Coastal Post Online


February, 2004

A View of Three Candidates an insider's perspective
By Elena Belsky

In many ways, Marin's 4th supervisorial district is the cornerstone of Marin's character. It covers 70% of Marin's land area, including Corte Madera, parts of Novato, Larkspur, Mill Valley, and all of west Marin. Consequently, the 4th district Supervisor holds significant ability to influence Marin County character and quality of life. Voters therefore hold great responsibility in electing the person who will fill that role.

I am writing this article because I am in the unique position of having personally known and worked with all three of the 4th district Supervisor candidates, and have meaningful comparison information to offer the voters of Marin.

In the end, I have concluded that there is only one of the three candidates who can be relied upon for honest leadership and long-term solutions to Marin's complex problems. That candidate is Louis Nuyens. For that reason and others that follow, I have chosen to volunteer on the Nuyens campaign-after reading this, I hope you may choose to do so too.

How I Know the Candidates

I have known Steve Kinsey, the incumbent, for over 8 years, and have both collaborated with him and opposed him on various projects during his term as Supervisor. I worked with candidate Dennis Rodoni when we served on a board of directors and on various west Marin projects. I met Louis Nuyens during his last campaign four years ago, and have collaborated with him on several projects since then.

All three candidates are reasonably intelligent and energetic; each is regarded as a "nice guy" by his supporters.

How to Pick a Winner

The main attributes to look for in a community leader are honesty, integrity, fairness, intelligence, listening skills, knowledge of the issues, strength of character, diplomacy, inclusiveness, and dedication to upholding open and meaningful public process.

A true leader will speak up and stand his ground time and again on issues that matter, even when others remain silent. Opportunists, career politicians, and people with hidden agendas tend to stick with generic, "safe" answers while accomplishing most of their goals out of sight or through manipulation of public process.

The Short Version

In my experience, Louis Nuyens meets each of the above "Winner" criteria. Nuyens is a true advocate with the combination of skills necessary to be effective and the willingness to take a strong stand on issues. He always bases his positions on knowledge, vision, and careful study. Nuyens is a straightforward talker with a no nonsense attitude, yet tempered with the ability to analyze information and situations quickly. I think it would be difficult to find someone more conscientious, talented, and committed to our common causes. One cannot help but admire Louis's strong sense of ethics and intense commitment to whatever he does.

Steve Kinsey and Dennis Rodoni, however, are "professional politicians" and seem content to remain in that mold.

I have searched the public record and I have not found any examples of Mr. Rodoni being an out-front public advocate on any countywide issue. Mr. Kinsey uses the standard politician's trick of tailoring his presentations to whatever group he's speaking to (something I have observed through attending multiple meetings with different constituents).

Rodoni supports Kinsey's June 2003 changes to agricultural zoning that virtually eliminate public process and environmental assessment and essentially guarantee a wide array of significant, non-agricultural uses on agricultural properties. What this means is that both Kinsey and Rodoni are willing to eliminate public process and environmental protection in order to serve a special interest. We all want to support local, sustainable agriculture in a balanced manner; giving up public process and environmental review will not achieve that common goal.

Rodoni and Kinsey also favor eliminating the 2/3rds vote requirement for new taxes. One might guess that they've got plans they don't think they can sell to a significant majority of voters. This will make it easier for politicians to sell tax measures over which the community is substantially divided.

Louis Nuyens-In the Dictionary, Under Integrity

Louis Nuyens is uncommonly honest and a straightforward individual who has worked constantly on progressive issues, and has never turned down an opportunity to help an environmental or progressive cause or candidate. Community, environment; healthcare; social reform; local, state, and federal government- Nuyens has worked hard on all of these as he is motivated by a deep caring for the well-being of those around him.

Time and again, I have seen Louis Nuyens choose a more difficult path simply because it was the right thing to do. In my experience, Nuyens has never asked another person to do something he would not do himself, whether it be slogging in a muddy creek for water samples or testifying in Sacramento.

Nuyens is an outspoken advocate not only on his personal time, but also in his profession. Louis has a technical and science background that could easily have taken any number of high paying jobs. When he took his current job with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform seven years ago, he passed up offers at two and three times the rate of pay in order to work in healthcare and consumer protection.

In terms of his personal qualities, Nuyens is savvy without being arrogant, is able to stay firm on his positions while remaining open-minded, is an idealist who is a long-range thinker, and is a person who excels at the "nuts and bolts." He is open, patient and accessible. He truly listens to people and is willing to give virtually anyone the time to speak their peace, often defending a quiet voice from those seeking to silence dissenting opinions. Nuyens has the courage of his convictions, as well as the ability to see the other person's side.

Steve Kinsey-Feathering His Nest

Steve Kinsey is charismatic and well-connected. He is a fairly good meeting facilitator. He has used these characteristics to gain placement as the chair of many influential boards. I wish I could say he has used those positions exclusively for the benefit of Marin residents, but, in my experience, Kinsey has frequently used his position to further a pro-growth agenda and his personal interests.

When Mr. Kinsey came into office, it was as a frustrated developer ("red-tag Steve" as he was nicknamed by County workers) who truly believed that people shouldn't have to put up with "all those rules and regulations." He was recently quoted as proposing to cut the County Building inspection division to "save money." Kinsey has set out to eliminate many of the "offending" rules.

Kinsey has performed illegal construction his own property (4 years ago, and again last Summer), and then used his position to obtain preferential treatment-he obtained a permit in nine days that takes the average citizen 3-6 months.

Mr. Kinsey has repeatedly breached ethical boundaries in advancing his pro-growth agenda. He has made false promises, squandered County resources, and has even publicly proposed that the County engage in a sham program to avoid state enforcement of local public health regulation of septic systems.

Kinsey's two terms in office have steadily and systematically paved the way to greater development, reduced environmental and public health protections, promoted rampant political favoritism, and have created a moral crisis regarding the County's responsibility as an oversight agency. These shortcomings show in many aspects of his work as failed transportation issues, fiscal irresponsibility, and in poor regulatory oversight.

Dennis Rodoni-Just Trying to Trade Up

Four years ago I overheard Dennis Rodoni say that he "sees [himself] in politics." Asked what his motivating issues were, he said that he simply thought politics would be a good career. I have come to view this statement as an accurate sum-up of Rodoni's approach to politics: while he has carefully built connections and a superficial rŽsumŽ, Rodoni has never, to my knowledge, taken a strong public leadership role speaking out on issues.

Rodoni's main selling points seem to be that, as a third-generation rancher, he is well-known and has volunteered on projects in coastal west Marin, and that he has systematically built a paint-by-the-numbers rŽsumŽ for furthering a career in public office.

In terms of integrity, I am troubled by the fact that Rodoni ran for re-election to North Marin Water Board while purposefully withholding announcement of his intentions to run for Supervisor from Novato voters until after he was re-elected. Rodoni picked up his supervisorial candidacy papers just days after the November water board election. The public had a right to know that he intended to "trade up" and not fulfill the position they chose him for. They might have preferred someone more committed to the job.

His recent "transportation initiative" is another example. It is an underdeveloped faŤade, rather than a real initiative. It is obviously an amateurish political ploy. And it is irresponsible to promote a half-baked approach simply to generate media for his campaign. This is not the kind of move that would come from someone with real leadership qualities.

I am also troubled by the fact that I have seen Rodoni orchestrate the silencing of minority opinions, and interfere with discussion of important dialogue and process, within the confines of backroom meetings. Both of these examples indicate to me that Rodoni is willing to manipulate outcomes when it suits his personal goals.

Recent Sierra Club endorsements in the Tiburon/Mill Valley District 3 and District 4 were each deeply flawed in process. In District 4, some people believe Dennis Rodoni 'bought' his way to his endorsement. It seems that Dennis was coached on Sierra Club positions and promoted within the Club by a Sierra Club Marin Group board member who was hired for monetary compensation. Possibly, as a result of that influence, the Sierra Club endorsement did not go to the candidate with the strongest record of environmental commitment and experience in the District 4 race. The questions people keep asking are( "Where's the clean, unbiased process we expect from the Sierra Club? If you hire the right consultant, you can get the endorsement?" Rodoni's role in this unfortunate process is also suspect. If he hired the consultant with the intent of gaining an inside track to the Sierra Club endorsement-it reflects as poorly on his character as it does on the endorsement process itself.

The Choice is Clear

The bottom line for me is this: when it comes to environmental work, progressive causes, teamwork, ethics and leadership qualities, Louis Nuyens stands head and shoulders above Dennis Rodoni and Steve Kinsey.

As I see it, there is only one candidate in this race who has thoroughly proven himself as an environmentalist and as a social reform advocate.

I only see one person in this field of candidates who has the strength of character, wide range of experience and commitment needed to turn the difficult challenges facing west Marin and greater Marin into positive long-term outcomes.

That person is Louis Nuyens.

Please remember to VOTE on March 2nd, 2004!!!



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