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August, 2006

More Sacred Cows… and Utter Reality
By Jeanette Pontacq

The June column, titled Sacred Cows, solicited all sorts of emails, suggestions and analysis, most positive, but some ornery, pissed off, and even offensive. Not the least of which was the retort by my beloved CP neighbor, Judy Borello. Talking about Sacred Cows by definition will bring forth emotional responses. This time was no exception! So, naturally, I have decided to expand the discussion to more issues now and in the months to come….
AS TO THE MEASE/SALAH ISSUE in the San Geronimo Valley - with all due respect, Judy, I have to say that the "elites" you mention (local hikers, bikers and "horsey-do" people) don't quite agree with relatively new property owners from over the hill (38 + acres) placing a two estate-home subdivision and some vines on a long-used public trail and then calling the public "elitists" for insisting on retaining a trail used for over 50 years.

I remember the Lafranchi Ranch issue several years ago, when wealthy people from over the hill bought land above the already-existent quarry on the ranch. Those people tried to close down the Lafranchi quarry and put a lot of stress on my friend, Wil Lafranchi, to do so. Many of us, including the late Ellen Straus, the Gales of Chileno Valley and others petitioned the county to say it was wrong to allow the newcomers to negate the long-standing quarry simply because they didn't want to "deal with the noise." The Lafranchis were there first!

The Mease-Salah issue is simply the logical extension of protecting Wil Lafranchi against the attack by the couple wanting to close down his quarry (PS. Wil is sadly now deceased and the new-neighbor couple has sold their property and moved on). Mease-Salah have come to our community, purchasing 38+ acres for their two estate-home subdivision, well aware that a long-standing public trail, linking the Valley to other trails, was on the property. In other words, the trail was there first, just like Wil Lafranchi's quarry! Mease's attorney and Sally Pozzi of the Farm Bureau can spin it all they want, but this issue has nothing to do with protecting the rights of ranchers against a "taking" of Ag land. Instead, Ag land, owner-defined as part of his two estate-home subdivision, is "taking" a public trail.

The fact that the Marin County Supervisors are now OK with using over $100,000 of public, taxpayer dollars to try to put an alternate section of trail on a steep, dangerous (to horses and bikers) hillside, in order to placate Mease/Salah's attorney, shows the weakness of West Marin without its own governmental representation in an unincorporated situation. Steve Kinsey's remark that his getting the couple's attorney off the back of the county doesn't mean that public groups cannot now sue to retain the long-standing, safer trail, is typical. The county caves and the people need to take time from jobs and families, and spend lots of personal money, to protect community rights. I thought that was what the "county" apparatus was there for. I guess I was mistaken.

PRICES IN WEST MARIN: The Point Reyes Light recently included a simplistic cartoon, within which was the comment that prices in West Marin were geared to tourists and too high for locals. The result was that the collective business community of Point Reyes Station, fearful of where the Light might be going in that vein, refused to allow the sale of the Light on their properties that week... until Light editor Robert Plotkin apologized in print for his effrontery.

Prices are higher here, in general, than over the hill. Duh! And, yes, there are shops in town that mostly cater to people who visit here, commonly called tourists. If it wasn't for the tourist population, most of the non-essential shops would be hard-pressed to survive, just like the B&Bs;, and a lot of long-time locals would not have the wherewithal to stay here.

Essential stores, like the Palace Market, the Bovine Bakery, Building Supply and the gas station, all have different approaches to pricing. What the business community doesn't seem to want discussed is that, yes, the Palace Market (the obvious target of the cartoon) does indeed charge more overall than Safeway. Sometimes lots more. Because it can and because it is catering to the demographic it perceives to have the money to spend there for the type of product required by that same demographic. And because the store IS HERE in West Marin and not over the hill! This is logical in a market economy and nothing to be ashamed of. One pays for convenience. "How much more" would be a reasonable discussion we will probably not have.

THE COASTAL POST: I know many people in West Marin who will not read this paper at all. I was once one of them. The usual complaint is that the CP is not edited and allows ranting, overwriting and unchecked information. Don Deane, the owner of the paper, lays out the paper and pays for it (since it usually loses money), but he does not edit it in the classic sense. That part is true. And there are still two regular writers who rant. BUT the paper is evolving from a leftist "rag" to a progressive newspaper. Information offered IS checked for accuracy. And Don Deane, the owner/publisher, a strong proponent of the First Amendment and free speech, will almost always print "the other side" of any issue.

These days in America, independent journalism based on the First Amendment has become an endangered species. Rest assured it is alive and well here at the Coastal Post. Yes, we sometimes will print opinion or news that you don't like or that hits your view of the world. Isn't that what free speech is all about in a democracy? If you have another opinion on an issue, let's hear it. This paper is open to YOU.

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