giacomini to make the incumbent unbeatable, I think my previous campaign surprised a lot of people with both savvy and the effectiveness of its forthright approach.
If I had one major deficiency, I think it is that my natural tendency is to get down to business and simply do the work, without much thought to keeping track of accomplishments for the sake of recounting them. While it seems to me that many people in politics, including the incumbent, bring credit-taking to the point of absurdity and fiction, I do think people are entitled to know what makes a candidate suitable, both individually and in comparison to their opposition.
CP: All right then, how does your preparation compare to that of Supervisor Kinsey?
LN: Well, at this point, he has about 7 years of experience in the position. But, if we went by that, we would never elect anyone besides incumbents! [Laughs.] That would certainly be a mistake in this caseÉ But, if we compare his preparation prior to taking office to mine, I think there is really little comparison.
My background includes collaborations at every level of government, collaborations with nonprofit organizations, and collaborations with individuals. I have written legislation that is now state law, lobbied in Sacramento, written successfully for large grants and managed them once won. I have experience in the wide-ranging areas I mentioned as my related interests, and a demonstrated record of volunteer service. From my background, one could reasonably expect that public service would characterize my work in public office.
On the other hand, I don't think it takes much research to get the impression that, prior to his election Steve was basically a fast-and-loose developer, one who did not always follow the rules. He had some community involvement in relation to the San Geronimo school, but he also parlayed that into approximately $140,000 in business to his own firm while portraying himself as a volunteer.
His terms in office have had predictably similar ethics. As Supervisor, he has been at the center of events that have gutted County enforcement of regulations that limit development in West Marin, and has led ongoing efforts to reshape County regulations in ways that limit public health and environmental protections. In his personal life, he has repeatedly performed illegal construction, again in July of this year according to a recent complaint filed at the County, and apparently used his position to mitigate enforcement when caught. The disdain for civic responsibility and the lack of sound planning Steve Kinsey demonstrated before taking office appears to have carried over, in a way that might be expected, into his time in office.
CP: The project and school you mention are French Ranch and the Lagunitas School?
LN: Yes. Supervisor Kinsey went to great lengths-both before and after taking office-to enable that highly controversial project. Basically, in order to show the "public benefit" needed for the project to go through, he brokered a deal that tied that school to the success development. The result was financial crisis that continues to plague the school today. If it weren't for a state-funded bailout, the school would probably have gone bankrupt. Steve made quite a bit of money brokering that deal, and alliances that propelled him into office. In our last contest he pointed to that project as a model.
But- other than the aftermath and what it says about Steve's character-that's old news and a done deal.
At present I am concerned about righting the ongoing encroachments on Marin's unique community characteristics, good government, and natural habitat.
CP: Last question: what do you see as the biggest challenges to your campaign, and how do you plan to address them?
LN: I can think of several. Reaching the voters - for that we will need additional volunteers and to raise money for mailers. Convincing the voters that there is something to care about at the local level with so much turmoil in state and federal politics - my hope is that people will see that local politics is something they can readily influence and that it is a good place to start. Convincing voters that I am the right person to give the job, when so many people promise the moon and turn their coats as they travel between meetings - for that I am going straight to the people with a specific platform and expressing to the best of my ability who I am and what I stand forÉ I can only hope that they see that I am sincere.
CP: OK. Well you've clearly got a lot to sayÉ
LN: [Laughs.] I was just getting warmed up.
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